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Tao Te Ching


Tao Te Ching can be translated as:

  • The Book of the Immanence of the Way, or

  • The Book of the Way and of How It Manifests Itself in the World, or, simply,

  • The Book of the Way.

About Lao-tzu, its author, there is practically nothing to b said. He may have been an older contemporary of Confucious (551 - 479 B.C.E) and may have held the position of archive-keeper in one of the petty kingdoms of the time. But all the information that has come down to us is highly suspect. Even the meaning of his name is uncertain (the most likely interpretations: "tho Old Master" or, more picturesquely, "the Old Boy"). Like an Iroquois woodsman, he left no traces. All he left us is this book: the classic manual of the art of living, written in style of gemlike lucidity, radiant with humor and grace and largeheartedness and deep wisdom: one of the wonders of the world.

It is clear from his teachings that he deeply cared about society, if society means the welfare of one's fellow human beings; his book is, among other things, a treatise on the art of government, whether of a country or of a child. The misperception may arise from his insistence on "doing not-doing," which has been seen as passivity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A good athlete can enter a state of body-awareness in which the right stroke or the right movement happens by itself, effortlessly, without any interference of the conscious will. This is a paradigm of non-action: the purest and most effective form of action. The game plays the game, the poem wires the poem; we can't tell the dancer from the dance.

Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action.

When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

Nothing is done because the doer has wholeheartedly vanished into the deed; the fuel has been completely transformed into flame. This 'nothing is in fact, everything. It happens when we trust the intelligence of the universe in the same way that an athlete or a dancer trusts the superior intelligence of the body. Hence Lao-tzu's emphasis on softness is.

Lao-tzu's central figure is a person whose life is in perfect harmony with the way things are. This is not an idea; it is a reality; I have seen it. The Master has mastered Nature; not in the sense of conquering it, but of becoming it. In surrendering to the Tao, in giving up all concepts, judgments, and desires, here mind has grown naturally compassionate. She finds deep in her own experience the central truths of the art of living, which are paradoxical only on the surface: that the more truly solitary we are, the more compassionate we can be; the more we let go of what we love, the more present our love becomes; the clearer our insight into what is beyond good and evil, the more we can embody the good. Until finally she is able to say, in all humility, "I am the Tao, the Truth, the Life."

The teaching of the Tao Te Ching is moral in the deepest sense. Unencumbered by any concept of sin, the Master doesn't see evil as a force to resist, but simply as an opaqueness, a state of self-absorption which is in disharmony with the universal process, so that, as with a dirty window, the light can't shine through. This freedom from moral categories allows him to his great compassion for the wicked and the selfish.

Thus the Master is available to all people and doesn't reject anyone.

He is ready to use all situations and doesn't waste anything.

This is called embodying the light.

Chapter 1

The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.

Naming is the origin of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery. --- (infinitely marvelous, yet as ordinary as sunlight) (precious - insignificant) (dichotomy)

Caught in desire, you see only the manifestation.

Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source.

This source is called darkness. --- (because none of our senses can perceive it) (It is also called "light" because the less we obstruct it, the more radiant we are.)

Darkness within darkness.

The gateway to all understanding. --- (In order to understand, we have to remain in the darkness of not-knowing.)

Chapter 81

True words aren't eloquent; eloquent words aren't true. (words are just signposts.)

Wise men don't need to prove their point; men who need to prove their point aren't wise.

The Master has no possession.

The more he does for others, the happier he is. --- (Because he is doing it for himself)

The more he gives to others, the wealthier he is. --- (The less he holds on to, the more he can give himself to others. When he give himself completely, his wealth is infinite.)

The tao nourishes by not forcing.

By not dominating, the master leads.

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