This is my translation of the fifth chapter. My translation is very different from most conventional translations that I came across. Thus I seek your openness.
When Heaven and Earth are not compassionate, all things are sacrificed;
Here ‘Heaven and Earth’ refers to the nature. ‘? ?’ is a dog made of straw, used in a sacrifice during ancient times, to appease the gods. Hence ‘? ?’ means sacrifice. When the nature is not compassionate, natural disasters such as flood, fire, earthquake, and hurricanes occur and make sacrifice of all things.
When the Wise is not compassionate, peasants are sacrificed.
Similarly when the Wise or the rulers are not compassionate, peasants would suffer. Hence it is as if peasants are sacrificed.
In this world, aren’t we like bellows?
‘??’ means bellows - A portable or fixed contrivance for producing a blast of air, esp. for fanning a fire. This verse reminds us that no matter how great humans think they are, physically they are only like bellows existing between the Heaven and Earth. This is a reminder of humbleness.
The nature is humble but not yielding, the more we act the more out of harmony it becomes.
Nature tolerates Man’s ways of manipulating it, but it always retains the last say. When we pollute nature, nature replies by poisoning us; when we upset its balance, it replies by giving us natural disasters. Thus nature tolerates but never yields. The more we carry out the unharmonious ways (actions), the more we upset nature.
It is fruitless to make justifications of our actions, it is better to dwell in non-action.
Intellects always try to justify and debate their unharmonious ways (actions) with words. However this is of no use, because nature does not listen to such debates. Nature would simply correct itself by bouncing on the doers of unharmonious ways. Hence ‘action speaks louder than words’, to be one with nature, we must practice the harmonious ways.
This is the first chapter that mentions the harmonious ways explicitly. Man in his ignorance, forgot that he is part of nature, and thought that he dictates nature. With such arrogance, he does not live harmoniously with nature. Nature is humble but not yielding. Soon nature corrects by cleansing itself of these unharmonious elements. When nature becomes unkind, all things become sacrifices, just as when the Wise is unkind, peasants become sacrifices. Hence we should all dwell in harmonious ways, and be one with nature.
Most other conventional translations, interpreted the second verse to
mean that the Wise should not be compassionate. I humbly beg to defer,
because this contradicts the central Taoist principle of doing good and
accumulating good karma.
Send me your comments.