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Translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, The Tao and its name

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posted on Oct, 28 2019 @ 07:30 PM
I've spent a lot of time in my life on comparative religion studies. I'm a very big fan of Joseph Campbell and his works in mythology. I've read a lot of the World's religions and spiritual texts. And of all of them, in my humble opinion, I find Taoism to be the most pure and closest to the absolute truth of our existence. Maybe you will too. Here is the first chapter of Lao Tzu's principle teaching below.

The cool thing about Taoism is you can be a Taoist and still also practice and believe in your favorite existing dogma. Taoism does not replace your religion. It simple augments it and allows you to have a richer experience of your existing religion.



1. Naming things enables us to differentiate between them, but names are
words, and words easily give rise to confusion. They do not replace the thing
or direct experience of the thing which they name, but only represent or
describe it.

Consider a thing such as a strawberry. If we wish to find the word
'strawberry', we look in a dictionary; if we wish to find a description of a
strawberry, we look in an encyclopedia. But if we are hungry, we do not go to
the library, but to the field where fine strawberries may be found. If we do not
know where there is such a field, we might seek guidance as to where fine
strawberries may be found. A book on the Tao is like such a guide. It can
point us in the direction of the strawberry patch, but cannot provide the fruit
itself. It can give an idea of the taste of Tao, but of itself, has no taste to
compare with direct experience of the Tao.

Consider now three things: There is the universal principle which enables all
things to be, and to flourish naturally; there is the name 'Tao', by which that
universal principle is known; and there are words which describe the
manifestations of the Tao.

Even the name 'Tao' is only a convenience, and should not be confused with the
universal principle which bears that name, for such a principle embraces all
things, so cannot be accurately named nor adequately described. This means that
Tao cannot be understood, for it is infinite, whereas the mind of man is finite,
and that which is finite cannot encompass that which is infinite.

Although we cannot understand Tao, we are not prevented from having knowledge of
it, for understanding stems from one of the two forms of knowledge. It stems
from that which is called cognitive knowledge, the knowledge born of words and
numbers, and other similar devices. The other form of knowledge, conative
knowledge, needs no words or other such devices, for it is the form of knowledge
born of direct personal experience. So it is that conative knowledge is also
known as experiential knowledge.

Cognitive and experiential knowledge both have their roots in reality, but
reality is complex, and complexity is more of a barrier to cognitive knowledge
than it is to experiential knowledge, for when we seek cognitive knowledge of a
thing, that is, understanding of it, the knowledge we gain of that thing is
understanding only of its manifestations, which is not knowledge of the thing

We may seek to understand a thing, rather than to experience it, because, in a
world beset with man made dangers, it is frequently safer to understand than to
experience. Tao is not man made, and there is nothing in it to fear. So it is
that we may experience Tao without fear.

When we cease to seek cognitive knowledge, that is, cease to seek understanding
of a thing, we can gain experiential knowledge of that thing. This is why it is
said that understanding Tao is not the same as knowing Tao; that understanding
Tao is only to know that which it manifests, and that knowing Tao is to be one
with the universal principal which is Tao. This is to say that knowledge of Tao
is not the same as understanding Tao. To know Tao is to experience both Tao and
the manifestations of that universal principle. As human beings, we are born as
manifestations of Tao.

If this seems complex, the reason is because Tao is both simple and complex. It
is complex when we try to understand it, and simple when we allow ourselves to
experience it. Trying to understand Tao is like closing the shutters of a
window before looking for a shadow. We might close the shutters to prevent
anyone from discovering our treasure, but the same shutters prevent the
moonlight from entering the room. All there is in the room is darkness, and in
total darkness we cannot find the shadow, no matter how hard or diligently we

We call one thing a shadow, and another darkness, but the shadow is darkness,
and the darkness shadow, for in reality, both darkness and shadow are absence of
light, yet we call one shadow and the other darkness. The shadow is darkness in
the midst of light, but within total darkenss, the shadow seems to disappear,
for darkness is a shadow within shadows. We may think that the shadow has been
destroyed when all light is removed, but it has not been wiped away; in reality
it has grown, but we need light even to see that form of darkenss which we call
a shadow.

Such is the pursuit of the universal priciple called Tao, that if we seek to
understand it, we prevent the very means by which it may be found, for the only
way in which we might find Tao is through the experience of Tao. We find Tao
when we do not seek it, and when we seek it, it leaves us, just as the silver
moonlight leaves the room when we close the shutters. We find and know Tao
when we allow ourselves to find and know it, just as the moonlight returns when
we allow it to return.

We do not need to seek Tao as we seek physical treasures such as jade or gold.
We do not need to seek Tao as we seek such treasures as fame or titles. We do
not need to seek the treasure of Tao, for although the greatest of treasures, it
is also the most common. Perhaps it is bacause it is so common that so few men
find it; they seek it only in mysterious and secret places, in chasms and caves,
and in the workplace of the alchemist. The Tao is not hidden in these places,
and is hidden only from those who frequent and inhabit them, secretively, and
with the shutters closed.

Just as darkness may be known as the absence of light, so to may light be known
as the absence of darkness. When we experience darkness and light as having the
same source, we are close to the Tao, for Tao is the source of both darkness and
light, just as it is also the source of all other natural things. When we
experience ourselves as part of Tao, as a shadow or reflection of the universal
principle, we have found it, for it is said that "Experience of Tao is Tao".

edit on 28-10-2019 by dfnj2015 because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 28 2019 @ 07:45 PM
That's a lot of word salad there to make one's eyes cross while still saying not much.

It'd be nice if a simple summary could have taken it's place.

posted on Oct, 28 2019 @ 08:20 PM
a reply to: Nyiah

I was thinking the same thing Nyiah. I would appreciate a summery as well.

posted on Oct, 28 2019 @ 08:51 PM
a reply to: Nyiah

a reply to: Night Star

Summary =

It's all about that wu wei, go with the flow...


A Buddhist goes to a hot dog stand and says "Make me one with everything!"

edit on 28-10-2019 by NarcolepticBuddha because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 28 2019 @ 08:56 PM
a reply to: NarcolepticBuddha

I read The Tao Of pooh years ago.

Simplicity and living in the now.

posted on Oct, 28 2019 @ 09:03 PM
a reply to: Night Star

The wisdom of procrastination ^_^

Very cool, thanks for sharing. Sounds like an interesting read.

posted on Oct, 28 2019 @ 09:26 PM
a reply to: dfnj2015

I can dig it

As mentioned , wu wei is a nice distilled perspective.

I like the Taoist story, Maybe

Maybe There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "May be," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed. "May be," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "May be," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "May be," said the farmer.

posted on Oct, 28 2019 @ 09:54 PM
a reply to: waftist

I have read the same story with the farmer’s reply as, “Good, bad? Who can say?”

I think it is more inline with the Tao as being both thoughtful (philosophical, what and why things mean what they mean) and experiential (in a manner, this story is about experiencing time as a sequence and not knowing the final outcome... glass half full or half empty).

@all, The “word salad” aspect is part of the method of motivating you to start your journey down “the path” so you can be on “The Way”.

That also leads to some funny ideas... “the menu is not the meal” and ‘Hey Yogi! What time is it?’, (Yogi Berra), “You mean right now?!!”

posted on Oct, 28 2019 @ 10:11 PM
a reply to: waftist

Oh, I've read that before and love it! Perspective.

posted on Oct, 28 2019 @ 11:24 PM
a reply to: Nyiah

the op may have posted a wot, but thats ok.

the tao speaks in parables, just as jesus did, because ultimate truth cannot be understood in words. words can only point the way.

for example. you have a string. is it a short string or a long string? neither until it is compared to another string. however, its still a string.

another example. you have three people sitting around a pot of vinegar. each take a sip. the first winces in disgust, and reacts. the second winces then smiles, because he thought about its usefulness. the third just smiles, because vinegar is supposed to taste that way. a taoist accepts things as they are, not how they are perceived to be.

yet another way to think of the tao is the force from star wars. matter of fact, the force is modeled on the tao according to lucas.

"Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes." -yoda

have you ever been in the "zone"? that is the tao.

posted on Oct, 28 2019 @ 11:41 PM
IMHO: The Tao: is just fine, without the 'ism' that we attach to it.
But alas: it is common practice to attach these 'ism''s to concepts, as we drag them into the human experience.

The Tao was written in Chinese, and not so easy to translate to English.

After one has read a couple of different translations, perhaps it what lies underneath, may become clearer.

Here is a 'common' translation of the first chapter:

The Way that can be walked is not the eternal Way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of all things. Therefore: Free from desire you see the mystery.
Full of desire you see the manifestations.
These two have the same origin but differ in name.
That is the secret, The secret of secrets, The gate to all mysteries.

Online all chapter of the Tao Te Ching:

Here is a link, to 76 different translations, of the same first chapter:

posted on Oct, 29 2019 @ 01:07 AM
a reply to: dfnj2015

I would not call that a translation. It's maybe an interpretation. The first link provided by Nothin seems to be a pretty damn good one from a quick skim of a few pages. It would be valuable if you are interested in Taoism. I think a more straight up translation is closer to the spirit of why it was written.

A straight translation is a quick read, but you will chew on it for a very long time. Another to read is the Zhuangzi.

I'm sending a PM to you as well.

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