Dao De Jing 2
All under heaven understand the beautiful as the beautiful, & this creates the ugly.
Everyone understands the good as the good, & this creates evil.
So being & non-being create each other, difficulty & ease complement each other, the long & the brief arise by contrast, the lofty & the low flow from each other, musical pitches & tones are known through harmony, leading & following are created by sequence.
The sage, then, manages affairs through non-action & teaches by saying nothing; the ten thousand things flourish & he is able to let them be; acknowledges their existence without needing to possess them; acts without expectation. The work is completed, but not dwelt upon, & because of this it is not lost.
Translation by John Hayes
Note: The concept I’d like to highlight is 無爲 (wú wéi), here translated as “non-action”, which is a common translation. Wu wei, as it is often romanized, is a major idea in both philosophical & religious Daoism, though its meaning is difficult to translate, & it can have two quite different meanings in Chinese. According to Sinologist Herrlee G. Creel, Wu wei can mean both an “attitude of genuine non-action, motivated by a lack of desire to participate in human affairs” & also a “technique by means which the one who practices it may gain enhanced control of human affairs.” While the first meaning is particularly exemplified in the writings attributed to Zhuangzi, Creel draws a connection between the concept of Wu Wei in the Dao De Jing & The Analects, specifically this passage from the latter, here in Waley’s translation—Waley translates 無爲 as “inactivity”:
The Master said, Among those that ‘ruled by inactivity’ surely Shun may be counted. For what action did he take? He merely placed himself gravely and reverently with his face due south; that was all.
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Unlike with my original poetry & poetry translations, I don’t asset a copyright claim on my translation of the Dao De Jing. It may be freely used under the terms of the Creative Commons license.
Image links to it source on Wiki Commons:
“Confucius meets Laozi”: Shih K'ang, Yuan Dynasty (1261–1368)