The Tao (Balfour)

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Who is able to make turbid water grow gradually clear by reducing it to quiescence? Who is able to impart [unending] life to that which is at rest by setting it in perpetual motion? Those who preserve this TAO desire no fulness; wherefore, having no fulness, they are able to guard it in their hearts for ever and it never requires to be renewed.


When the extreme of emptiness is reached [as by Heaven], and quiescence rigidly preserved [as by Earth], then all things are simultaneously produced; and by this [example] I observe their revolutions. All things, after flourishing like the herb yün, return each to what it sprang from. Returning to this source is called quiescence, and this implies a reversion to the original ordinance [of Heaven]. Reversion to the original ordinance [of Heaven] is called the basis or pivot [###] of TAO. Knowledge of this may be called enlightenment, while ignorance of it leads to a reckless working-out of one's own ruin. He who knows it, bears with others. Bearing with others, he is just; being just, he is fit to be a king; being a king, he is the associate of Heaven [whose decree he holds and whose ordinancee he carries out]. Heaven is [the offspring of] TAO; and TAO survives the death of him who is the embodiment of it, living on unharmed for ever.


Those of preëminent wisdom and purity knew [this TAO] intuitively from their birth, and so possessed it. Those of the second rank—the men of virtue—approached it nearly, and eulogised it. Those of the third rank—who were still above the commonalty—stood in awe of it. Those of the lowest rank held it in light esteem. Their belief in it was superficial, or imperfect; while there were even some who did not believe in it at all.

[The first] spoke only with forethought and calculation, as though honouring their words. When their [public] labours were achieved, and affairs progressed unimpeded, the people all said, "This is our natural and spontaneous condition."


When the Great TAO [of the Five Rulers and the Three Dynasties] fell into disuse, Benevolence and Rectitude appeared.

* This refers to the rise of ethical science under the Sages—a substitute for the silent guidance of TAO. under which the golden age of China had been passed.

Men of wisdom and kindness came forth, and then hypocrisy began to spread—[good men were counterfeited by the base]. Discord arose in families, and this manifested [by contrast] the virtues of filial piety and compassion. The State was thrown into anarchy, and this led to the appearance of faithful Ministers.


When Sages are rejected as rulers, and the services of the wise are discarded, the people's wealth will increase a hundredfold; [for their hearts will all be set on covetousness]. When benevolence and rectitude [in government] are abjured, [such will be the height of disorder that] the people will revert to their natural qualities of filial piety and compassion [by sheer force of reaction]. When ingenuities of luxury and eagerness for gain are renounced, there will be no more robbers—[for there will be no accumulations of wealth to be worth stealing]. These three propositions show that mere externals are insufficient for good government, and therefore each man should be ordered to confine himself to performing his own special work in life.

* It is evident, from the forced interpretation of the above sentences, that the Commentator has expended all his ingenuity in an attempt to clear Lao Tsze from the imputation of reviling the Sages and repudiating ethical morality. How far he has succeeded, those who are familiar with the Confucianist expositors are able to judge for themselves.

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