THE TAO TEH KING, OR THE TAO AND ITS CHARACTERISTICS
☯ The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao ☯
Translated by James Legge
(1) (Those who) possessed in highest degree the attributes (of the
Tao) did not (seek) to show them, and therefore they possessed them
(in fullest measure). (Those who) possessed in a lower degree those
attributes (sought how) not to lose them, and therefore they did not
possess them (in fullest measure).
(2) (Those who) possessed in the highest degree those attributes did
nothing (with a purpose), and had no need to do anything. (Those who)
possessed them in a lower degree were (always) doing, and had need
to be so doing.
(3) (Those who) possessed the highest benevolence were (always seeking)
to carry it out, and had no need to be doing so. (Those who) possessed
the highest righteousness were (always seeking) to carry it out, and
had need to be so doing.
(4) (Those who) possessed the highest (sense of) propriety were (always
seeking) to show it, and when men did not respond to it, they bared
the arm and marched up to them.
(5) Thus it was that when the Tao was lost, its attributes appeared;
when its attributes were lost, benevolence appeared; when benevolence
was lost, righteousness appeared; and when righteousness was lost,
the proprieties appeared.
(6) Now propriety is the attenuated form of leal-heartedness and good
faith, and is also the commencement of disorder; swift apprehension
is (only) a flower of the Tao, and is the beginning of stupidity.
(7) Thus it is that the Great man abides by what is solid, and eschews
what is flimsy; dwells with the fruit and not with the flower. It
is thus that he puts away the one and makes choice of the other.