The Tao gave birth to one.
One gave birth to two.
Two gave birth to three.
And three begat the 10,000 things.
The 10,000 things carry yin and embrace yang;
they achieve harmony by combining forces.
People suffer at the thought of being without parents, without food, or without worth.
Yet this is the very way that kings and lords once described themselves.
For one gains by losing, and loses by gaining.
What others taught, I teach.
The violent do not die a natural death.
That is my fundamental teaching.
The Tao is the creating force of all things and is outside the control of our mortal hands. Everything that we see and experience carries both darkness (yin; also associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity and nighttime) and light (yang; also associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime). However, in order to achieve balance and harmony, both must be accepted.
People associate the possessions and the circumstances of their life with the level of happiness and contentment that they enjoy. However, one gains happiness and contentment by losing their attachment to those things of the outside world that they have become reliant on.
This last stanza can be summarized with the statement “what you put out is what you have given to you in return”. If you are a violent and angry person, then that is what you receive from others in return. That is the karma that you have created. On the other hand, what the verse is alluding to, but not explicitly stating is that the inverse is also true. If you exhibit love, peace, and joy then that is what you will receive more of in return. That is not to say that you will never see anger or misuse from others, but rather you will learn to not have your internal state impacted by such actions.
To summarize this verse, we can say that we must accept what is and understand that we have no control over the outside world. Therefore, we mustn’t become attached to things and expectations regarding situations in our lives. In return, no matter what the outside circumstances of our lives are, we must come from a place consistent with the qualities that we want to see in the world. Ergo, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.