Read this new English translation of the Daodejing to learn more about the timeless wisdom of Laozi, one of China’s most famous philosophers.
Daodejing Chapter 1
The way that can be spoken of is not the constant way;
The name that can be named is not the constant name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named is the mother of the myriad things.
Therefore, by always remaining free of desire you can observe its secrets;
While by always remaining full of desire, you can observe its manifestations.
The two emerge from the same source,
But they have different names;
Call them both mysteries;
Mystery upon mystery;
The gateway to all secrets.
Continue reading Daodejing: New English Translation
More on the essential paradox of the Dao: even if you can’t see or touch it, you know instinctively that it’s there deep inside you. Continue reading The essential paradox
Adrian Mole or Meursault from The Outsider (L’Étranger)? Perhaps with a dash of Pink Floyd added in. This is one of a very few passages in the Daodejing that is written in the first person, though it is not known who the actual writer is. Continue reading The outsider
Ah, the good old days when men were men and, well, I’m sure you get my drift. Just like Confucius did with the Duke of Zhou, Laozi is attempting to evoke a golden age from deep antiquity that almost certainly never existed. He is imploring people to learn from the mythologized behavior of the (nameless) great masters of the past in the hope that everyone returns to the right path. Continue reading Daodejing: back to the good old days
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! Continue reading Daodejing: the unbroken thread
Know when enough is enough. Stay humble no matter how successful you are. Pride comes before the fall.
Holding a cup while filling it to the brim,
Is not as good as stopping in time;
Hammering a blade until it is sharp,
Will not preserve its edge for long.
When your hall is stuffed with gold and jade,
Nobody will be able to protect it.
When riches and honors lead to arrogance;
Disaster will inevitably follow;
Retire when you have accomplished your goal;
This is the way of heaven.
The highest good is like water;
Water brings good to all things without contending with them;
It settles in places that people disdain;
Thus, it is akin to the way.
In choosing your home, it is the location that counts;
In cultivating your mind, it is depth that counts;
In dealing with others, it is goodness that counts;
In speaking, it is good faith that counts;
In governing, it is order that counts;
In handling affairs, it is ability that counts;
In action, it is timing that counts.
By not contending with others,
You won’t be singled out for reproach.
The Dao is like water. It sustains life without intending to. Continue reading Daodejing: flow like water
The more you give, the more you get back. I’m not sure I even need to add that.
Heaven is infinite and earth is eternal;
The reason why they last so long is because they do not exist for themselves;
Thus, they can continue to endure.
That is why the sage:
Places himself at the back, but finds himself at the front;
Places himself on the outside, but remains present.
Isn’t it because he doesn’t think of himself,
That he is able to achieve his private ends?
There is not much I can add to this: the way is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent if only you choose to acknowledge and follow it.
The way is an empty vessel;
But as much as it is drawn from, it never fills up.
It’s so deep that it is like the origin of all things.
Blunt the sharpness;
Untangle the knot;
Soften the glare;
Let your wheels move along old ruts;
Invisible and formless, it always seems to be present.
I have no idea who gave birth to it.
It seems to have existed before the Lord did.
It’s no big surprise that the Daodejing (道德經) holds a much stronger grasp over Western imaginations than the Analects. Mystical ambiguities are a lot more fun to mull over than the moral absolutes that Confucius espoused.
Continue reading Daodejing: enjoy the mystery