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Tao Te Ching – Chapter 2

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

Stephen Mitchell (1988)
When all in the world know beauty as beauty,
then ugliness already has arisen.
When all know good as good,
then bad already has arisen.
existence and non-existence give birth to each other,
difficult and easy complement each other,
long and short contrast with each other,
high and low rely on each other,
sound and voice harmonize with each other,
front and back follow each other.
the sage manages his affairs by non-action and spreads his teachings without words.
All things arise, he does not reject them.
He produces, but does not possess;
acts, but does not take credit;
achieves merit, but does not dwell [on it].
Because he does not dwell on it, it does not leave him.

Yi Wu (1989)
When all under heaven know beauty (mei) as beauty,
There is then ugliness (o);
When all know the good (shan) good,
There is then the not good (pu shan).
Therefore being and non-being give rise to each other,
The difficult and easy complement each other,
The long and short shape each other,
The high and low lean on each other,
Voices and instruments harmonize with one another,
The front and rear follow upon each other.
Therefore the sage manages affairs without action,
Carries out (hsing) teaching without speech (yen).
Ten thousand things arise and he does not initiate them,
They come to be and he claims no possession (yu) of them,
He works (wei) without holding on,
Accomplishes (ch'eng) without claiming merit.
Because he does not claim merit,
His merit does not go away.

Ellen Marie Chen (1989)
Recognize beauty and ugliness is born.
Recognize good and evil is born.
Is and Isn't produce each other. Hard depends on easy, Long is tested by short,
High is determined by low, Sound is harmonized by voice, After is followed by before.
Therefore the sage is devoted to non action, Moves without teaching,
Creates ten thousand things without instruction, Lives but does not own, Acts but does not presume,
Accomplishes without taking credit. When no credit is taken, Accomplishment endures.

Stephen Addiss & Stanley Lombardo (1993)
 It is because every one under Heaven recognizes beauty as beauty,
That the idea of ugliness exists.
And equally if every one recognized virtue as virtue,
this would merely create fresh conceptions of wickedness.
For truly, Being and Not-being grow out of one another;
Difficult and easy complete one another.
Long and short test one another;
High and low determine one another.
Pitch and mode give harmony to one another.
Front and back give sequence to one another.
Therefore the Sage relies on actionless activity,
Carries on wordless teaching,
But the myriad creatures are worked upon by him;
He does not disown them.
He rears them, but does not lay claim to them,
Controls them, but does not lean upon them,
Achieves his aim, but does not call attention to what he does;
And for the very reason that he does not call attention to what he does
He is not ejected from fruition of what he has done.

Arthur Waley (1934)
Everyone recognizes beauty
only because of ugliness
Everyone recognizes virtue
only because of sin

Life and death are born together
Difficult and easy
Long and short
High and low --
all these exist together
arrive together
Sound and silence blend together
Before and after

The Sage acts without action
and teaches without talking
All things flourish around him
and he does not refuse any one of them
He gives but not to receive
He works but not for reward
He completes but not for results
He does nothing for himself in this passing world
so nothing he does ever passes

Jonathan Starr (2001)
Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.

Therefore having and not having arise together.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short contrast each other:
High and low rest upon each other;
Voice and sound harmonize each other;
Front and back follow one another.

Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no-talking.
The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease,
Creating, yet not possessing.
Working, yet not taking credit.
Work is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.

Gia-fu Feng and Jane English (1989)

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 1

Below are a handful of versions of Chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching. Most of these are versions that I have on hand and reference. The Jonathan Star version is one that I know someone else in our little book club prefers, so I added it here for reference.

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

Stephen Mitchell (1988)

The Way that can be told of is not an Unvarying Way;
The names that can be named are not unvarying names.
It was from the Nameless that Heaven and Earth sprang;
The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand creatures, each after its kind.
Truly, “Only he that rids himself forever of desire can see the Secret Essences”;
He that has never rid himself of desire can see only the Outcomes.
These two things issued from the same mould, but nevertheless are different in name.
This “same mould” we can but call the Mystery,
Or rather the “Darker than any Mystery,”
The Doorway whence issued all Secret Essences.

Arthur Waley (1934)
A way can be a guide, but not a fixed path;
names can be given, but not permanent labels.
Nonbeing is called the beginning of heaven and earth;
being is called the mother of all things.
Always passionless, thereby observe the subtle;
ever intent, thereby observe the apparent.
These two come from the same source but differ in name;
both are considered mysteries.
The mystery of mysteries
is the gateway of marvels.

Thomas Cleary (1991)
The Tao that can be expressed
     Is not the Tao of the Absolute.
The name that can be named
     Is not the name of the Absolute.

The nameless originated Heaven and Earth.
The named is the Mother of All Things.

Thus, without expectation,
     One will always perceive the subtlety;
And, with expectation,
     One will always perceive the boundary.

The source of these two is identical,
Yet their names are different.
Together they are called profound,
Profound and mysterious,
The gateway to the Collective Subtlety.

R.L. Wing (1986)
A way that can be walked
     is not The Way
A name that can be named
     is not The Name

Tao is both Named and Nameless
As Nameless, it is the origin of all things
As Named, it is the mother of all things.

A mind free of thought,
     merged within itself,
     beholds the essence of Tao
A mind filled with thought,
     identified with its own perceptions,
     beholds the mere forms of this world

Tao and this world seem different
     but in truth they are one and the same
The only difference is in what we call them

How deep and mysterious is this unity
     How profound, how great!
It is the truth beyond the truth,
     the hidden within the hidden
It is the path to all wonder,
     the gate to the essence of everything!

Jonathan Star (2001)