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Tao Te Ching


The Tao described in words is not the real Tao. Words cannot describe it.

Nameless it is the source of creation; named it is the mother of all things.

To see Tao the observer must be motiveless. Those with selfish motives see only the surface, not the innermost depths.

These two kinds of observers look alike but differ in the insight of their observations.

They look alike because they are both human; within humanity is the key to the door of creation.

There is something mysterious, without beginning, without end, that existed before the heavens and earth. Unmoving; infinite; standing alone; never changing. It is everywhere and it is inexhaustible. It is the mother of all.

I do not know its name. If I must name it I call it Tao and I hail it as supreme. Supreme means never-ending; never-ending means far-reaching; and far-reaching means returning. Thus Tao is supreme, and heavens are supreme, earth is supreme, and man is supreme. There are four supremes in the universe; man is one of them.

Man is subject to the laws of the earth, the earth is subject to the laws of the universe, the universe is subject to the laws of the Tao, and Tao is subject to the laws of its own nature.

Tao is a vast immeasurable void. In can be used to infinity; it is truly inexhaustible. Like nature, it appears to be the origin of everything. In it, conflicts (sharp edges) are satisfied (rounded); differences (tangles) are resolved (united); observations (light) are clarified (tempered); disturbances (turmoil) are quieted (submerged).

It is like a deep, dark pool. I do not know its source. It is like a prelude to nature, a preface to God.


The Book of Tao - Frank J. MacHovec The Peter Pauper Press, 1962




Nine Translations of Chapter One...


TAO called TAO is not TAO. 
Names can name no lasting name.

Nameless: the origin of heaven and earth.
Naming: the mother of ten thousand things.

Empty of desire, perceive mystery.
Filled with desire, perceive manifestations.

These have the same source, but different names.
Call them both deep-
Deep and deep again deep: 
The gateway to all mystery. 


"Tao Te Ching" - Stephen Addiss, Stanley Lombardo
Hackett Publishing Company, 1993





There are ways but the Way is uncharted;
There are names but not nature in words;
Nameless indeed is the source of creation
But things have a mother and she has a name. 

The secret waits for the insight
Of eyes unclouded by longing;
Those who are bound by desire
See only the outward container. 

These two come paired but distinct
By their names.
Of all things profound,
Say that their pairing is deepest,
The gate to the root of the world. 


"The Way of Life" - R. B. Blakney
New American Library, 1955 





A way can be a guide, but not a fixed path;
names can be given, but not permanent labels.

Nonbeing is called the beginning of heaven and earth;
being is called the mother of all things.

Always passionless, thereby observe the subtle;
ever intent, thereby observe the apparent.

These two come from the same source but differ in name;
both are considered mysteries.

The mystery of mysteries is the gateway of marvels. 


"The Essential Tao" - Thomas Cleary 
HarperCollins, 1991





Therefore, the subtleties of Tao are always apprehended through their formlessness,
The limits of things are always seen through their form.

These two (the form and the formless) have the same source but different names.

Both of them can be called deep and profound,
The deepest and the most profound, the door of all mysteries. 


"The Book of Lao Zi" - He Guanghu, Gao Shining, Song Lidao, Xu Junyao
Foreign Languages Press, 1993





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 was the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named was the mother of the myriad creatures.

Hence always rid yourself of desires
in order to observe its secrets;
But always allow yourself to have desires,
in order to observe its manifestations.

These two are the same
But diverge in name as they issue forth.
Being the same they are called mysteries,
Mystery upon mystery -
The gateway of the manifold secrets.

                                            
"Tao Te Ching" - D. C. Lau
Penguin Books, 1963 





The Tao which can be expressed is not the unchanging Tao;
the name which can be named is not the unchanging name.

The nameless is the beginning of the Heaven
Earth; the mother of all things is the nameable.
                   
Thus, while the eternal not-being leads toward the fathomless, 
the eternal being conducts to the boundary. 

Although these two have been differently named they come from the same.

As the same they may be described as the abysmal. 
The abyss of the abysmal is the gate of all mystery. 


"The Tao-Teh-King" - C. Spurgeon Medhurst
The Theosophical Publishing House, 1972





The Tao that can be stated is not the Eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name.

The Unnameable is originator of Heaven and Earth.
The Nameable is mother of the ten thousand things.

Therefore,
Always be desireless, so as to discern Tao's wonderful essence;
Always have some desire, so as to discern its manifestations.

These two come out from the same source,
But are different in name.
Their identical nature is a mystery.

Mystery of mysteries -
That is the gate of all wonderful essence. 


"The Guiding Light of Lao Tzu" - Henry Wei
The Theosophical Publishing House, 1982





The DAO that can be expressed is not the eternal DAO.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

'Non-existence' I call the beginning of Heaven and Earth.
'Existence' I call the mother of individual beings.

Therefore does the direction towards nonexistence lead to the sight of the miraculous essence,
the direction towards existence to the sight of spatial limitations.

Both are one in origin and different only in name.
In its unity it is called the secret.
The secret's still deeper secret is the gateway through which all miracles emerge.


"Tao Te Ching" - Richard Wilhelm, H. G. Oswald
Arkana Paperbacks, 1985





The Way that can be told of is not an Unvarying Way;
The names that can be named are not unvarying names.

It was from the Nameless that Heaven and Earth sprang;
The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand creatures, each after its kind.

Truly, 'Only he that rids himself forever of desire can see the Secret Essences';
he that has never rid himself of desire can see only the Outcomes.

These two things issued from the same mould, but nevertheless are different in name.
This 'same mould' we can but call the Mystery,
Or rather the 'Darker than any Mystery',
The Doorway whence issued all Secret Essences.


"The Way and Its Power" - Arthur Waley 
George Allen & Unwin, 1934 



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