1: The Eternal and Unnameable Tao


The way it is

that can be spoken of

is not the way

it really is.

The name that can be named

is not the name of it.


It was from the nameless

that heaven and earth

came into being.

It was by the naming of names

that the multiplicity of things

came to be.


Truly is it said that

only he who frees himself

from all desires

sees the secret heart of things.

He who never frees himself

from his desires

sees only their appearances.

These are two  different things,

originating from one sameness,

one with a name

and one without a name.

I call this sameness a mystery,

the mystery of mysteries,

the door to the secret heart of things.



2: The Order of Things


Only because everyone knows

what beauty is

is there ugliness.


Only because everyone knows

what goodness is

is there evil.



being and nothingness

give rise to each other,

difficult and easy,

long and short,

high and low,

are mutually dependent,

the voice and its tones harmonise,

and front and back

naturally go everywhere together.


Since this is so

the wise man acts by letting things alone

and teaches by saying nothing.


Whatever comes along

he accepts.


He does not own

what he creates.

He acts

without self-interest.

He expects no thanks

for doing good.


He expects no reward.

How rewarding!