不出戶知天下;不闚牖見天道。其出彌遠,其知彌少。

1. Without going outside his door, one understands (all that takes place) under the sky; without looking out from his window, one sees the Dao of Heaven. The farther that one goes out (from himself), the less he knows.

是以聖人不行而知;不見而名;不為而成。

2. Therefore the sages got their knowledge without travelling; gave their (right) names to things without seeing them; and accomplished their ends without any purpose of doing so.

Legge's Comments

鑒遠, 'Surveying what is Far-off.' The chapter is a lesson to men to judge things according to their internal conviction of similar things in their own experience. Short as the chapter is, it is somewhat mystical. The phrase, 'The Dao' or way of Heaven, occurs in it for the first time; and it is difficult to lay down its precise meaning. Laozi would seem to teach that man is a microcosm; and that; if he understands the movements of his own mind, he can understand the movements of all other minds. There are various readings, of which it is not necessary to speak.

I have translated par. 2 in the past tense, and perhaps the first should also be translated so. Most of it is found in Han Ying, preceded by 'formerly' or 'anciently.'