為學日益;為道日損。

1. He who devotes himself to learning (seeks) from day to day to increase (his knowledge); he who devotes himself to the Dao (seeks) from day to day to diminish (his doing).

損之又損,以至於無為。無為而無不為。

2. He diminishes it and again diminishes it, till he arrives at doing nothing (on purpose). Having arrived at this point of non-action, there is nothing which he does not do.

取天下常以無事。及其有事,不足以取天下。

3. He who gets as his own all under heaven does so by giving himself no trouble (with that end). If one take trouble (with that end), he is not equal to getting as his own all under heaven.

Legge's Comments

忘知, 'Forgetting Knowledge;'—the contrast between Learning and the Dao. It is only by the Dao that the world can be won.

Jiao Hong commences his quotations of commentary on this chapter with the following from Kumārajīva on the second par.:—'He carries on the process of diminishing till there is nothing coarse about him which is not put away. He puts it away till he has forgotten all that was bad in it. He then puts away all that is fine about him. He does so till he has forgotten all that was good in it. But the bad was wrong, and the good is right. Having diminished the wrong, and also diminished the right, the process is carried on till they are both forgotten. Passion and desire are both cut off; and his virtue and the Dao are in such union that he does nothing; but though he does nothing, he allows all things to do their own doing, and all things are done.' Such is a Buddhistic view of the passage, not very intelligible, and which I do not endorse.

In a passage in the 'Narratives of the School' (Bk. IX, Art. 2), we have a Confucian view of the passage:—'Let perspicacity, intelligence, shrewdness, and wisdom be guarded by stupidity, and the service of the possessor will affect the whole world; let them be guarded by complaisance, and his daring and strength will shake the age; let them be guarded by timidity, and his wealth will be all within the four seas; let them be guarded by humility, and there will be what we call the method of "diminishing it, and diminishing it again."' But neither do I endorse this.

My own view of the scope of the chapter has been given above in a few words. The greater part of it is found in Zhuangzi.