From Lao-tzu


Every one under heaven says that our Way is greatly like folly.
But it is just because it is great, that it seems like folly.
As for things that do not seem like folly — well,
There can be no question about their smallness!

Here are my three treasures.
Guard and keep them!
The first is pity;
The second, frugality;
The third, refusal to be “foremost of all things under heaven.”

For only he that pities is truly able to be brave;
Only he that is frugal is able to be profuse.
Only he that refuse to be foremost of all things
Is truly able to become chief of all Ministers.

At present your bravery is not based on pity,
Nor your profusion on frugality,
Nor your vanguard on your rear; and this is death.
But pity cannot fight without conquering or guard without.
But pity cannot fight without conquering or guard without saving.
Heaven arms with pity those whom it would not see destroyed.

The Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tzu

English version by
Arthur Waley, 1934


from The book of the Way: A manual on the art of living from the Tao Te Ching

Damien Walter, The Tao Te Ching by Laozi: ancient wisdom for modern times:

Two thousand four hundred years after it was composed, we need the Tao Te Ching’s lessons in self-awareness more than ever. Little can be said with absolute certainty about the origins of the Tao Te Ching. Consensus suggests it was written around 400BC by one Laozi. Laozi translates simply as “old master” – a hint that the author’s (or authors’) true name has been lost for ever.

Tao Te Ching translates very roughly as “the way of integrity”. In its 81 verses it delivers a treatise on how to live in the world with goodness and integrity: an important kind of wisdom in a world where many people believe such a thing to be impossible.

Texts as old as the Tao Te Ching are subject to the problems of both translation and interpretation. Take this collection of more than 100 versions of the famous opening verse:

The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao.
Translated by James Legge (1891)

The Tao-Path is not the All-Tao. The Name is not the Thing named.
Translated by Aleister Crowley (1918)

The tao that can be told, is not the eternal Tao.
Translated by Stephen Mitchell (1988)

If you can talk about it,
it ain’t Tao.
Translated by Ron Hogan (1994)

The way you can go
isn’t the real way.
Translated by Ursula Le Guin (1998)

The third is from the most popular modern translation by Stephen Mitchell