Chapter 65 Pure, unmixed excellence


1. The ancients who showed their skill in practicing the Dao did so, not to enlighten the people, but rather to make them simple and ignorant.

2. The difficulty in governing the people arises from their having much knowledge. He who (tries to) govern a state by his wisdom is a scourge to it; while he who does not (try to) do so is a blessing.

3. He who knows these two things finds in them also his model and rule. Ability to know this model and rule constitutes what we call the mysterious excellence (of a governor). Deep and far-reaching is such mysterious excellence, showing indeed its possessor as opposite to others, but leading them to a great conformity to him.

Derek Lin

Those of ancient times who were adept at the Tao
Used it not to make people brighter
But to keep them simple
The difficulty in governing people
Is due their excessive cleverness
Therefore, using cleverness to govern the state
Is being a thief of the state
Not using cleverness to govern the state
Is being a blessing of the state

Know that these two are both standards
Always knowing these standards
Is called Mystic Virtue
Mystic Virtue: Profound! Far-reaching!
It goes opposite to material things
Then it reaches great congruence

Peter Merel

The ancients did not seek to rule people with knowledge,
But to help them become natural.
It is difficult for knowledgeable people to become natural;
So to use law to control a nation weakens the nation,
But to use nature to control a nation strengthens the nation.
Understanding these two paths is understanding subtlety;
Subtlety runs deep, ranges wide,
Resolves confusion and preserves peace.