Scripture on the Way and Virtue, Chapter 22

With Bai Yuchan’s Commentary

Translation Copyright ©2019 by Stuart Alve Olson

Increased Modesty
益 謙

To be bent is to preserve the whole (then Nature can never be depleted). To be crooked is to be straightened (then Spirit can never be fathomed). To be hollow is to be filled (then the Mind can never be exhausted). To be worn is to be restored (it takes Mind to exhaust the Mind). To have little is to acquire more (it takes Nature to deplete Nature). To have too much is to be perplexed (it takes Spirit to fathom Spirit).

Therefore, the Sage becomes the model of the world through Embracing the One1 (the Mind is then Nature, Nature is then Spirit, Spirit is then Tao).

By not insisting on his views, he is illuminated (when [insisting on views] there is a manifestation of wrong views. With the manifestation [of illumination] there is a manifestation of distant brightness, and [wrong views] are unable to manifest).

By not being self-righteous, he is illustrious (by how much then is the illumination divided by these?).

By not being boastful, he receives credit (the Mind is the superior kungfu, what could divide this?).

By not being arrogant of his deeds, he can lead (so even a small mind is not obscured, but is long preserved throughout antiquity).

Because he is not contentious (which is the false self), no one under heaven can contend with him (if I have a false self, how much more could I acquire without a self?).

The ancients said, “To be bent is to preserve the whole.” (Nature can not be depleted.) Are these merely empty words? (These words are True Reality!)2 Be preserved so you may return (this is achieved with just one correct thought, but without acting upon it, it is not correct).


  1. Embracing the One (抱 一, Bao Yi). See Embracing the One by Stuart Alve Olson.
  2. True Reality (眞 實, Zhen Shi) is the True Nature of all things. All things are One, the Tao, so how could Nature be depleted?

The Meaning

This chapter is about self-preservation and self-fulfillment achieved through Lao Zi’s central teaching of non-contention. To avoid harmful influences that shorten life a person needs to cultivate humility and yielding, rather than through struggle or warfare. The overall meaning of this chapter is found in the belief that the power and influence of true virtue is in the imitation of the ways of nature.

In the Yin Convergence Scripture (陰 符 經, Yin Fu Jing) the opening line states, “Contemplate nature, imitate nature, then all is complete.”

Also, in the Book of Changes (Hexagram #15, Modesty) is found this statement, “The superior person, accordingly, reduces what is excessive and augments what is too little, and through careful discrimination grants equality to all things.”

Bai Yuchan’s Original Text

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