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Dao De Jing [Tao Te Ching]

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Chapter 15

The Exhibition of the Qualities of the Dao

The Revealers of Virtue / That Which Reveals Virtue

  Original Legge's Translation Susuki's Translation Goddard's Translation
1 The skilful masters (of the Dao) in old times, with a subtle and exquisite penetration, comprehended its mysteries, and were deep (also) so as to elude men's knowledge. As they were thus beyond men's knowledge, I will make an effort to describe of what sort they appeared to be. Those of yore who have succeeded in becoming masters are subtile, spiritual, profound, and penetrating. On account of their profundity they can not be understood. Because they can not be understood, therefore I endeavor to make them intelligible. In olden times the ones who were considered worthy to be called masters were subtle, spiritual, profound, wise. Their thoughts could not be easily understood.


Shrinking looked they like those who wade through a stream in winter; irresolute like those who are afraid of all around them; grave like a guest (in awe of his host); evanescent like ice that is melting away; unpretentious like wood that has not been fashioned into
anything; vacant like a valley, and dull like muddy water.

How cautious they are! Like men in winter crossing a river. How reluctant! Like men fearing in the four quarters their neighbors. How reserved! They behave like guests. How elusive! They resemble ice when melting. How simple! They resemble rough wood. How empty! They resemble the valley. How obscure! They resemble troubled waters.

Since they were hard to understand I will try to make them clear. They were cautious like men wading a river in winter. They were reluctant like men who feared their neighbors. p. 18 They were reserved like guests in the presence of their host. They were elusive like ice at the point of melting. They were like unseasoned wood. They were like a valley between high mountains. They were obscure like troubled waters. (They were cautious because they were conscious of the deeper meanings of life and its possibilities.)

3 Who can (make) the muddy water (clear)? Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear. Who can secure the condition of rest? Let movement go on, and the condition of rest will gradually arise.They who preserve this method of the Dao do not wish to be full (of themselves). It is through their not being full of themselves that they can afford to seem worn and not appear new and complete. Who by quieting can gradually render muddy waters clear? Who by stirring can gradually quicken the still? He who cherishes this Reason is not anxious to be filled. Since he is not filled, therefore he may grow old; without renewal he is complete. We can clarify troubled waters by slowly quieting them. We can bring the unconscious to life by slowly moving them. But he who has the secret of the Dao does not desire for more. Being content, he is able to mature without desire to be newly fashioned.
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