Tao te ching (Daodejing) : The tao and the power
- Lao-tzu (Laozi) ; translated with an introduction and commentary by John Minford.
- Laozi, author
- New York, New York : Viking, 
Where to find it
The most translated book in the world after the Bible, the Tao Te Ching, or 'Book of the Way,' is a guide to cultivating a life of peace, serenity, and compassion. This new translation seeks to understand the Tao Te Ching as a guide to everyday living and encourages a slow, meditative reading experience. The Tao Te Ching's eighty-one brief chapters are accompanied by illuminating commentary, interpretation, poems, and testimonials by the likes of Margaret Mead, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. Specially commissioned calligraphy for more than two hundred Chinese characters illustrates the book's essential themes.
1 Gateway to All Marvels The Tao that can be Told Is not the True Tao; Names that can be Named Are not True Names. The Origin of Heaven and Earth Has no Name. The Mother of the Myriad Things Has a Name. Free from Desire, Contemplate the Inner Marvel; With Desire, Observe the Outer Radiance. These issue from One Source, But have different Names. They are both a Mystery. Mystery of Mysteries, Gateway to All Marvels. The River Master The Tao that can be Told is the mundane Tao of the Art of Government, as opposed to the True Tao of Nature, of the So-of-Itself, of Long Life, of Self-Cultivation through Non-Action. This is the Deep Tao, which cannot be Told in Words, which cannot be Named. The Names that can be Named are such worldly things as Wealth, Pomp, Glory, Fame, and Rank. The Ineffable Tao Emulates the Wordless Infant, It resembles The Unhatched Egg, The Bright Pearl within the Oyster, The Beauteous Jade amongst Pebbles. It cannot be Named. The Taoist glows with Inner Light, but seems outwardly dull and foolish. The Tao itself has no Form, it can never be Named. The Root of the Tao Proceeds from Void, From Non-Being, It is the Origin, The Source of Heaven and Earth, Mother of the Myriad Things, Nurturing All-under-Heaven, As a Mother Nurtures her Children. Magister Liu The single word Tao is the very Core of this entire Classic, its lifeblood. Its Five Thousand Words speak of this Tao and of nothing else. The Tao itself Can never be Seen. We can but witness it Inwardly, Its Origin, Mother of the Myriad Things. The Tao itself can never be Named, It cannot be Told. And yet we resort to Words, such as Origin, Mother, and Source. Every Marvel Contemplated, Every Radiance Observed, Issues from this One Source. They go by different Names, But are part of the same Greater Mystery, The One Tao, the Origin, the Mother. In freedom from Desire, We look within And Contemplate The Inner Marvel, Not with eyes But inwardly By the Light of Spirit. We look outward With the eyes of Desire, And Observe The Outer Radiance. Desire itself, in its first Inklings, in the embryonic Springs of Thought, is born within the Heart-and-Mind. Outer Radiance is perceived through Desire, in the World, in the opening and closing of the Doors of Yin and Yang. This is the Named, the Visible, these are the Myriad Things. Thus, both with and without Desire, we draw near to the Mystery of Mysteries, to the Gateway that leads to all Marvels, to the Tao. John Minford: The Tao and the Power says to its reader at the very outset, "Only through experience, only through living Life to the full, in both the Inner and Outer Worlds, can the True Nature of the Tao be Understood and communicated. Not through Words." Desire and the Life of the Senses are part of that experience. Through Desire we witness and enjoy the Beauty of the World, we Observe the Outer Radiance of the Tao. We live Life, we bask in its Radiance. Taoists do not deny the Senses. But Contemplation, the Light of Deep Calm, of meditative experience, goes further. It reveals the Inner Marvel, the Mystery of Mysteries. Outer Radiance and Inner Marvel issue from one and the same Source, which is the Tao. This twofold path is one of the central themes in Magister Liu's commentary, one to which he returns again and again, exhorting the Taoist Aspirant to begin from Observation of the Outer Radiance, and to proceed through Contemplation of the Inner Marvel to a deeper level of Self-Cultivation, to a deeper Attainment of the Tao. "It is Contemplation that gives spiritual significance to objects of sense." The Book of Taoist Master Zhuang: The Great Tao cannot be Told. The Great Discussion lies beyond Words . . . Where can I find someone who Understands this Discussion beyond Words, who Understands the Tao that can never be Told? This True Understanding of the Tao is a Reservoir of Heaven-and-Nature. Pour into it and it is never full. Pour from it and it is never exhausted. It is impossible to know whence it comes. It is Inner Light. Arthur Waley: Not only are Books the mere discarded husk or shell of wisdom, but Words themselves, expressing as they do only such things as belong to the normal state of consciousness, are irrelevant to the deeper experience of the Tao, the "wordless doctrine." Jan Duyvendak: The ordinary, mundane Tao (the one that can be easily Told, or talked about) is unchanging, static, and permanent. The True Tao is Elusive and Ineffable, is in its very Essence Perpetual Change. In the Tao, nothing whatsoever is fixed and unchanging. This is the first great paradox of this Classic, the ever-shifting Cycle of Change, of Being and Non-Being, in which Life and Death constantly yield to and alternate with each other. Richard Wilhelm: In the Taoist Heart-and-Mind, Psyche and Cosmos are related to each other like the Inner and Outer Worlds. JM: A Tao that could be Told might be any one of the Prescriptions for Living and Ruling that were being proposed in the ferment of the Chinese Warring States period (475-221 BC). All of them would have been called a Tao, a Way, a Recipe for Life. One such Tao, for example, was contained in the little book from that period known as The Art of War (Sunzi bingfa), whose "author," Sun-tzu (Sunzi), is every bit as lost in the mists of legend as Lao-tzu (Laozi). The Deep Tao, the True Way, and the inexhaustible Inner Power or Strength that flows from the experience of the Tao, are the subjects of this whole Five Thousand Word text. But they are beyond Telling. Words and Names are nothing more than disjointed bits and pieces; they fragment the whole, the One Tao. The paradoxical Mystery of Mysteries is that the Taoist fuses Being on the one hand (the Radiance, Magnificence, and Beauty of the Outer World, as perceived through the Senses, through Desire), and Non-Being on the other (the Dark Intangible Marvel and Mystery of the Inner World). This fusion, this Gateway to Marvels, does not lend itself to any simplistic Name or Label. Names were the preoccupation of more worldly schools of thought, especially the Confucians, for whom Names needed to correspond precisely to Things. As with so much of this short and densely ambiguous Classic, the Chinese word used here for Name, ming, has more than one meaning. It also means Fame, Renown, or Reputation (it is after all by being Famous that one acquires a "Name" for oneself). Taoists care nothing for Fame. They hide their Light. They are incognito. And yet, despite these protestations about the vanity of Words and Names, and the powerlessness of Words to describe the True Nature of the Tao, despite the futility of even attempting to define or dissect the Tao, paradoxically, The Tao and the Power itself is written in an intensely poetic language (sometimes mesmerizingly and bafflingly so), which edges imperceptibly toward the Wordless Truth, it is an inaudible Song with neither Words nor Music, it sings the Silence that is the Tao. The Tao needs to be experienced, not talked about. This Classic and its countless Commentaries do talk, they propose all manner of Images (see the Taoist Florilegium appended at the end of my translation for a selection of these). But these are merely pointers toward the Tao, toward the gnosis of Taoist experience, parts of a hermetic vocabulary for initiates. In that sense these Names are No-Names. Arthur Waley, whose translation from the 1930s remains one of the best, gives us a pithy summary of this first Chapter and of the whole book. "In dispassionate Vision the Taoist sees a world consisting of the things for which language has no Name. We can call it the Sameness or the Mystery. These Names are however merely stopgaps. For what we are trying to express is Darker than any Mystery." The Tang dynasty poet Bo Juyi (772-846) jested: Those who speak Know nothing; Those who Know Are silent. Those Words, I'm told, Were uttered By Lao-tzu. If we're to believe That he himself Was someone who Knew, Why did he end up Writing a Book Of Five Thousand Words? 2 A Wordless Teaching That which All-under-Heaven Considers Beautiful May also be considered Ugly; That which All-under-Heaven Considers Good May also be considered Not-Good. Being and Non-Being Engender one another. Hard and Easy Complete each other. Long and Short Generate each other. High and Low Complement each other. Melody and Harmony Resonate with each other. Fore and Aft Follow one another. These are Constant Truths. The Taoist dwells in Non-Action, Practices A Wordless Teaching. The Myriad Things arise, And none are rejected. The Tao gives Birth But never Possesses. The Taoist Acts Without Attachment, Achieves Without dwelling On Achievement, And so never loses. The River Master The Taoist rules through Non-Action, through the Tao. The Taoist guides through Wordless Teaching, by example. The Primal Breath-Energy of the Tao gives Life to the Myriad Things, but never Possesses them. The Tao seeks No recompense. The Taoist, Having Achieved, Retires to Seclusion And never dwells on Achievement. Magister Liu Non-Action and Wordlessness are the Core of this Chapter, Freedom from so-called Knowledge. Whosoever goes beyond False Knowledge is freed from "opposites" such as Beautiful and Ugly, High and Low. From this Higher Knowledge flows a Life without Possession or Attachment. The Heart-and-Mind of Opposition (such as that between Beautiful and Ugly) brings a Diminution of Life-Essence, a loss of Spirit, a confusion of Emotion. All of these damage Life. The Taoist abides in Non-Action. Freed from all such distinctions, which melt away in the Taoist Heart-and-Mind, the Taoist Returns to Non-Action, to the Wordlessness that leaves no trace. White is contained Within Black, Light shines In an Empty Room. This is the Taoist Vision. The Taoist finds Joy In unalloyed Serenity and Calm. The Book of Taoist Master Zhuang: Every That is also a This, every This is also a That. A thing may not be visible as That, it may be perceived as This. This and That produce each other. Where there is Birth there is Death. Where there is Death there is Birth. Affirmation creates Denial, Denial creates Affirmation. Right creates Wrong, Wrong creates Right. The Taoist's This is also a That, the Taoist's That is also a This. Waley: The first great principle of Taoism is the relativity of all attributes. Nothing in itself is either long or short. If we call a thing long, we merely mean longer than something else that we take as a standard. What we take as our standard depends on what we are used to . . . All antinomies, not merely high and low, long and short, but Life and Death themselves, merge in the Taoist identity of opposites. The type of the Sage who in true Taoist manner "disappeared" after Achieving Victory is Fan Li (fifth century BC) who, although offered half the kingdom if he would return in triumph with the victorious armies of Yue, "stepped into a light boat and was heard of no more." The poet Su Dongpo (1037-1101): Truest words Cannot be spoken. Truest sound Cannot be heard. The tides of the Ocean Reach beyond the Mountains, The subtlest echoes Are deep in the clouds. 3 Non-Action Not to Honor the Worthy Puts an end to Contending Among the folk. Not to Prize Rare Goods Puts an end to Theft Among the folk. Not to Display Objects of Desire Removes Chaos From the Heart-and-Mind Of the folk. The Taoist rules by Emptying Heart-and-Mind And Filling Belly, By softening the Will to Achieve, And strengthening Bones. The Taoist frees the folk From False Knowledge and Desire. Those with False Knowledge No longer dare to Act. The Taoist Accomplishes Through Non-Action, And all is well Ruled. The River Master The Worthy are those who have Achieved High Rank, and have as a consequence become estranged from the Tao, by involving themselves in worldly affairs. If however they are not publicly rewarded, if they do not receive Honor and Riches, then ordinary folk are not driven by ambition to emulate them and strive for Fame and Glory. Instead they can Return to the Calm of their True Nature. If Rare Goods are not prized in public, then ordinary folk will not be driven by Greed to Acquire them. If the Ruler returns gold to the mountains, casts pearls and precious pieces of jade back into the waters of the Abyss, if the Ruler is pure and uncorrupted, then the common folk will not feel Greed. The Taoist Rules the Nation as if it were Self, emptying Heart-and-Mind of Desire, and the folk Eschew Chaos and Confusion. The Taoist Fills Belly with the Tao, with the One. The Human Heart-and-Mind grows Supple and Soft. The folk no longer Contend. The Marrow grows full, The Bones firm. Free from False Knowledge And Desire, The folk Return To Calm, To Simplicity and Purity. They find Peace In Non-Action, In the Rhythms of Nature. Magister Liu Once False Knowledge and Desire have been extinguished, once the Worthy are no longer honored and Rare Goods are no longer prized, then there is no Contending, no Theft, but instead there is Order, a full Belly, and firm Bones. When the Multitude see such things as Fame and Wealth lying beyond their grasp, they will strive to Acquire them. When rare and highly prized Objects of Desire are put on show, they will steal in order to lay their hands on them. The Heart-and-Mind, Free of Desire, Turns inward To True Knowledge, To the Knowledge That Knows without Knowing. Then Action is Eschewed, And all is Accomplished Through Non-Action, Through the Pure Breath-Energy Of the Tao. JM: Confucius advocated Honoring the Worthy. So did Master Mo (the "neglected rival of Confucius," advocate of Universal Love, ca. 470-ca. 391 BC). One whole section of the Book of Master Mo is entitled "Honoring the Worthy," and contrasts with this teaching of Lao-tzu: This prevalence of poverty, scarcity, and chaos arises because Rulers have failed to Honor the Worthy and to employ the capable in their government. When the Worthy are numerous in the state, Order will be stable; when the Worthy are scarce, Order will be unstable. Therefore the task of the Ruler lies in multiplying the Worthy. This conventional Honoring of the Worthy was a pillar of the Chinese meritocracy for centuries, and has lasted to the present day, with all of its concomitant ills-an obsession with social status, ambition, corruption, nepotism, and deadening conformity. The Taoist shuns all of this. In an important sense, Non-Action implies Anarchy. Excerpted from Tao Te Ching: The Essential Translation of the Ancient Chinese Book of the Way by Lao Tzu All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
This item is about
- New York, New York : Viking, 
- Includes bibliographical references.
- xxxix, 326 pages : illustration ; 24 cm
- OCLC Number
- Other Identifiers
- LCCN: 2018030175