Tao Te Ching Chapter1

by Jin, 07-25-08 // 7 comments

道 可 道 , 非 常 道 。 名 可 名 , 非 常 名 。
無 名 天 地 之 始 ; 有 名 萬 物 之 母 。
故 常 無 欲 以 觀 其 妙 ; 常 有 欲 以 觀 其 徼 。
此 兩 者 , 同 出 而 異 名 , 同 謂 之 玄 。
玄 之 又 玄 ,眾 妙 之 門 。

The Tao that can be described, is not the eternal Tao.
The name that’s used as a mere label, is not everlasting.
When the universe was first formed, it was a nameless void;
When names came to existence, that’s when everything started.
So, when people are void of earthly desires, that’s when they can clearly see the marvelous essence of the universe;
If not, then they can merely see superficial things on the surface.
The two outcomes came from looking at the same source, but differ in name.
Tao is found within that void source.

Only in that void source, lies the gateway to enlightenment.


Growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, my biggest desire was to move to New York City after college. I hated Raleigh with a passion. It was boring, uneventful, bad shopping, no good restaurants. I longed for the imagined life I’d have in NYC: living in a cool loft; hanging out with new trendy people I’d meet; eating out at the best restaurants the city has to offer; and shopping for name brand clothes on 5th ave. I didn’t know if I actually lived that life, I’d be happy or not. In fact, I wasn’t sure. I just knew I wanted it, because it wasn’t Raleigh.

I never got to move to New York.

Instead, I met a wonderful girl in Raleigh whom I married. We now have three wonderful boys. Last year, I moved up to the Washing D.C. area for my new job. It was then, I realized how much I miss Raleigh and what a wonderful town it is. Raleigh is peaceful, people are friendly and laid back. It’s the place where my parents and all my old friends live. It’s the exact same town I grew up in, nothing’s changed. I however, have changed. I no longer care about the materialistic life I didn’t get to experience in NYC.

In the opening of chapter one of Tao Te Ching, Lao Zi doesn’t spell out what Tao is, but he tells us what Tao is not. It can’t be spelled out clearly, therefore can’t be described in words. Tao is amorphous, and it’s everywhere. Tao has to be experienced rather than taught. Tao is achieved when a person lets go of all his/her emotional flaws. Without distraction, one can truly see the universe for what it is. Objective thinking is part of Tao. “The Universe(Heaven+Earth)” in the original text doesn’t limit to a cosmic level. It means everything: people, animals, plants, objects, events, etc.

I’m sure we all have had that moment of clarity, when we encounter the same thing/people/event again later on in life, you see it from a totally different perspective. A once rebellious young man returning from college may suddenly realize how wise his “uncool” dad is. His dad hasn’t changed a bit, but he has. /*raises hand*.

It’s increasingly hard for us to stay objective in the modern world. Temptations around us are more abundant than ever. The world has become a lot more materialistic. People are driven by their earthly desires: sex, fame, power, spite, etc. By “earthly desires,” Lao Zi talks about personal agendas and flawed emotions. True clarity is only achieved when one is void of those traits. Some of these traits are more subtle than others, so subtle we may not even realize them. For example:

When we have impatience, we see a crying baby as a nuisance; without impatience, we see it as miracle of life.

When we have arrogance, we dismiss people’s advices; without arrogance, we listen and learn.

When we have ego, we see an exotic car as a desired status symbol; without ego, we see it as the result of fine craftsmanship.

When we lust for someone, we only see a man/woman as a sexual object; without lust we can cherish him/her as a valuable companion.

Harry doesn't believe a man and woman can truly be friends, because of lust.

The path is pathless and those who walk it must be desire-less.

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7 comments

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alan 07-25-08

so true. This is a concept I’ve felt, but never heard in words so succinct.

Wawa 07-26-08

well, maybe it’s is not the fact Raleigh is wonderful and peaceful in nature, you perceive it that way only because your family and old friends are there. If they were in N.Y, you’d feel the same about the Big Apple? No? After all, home is where your heart lies; and your heart is the determining factor of any perception.

SQQ MA 07-27-08

I love your thought and translation for Dao De Jing. Your words are so cool in Tao.

quatl 07-28-08

And yet the fruits of worldly desires must also be part of the Tao, as they are part of the world.

So perhaps it is the way that desire can focus our perceptions of the world that interferes. Goal oriented thinking strips away the “irrelevant” qualia, so we can be undistracted, and pursue the objects of our desire more avidly.

In the process we lose sight of the things themselves, the objects are objectified, and become mere tools of our pursuit. Only reflections of our own intentions.

And thus it is that we lose the things themselves just as we gain our tightest hold on them.

rachel 10-06-08

I wish you all the best with your journey. You’ve made a good start.

Jin 10-06-08

Thank you for the comments!

KonstantinMiller 07-06-09

I think I will try to recommend this post to my friends and family, cuz it’s really helpful.