Part 10: Chapters 15, 23, 27, 50

The Masters of the Tao

by Lao Tzu Icon

Chapter 15: The Masters of the Tao

1 The skillful masters of the Tao in the old times had a subtle and exquisite penetration to comprehend its mysteries. They were also deep as to be beyond men’s knowledge. But I will describe them.

2 They looked :

  • shrinking 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.

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.

4 They who preserve this method of the Tao 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.

Chapter 23: Faith in Pursuing the Tao

1 A person is obeying the spontaneity of his nature abstains from speech.

  • A violent wind does not last for a whole morning.
  • A sudden rain does not last for the whole day.

Wind and rain owe themselves to Heaven and Earth. If Heaven and Earth cannot make such things last long, how much less can man!

2 Therefore, when one is making the Tao or True Nature his business:

  • those who are also pursuing it will agree with him in it
  • those who have the manifestation of its course their object agree with him in that
  • those who fail in both these things agree with him where they fail.

3 Hence:

  • those with whom he agrees, as to the Tao, have the happiness of attaining it
  • those with whom he agrees, as to its manifestation, have the happiness of attaining it
  • those with whom he agrees in their failure also have the happiness of attaining the Tao or True Nature.

But when there is insufficient faith on his part, a lack of faith in him ensues on the part of the others.

Chapter 27: The Knowers of the Tao or True Nature Have Skill

1 The skillful traveller leaves no traces of his wheels or footsteps.

  • The skillful speaker says nothing that can be found fault with or blamed.
  • The skillful reckoner uses no tallies;
  • the skillful closer needs no bolts or bars, while to open what he has shut will be impossible.
  • The skillful binder uses no strings or knots, while to unloose what he has bound will be impossible.

In the same way, the sage is always skillful at saving men, and so he does not cast away any man.

  • He is always skillful at saving things, and so he does not cast away anything.
  • This is called ‘Hiding the light of his procedure.’

2 Therefore the man of skill is a master to be looked up to by him who has no skill.

  • He who has no skill is the helper of him who has the skill.

If the helper did not honour his master, and the master did not rejoice in his helper, an intelligent observer might still greatly err about them.

This is called ‘The utmost degree of mystery.’

Chapter 50: Those Who Know the Tao or True Nature are not afraid of Death

1 Men come forth and live; they die and reincarnate again.

2 Of every ten, three are ministers of life (to themselves), and three are ministers of death.

3 There are also three in every ten whose aim is to live, but whose movements tend to the land (or place) of death because of their excessive endeavours to perpetuate life.

4 I have heard that he who is skillful in managing the life entrusted to him for a time, travels on the land without having to shun rhinoceros or tiger.

He enters a host without having to avoid buff coat or sharp weapon.

The rhinoceros finds no place in him to thrust its horn into. The tiger finds no place in him to fix its claws into. A weapon will not work on him because there is no place for death in him.