[TTC Study] Chapter 22 of the Tao Teh Ching

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Chapter 22


John Wu


Bend and you will be whole.

Curl and you will be straight.

Keep empty and you will be filled.

Grow old and you will be renewed.

Have little and you will gain.

Have much and you will be confused.

Therefore, the Sage embraces the One,

And becomes a Pattern to all under Heaven.

He does not make a show of himself,

Hence he shines;

Does not justify himself,

Hence he becomes known;

Does not boast of his ability,

Hence he gets his credit;

Does not brandish his success,

Hence he endures;

Does not compete with anyone,

Hence no one can compete with him.

Indeed, the ancient saying: "Bend and you will remain whole" is no idle word.

Nay, if you have really attained wholeness, everything will flock to you.





Yield and overcome;

Bend and be straight;

Empty and be full;

Wear out and be new;

Have little and gain;

Have much and be confused.

Therefore the wise embrace the one

And set an example to all.

Not putting on a display,

They shine forth.

Not justifying themselves,

They are distinguished.

Not boasting,

They receive recognition.

Not bragging,

They never falter.

They do not quarrel,

So no one quarrels with them.

Therefore the ancients say, "Yield and overcome."

Is that an empty saying?

Be really whole,

And all things will come to you.



Robert Henricks


Bent over, you'll be preserved whole;

When twisted, you'll be upright;

When hollowed out, you'll be full;

When worn out, you'll be renewed;

When you have little, you'll attain [much];

With much, you'll be confused.

Therefore the Sage holds on to the One and in this way becomes the shepherd of the world.

He does not show himself off; therefore he becomes prominent.

He does not put himself on display; therefore he brightly shines.

He does not brag about himself; therefore he receives credit.

He does not praise his own deeds; therefore he can long endure.

It is only because he does not compete that, therefore, no one is able to compete with him.

The so-called "Bent over you'll be preserved whole" of the ancients

Was an expression that was really close to it!

Truly "wholeness" will belong to him.

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This is one of my favorite chapters; it is the essence of wu-wei, as far as I can see.


This chapter is the instruction manual for Do-Nothing. First of all, it engenders the understanding of the rule of opposites, right off the bat. (To be hollow is to be filled...)


Lin Yutang's interpretation is similar enough to not bother to write it here; however, he does title his chapter "FUTILITY OF CONTENTION". This seems to be a very good synopsis for the content of the chapter, to me. To contend is really not to understand at all. If we contend in any way it is because we lack surety within ourselves. The ones that contend the most have their ego riding the highest.


Wu-wei, as it presents, presents humbly. They never see the Sage coming. He does not announce himself shouting his wisdom. Because he doesn't shout his own praises he may become well known and is a natural leader.


For practice of wu-wei, which is actually the sorcery of the Tao, is to find answers within the silence. To remain still while others are doing the acting. One way of looking at it is to 'stop juggling'. To stop our participation in a dynamic, so that all the pieces fall on to the ground. From this position, one can see exactly what one has to work with. This is the onset of wu-wei.


To continue from this position of gentle firmness, to allow the pieces to come together of their own volition and with their own intelligence; this is the essence of wu-wei. It is achieving by Not-Doing. From the point of stillness, to then take the minimum action required of your participation throughout the dynamic, and to have the wisdom of how to do so.


How to obtain the wisdom? By becoming humble, as the above Sage. How to become humble? By doing the inner work. Self-realization. Getting to know who you actually Are. The Sage knows.

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Hi Marblehead, thanks for posting!



Hi Manitou,


I think you managed to describe the essence of this chapter very well indeed!


I would like to add that to me this chapter is the foundation of the yin / yang theory and taiji theory (not necessarily in a martial arts sense). We see this shining through a couple of times - first with Therefore the wise embrace the one and then finally nailing it with:

Therefore the ancients say, "Yield and overcome."

Is that an empty saying?

Be really whole,

And all things will come to you.


Thus, from the Wuwei comes the spark, the yang, and the void which is not yang turns to yin, separated by the taiji, eventually to return to the Wuwei state, yet in perfect balance all along.

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Therefore the ancients say, "Yield and overcome."


Beautifully stated.


The magic of the Tao is that things really do happen of their own volition when we keep our input out of the dynamic; and then, when we do have to act, it is done with the minimum amount of impact and the maximum amount of love, as we understand it.

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hey all...


devoid, please do not take this as a personal assault, but i thought that wuji was the stillness before taiji. from wuji comes taiji (one), comes yin and yang (two), comes manifestation (three), comes the myriad things. so from stillness evolves motion, and the motion brings about the separations of yin and this wrong? does it even contradict what you have said? i may have misunderstood what you said, which i often do as a result of many things!! see ya...

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Chapter 22 - Flexibility means survival
1. 曲則全,
2. 枉則直,
3. 窪則盈,
4. 敝則新,
5. 少則得,
6. 多則惑。
7. 是以聖人抱一,
8. 為天下式。
9. 不自見故明;

Translation in terse English:
1. Flexibility is a matter of survival,
2. Bent can be straightened,
3. Humble can be encompassed,
4. Dull can be varnished,
5. Lessen can be gained with more,
6. Greedy can become perturbed.
7. Only if a sage embrace One(Tao),
8. Becomes the model of all.
9. Not dogmatic then is more revealing;
10. Not smug then was distinguished;
11. Not vainglorious then was credited with honor;
12. Not restrained then will last long.
13. Hence, only not striving,
14.Then, there will be no one in the world to be challenged.
15. The ancient saying:
16. "If yielding is a matter of survival" ,
17. How can it be just empty talk!
18. It was really can be accomplished.

Edited by ChiDragon
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Fair translation, I think.


And yes, flexibility and not competing are important concepts in my life.

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