Just a Foreword
Books translated from Lao-Tzu’s Tao-te-ching have been around for some time and are aplenty in the market and website. However, only few could actually claim to reflect the true essence of Lao-Tzu’s philosophy.
While every effort has been made to adhere to the literal (though often confusing) meaning of the original writing, often times the translation tends to be metaphorical.
The author has attempted to highlight the core content and the gist of the text, taking into the consideration the fabric and nature of the society and environment of the Spring Autumn Warring states of China then.
Classical Chinese was notoriously concise and grammatically short, thus open to myriads of interpretation. Ancient Chinese characters are often vague and can carry multiple meanings. Indeed, Lao-Tzu occasionally contradicts himself, and frequently repeats his ideas. Some of his convictions may sound strange and appear contrary to the modern perceptions. This could partly be due to the fact that the Chinese characters would have changed their meaning in the course of history. This is unavoidable; after all, human society evolves with time.
The translation is done using simple English (for easy reading and perhaps understanding), and now and then based on the reviews of a few other authors’ literature (both in English and Chinese). There would be misinterpretations, relatively speaking and depending much on the reader’s viewpoint. However, any typo error or mistake will be the author’s sole responsibility.
Happy reading and understanding.
The events that can be explained are not the unusual events
The things that can be named are not the extraordinary names
Those beyond explanation and naming are truly the nameless – the Tao.
The Tao encompasses the heaven-earth and the universe
The universe is the mother of everything.
To be not-knowing is to be conscious of the wonder of the universe
To be knowing is to try and predict the future of the universe.
Both the not-knowing and knowing are of similar origin
They may differ in nature but their effects are the same.
Beyond the realm of knowing and not-knowing comes the Tao
Which surpasses everything in the universe and yet
It is the gate to the universe.
Because of beauty, ugliness exists
Because of kindness, cruelty appears
The beauty and the ugly are in harmony
The good and the bad are complementary.
Dead and alive are only part and parcel of nature
Easy and difficult are the consequences of progress
Short and long are by way of comparison
Low and high are matters of measurement
Talking and singing are inherent to melody
Before and after are for the order of events.
The sage knows the universe as it is
And gets things done via silence and inaction
He comes to terms with everything
And shares their existence without possessing them
He achieves but not takes pride for himself
And by not exerting his presence, he exists.
Avoid praising the achievers and there will be no contention
Avoid valuing the objects and there will be no stealing
Avoid displaying the beauty and there will be no desire.
The sage intends to treat the people thus:
To empty their thinking but to make their stomach full
To dilute their craving but to make their bones strong.
If the people do not think and crave
They are not quite able to do anything
If not doing much thing becomes the norm
Then harmony naturally arises among the people.
How unfathomable the Tao is
It cannot be depleted or filled by anything
It cannot be deformed in anyway
It is the origin of everything.
It is omnipresent, it is everlasting
Despite whatever has been done to it.
Blunt it, disintegrate it
No matter what, it still remains intact
No one actually knows where it originates
Maybe it comes before everything else.
If heaven-earth is not benevolent
It will look at all things lowly
If the sage is not benevolent
He will look at all things unequally.
Heaven-earth is like a bellow
It looks empty yet it is ample in content
The more it gives, the more it has.
So it is better to take the middle-path
Rather than to talk and work non-stop.