Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (The Book of the Way) is a timeless guide to the art of living in harmony with the universe.
Emptying ourselves of judgement and desire we discover universal truths within: without warning, we find peace; if we let go of what we love, our love becomes present.
Stephen Mitchell’s acclaimed translation of this ancient text has become an invaluable book. When they finally get round to asking me on Desert Island Discs, this’ll be the book I take with me.
A good traveller has no fixed plans
and is not intent on arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is.
Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.
What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you don’t understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.
If a country is governed with tolerance,
the people are comfortable and honest.
If a country is governed with repression,
the people are depressed and crafty.
When the will to power is in charge,
the higher the ideals, the lower the results.
Try to make people happy,
and you lay the groundwork for misery.
Try to make people moral,
and you lay the groundwork for vice.
Thus the Master is content
to serve as an example
and not to impose her will.
She is pointed, but doesn’t pierce.
Straightforward but supple.
Radiant but easy on the eyes.
When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.