For thousands of years, scholars and laymen alike have pored over the mysterious and riveting words of Lao Tzu. Yoga, Zen, Buddhism, meditation — Taoism, for some, may seem just another flavor of the exotic. Yet these words mean so much more than that. In addition, Wilson provides a detailed introduction to the work, laying out the political, philosophical and historical backdrop for the old man who etched out these 5,some-odd characters on the border of Lo-yang in BCE. Upon closing the final page, you feel you are but a descendent. Ahead, you see you are but one in a long line on the fringe, calling out from the wilderness to eradicate meaningless ritual and return to the heart of the matter: to discover and become one with our own innate character, to recognize that same virtue residing in others and in the world around us, and thus act in this world as if we are integrated, not apart which we are not.
Through this return to our true selves, acting according to who we truly are and following the Way, you cannot help but become better stewards of the world around us, and better examples of human beings. I have about a dozen translations, and they are all necessarily different. This one sounds pretty neutral, which is good. So is the Rosenthal available online. My favorite is the painstakingly literal John C H Wu translation, which dares you to understand the context on your own!
Like Like. The Tao is Non-Action. Not-Contending is Non-Action. Therein lies its Excellence. Every Excellence in dwelling, in Heart-and-Mind, in friendship, in words resembles that of Water, which does not Contend. Non-Being, Emptiness. This is the opposite of Being, it is the formless undifferentiated Void or Chaos out of which Being comes.
This is the Prime Symbol of the Tao. Water is close to the Tao. It resembles the Woman who lies Beneath the Man. Dammed it comes to a Halt, released it Flows. It follows and obeys. This is its Nature. None can find fault with Water. Just as Water brings moisture to every place, so too the Taoist sees all as equals, close friends and distant persons alike, brings Peace to the elderly, Cherishes the young.
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Water wends its way gently round every obstacle, avoids height, sinks to depths, bends with curves, fills and pours, fits into Square and Circle, into Small and Great, into springs and rivers, smooths the Surface of things, accepts all manner of filth, contains gold, extinguishes fire, brings Life to plants and trees, softens and moistens the soil, brings Benefit to the Myriad Things, never Contending, always lower, always beneath All-under-Heaven, Supremely Soft and Gentle.
Mother, Woman, the Mysterious Feminine. The Son Returns to the Mother, Cleaves to her. The Son knows the Man, but Cleaves to the Woman. The Son is Nourished by the Mother, builds strength from softest shoots, from tiniest details. The Flood of the Tao is like water blown by the wind, like waves rippling to left and right, coming forth and disappearing in unfathomable ways. I drift and glide, like the boundless floods of River and Ocean, seeking repose in the Realm of Spirit.
Others busily Contend, wasting Spirit. Others sparkle and are bright, I am dull and listless, like the boundless Ocean. Consider two mountain peaks facing each other, and the Valley between. This is the Valley Spirit. The Tao is fathomless and unknowable, like Water deep in an Abyss. Know Man, Cleave to Woman. Dust, In the World. Dust is a common metaphor for the noise and fuss of the World, of everyday life.
Be One with the Dust of the World, blend with it, do not stay aloof. The Taoist often conceals his Treasure, and lives hidden in the crowd. But once met, he kindles Light in others. Dwell in the world, do not deny it, Merge with the Dust, Resonate with outer things, be still and not entangled, in the Dust, but not of the Dust, in the World, but not of the World.
He learns to live in the World without injuring Spirit. He dwells in the Dust but is able to rise above the Dust.
Tao Te Ching: An All-New Translation - Japan Today
This is the Bellows, the Tao of Heaven and Earth. Abundant Inner Power resembles an Infant, whom poisonous insects do not sting, whom fierce beasts do not seize, whom birds of prey do not attack. The Infant knows nothing of the joining of Woman and Man, and yet its member can stand erect. Its Essence is Perfect. All day the Infant may cry, but is never hoarse.
Tao Te Ching: The New Translation from Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition
Its Harmony is Perfect. The Mystic Power of the Taoist is deep and distant, it cannot be sought out by Taught Illumination, it cannot be Attained by so-called Wisdom. This brought Clarity and Calm to their thinking. Root, Source, Origin. Wholeness is Achieved by Attaining the One.
Without the One, Things Fail. The One is Root and Foundation of all. The Taoists were like Mud that settles and becomes clear. They Attained Calm but were lively in Gentle Motion.
Simple Undyed Silk, Knotted Cords. Lineage of the Light.
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This is a Great Mystery. The Lineage of Light is transmitted from Teacher to Disciple. Small Fish, Not-Meddling. I do not Meddle, and they prosper Of-themselves. It is One, not Two, it is Dark, it does not shine. Do not handle a small fish too much, in case it disintegrates. If the Rulers of a Nation Meddle, the folk will be distressed. This is the Self-Perfection that Heaven has given a person, to accomplish which is the consummation of all Taoist practice.
It can also be translated as Life-Store, the Font of Vitality, the store of Vital Forces of a human being that are wasted in such things as Sex, Violent Emotion, and Desire, all of which cause the vital fluids sexual fluids, sweat, saliva, moist breath to drain away. When this Life-Store is exhausted, the result is Death. Everything that exists, all objects or external phenomena. Literally Heaven, but in a broader sense Nature, the course which things follow or should follow — the recurrence of the Seasons, the cycles of the Heavenly Bodies, the Tao of Heaven-and-Nature.
Everything which man cannot alter — his Nature, his Destiny — is due to the Decree of Heaven. Usefulness of the Useless, Utility of Futility. Clarity and Calm, Mirror. It reflects but does not absorb.
It is Still Water. It is Tranquil, Calm without a ripple. True Taoists care nothing for Fame. To follow the True Light of the Tao is to search in the Dark.