1. The sage has no invariable mind of his own; he makes the mind of the people his mind.
2. To those who are good (to me), I am good; and to those who are not good (to me), I am also good;—and thus (all) get to be good. To those who are sincere (with me), I am sincere; and to those who are not sincere (with me), I am also sincere;—and thus (all) get to be sincere.
3. The sage has in the world an appearance of indecision, and keeps his mind in a state of indifference to all. The people all keep their eyes and ears directed to him, and he deals with them all as his children.
任德, 'The Quality of Indulgence.' The chapter shows how that quality enters largely into the dealing of the sage with other men, and exercises over them a transforming influence, dominated as it is in him by the Dào.
My version of par. 1 is taken from Dr. Chalmers. A good commentary on it was given by the last emperor but one of the earlier of the two great Song dynasties, in the period A.D. 1111–1117:—'The mind of the sage is free from preoccupation and able to receive; still, and able to respond.'
In par. 2 I adopt the reading of 得 ('to get') instead of the more common 德 ('virtue' or 'quality'). There is a passage in Hán Yīng (IX, 3 b, 4 a), the style of which, most readers will probably agree with me in thinking, was moulded on the text before us, though nothing is said of any connexion between it and the saying of Lǎozǐ. I must regard it as a sequel to the conversation between Confucius and some of his disciples about the principle (Lǎo's principle) that 'Injury should be recompensed with Kindness,' as recorded in the Con. Ana., XIV, 36. We read:—'Zǐlù said, "When men are good to me, I will also be good to them; when they are not good to me, I will also be not good to them." Zǐgòng said, "When men are good to me, I will also be good to them; when they are not good to me, I will simply lead them on, forwards it may be or backwards." Yán Huí said, "When men are good to me, I will also be good to them; when they are not good to me, I will still be good to them." The views of the three disciples being thus different, they referred the point to the Master, who said, "The words of Zǐlù are such as might be expected among the (wild tribes of) the Mán and the Mó; those of Zǐgòng, such as might be expected among friends; those of Huí, such as might be expected among relatives and near connexions."' This is all. The Master was still far from Lǎozǐ's standpoint, and that of his own favourite disciple, Yán Huí.