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Dao De Jing [Tao Te Ching]

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Chapter 17

The Unadulterated Influence

Simplicity In Habits / Simplicity of Habit

  Original Legge's Translation Susuki's Translation Goddard's Translation
1

In the highest antiquity, (the people) did not know that there were (their rulers). In the next age they loved them and praised them. In the next they feared them; in the next they despised them.

Of great rulers the subjects do not notice the existence. To lesser ones people are attached; they praise them. Still lesser ones people fear, and the meanest ones people despise.

When great men rule, subjects know little of their existence. Rulers who are less great win the affection and praise of their subjects. A common ruler is feared by his subjects, and an unworthy ruler is despised.
2

Thus it was that when faith (in the Dao) was deficient (in the rulers) a want of faith in them ensued (in the people).

For it is said: "If your faith be insufficient, verily, you will receive no faith."

When a ruler lacks faith, you may seek in vain for it among his subjects.

3 How irresolute did those (earliest rulers) appear, showing (by their reticence) the importance which they set upon their words!
Their work was done and their undertakings were successful, while the people all said, 'We are as we are, of ourselves!'
How reluctantly they [the great rulers] considered their words! Merit they accomplished; deeds they performed; and the hundred families thought: "We are independent." How carefully a wise ruler chooses his words. He performs deeds, and accumulates merit! Under such a ruler the people think they are ruling themselves.
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