吾言甚易知,甚易行;天下莫能知莫能行。

1. My words are very easy to know, and very easy to practise; but there is no one in the world who is able to know and able to practise them.

言有宗,事有君。夫唯無知,是以不我知。

2. There is an originating and all-comprehending (principle) in my words, and an authoritative law for the things (which I enforce). It is because they do not know these, that men do not know me.

知我者希,則我者貴。是以聖人被褐,懷玉。

3. They who know me are few, and I am on that account (the more) to be prized. It is thus that the sage wears (a poor garb of) hair cloth, while he carries his (signet of) jade in his bosom.

Legge's Comments

知難, 'The Difficulty of being (rightly) Known.' The Dao comprehends and rules all Laozi's teaching, as members of a clan were all in the loins of their first father (), and continue to look up to him; and the people of a state are all under the direction of their ruler; yet the philosopher had to complain of not being known. Laozi's principle and rule or ruler was the Dao. His utterance here is very important. Compare the words of Confucius in the Analects, XIV, ch. 37, et al.

Par. 2 is twice quoted by Huainanzi, though his text is not quite the same in both cases.