Tao Te Ching


The Tao Te Ching is an ancient and profound guide to the great mystery of life. Left to the us by Laozi over 2,000 years ago, it is vast with interpretations. We present it here, from the prospective of cultivation practitioners, along with commentary from two of the most renown Taoist masters' in history, Wang Bi and He Shanggong (the Old Man by River).

WangBi was a literary genius, who briefly graced the us with his presence, from 226 to 249. With only 23 years of life, he forever impacted the worlds view on Taoism. Leaving behind one of the most comprehensive commentary on Laozi's Tao Te Ching.

He Shanggong (the Old Man by the River) was a legendary Taoist, who appeared during the Han Dynasty. He is said to have had the ability to levitate several meters from the ground. After being sought out by the Emperor of the time, and convinced of his commitment to the Tao, he gave Emperor Wen a copy of the Dao De Jing with commentary to explain its meaning. The commentary below, is a translation of the one that he granted the Emperor.

In this translation we have considered the Guodian Chu Slips as their discovery is of great importance. To clarify; In 1993 the earliest know surviving text of Laozi's work was unearthed in Guodian village, Hubei Province. Written on 804 slips of bamboo with 12,072 words, at the ancient Chu capital, between the mid 4th and early third century BCE. The Guodian Chu Slips have deepened our understanding of how much the Tao Te Ching has been edited from it original version and we're very pleased to be able to factor this in to our translation here.

Chapter One

The Tao that can be spoken, is not the eternal Tao.

The Name that can be named, is not the eternal Name.

Nothingness (Wu), is the name that describes
the origin of Heaven and Earth.

Existence (You), is the name that describes
the mother of all things on Earth.

Therefore, one without desire, can observe the boundlessness;
and one with desire, can only observe their own boundaries.

These two are produced together, and separated by names.

Extremely profound, they are the gate to numerous mysteries.

Commentary of Chapter One From Wang Bi:

"The Tao that can be spoken, and the Name that can be named, can describe things and reasons, which are not everlasting. This is why (the everlasting Tao and Name) can't be spoken or named.

Every thing in existence is generated from the Void.
That's why the shapeless and nameless moment is the beginning of all beings.

When it comes to the moment that has shape and a name,
it becomes the mother of all beings, which then generates, nourishes and cultivates them.

It's said that Tao is without shape or a name when it generates all beings. All beings are generated and cultivated without knowing the reason. This has very profound and mysterious meanings.

Subtlety, means the extremity of minuteness.
All beings begin from minuteness, and then are formed;
all beings emerge from the Void, and then are born.
That is why, if one is without desire and is open to all things, one can observe the subtlety of the beginning.

Boundary is the return to the end.
Generally speaking, only when you make use of nothingness,
can you make what you have be beneficial to yourself.
That's why when you have desires, you can observe the boundary of all beings.

These two things are "beginning" and "mother".
They both come from the Dark-Subtlety,
They have different names, because what they generate are different.
"Beginning" is first; "mother" is last.
The Dark-Subtlety is obscure, silent and has nothing,
which generates the "beginning" and the "mother".
Because we can't define or name the Dark-Subtlety, we cannot say that the "beginning" and the "mother" are both from the Dark-Subtlety.
We can only say that they are from something we describe as the Dark-Subtlety.
We can only describe that something as the Dark-Subtlety, we can't name it.
If we name it as the Dark-Subtlety, we define it as one certain name, which is against its original meaning.
That's why it is said, "Dark-Subtlety and Dark-Subtlety again".
Because, all of the profound subtleties are from the same origin, which we name "the gate of all subtleties"."

Commentary of Chapter One From The River Man:

" The Tao of Confucius, of politics and of government decrees, of educating and enlightening people, is not the Tao of natural longevity.

The permanent Tao is to do nothing,
it nourishes Shen;
it lets people be at peace by not interfering;
it hides brilliance;
it destroys or conceals all traces;
it, also cannot be called Tao.

Fame and reputation that normal people chase after,
is not the natural and ever-lasting Name.
The permanent Name,
is like a baby before he can say a word;
like an egg that the egg white and yolk are inseparable;
like a pearl in a clam;
like a beautiful piece of jade among common stones;
inside is bright;
outside is dump and stubborn.

This thing that is without a name, which we call Tao.
Has no shape, that's why we can't name it.
The beginning, is the root of Tao.
Breathing, spreading and converting are all from the Void,
which is the beginning and root of the world.

(The things) with name, are called Heaven and Earth.
Because Heaven and Earth have shapes and positions,
yin and yang, softness and hardness,
that's why they have their own names, and are the parents of all beings.
Heaven and Earth have Qi that generate, cultivate and nourish all beings just like a mother brings up a child.

Subtlety is also essential;
When people have no desire,
they can observe the essential subtlety of Tao.
Essential is also called one;
When one understands Tao,
one knows what's right and what is wrong.

Boundary, also means return.
People that always have desires,
can observe common people's life purpose.

"These two things" mean, with desire and without desire.
They both come from the same place, which is our Heart/Mind.
They have their own names.
The one named "without desires" can live forever;
the one named "with desires" passes away.

The profound subtlety means Heaven.
Both people with desires and without desires are receiving Qi from Heaven.

There is Heaven inside of Heaven.
There is difference in the receiving of Qi.
People who have received more Qi from Heaven,
can obtain the harmonious fluid,
and become Sages and people of virtue.
People who have received little Qi from Heaven,
become despicable and deluded,
like to bully and insult others,
which will generate greed and indulgence.

People, who know that there is Heaven inside of Heaven,
and the difference in the receiving Qi from Heaven,
can get rid of desires and emotions,
guarding the central harmony,
which is called, "to know the essence of Tao".

Chapter Two

The entire world classifies beauty as beautiful,
Therefore ugliness exists;
the entire world classifies goodness as good;
hence the existence of bad.

Therefore Existence and Nothingness, beget each other;

Difficult and easy, compliment each other;

long and short are made distinct;

high and low contrast;

Musical sound and singing, harmonize each other;

Front and back follow each other.

Thus the sage behaves, without taking unnatural action,

teachers without using words,
lets all things grow without interference,

gives them life without claiming to be their owner,

benefits them without claiming to be their benefactor,

succeeds without claiming credit,

because credit is never claimed, credit is never lost.

Chapter Three

Keep the people from contention
by disregarding those with abilities;

Keep the people from theft
by not valuing rare goods;

Keep the people from having a disturbed state of mind
by concealing what is desirable;

That is why in governing the people
the sage simplifies their minds
fills their stomachs,
weakens their wills,
and strengthens their bones.

By keeping the people
from striving for knowledge and chasing desire,
He disables those with influence, from taking ill action.

Act in accordance with this Wu-Wei (the principle of inaction)
And the world will remain in order everywhere.

Chapter Four

Tao is formless and empty,
yet it is inexhaustible.

Profound, it is the origin of all things.

It has no sharpness,
and stays away from entanglements,

Glows with veiled radiance,
and mingles with dust.

Tao is formless and invisible,
but indeed it exists.

I don't know where it comes from but,
its been here earlier than the Emperor of Heaven.

Chapter Five

Heaven and Earth are not bias,
they treat all things equal.

Sages are not bias,
they too treat all people as equal.

The space between heaven and earth are like a bellows;
Empty, but can never be exhausted.

The more air it expels,
the more comes out.

That is why too many rules,
only result in more failure.

It is better to stick to,
moderation and the void.

Thank you for visiting our website, please, come back to enjoy more chapters of the Tao Te Ching which we will be adding soon. If you have any questions or would like to join one of our Taoist workshops please, contact us.