In ruling the people and in serving heaven it is best for a ruler to be sparing.
It is because he is sparing
That he may be said to follow the way from the start;
Following the way from the start he may be said to accumulate an abundance of virtue;
Accumulating an abundance of virtue there is nothing he cannot overcome;
When there is nothing he cannot overcome, no one knows his limit;
When no one knows his limit
He can possess a state;
When he possesses the mother of a state
He can then endure.
That is called the way of deep roots and firm stems by which one lives to see many days.
To be sparing means not to act at the limit. Furthermore, overcoming (the limit) is attained by acting sparingly, from within the limit. This is mysterious but it expresses the effortlessness of success. You can experience it in running, in the simple adage, “train don’t strain”. By continually training within your limit, your limit actually expands. By bursting at the seams, you become tired and injured.
From the perspective of others, acting sparingly, from well within your limit, leaves them to guess where that limit may be: there is a depth that can only be guessed at, like diving down into a lake to the point where it becomes dark and intimates limitlessness.