1. James Legge (1891):
Therefore the sage, in the exercise of his government, empties2. Archie Bahm (1958):
their minds, fills their bellies, weakens their wills, and strengthens
He constantly (tries to) keep them without knowledge and without
desire, and where there are those who have knowledge, to keep them
from presuming to act (on it). When there is this abstinence from
action, good order is universal.
Since this is so, the wise administrator does not lead people to set their hearts upon what they cannot have, but satisfies their inner needs.3. Frank MacHoven (1962):
He does not promote ambition to improve their status, but supports their self-sufficiency.
He does not complicate their lives with knowledge of multifarious details or with an urge to attend to this, that and the other.
By keeping people contented, he prevents those who mistakenly believe that ambition is better than contentment from leading the contented astray.
By being calm and contented himself, he sets an example for his people.
The truly wise lead by instilling humility and open-mindedness, by providing for fair livelihoods, by discouraging personal ambition, and by strengthening the bone-structure of the people.4. D.C. Lau (1963)
The wise avoid evil and radical reform; thus the foolish do not obstruct them. They work serenely, with inner quiet.
Therefore in governing the people, the sage empties their minds but fills their bellies, weakens their wills but strengthens their bones.5. Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English (1972):
He always keeps them innocent of knowledge and free from desire, and ensures that the clever never dare to act.
Do that which consists in taking no action, and order will prevail.
The wise therefore rule by emptying hearts and stuffing bellies, by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.6. Stan Rosenthal (1984):
If people lack knowledge and desire, then intellectuals will not try to interfere.
If nothing is done, then all will be well.
It is for reasons such as these,7. Jacob Trapp (1987):
that an administration which is concerned with the welfare of those it serves
does not encourage status and titles to be sought,
nor encourage rivalry.
Ensuring a sufficiency for all, helps in reducing discontent.
Administrators who are wise do not seek honors for themselves,
nor act with guile towards the ones they serve.
The people should be taught rather8. Stephen Mitchell (1988):
To satisfy their real and simpler needs:
Thus to have inner resources,
Strength in reserve,
Values well ordered and genuinely their own.
Then the false lures of the ambitious
Will not lead them astray.
Thus without strain or constraint,
By clearer thinking and simpler living,
By action without contention,
Men will be better governed
And live more serenely.
The Master leads9. Victor Mair (1990):
by emptying people's minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.
and everything will fall into place.
For these reasons,10. Michael LaFargue (1992):
The sage, in ruling,
hollows their hearts,
stuffs their stomachs,
weakens their wills,
builds up their bones,
Always causing the people to be without knowledge and desire.
He ensures that the knowledgeable dare not be hostile, and that is all.
Thus, His rule is universal.
And so, the government of the Wise Person:11. Peter Merel (1995):
Empty their minds, fill their bellies
weaken their ambitions, strengthen their bones.
Always bring it about that the people are without knowledge and without desires.
Bring it about that the clever ones do not presume to set about doing.
Do Not Doing
and nothing will be left un-governed.
In this manner the sage governs people:12. Ursula LeGuin (1997):
Emptying their minds,
Filling their bellies,
Weakening their ambitions,
And strengthening their bones.
If people lack knowledge and desire
Then they can not act;
If no action is taken
So the wise soul governing people13. Ron Hogan (2002):
would empty their minds,
fill their bellies,
weaken their wishes,
strengthen their bones,
keep people unknowing,
keep the ones who do know
from doing anything.
When you do not-doing,
nothing's out of order.
The Master leads14. Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall (2003):
by clearing the crap
out of people's heads
and opening their hearts.
He lowers their aspirations
and makes them suck in their guts.
He shows you how to forget
what you know and what you want,
so nobody can push you around.
If you think you've got the answers,
he'll mess with your head.
Stop doing stuff all the time,
and watch what happens.
It is for this reason that in the proper governing by the sages:15. Yasuhiko Genku Kimura (2004)
They empty the hearts-and-minds of the people and fill their stomachs,
They weaken their aspirations and strengthen their bones,
Ever teaching the common people to be unprincipled in their knowing (wuzhi)
And objectless in their desires (wuyu),
They keep the hawkers of knowledge at bay.
It is simply in doing things noncoercively (wuwei)
That everything is governed properly.
Therefore, the sage governs the people by16. Stephen Adddiss and Stanley Lombardo (2007)
Restoring balance in value and worth, through
Emptying people’s minds, and filling their essence,
Weakening their ambition and strengthening their character,
Freeing them from knowledge and wants, and
Keeping the learned from over-exercising their authority.
Act in accordance with the principle of non-actioin – of eternal balance,
Then order will arise of itself.
The Sage rules
By emptying hearts and filling bellies,
By weakening ambitions and strengthening bones;
Away from knowing and wanting:
Deters those who know too much
From going too far:
And the natural order is not disrupted.
We may never be the governors or administrators of a nation or a city. We may be leaders of civic clubs or congregations -- or maybe not even that. Yet we all are charged with governing ourselves. Self-rule, as much as nation-rule, involves filling the belly. Direct attention there, says the Dao De Jing.
There is much hunger in the world, and there is even hunger in the US, yet most of us reading this blog have no problem getting all the food we need. Indeed, our problem is more likely to be that we have filled (and even "stuffed" -- as in Feng-English and Mair) our bellies too much. To rule by filling bellies, though, means to devote attention to our belly filling. Empty your mind, empty your heart ("mind" and "heart" are the same word -- empty your heart-mind) of ambitious designs, and bring attention instead to how your food is provided for.
For many of us, food is so easily provided that it is easy to pay it little attention. The Dao's injunction is attention: where does your food come from? Is it really the food that you want to be eating? Don't be thoughtless about this. This ancient wisdom in today's context tells us to commit our attention to providing food for ourselves in a way that does not hurt the earth, that is sustainable, that reduces environmental harm from fertilizers, that reduces damage from pesticides, that is grown and transported with less use of fossil fuels, that involves less exploitation and oppression of impoverished laborers, that does not reward people who subject sentient beings to lives of pain and misery, that promotes our health.
Mindfulness about eating, about where our food comes from, also has the salutary effect of directing our attention away from our ambitions, achievements, grandiose schemes. Just pay attention to the simplest tasks of maintaining our lives. When we don't get caught up in theories and plans, a deeper intuitive and in-the-moment wisdom can arise, as well as a joy in the beauty that surrounds us.
Gardening is such a helpful spiritual practice -- in part because in the activity of gardening we find our heart-mind emptying out, and our "bones strengthen" with the exercise. We develop a toughness and resilience of body and of heart-mind as we connect with the processes of growing food, as we direct ourselves to providing for our bellies. We thus move closer to a natural and flowing way of life -- closer to the joy of simplicity.
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Next: Saturdao 7.
Previous: Saturdao 5.
Beginning: Saturdao 1.