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All things rely on it for existence, And never does it turn away from them.[2]
When it accomplishes its work,
It does not claim credit for itself.[3]
It preserves and nourishes all things,
But it does not claim to be master over them.[4]
Thus it may be called the minute.[5]
All things come to it as to their home, Yet it does not act as their master. Hence it may be called the great.[6]
This is always the case with the sage
Who is able to achieve his greatness
Just because he himself never strives to be great.

[1] The original line reads da dao si xi. The word si used to represent one of the water systems called Si Shui in ancient China which were located in present-day Henan Province. It is utilized in this context to mean the flowing of a river with rich water resources. This implies that the Dao goes everywhere and exists in everything.
[2], [3] and [4] These features represent the nature of the Dao, which works so naturally without any purpose.
[5] and [6] See the discussion of da (great) and xiao (minute) in the foregoing chapter.

This chapter exposes the function of the Dao related to the development of all things. The function as such lies in "following spontaneity" and features a kind of selflessness. According to Lao Zi, the Dao is the mother or creator of all things in the world. However, what it does is help them grow and become what they are, never claiming the accomplishments for itself and never attempting to dominate anything at all. Therefore the Dao appears as a generous giver or nurturer in respect of all its surroundings.
The sage lauded above is always the Daoist type. He follows the Dao as the ultimate example and approaches it through his action upon it. The reason why he is "able to achieve his greatness" can be multi-fold. Since "he never strives himself to be great," he makes no distinction between "the great" (da) and "the minute" (xiao). Since he makes no distinction between "the great" and "the minute," he acts without any preference or calculation in favor of this or that. This approach is in the long run positive in the accumulation of achievements on the one hand, and on the other, it serves to free him from being a "tall poppy" that is liable to be cut down in a competitive world.

4.4 (Chapter 39)
Of those in the past that obtained the One: [1]
Heaven obtained the One and became clear;
The earth obtained the One and became tranquil;
The Gods obtained the One and became divine;
The Valleys obtained the One and became full;
All things obtained the One, and became alive and kept growing;
Kings and lords obtained the One and the world became peaceful.
Taking this to its logical conclusion we may say:
If Heaven had not thus become clear, It would soon have cracked;
If the earth had not thus become tranquil, It would soon have broken apart;
If the Gods had not thus become divine, They would soon have perished;
If the valleys had not thus become full, They would soon have dried up;
If all things had not thus become alive and kept growing, They would soon have become extinct;
If kings and lords had not thus become honorable and noble, They would soon have toppled and fallen.[2]



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