Tao Te Ching —
The Classic about Ways And Instances
(Translated, with comments, by William P. Coleman)
Carrying your spiritual soul and your physical soul together,
you can keep them as one—without letting them separate.
Gathering your chi,
you can make yourself soft like a newborn child.
You can wash out your vision and purify it without fault.
As heaven’s gate opens and closes,
you can be like a female bird.
With clear understanding,
you can penetrate the four directions with no action.
He produces things and nourishes them.
He produces but doesn’t claim possession.
He acts but doesn’t take credit.
He leads but doesn’t dominate.
Such instances of the ways may seem obscure.
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The last few sentences again make the point that you can do things without doing them. In fact, that’s the only way to get them done.
This may seem obscure, but — the way Lao Tzu explains it — maybe it isn’t so incomprehensible.
We tend to go at things frontally, by brute force. It’s not hardness — or softness — that’s needed, but recognition of what you’re doing and why. Is your primary objective to claim possession, to dominate? Or are you just trying to get the thing done?
There’s no limit to what you can do if you’re clear.
For comparison, I’m including the translation by Lin Yutang, which I always love and respect, even when I disagree:
10. Embracing the One
In embracing the One with your soul,
Can you never forsake the Tao?
In controlling your vital force to achieve gentleness,
Can you become like the new-born child?
In cleansing and purifying your Mystic vision,
Can you strive after perfection?
In loving the people and governing the kingdom,
Can you rule without interference?
In opening and shutting the Gate of Heaven,
Can you play the part of the Female?
In comprehending all knowledge,
Can you renounce the mind?