Daode jing: The Taoist Saint

The Daode jing 道德經 (Book of the Way and its Virtue), a short work consisting of aphorisms attributed to Laozi (the Old Master), is the main Taoist text. Virtually all movements and lineages within Taoism consider this as the founding scripture of the entire tradition, even though they may also venerate their own texts and their own founders. These selections are concerned with the Taoist Saint and the state of "non-doing" (wuwei).

Their Depth Cannot Be Understood

Of old, those who excelled in doing the Dao
were subtle, marvelous, mysterious, and penetrating:
their depth cannot be understood.

It is only because it cannot be understood
that, if I am forced, I would describe them as —
     hesitant, like one fording a stream in winter;
     tentative, like one concerned by the four neighborhoods;
     respectful, like a guest;
     dispersed, like ice that melts;
     genuine, like an uncarved block;
     spacious, like a valley;
     murky, like muddy water.

Book IconDaode jing, 25


Mysterious Virtue

In generating and feeding things —
generating without owning,
doing without being dependent,
letting grow without managing:
this is called Mysterious Virtue.

Book IconDaode jing, 10


If You Do Something To It, You Damage It

Those who intend to take over the world and do something to it—
I see that they will never succeed.

The world is a divine vessel:
you cannot do anything to it,
you cannot hold it.
If you do something to it, you damage it;
if you hold it, you lose it.

Thus the Saint does not do,
     and therefore nothing is damaged,
he holds nothing,
     and therefore nothing is lost.

Book IconDaode jing, 29


He Does Not Make Himself Seen

He does not make himself seen,
     therefore he is bright;
he does not make himself right,
     therefore he is illustrious;
he does not brag,
     therefore he has merit;
he does not boast,
     therefore he lasts long.

It is only because he does not contend
that no one in the world contends with him.

Book IconDaode jing, 22