The Tao Te Ching

rockstackThis is a text I studied in college. This exact translation, in fact, and though I’ve been told by many it lacks scholarliness, I’ve always liked it. Perhaps because it is what I started out with. I also met the translator, Stephen Mitchell once when he spoke to our class and afterward he invited any of us who wanted to go out and sit on the grass with him which turned out to be a small intimate group and I really enjoyed it.

So I’m going to put the first few chapters here and then if you like it I will direct you to where you can read the whole thing.

Chapter One:

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

Chapter two:

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn’t possess,
acts but doesn’t expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

Chapter three:

If you overesteem great men,
people become powerless.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.

The Master leads
by emptying people’s minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.

Practice not-doing,
and everything will fall into place.

Chapter four:

The Tao is like a well:
used but never used up.
It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities.

It is hidden but always present.
I don’t know who gave birth to it.
It is older than God.

Chapter five:

The Tao doesn’t take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.
The Master doesn’t take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.

The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Hold on to the center.


To read the rest go click here. To buy this translation go here.

9 thoughts on “The Tao Te Ching

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  1. My college education must have been deficient. I’ve never read the Tao Te Ching. Can you point me to the place to read the whole thing. Thanks.

  2. I studied the Tao Te Ching too! (my final paper for an intro to religion class.) Haven’t looked at it in years but felt the calming effects of its wisdom as I read the bits you posted. Looking forward to rereading it when I unpack in a few weeks.

    This — “the more you talk of it, the less you understand” — reminds me of the adage that (switching eastern paradigms here…) true buddhists don’t identify as Buddhists. I get the truth of that, but I’m still talking about it, so… hmmm.

    1. we seem to all have read this in college…it really is a book that should be periodically revisited in my estimation…

      have fun reacquainting yourselves if you do follow through…it’s good stuff!

  3. In response to JX who said that those who prescribe are the problem and not the drugs:

    How can we get those who prescribe to reassess their approach to ‘treating’ so called mental illness if we don’t call attention to the fatal and body ravaging/brain disabling effects of their medications—-uh, drugs rather? Also, the word medication implies that there is medicine involved; these drugs do not heal.

    Most prescribers, I’d rather call them that than Dr.’s, are firmly entrenched in a medical model that is theoretically flimsy, even fraudulent, and are not apt to take the patient’s perspective into consideration. They are not going to advocate on behalf of our mistreatment as they are the ones who have mistreated us. It would also invalidate their profession as it is practiced today; do you think they are going to undermine their own insecure biological authority?

    What’s scary is our society is allowing this pseudoscience and their practitioners to define what constitutes our minds, therefore permitting social control by administering mind-altering drugs for bogus diagnoses. By focusing our attention on the drugs and what they do to us, WE are defining ourselves and our experience. There is no need to defer to the ‘experts’ or to attempt to persuade them to suddenly change their rigid, deluded belief system. Because that belief system borders on fundamentalist religious fervor, it is unlikely that they would even consider the patient’s perspective. We are simply the unruly ones with lack of insight and illness who need to be controlled.

    Which brings me to my next point:

    What is so called mental illness? Does it even exist? JX separates us from those with normal brains, but it’s been my experience that anyone can suffer from the symptoms of so called mental illness under conditions that would precipitate it, such as a traumatic experience. The idea that there are normal brains and not normal brains is towing the line of biopsychiatry. In my opinion, psychosis is a function of spiritual emergency, an attempt to integrate new insights and ideas that may or may not be threatening to the a person’s previous state of mind. Psychosis can transform or it can fail, but I personally don’t think it’s an illness, and certainly anyone who is human can suffer from it.

    Unless of course they are denied that right by being slipped a chemical straight jacket.

  4. Gosh Gianna, I haven’t read that since college either. I think I have a copy somewhere in one of my bookshelves, and it will be nice to read it again! Thanks for reminding me about it. I’m taking a few days off. Have a lovely holiday!


  5. and what are you scared of when I share the dangers of meds??

    how does that detract from what you’re saying after that?

    I sure don’t think meds are the only problem…the problem is people DON’T recognize what should be done at the onset and give drugs instead…

    this blog happens to cover my experience off these toxins so of course there is going to be a preponderance of that sort of coverage at this juncture…

    but again…if you look at the body of the work it’s much much more than that.

  6. I just discovered your blog and I applaud it. However, what scares me in general about your approach is that you seem to think that the medications are the problem. My view is that the people responsible for medicating you and all of us are the problem, side-effects or not.

    There is logic behind mental illness but it is a logic so deep that normal brains can’t understand. There is a reason we think what we think, have psychosis, and feel enlightened at times. Our thoughts are valid and once you learn to trust your thoughts again you will be able to function in life with a new perception and maybe even better than the so-called normal people.

    Take care and good luck out there.

    1. I don’t think you’ve read enough of my blog if you think you need to tell me that…keep reading…and thanks for visiting.

      try the recovery from extreme states tab above…I totally think “psychosis” is purposive much of the time.

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