Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water.
But for attacking the hard and the unyielding,
nothing can surpass it.
The weak overcomes the strong:
The soft surpasses the hard.
In the entire world, there is no one who does not know this,
but no one can master the practice.
Therefore the sage remains serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has give up helping,
he is people’s greatest help.
True words appear paradoxical.
As I Understand It:
Lao Tzu had special reverence for the attributes of the elements of nature. One of his favorites was water. As mysterious as the Tao, he recommended emulating it’s behavior.
Water is persistent and patient. It yields. Gentle, patient and yielding individuals wear away harsh and hardhearted.
Water settles at the lowest levels. Those in harmony with the Tao are humble.
Water enters crevices unobtrusively where nothing solid can go. It is neither forceful nor rigid but flexible and pliable. With time it corrodes solids. The sage flows into the emotional apertures of the cheerless and tormented and feels their feelings.
It may sound paradoxical but to have patience, humility and flexibility is to be strong. The attributes of water are a source of power. In time, the power crumbles the cruel.
Dyer, W. Wayne. Change Your Thought–Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. Hay House, Inc. 2007.
The Way of Lao Tzu (Tao-te Ching), Translated, with introductory essays, comments, and notes by Chan, Wing-Tsit. The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. 1963.