The Tao (Medhurst)

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The magnificence of the army cannot make it an auspicious weapon. It is possible that even inanimate Nature detests it. Hence, one who possesses Tao has nothing to do with it. The Master Thinker (the Sage) when at home honours the left. When leading troops he honours the right. Soldiers are instruments of ill omen. They are not agents for a Master Thinker. Only when inevitable will he employ them. What he most prizes is quiet and peace He will not praise a victory. To do so would show delight in the slaughter of men. As for those who delight in the slaughter of men, the world is too small for the gratification of their desires. When affairs are felicitous the left is honoured, but when they are inauspicious the right is honoured. The Second Officer is placed on the left, but the Commander-in-Chief is placed on the right. That is to say, his position is as if he were attending a funeral. The slayer of multitudes should bitterly weep and lament. Having fought and won it is as if he were presiding at a funeral.


Tao – the Eternally Nameless. Though primordial simplicity is infinitesimal, none dare make it a public servant. Were princes and monarchs able to maintain it, all creation would spontaneously submit. Heaven and earth harmonized, there would be an abundance of nourishing agencies; the people unbidden, would cooperate of their own accord. Names arose when differentiation commenced; once there were names it became important to know where to stop. This being known, danger ceased. The Tao spread throughout the world, may be compared to mountain rivulets and streams flowing toward the sea.


Who knows men has discernment; who knows himself has illumination. Who overcomes men has strength; who overcomes himself has determination. Who knows contentment has wealth. Who acts vigourously has will. Who never departs from his base, endures long; he dies, but does not perish; he lives eternally.


Supreme is the Tao! All pervasive; it can be on the left hand and on the right. All things depend on it for life, and it denies none. Its purposes accomplished, it claims no credit. It clothes and fosters all things, but claims no lordship. Ever desireless, it may be named “The Indivisible.” All things revert to it, but it claims no lordship. It may be named “The Supreme.” Because to the end it does not seek supremacy; it is able to accomplish great things.


Apprehend the inimitable conception, you attract the world; coming it receives no harm, but it tranquil, peaceful, satisfied. Like transient guests, music and dainties pass away. The Tao entering the mouth is insipid and without flavour; when looked at it evades sight; when listened for it escapes the ear – (yet) its operations are interminable.


When about to inhale it is certainly necessary to open the mouth; when about to weaken it is certainly necessary to strengthen; when about to discard it is certainly necessary to promote; when about to take away it is certainly necessary to impart - this is atomic perception. The weak overcome the strong. Fish cannot leave the deeps. The innerness of the government cannot be shown to the people.


The Tao – eternally actionless and the cause of all action! Were princes and monarchs able to acquiesce the myriad existences would by degrees spontaneously transform. Transforming and wishing to function I would immediately guide by the simplicity of the nameless. The simplicity of the nameless is akin to desirableness. Desireless and at rest the world would naturally become peaceful.


Superior energy is non-action, hence it is energy. Inferior energy will not resign action; hence, it is not energy. Superior energy is actionless because motiveless. Inferior energy acts from motive. Superior magnanimity is active but motiveless. Superior equity is active from motive. Superior propriety is active; is bares its arm and asserts itself when it meets with no response. Thus as the Tao recedes there are energies; as the energies recede there is magnanimity; as magnanimity recedes there is equity; as equity recedes there is propriety. Inasmuch as propriety is the attenuation of conscientiousness it is the origin of disorder. The beginnings of consciousness are flower of Tao, but the commencement of delusion. Therefore the men who are great live with that which is substantial, they do not abide with realities, they do not remain with what is showy. The one they discard, the other they hold.

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