This site is for people interested in the meaning of the Tao Te Ching.
As you perhaps know, the Tao Te Ching (translated the Classic of Tao and Te) was written by Lao Tzu with the main intent of providing a handbook of wisdom.
Unfortunately, many tried to reduce the meaning and usage of this Book to abstract philosophy – only a few stressed its immediate utility as a guide to the everyday living. This feature is dealt with on this site.
There are three main difficulties when we try to decode the Book’s text:
- Its language of ancient Chinese; this issue explains why we don’t have an accurate and unique translation.
- Its wisdom, mainly Taoist, which operates with strange terms such as: tao, yin-yang, wu, wu-wei and fu. Westerners are not familiar with them and much less with their meaning.
- Its antiquity. Many believe this Book is a piece of ancient Chinese cultural history, something one should put in a museum.
One have to face all these aspects in order to seize the real grandeur of Tao Te Ching and the revelation it brings to the modern world concerning a way of being and acting in accord with our ever-changing social and political universe.
The most difficult is the explanation of its concepts. For example, here’s what Lao Tzu himself told us about the Tao (the core-concept of the Book):
The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and
unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.
(Conceived of as) having no name, it is the Originator of heaven
and earth; (conceived of as) having a name, it is the Mother of all
Always without desire we must be found,
If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.
Did you grasp the meaning of this passage? I doubt you did!
Summary and Comments
So I suggest you start with the Tao Te Ching Summary section of this site. Then follow with Tao-Te, the Teachings and Comments (see the menu above).
Regarding the comments, please keep in mind that most of those you already read on the Net are not accurate because they don’t spring from the Taoist mind but from the Western one instead.
Many wrongly think that Taoism is similar with naturalism or the hippies era. So you should start from the scratch with ours (comments) and see what is really about!
Moreover, when reading the comments, please keep an empty mind. Why? Because one should forget everything he/she thinks he/she knows in order to learn new things. This idea is not a Taoist one – one may find it in Christianity, Buddhist-Tantric teachings and gnostic tradition as well.
This is why one may read in the Gospel of Thomas: When the disciple is empty he/she is full of Light. When he/she is full, he/she is full of Darkness.
Here too emptiness is the key!
Emptiness is the key with Taoists too. Remember the quote:
The thirty spokes unite in the one nave; but it is on the empty
space (for the axle), that the use of the wheel depends.
The wheel usage depends on the empty space inside the nave. The more with the learning process – it depends of the emptiness in the mind of students.
Many tried to explain what is the Taoist emptiness (wu) and what is it good for recurring to all kind of philosophical speculations. But philosophy will not help. We need more: direct experience with the empty mind. We must live and act like ancient Taoist Masters did!
Things You Need To Know About Translations
Now a few things about translations. I use to read James Legge’s version of Tao Te Ching. Why? Because it is less imbued with Christian ideas and believes. You should know that the scientific approach of Tao Te Ching is made mainly from a Christian point of view. This is true even when it seems that the critic is a free mind person or an atheist. When you meet statements such as the Tao equals the Christian God, you are sure you met a Christian approach of Tao Te Ching which is inaccurate.
There are many translations of Tao Te Ching, and many will come soon or later, and what is worst they are not similar. This make the choice of the best one an impossible task. Adding to this the translator’s parti pris, you can easily figure out the mess of the so-called translations.
To paraphrase a great Tantra teacher you don’t have to bother with the words but with the practice. If you start with the practice the meaning of the words will automatically be revealed to you. To quote a great Ch’an Master: the words are fingers pointing to the moon, not the moon itself.
Practicing? My God, What Is This About?
Yes, Tao Te Ching may be put in practice. It provides teachings on how to deal with your word, its challenges and your desires. It shows you the way to success. But you should learn the practical usage of Tao Te Ching.
This is not a very simple task. One needs much experience to find out his/her way out to the clear light from the jungle of this Book’s ideas, concepts and words. One should start with the theory and continue with the practice of the Taoist meditation.
Lao Tzu and Tao Te Ching Revealed – The PDF Guide
I want to finish this intro with the presentation of a good beginner’s guide to the Tao Te Ching meaning.
It explains everything in plain words (like at school!). It is an ebook (PDF) that you may download within minutes. Click here to learn more.