But if rulers practise inaction and the ruled also practise inaction, the ruled will equal the rulers, and will not be as their subjects. On the other hand, if the ruled practise action and rulers also practise action, rulers will assimilate themselves to the ruled, and will not be as their masters. Rulers must practise inaction in order to administer the empire. The ruled must practise action in order to subserve the interests of the empire. This is an unchangeable law.
- And one over which the commentators have exhausted not a little wit. At the end of the chapter, the reader will be able to draw his own conclusions.
Thus, the men of old, although their knowledge did not extend throughout the universe, were not troubled in mind. Although their intellectual powers beautified all creation, they did not rejoice. Although their abilities exhausted all things within the limits of ocean, they did not act.
Heaven has no parturitions, yet all things are evolved. Earth knows no increment, yet all things are nourished. The wise ruler practises inaction, and the empire applauds him. Therefore it has been said, "There is nothing more mysterious
- In its action.
than heaven, nothing richer than earth, nothing greater than the wise ruler." Wherefore also it has been said, "The virtue of the wise ruler makes him the peer of heaven and earth." Charioted upon the universe, with all creation for his team, he passes along the highway of mortality.