Translation: Tao Te King – Chapter 38. Of virtue

Chapter 38. Of virtue

Picture of a river generated by a geysir
Can you see the source? CC-BY-SA 2.0 German by artist Fingalo.

The high virtue is not recognized as virtue and thus it is the true essence of virtue.

The lower virtue has the stamp of virtue and thus lacks its essence.

The high virtue comes from itself an asks for no glory.

The lower virtue schemes and demands recognition.

The high justice acts but it also has demands.

The lower virtue schemes and that is why no-one respects it.

This is why it reveals its arms and flexes with violence.

When the Tao is gone virtue takes its place.

When virtue is gone goodwill takes its place.

When goodwill is gone justice takes its place.

When justice has gone profit-seeking takes its place.

But profit-seeking is only a shadow of what is right and true and it is an omen of confusion.

Superficial virtue is a pretty picture of the Tao and a fool uses it to his advantage.

This is why a truly great man lays his foundation on solid ground and doesn’t rely on the shadow.

He stays in the real and avoids the pretty picture.

One he abandons and the other he grips with both hands.


Own translation from 1925 Finnish translation by Pekka Ervast (ISBN 951-8995-01-X) with kind permission of Ruusu-Ristin Kirjallisuusseura ry.

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