Daodejing: the unbroken thread

I am beginning to see why the Daodejing appeals to so many people in the west seeking spiritual inspiration. Passages like this one in Chapter 14 do a masterful job of evoking the myriad mysteries of the Dao, which stretches back to the very “beginnings of antiquity”. The richness and ambiguity of the text, no matter whether it’s in Chinese or English, certainly send the brain cells spinning in multiple directions!

However, as I’m also discovering, there’s much more to the book than its spiritual elements. The Daodejing is also a leadership manual advising rulers how to run their kingdoms, a design guide on how to make the best use of black and white spaces, and a universal handbook of basic ethical principles. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of it will unravel in the remain chapters.

「視之不見名曰夷,聽之不聞名曰希,搏之不得名曰微,此三者不可致詰,故混而為一。其上不皦,其下不昧,繩繩不可名,復歸於無物。是謂無狀之狀,無物之象,是謂惚恍。迎之不見其首,隨之不見其後。執古之道,以御今之有。能知古始,是謂道紀。」
What you look at but cannot see is called the invisible;
What you listen to but cannot hear is called the inaudible;
What you touch but can’t hold is called the intangible.
These three defy close examination,
They cannot be told apart from each other and are conceived of as one.
Its top is not bright;
Its bottom is not obscure;
It is infinite beyond description;
It reverts to a state of nothingness.
This is called the form that has no form,
The image that has no substance;
This is called the indistinct and indistinguishable.
Approach it from the front and you will not see its beginning;
Follow it from the rear and you will not see its end.
Hold fast to the ancient way to master the here and now.
The ability to know the beginnings of antiquity,
This is called the unbroken thread of the way.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *