Verse 20

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To the sage nothing is known for certain.
When the pretence of certainty is abandoned,
the world is undivided and lonely,
a place for being lost in wonder.
How can the sage believe what others believe?

But people flourish in their illusions.
The world teems around the sage, who, to the very centre, does not know.
Others seem to know but the sage knows nothing.
Others are clear and certain and confident but the sage is confused and directionless,
a fool lost in thought and the world.

Others vigorously perform the duties of life,
fulfilling their own and the common need.
But the sage is dark and remote, detached and independent, different.
Others are fed by the apparent but the sage is nourished by the Tao.

Without the pretence of certainty, it is easy to be compassionate.
So the sage teaches with double edge.
Those who learn think they are learning the ordinary that can be understood,
while deep within they are learning the extraordinary that is beyond understanding.

(Lao Tzu)

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Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 04 May 2023