Chapter 66 Putting one’s self last

江海所以能為百谷王者,以其善下之,故能為百谷王。是以聖人欲上民,必以言下之;欲先民,必以身後之。是以聖人處上而民不重,處前而民不害。是以天下樂推而不厭。以其不爭,故天下莫能與之爭。

1. That whereby the rivers and seas are able to receive the homage and tribute of all the valley streams, is their skill in being lower than they; — it is thus that they are the kings of them all. So it is that the sage (ruler), wishing to be above men, puts himself by his words below them, and, wishing to be before them, places his person behind them.

2. In this way though he has his place above them, men do not feel his weight, nor though he has his place before them, do they feel it an injury to them.

3. Therefore all in the world delight to exalt him and do not weary of him. Because he does not strive, no one finds it possible to strive with him.

Derek Lin

Rivers and oceans can be the kings of a hundred valleys
Because of their goodness in staying low
So they can be the kings of a hundred valleys
Thus if sages wish to be over people
They must speak humbly to them
If they wish to be in front of people
They must place themselves behind them
Thus the sages are positioned above
But the people do not feel burdened
They are positioned in front
But the people do not feel harmed
Thus the world is glad to push them forward without resentment
Because they do not contend
So the world cannot contend with them

Peter Merel

The river carves out the valley by flowing beneath it.
Thereby the river is the master of the valley.
In order to master people
One must speak as their servant;
In order to lead people
One must follow them.
So when the sage rises above the people,
They do not feel oppressed;
And when the sage stands before the people,
They do not feel hindered.
So the popularity of the sage does not fail,
He does not contend, and no one contends against him.