A Tale of Ten Tao Translations

There is really only one question: should I do the more difficulty thing? There is only one problem: how do I do the more difficult thing? So of course, when this comes up, one immediately thinks of Lao Tzu’s chapter 63 of the Tao Te Ching, which everyone knows whether you know or not, as this is the chapter which contains the advice, so obvious yet so hard to follow: “confront the difficult while it’s still easy.” But at the end of that chapter there is a statement about how the Master/Sage looks upon the difficult, and really, as everyone also knows, the readiness is all, posture is everything, etc. etc. It’s the inner disposition that fouls us up so often. So here are ten translations of the last sentence of the section, assuming that so many takes will get us toward the nuances of the original. The trick answer to the above question: everything is difficult.

[The Master] doesn’t cling to her own comfort;
thus problems are no problem for her.

Because the sage always confronts difficulties,
He never experiences them.

The master expects great difficulty,
so the task is always easier than planned.

For this reason even the sage regards things as difficult,
And therefore he encounters no difficulty.

The wise soul by treating the easy as hard,
doesn’t find anything hard.

It’s natural for a wise person to keep in touch with what might become difficult.
Therefore, he ends up without difficulties.

Therefore, sages regard things as difficult
So they never encounter difficulties all through life.

Therefore the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy, and so
never has any difficulties.

Using this: Sages make it even more difficult.
So in the end they have no difficulty.

If you face trouble sanely It cannot trouble you.

Here’s a little dose of difficulty and metaphor, sanity in action: