Cloud of mystery

Laozi was very wise in choosing not to give the Dao a proper name. If he had done so, the cloud of mystery that he created around the ever-elusive way would have instantly disappeared because once people knew what it was called there was a good chance that they would assume they understood it and had perhaps even found it. Far better to give the Dao intangible, almost magical, properties to keep people searching for its essence than to set its meaning in stone like a statue of a god or deity!

Far better, too, for rulers to follow the Dao so that the people spontaneously treat each other equitably rather than having to resort to issuing a constant stream of new decrees to govern their behavior. For the more new laws a ruler issues, the more likely it is that his people will rise up against the oppressive yoke he is placing them under.

「道常無名,樸,雖小,天下莫能臣也。侯王若能守之,萬物將自賓。天地相合,以降甘露,民莫之令而自均。始制有名,名亦既有,夫亦將知止;知止,可以不殆。譬道之在天下,猶川谷之與江海。」
The way forever has no name;
Although the uncarved block is small,
No one in the world can subordinate it.
If princes and kings are able to hold fast to it,
All things will submit of their own accord.
Heaven and earth will come together,
And cause sweet dewdrops to fall.
The people will be equitable without being ordered to.
Only when the whole is divided are names required for each part.
When there are names,
You need to know when to stop.
Knowing when to stop averts trouble.
For the way is to the world,
What streams and rivulets are to the rivers and seas.

 

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