和大怨,必有餘怨。安可以為善?

1. When a reconciliation is effected (between two parties) after a great animosity, there is sure to be a grudge remaining (in the mind of the one who was wrong). And how can this be beneficial (to the other)?

是以聖人執左契,而不責於人。有德司契,無德司徹。

2. Therefore (to guard against this), the sage keeps the left-hand portion of the record of the engagement, and does not insist on the (speedy) fulfilment of it by the other party. (So), he who has the attributes (of the Dao) regards (only) the conditions of the engagement, while he who has not those attributes regards only the conditions favourable to himself.

天道無親;常與善人。

3. In the Way of Heaven, there is no partiality of love; it is always on the side of the good man.

Legge's Comments

任契, 'Adherence to Bond or Covenant.' The chapter shows, but by no means clearly, how he who holds fast to the Dao will be better off in the end than he who will rather try to secure his own interests.

Par. 1 presents us with a case which the statements of the chapter are intended to meet:—two disputants, one good, and the other bad; the latter, though apparently reconciled, still retaining a grudge, and ready to wreak his dissatisfaction, when he has an opportunity. The = 'for,' 'for the good of.'

Par. 2 is intended to solve the question. The terms of a contract or agreement were inscribed on a slip of wood, which was then divided into two; each party having one half of it. At the settlement, if the halves perfectly fitted to each other, it was carried through. The one who had the right in the dispute has his part of the agreement, but does not insist on it, and is forbearing; the other insists on the conditions being even now altered in his favour. The characters by which this last case is expressed, are very enigmatical, having reference to the satisfaction of the government dues of Laozi's time,—a subject into which it would take much space to go.

Par. 3 decides the question by the action of Heaven, which is only another name for the course of the Dao.