This blog is an interpretation of the Tao te Ching "Tao Virtue Book" which is attributed to Laozi "Lao Tze" a Chinese philosopher who lived circa 600 b.c.

Please remember always that this is the description of the Tao and not the experience of the living Tao. Hopefully, this blog will not serve as analysis or commentary but as a window into the Tao. You are encouraged to disagree with this interpretation, involve yourself in self-study, and ultimately leave all concepts behind and so experience the living Tao.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chapter 56: Restraining The Self

For this Chapter we will use Susuki's translation

One who knows does not talk. One who talks does not know. Therefore the sage keeps his mouth shut and his sense-gates closed.

"He will blunt his own sharpness, His own tangles adjust; He will dim his own radiance, And be one with his dust." This is called profound identification.

Thus he is inaccessible to love and also inaccessible to enmity. He is inaccessible to profit and inaccessible to loss. He is also inaccessible to favor and inaccessible to disgrace. Thus he becomes world-honored.

Taoism explained
Tao Te Ching Chapter 56


This chapter can be seen to reiterate a theme common in religion.  Those of knowledge, as part of the process of living in peace or for some other reason often choose to stay silent.  This chapter can be seen as similar to Proverbs 17:27 in the Christian Bible.  It reads, "He that hath knowledge spareth his words, and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit."

Sri Ramakrishna, the 19th Century Hindu mystic explained it this way.  "The nearer you approach to God, the less you reason and argue.  When you attain Him, then all sounds-all reasoning and disputing-come to an end.  The you go into samadhi-sleep, into communion with God in silence."

So it can be said that this chapter is one whose lesson is most widely agreed upon world wide.

The first stanza simply states that those who understand the Tao are those most likely not to speak of it.

The second stanza repeats an often repeated message in Taoism that the wise tend to live simple lives.  By extrapolation, though you may not hear a wise person speak, you can know them by their simplicity.

The third stanza repeats earlier chapters that remind us that attachments are the source of problems.  Those who remain unattached live without difficulty.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Tao Chapter 55: Growth From Teh

For this Chapter we will use Suzuki's translation of the Tao.

He who possesses virtue in all its solidity is like unto a little child.
Venomous reptiles do not sting him, fierce beasts do not seize him. Birds of prey do not strike him. His bones are weak, his sinews tender, but his grasp is firm. He does not yet know the relation between male and female, but his virility is strong. Thus his metal grows to perfection. A whole day he might cry and sob without growing hoarse. This shows the perfection of his harmony.

To know the harmonious is called the eternal. To know the eternal is called enlightenment.

To increase life is called a blessing, and heart-directed vitality is called strength, but things vigorous are about to grow old and I call this un-Reason.

Un-Reason soon ceases!

Taoism Beliefs
The Taoism


This chapter is a statement of the nature of teh, belief in natural purpose.

The first stanza suggests that those who are in touch with teh are like a child.

The second stanza describes the properties of a child or a child like person who is in touch with Teh.  They seem to pass uninjured through life, they are weak and soft, but virile.  It is a child's nature to cry but crying does not weaken it.  He is able to do so because it is his teh to cry and so doing so comes easily.

The third stanza says that living in touch with teh, with inner purpose is enlightened living.

The fourth and fifth stanzas can be seen as a caution.  While teh is natural in the child, growing this life beyond its scope, or using it for strength rather than in its natural form invites the cycle of build up and decay.  How wise are we to remain in our inner nature and not be tempted to belief in positions of strength!

The Bible contains a similar passage.  Jesus says, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a child, and save that you enter as a child, you shall not know it at all."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chapter 54: Recognizing Tao

The thing that is well planted is not easily uprooted. The thing that is well guarded is not easily taken away.

If one has sons and grandsons, the offering of ancestral worship will not soon cease.

He who practices Dao in his person shows that his de [teh] is real. The family that practices it shows that their de [teh] is abounding. The township that practices it shows that their de [teh] is enduring. The state that practices it shows that their de [teh] is prolific. The empire that practices it reveals that de [teh] is universal.

Thereby one person becomes a test of other persons, one family of other families, one town of other towns, one county of other counties, and one empire of all empires.

How do I know that this test is universal? By this same Dao.

The Taoism
The Taoism


While the Daoist is not generally concerned with the opinions of others, this chapter can be seen an examination of how to recognize Tao in action in homes, towns, and nations.

The first stanza can be seen to say that care use of Tao gives strong results.  If we are careful in the design of our homes, towns and nations, they will be like well planted gardens.

The second stanza observes that these virtues are passed from generation to generation.  Taken together with the first stanza the message may be seen as, "the good virtues that we instill today will be passed forward."

The third stanza is can be seen as a reminder that Taoism requires substance.  If your teh (way of being) is strong it can be passed on.  If it is not, then it cannot be passed.  Taoism is not about thought or concept but about the way we live.  If this is true for one person, it is also true for our families and nations.

The fourth stanza can then be seen as pointing out that the living Dao is observable at all levels of society from the individual to the nation when it is being practiced.

The final stanza can be seen to be saying something to the effect of "these truths are self evident."  Either Tao is being followed or it is not.