Tao 38

Action is not virtuous when performed for the sake of virtue.
True virtue does not exist when trying to be virtuous.

When one displays true virtue, there is no thought of virtue.
There exists wholeness in virtue itself, and an absence of incompleteness.
When one displays hollow virtue, virtue is at the forefront of one’s mind.
Actions are necessary to achieve its completion, and they are forever lacking.

A display of true virtue comes without the pressures of the need to act;
There is no ulterior motive and it is complete unto itself.
A display of justice requires action
And the true reasons for it may be hidden.
A display of authority comes with rights and rituals;
It is hollow and requires convincing and enforcement.

When Tao is lost, virtue remains.
When virtue is lost, justice remains.
When justice is lost, authority remains.

Authority is a superficial source.
It reigns in the absence of virtue and is the beginning of dissonance and tension.

And so it is wise to go beneath the surface, not remaining at superficiality.
Accepting one, rejecting the other.

All 81 chapters of our version of the Tao Te Ching are available online for free here. If you are so inclined, an updated version of our translation is available as an e-book, here.

One Response to “Tao 38”
  1. Hugo says:

    This is one of my favourite chapters in the Tao, and an awesome translation to boot!

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