天下之至柔馳騁天下之至堅;無有入無間。吾是以知無為之有益。

1. The softest thing in the world dashes against and overcomes the hardest; that which has no (substantial) existence enters where there is no crevice. I know hereby what advantage belongs to doing nothing (with a purpose).

不言之教,無為之益,天下希及之。

2. There are few in the world who attain to the teaching without words, and the advantage arising from non-action.

Legge's Comments

偏用, 'The Universal Use (of the action in weakness of the Dao).' The chapter takes us back to the lines of ch. 40, that

'Weakness marks the course
Of Dao's mighty deeds.'

By 'the softest thing in the world' it is agreed that we are to understand 'water,' which will wear away the hardest rocks. 'Dashing against and overcoming' is a metaphor taken from hunting. Heshang Gong says that 'what has no existence' is the Dao; it is better to understand by it the unsubstantial air () which penetrates everywhere, we cannot see how.

Compare par. 2 with ch. 2, par. 3.