Sacred Texts Study Group

Tao Te Ching

  • Creator
    Topic
  • #1129
    Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster

    Tao Te Ching

    Tao Te Ching    by   Lao Tzu

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Tao Te Ching

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    1. The way that can be told is not the eternal Way. The word that can be spoken is not the eternal Word.

    Unnamed, It is the source of heaven and earth. Named, It is the Mother of all things.

    He who is ever without desires sees Its spiritual essence. He who is ever under desire sees only Its limits.

    These two, differing in name, are the same in origin. They are the mystery of mysteries. This is the door of spiritual life.

    2. When all men have learned the beauty of righteousness, the ugliness of sin is understood.

    When all men recognize goodness, then evil is understood.

    In the same way, the manifest and the unmanifest define eachother.

    Difficult and easy define eachother.

    Long and short reveal eachother.

    Height and depth manifest eachother.

    Musical notes and the tones of the voice determine eachother.

    Former and latter define eachother.

    Therefore the Master works without working.

    He teaches in silence.

    Then all things come into being, and he gives them fruition.

    He brings them into being, yet seeks not to possess them.

    He perfects them, yet seeks no reward.

    When his work is accomplished, he remains detached from it.

    He seeks no glory, and is therefore glorious.

    • Profile photo of Grace Cunningham
      Grace Cunningham
      Participant
      Profile photo of Grace CunninghamGrace Cunningham

      These first two verses have a lot to say about the first two fundamentals of the Secret Doctrine, the absolute and the relationship between opposites.

      • Profile photo of Tamiko Yamada
        Tamiko Yamada
        Participant
        Profile photo of Tamiko YamadaTamiko Yamada

        You might say the Tao encourages working with Nature and not against it, blending with the cycle rather than fighting against it.

  • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
    Gerry Kiffe
    Moderator
    Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

    This is one of my favorite lines from the Tao:

    “Unnamed, It is the source of heaven and earth. Named, It is the Mother of all things.”

    It has a lot to say about the relationship of the unmanifest to the manifest.

    • Profile photo of Grace Cunningham
      Grace Cunningham
      Participant
      Profile photo of Grace CunninghamGrace Cunningham

      You might also correlate this with the Unmanifest and Manifest Logos in the Secret Doctrine. The First Logos is the source of heaven and earth. The Second Logos is the Mother of all things. The third Logos would be Man perhaps in this scenario. Any thoughts on these correlations?

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    3. The seclusion of the Masters keeps the world from strife.

    A low esteem of wealth keeps the world from covetousness.

    When objects of desire are hidden, men’s hearts are undisturbed.

    Therefore, where the Master rules, he empties the heart of desires. He fills the inner nature. He strengthens its bones.

    He constantly stills the mind and abates desires.

    Those who have knowledge, he restrains from bondage to action.

    He himself stands free from bondage to action; therefore all whom he rules abide in quietude.

    4. The Way seems empty. As it is tried, it is found inexhaustible.

    Oh, how profound it is! It seems to be the Forefather of all beings.

    It quiets impetuosity. It looses bonds. It tempers its splendour. It follows lowliness.

    Oh, how pure it is! It seems to abide for ever.

     

    It is the Son of I-know-not. It seems to have been before the Lord of Heaven.

    • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
      Gerry Kiffe
      Moderator
      Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

      What is bondage to action?

      • Profile photo of Garo Ketchian
        Garo Ketchian
        Participant
        Profile photo of Garo KetchianGaro Ketchian

        To those who have knowledge he teaches them the way of liberation from Karma.  Karma is the bondage to action.

      • Profile photo of Alex Papandakis
        Alex Papandakis
        Participant
        Profile photo of Alex PapandakisAlex Papandakis

        When a human being expects or desires to attract benefit or avoid pain from action one might say they are attached to the action.  Either one expects the fruit of the action or one want to avoid the effects of the causes they have put in play could be considered bondage to action.

        • Profile photo of Garo Ketchian
          Garo Ketchian
          Participant
          Profile photo of Garo KetchianGaro Ketchian

          Karma is universal law and acts on everyone and everything.  If we make the choice to act from and as our higher Self our actions do not bind us in the same way that actions bind the person whose actions are rooted in their lower natures.
          The famous martial arts master Bruce Lee often told an interesting story about a Woodsman and a Dragon.  The story has puzzled many people because it has a deep message and a view of life much different than the ordinary.

          There was a woodsman chopping wood in the forest when all of a sudden he heard a rustling in the bushes.  He turned around to see a dragon.  Immediately he thought to himself the dragon is a mythical creature, if I kill the dragon I will be famous.  Instantly the dragon spoke to him and said, dragons can read your thoughts so if you try to kill me I will burn you to a crisp.  So the woodsman turned around and continued to chop wood when all of a sudden the handle of the ax flew off killing the dragon.

          • This reply was modified 9 months, 3 weeks ago by Profile photo of Garo Ketchian Garo Ketchian.
          • This reply was modified 9 months, 3 weeks ago by Profile photo of Garo Ketchian Garo Ketchian.
      • Profile photo of Grace Cunningham
        Grace Cunningham
        Participant
        Profile photo of Grace CunninghamGrace Cunningham

        Maybe seeking some reward for doing what is needed rather than doing what is needed for its own sake.

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    4. The Way seems empty. As it is tried, it is found inexhaustible.

    Oh, how profound it is! It seems to be the Forefather of all beings.

    It quiets impetuosity. It looses bonds. It tempers its splendour. It follows lowliness.

    Oh, how pure it is! It seems to abide for ever.

    It is the Son of I-know-not. It seems to have been before the Lord of Heaven.

    5. Heaven and earth are without partiality. They regard all creatures as the dog (of straw in the sacrifice).

    The Master is without partiality. He regards mankind as the dog of straw.

    The Being that is between heaven and earth is like the bellows of the forge, empty, yet possessing power. Put in motion, it sends forth more and more.

    He who would tell the Way, soon becomes silent.

    It is better to follow the way of work with detachment.

    • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
      Gerry Kiffe
      Moderator
      Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

      These lines and the Tao in general seem to redefine the whole idea of humility by pointing to a kind of pure consciousness devoid of limiting connections capable being and seeing everything.

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    6. The spirit of the valley dies not. It is called the mysterious Mother.

    The door of the mysterious Mother is called the source of heaven and earth.

    It is eternal and seems to manifest itself.

    He who enters into it, finds rest.

    7. Heaven and earth endure.

    If they endure, it is because they live not for themselves. It is because of this that they endure.

    So the Master puts himself after others, yet remains the first.

    He is detached from his body, yet conserves his body.

    Is it not because he has no desires for himself, that all his desires are fulfilled?

    8. The spirit of goodness is like water.

    Water excels in doing good to all, yet strives not.

    It seeks the lowly places rejected by others.

    Therefore he who is like this, draws near to the Way.

    His chosen dwelling place is in humility.

    His heart loves the depth of the abyss.

    His gifts are given with impartial love.

    He speaks words of faithfulness.

    His government brings peace.

    He is skilful in all he undertakes.

    He acts in all things with timeliness.

    He strives against none; therefore he is not opposed.

    • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
      Gerry Kiffe
      Moderator
      Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

      “Is it not because he has no desires for himself, that all his desires are fulfilled?”

      Would anyone be willing to offer an explanation for this enigmatic line?

      • Profile photo of barbara
        barbara
        Participant
        Profile photo of barbarabarbara

        If we look at a translation by S Mitchell, it may be simpler.

        The Tao is infinite, eternal.
        Why is it eternal?
        It was never born;
        thus it can never die.
        Why is it infinite?
        It has no desires for itself;
        thus it is present for all beings.

        The Master stays behind;
        that is why she is ahead.
        She is detached from all things;
        that is why she is one with them.
        Because she has let go of herself,
        she is perfectly fulfilled.

        In essence, if we have no desires for ourselves and let go of our ego, then we are perfectly content.

        • Profile photo of Grace Cunningham
          Grace Cunningham
          Participant
          Profile photo of Grace CunninghamGrace Cunningham

          That works for me. That is a good working definition of contentment. Not wanting anything more than what one has. If we have the whole universe within ourselves, what is there to want?

      • Profile photo of barbara
        barbara
        Participant
        Profile photo of barbarabarbara

        If we look at a translation by S Mitchell, it may be simpler.

        The Tao is infinite, eternal.
        Why is it eternal?
        It was never born;
        thus it can never die.
        Why is it infinite?
        It has no desires for itself;
        thus it is present for all beings.

        The Master stays behind;
        that is why she is ahead.
        She is detached from all things;
        that is why she is one with them.
        Because she has let go of herself,
        she is perfectly fulfilled.

        In essence, if we have no desires for ourselves and let go of our ego, then we should be perfectly content.

        • Profile photo of Grace Cunningham
          Grace Cunningham
          Participant
          Profile photo of Grace CunninghamGrace Cunningham

          How do we define “desire”? Essentially what is it?

          • Profile photo of Pavel Axentiev
            Pavel Axentiev
            Participant
            Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

            Grace, how do we define desire?

            Perhaps, begin with the perception of something lacking and assumption that one needs it to feel content?

      • Profile photo of Alex Papandakis
        Alex Papandakis
        Participant
        Profile photo of Alex PapandakisAlex Papandakis

        If one’s will was merged with the universal will then  all one’s desires would be fulfilled.  If one wishes to go in the direction of the river of life, then by entering the water one by definition will be going the right way.

        • Profile photo of Garo Ketchian
          Garo Ketchian
          Participant
          Profile photo of Garo KetchianGaro Ketchian

          “He is detached from his body, yet conserves his body.”
          He is detached from the limits of his body, yet conserves his body. The limits of the body are the senses. He conserves the senses, yet he is detached from them to enable him to be free from their limitations.

          “Is it not because he has no desires for himself, that all his desires are fulfilled?”
          Is it not because he has no thoughts for himself, that all of his thoughts are fulfilled?
          He has no desires for himself because his senses are under his control. All of his thoughts are fulfilled because his senses are under his control. Desire arises from the senses.

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    9. It is better not to fill the vessel than to try to carry it when quite full.

    The blade that is over-sharpened loses its edge, even though it be tested with the hand.

    The hall that is filled with gold and jade cannot be guarded.

    He who has honours heaped upon him, and thereby grows proud, draws down misfortune upon himself.

    He who has done great things and gained renown should withdraw himself.

    Such is the Way of heaven.

    10. The spiritual should rule the psychic nature.

    When he is one-pointed, these act in consonance.

    When he masters the bodily powers, rendering them obedient, he is as one new born.

    When he frees himself from the illusions of the mind, he puts away all infirmities.

    If he would guard the people and bring peace in the kingdom, let him work with detachment.

    When he accepts the opening and closing of the gates of heaven, he rests like a brooding bird.

    Though his light penetrates everywhere, he appears as if knowing nothing.

    He brings forth beings and nourishes them.

    Though bringing them forth, he is without the desire of possession.

    He cherishes them, yet looks for no reward.

    He rules them, yet without dominating them.

    This is called perfect righteousness.

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    11. Thirty spokes unite in the nave. The use of the car depends on the empty space for the axle.

    Clay is fashioned into vessels. The use of the vessels depends on the empty space within.

    Doors and windows are framed in making a house. The use of the house depends on their empty spaces.

    Therefore utility depends on what is manifest, but the use of a thing depends on what is unmanifest.

    12. The five colours blind the eyes of men.

    The five tones deafen the ears of men.

    The five tastes deceive the mouths of men.

    Impetuous motion, the passion of pursuit, madden the hearts of men.

    The desire of possessions goads men to injurious acts.

    Therefore the holy man is concerned with what is within, and not with the desire of the eyes.

     

    Therefore he renounces what is without and cleaves to what is within.

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    13. The wise man shuns fame equally with infamy. His body weighs him down like a great misfortune.

    What mean the words: He shuns fame equally with infamy?

    There is something base in fame. To have it, is to be full of apprehension; to lose it, is to be full of apprehension.

    Therefore it is said: He shuns fame equally with infamy. What mean the words: His body weighs him down like a great misfortune?

    If we suffer great misfortunes, it is because we have bodies.

    When we no longer have bodies, what misfortunes can we suffer?

    Therefore, when a man shrinks from governing the kingdom, he may be trusted to govern the kingdom; when he is unwilling to govern the kingdom, he is fit to govern the kingdom.

    14. You seek the Way, but see it not: it is called colourless.

    You listen, but hear it not: it is called soundless.

    You would grasp it, but cannot touch it: it is called bodiless.

    These three qualities cannot be expressed in words. Therefore they are taken together, and it is called the One.

    Its higher part is not manifest; its lower part is not hidden.

    It is eternal and cannot be named.

    It returns to the unmanifested.

    It is called the formless form, the imageless image.

    It is called the undefined, the undetermined.

    Who meets it, sees not its face; who follows it, sees not its back.

    By discerning the immemorial Way, the things of to-day may be governed.

    He who understands what was in the beginning, is said to hold the clue of the Way.

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    15. Those of old, the Masters of the Way, were detached and subtle.

    So deep were they, that men knew them not.

    Since they could not be observed, I shall endeavour to indicate what they were.

    They were circumspect as he who crosses a torrent in winter.

    They were alert as he who fears those about him.

    They were reserved as a guest.

    They were self-effacing as melting ice.

    They were natural as uncarved wood.

    They were lowly as a valley.

    They were impenetrable as troubled water.

    Who can make the troubled clear? By stillness it will become clear.

    Who can bring life to birth? In quietude it will come to birth.

    Who follows the Way seeks not to be overfilled.

    Since he is not full of self, he recognises his faults and seeks not to be judged perfect.

    • Profile photo of Grace Cunningham
      Grace Cunningham
      Participant
      Profile photo of Grace CunninghamGrace Cunningham

      Could someone help me to understand this line of the Tao:

      They were circumspect as he who crosses a torrent in winter.

      thank you

      • Profile photo of Garo Ketchian
        Garo Ketchian
        Participant
        Profile photo of Garo KetchianGaro Ketchian

        They were careful as he who crosses a torrent in winter. They were careful because they were aware of the danger that was ever present in their path.

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    16. Seek emptiness of self. Seek stillness.

    All things manifest themselves and then return.

    When the plant has blossomed, it returns to the root.

    The return to the root is called stillness.

    That stillness may be called a reporting that it has fulfilled its task.

    This reporting of fulfilment is the immemorial rule. To know the immemorial rule, is to be wise.

    To ignore it, leads to impetuous and evil motions.

    To know the immemorial rule, brings power and forbearance.

    Power and forbearance bring compassion.

    Compassion brings a kingly heart.

    He who is kinglike, grows heavenlike.

    Through likeness to Heaven, he possesses the Way.

    Possessing the Way, he is eternal; his powers will never fail.

    • Profile photo of Tamiko Yamada
      Tamiko Yamada
      Participant
      Profile photo of Tamiko YamadaTamiko Yamada

      This translation says “This reporting of fulfilment is the immemorial rule”. Can more be said about what this means, the reporting of fulfillment? Does it have something to do with the relationship between the unmanifest and the manifest?

      • Profile photo of Garo Ketchian
        Garo Ketchian
        Participant
        Profile photo of Garo KetchianGaro Ketchian

        Yes, there is a relationship between the unmanifest and the manifest and the reporting of fulfillment would seem to be pointing to karma. Karma has manifest the being from the unmanifest and when its cycle has ended it returns to its root in the unmanifest reporting it has fulfilled its karma.

        Here is an example of a similar idea taken from a study in Tai Chi:

        “According to spiritual nature,
        we are the products of our
        environment and we are
        here to fulfill one great purpose;
        to use the body as a laboratory
        to do the work of self-refinement
        which is also called internal alchemy.” Hua Ching Ni

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    17. In the highest degree, men know only that they have rulers.

    In the second degree, they love and praise their rulers.

    In the third degree, they fear them.

    In the fourth degree, they despise them.

    When the rulers lose faith in the Way, the people lose faith in their rulers.

    The first rulers are guarded and reticent. While they fulfil their task and complete their work, the people say: We follow our nature.

    18. When the Way was no longer followed, humanity and justice were remarked.

    When wisdom and prudence came into sight, great deceit showed itself.

    When harmony no longer governed the six kinships, the bonds of family love grew conspicuous.

    When states fell into disorder, loyalty and devotion were noted.

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by Profile photo of Jon Fergus Jon Fergus.
    • Profile photo of Tamiko Yamada
      Tamiko Yamada
      Participant
      Profile photo of Tamiko YamadaTamiko Yamada

      Is the “Way” spoken of in the Tao Te Ching referring to the Spiritual Path of Self-Realization?

      • Profile photo of Grace Cunningham
        Grace Cunningham
        Participant
        Profile photo of Grace CunninghamGrace Cunningham

        That is what seems to be the case for me but I am not Tao scholar. But it sounds logical.

      • Profile photo of Jon Fergus
        Jon Fergus
        Moderator
        Profile photo of Jon FergusJon Fergus

        I suppose it depends on what we mean by “self-realization”. The “way” (tao) seems to be centered around an idea of being “in tune” or “at one” with the natural flow of things. It’s always made me wonder if this “way” is meant to be somewhat passive: instead of forging a path, so to speak, it seems to advice surrendering the desire to forge anything.

      • Profile photo of Garo Ketchian
        Garo Ketchian
        Participant
        Profile photo of Garo KetchianGaro Ketchian

        As a sacred text it must be referring to a Spiritual Path of Self Realization. We are seven fold beings developing our higher natures. When the higher natures become active the lower natures become passive. As long as the lower natures are active and in control the higher natures remain passive and out of control.

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    18. When the Way was no longer followed, humanity and justice were remarked.

    When wisdom and prudence came into sight, great deceit showed itself.

    When harmony no longer governed the six kinships, the bonds of family love grew conspicuous.

    When states fell into disorder, loyalty and devotion were noted.

    19. When wisdom and prudence are no longer noteworthy, the people will be happier a hundredfold.

    When humanity and justice cease to be noted, the people will be once more kindly and filial.

    When craft is forgotten and gain undesired, thieves and robbers will disappear.

    Renounce these three, and know that seeming renunciation is not enough.

    Therefore I show men what they should seek:

    To show simplicity, keep purity, renounce selfishness, abandon desires.

© 2017 Universal Theosophy

Skip to toolbar