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La voie et sa vertu: Tao-te-king

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La voie et sa vertu Malgré son contenu très bref, le Tao-tê-king , attribué par la tradition au philosophe Lao-tzeu, a joué un rôle particulièrement important dans l’histoire de la civilisation chinoise. Dès le IVe et le IIIe siècle avant J.-C., son influence était considérable. La prodigieuse fortune du Tao-tê-king a été due en partie à sa forme littéraire, et singulièrement au fait qu’il abonde en aphorismes et en paradoxes susceptibles d’être pris soit à la lettre, soit au sens figuré. D’où la possibilité pour les philosophes des écoles les plus diverses de se réclamer de lui ; d’où, aussi, le nombre étonnant de proverbes courants qui sont tirés de ce livre. Texte chinois présenté et traduit par François Houang et Pierre Leyris

192 pages, Pocket Book

First published January 1, 401

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Lao Tzu

495 books3,883 followers
Lao Tzu (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ; Wade-Giles: Laosi; also Laozi, Lao Tse, Lao Tu, Lao-Tsu, Laotze, Laosi, Lao Zi, Laocius, Lao Ce, and other variations) was a mystic philosopher of ancient China, best known as the author of the Tao Te Ching (often simply referred to as Laozi). His association with the Tao Te Ching has led him to be traditionally considered the founder of Taoism (pronounced as "Daoism"). He is also revered as a deity in most religious forms of the Taoist religion, which often refers to Laozi as Taishang Laojun, or "One of the Three Pure Ones". Laozi translated literally from Chinese means "old master" or "old one", and is generally considered honorific.

According to Chinese tradition, Laozi lived in the 6th century BCE. Historians variously contend that Laozi is a synthesis of multiple historical figures, that he is a mythical figure, or that he actually lived in the 5th-4th century BCE, concurrent with the Hundred Schools of Thought and Warring States Period. As a result of being a a central figure in Chinese culture, both nobility and common people claim Lao Tzu in their lineage.

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Profile Image for Gerry.
34 reviews13 followers
June 28, 2007
I'm an unbeliever and have been since the first time I played hooky from Sunday services and the Eye in the Sky didn’t say boo. So it may seem strange that I’m reviewing the Tao Te Ching, the widely known and influential Taoist text, written by Lao-Tzu and poetically translated in this edition by Stephen Mitchell. For me, the Tao Te Ching is more folk wisdom than religious treatise and is more useful than a million sermons.

Where the Tao Te Ching parts company with religious attempts at morality such as the 10 Commandments is in its inclusiveness. Seven of the 10 Commandments don’t mention God and are sound advice designed to facilitate peaceful community relations: respect your elders, don't kill, don't cheat on your spouse, don't steal, don't tell lies, and don't lust after another's spouse or his belongings. For me, the tragedy of the Great List is that the three that top it serve only to divide the world into believers and nonbelievers: regardless how closely you follow the last seven, if you don’t believe in God you’re not worth a fig. In doing so the first three create division where the last seven seek harmony. With Taoism, even if you don’t believe in the Force-like nature of the Tao—and in case there’s any question, I don’t—you can still consider yourself a Taoist.

Taoism seeks harmony by freeing the individual from the caustic effects of judgmental thinking, desire, and greed, and its fulcrum is the concept of “non-action,” or literally “doing not-doing.” Non-action, Mitchell writes in his introduction, is not the act of doing nothing but instead is the purest form of action: “The game plays the game; the poem writes the poem; we can’t tell the dancer from the dance.”

This slim book is both a quick read and a long study. Mitchell’s lyrical rendering of the Tao Te Ching might read to some like silly hippie clichés, but there’s more to it than that. Take chapter 9, a photocopy of which hung on my office corkboard for years:

Fill your cup to the brim and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.

You can almost see the hacky sack and smell the patchouli. But there’s a truth to it that, if grasped, will change the way you think.

As chapter 1 states: “The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao./The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.” Analogy, then, plays an important role in understanding the Tao Te Ching, and the reader has to do quite a bit of work—the long study part—to fathom the book’s richness. Take chapter 11 in its entirety, where non-action is discussed:

We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the center hole that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable.
We work with being, but non-being is what we use.

There is more to the book than philosophical abstraction. In fact, common sense pervades the Tao Te Ching. Take these lines, which discuss the roots of crime: “If you overvalue possessions, people begin to steal” (chapter 2) and “If you don’t trust the people you make them untrustworthy” (chapter 17). Or these, from chapter 38, which describe the toll of illusory thought:

When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
The beginning of chaos.

Therefore the Master concerns himself with the depths and not the surface,
With the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality, and lets all illusions go.

I’m telling you, had I been born into Taoism I might actually believe in something.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews32 followers
September 25, 2021
Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu

The Tao Te Ching, also known by its pinyin romanization Dao De Jing, is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi.

The text's authorship, date of composition and date of compilation are debated. The oldest excavated portion dates back to the late 4th century BC, but modern scholarship dates other parts of the text as having been written—or at least compiled—later than the earliest portions of the Zhuangzi.

The Tao Te Ching, along with the Zhuangzi, is a fundamental text for both philosophical and religious Taoism.

It also strongly influenced other schools of Chinese philosophy and religion, including Legalism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, which was largely interpreted through the use of Taoist words and concepts when it was originally introduced to China.

Many Chinese artists, including poets, painters, calligraphers, and gardeners, have used the Tao Te Ching as a source of inspiration. Its influence has spread widely outside East Asia and it is among the most translated works in world literature.

The highest good is like water. Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive. It flows in places men reject and so is like ... In action, watch the timing. No fight: No blame. Lao Tzu

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز سوم ماه آگوست سال 2012میلادی

عنوان: اس‍ت‍اد پ‍ی‍ر: ت‍ائ‍وت‍ه‌ چ‍ی‍ن‍گ‌، ی‍ا، ک‍ت‍اب‌ پ‍ی‍روی‌ م‍س‍ت‍ق‍ی‍م‌ از راه‌ و روش‌ ه‍س‍ت‍ی‌ و ح‍ی‍ات‌ ب‍ا راه‍ن‍م‍ائ‍ی‌ درک‌ درون‍ی‌ (دل‌)؛ نویسنده: لائ‍و ت‍زو؛ مت‍رج‍م: م‍ه‍دی‌ ث‍ری‍ا؛ نشر قوانین، 1373؛ در 107ص؛ موضوع نوشتارهای نویسندگان چین - سده شش پیش از میلاد

عنوان: تائو ته چینگ؛ نویسنده: لائو تزو؛ مترجم: امیرحسن قائمی؛ ویراستار ایوب کوشان؛ تهران، چاپ مترجمها، 1379؛ در 109ص؛ شابک9643506967؛

عنوان: تائو ته چینگ؛ نویسنده: لائو تزو؛ مترجم: فرشید قهرمانی؛ تهران، سیاه مشق، 1382؛ در 81ص؛ شابک 9649447229؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، مثلث، 1383؛ چاپ سوم 1386؛ شابک 9648496064؛ چاپ چهارم 1386؛ پنجم و ششم 1387؛ هفتم و هشتم 1388؛ نهم 1389؛ یازدهم 1390؛ دوازدهم 1391؛ سیزدهم تا پانزدهم 1392؛ شابک 9789648496062؛ موضوع راهنمای هنر زندگی از نویسندگان چینی - سده 6پیش از میلاد

مترجمهای دیگر آقایان: اردلان عطارپور؛ محمدرضا چنگیز؛ سید حسین نصر؛

این متن کهن را، به «لائو تزو» یا «لائو دزو» نسبت داده اند، «لائو تزو»، ششصد سال پیش از میلاد مسیح، و همزمان با «کنفوسیوس»، میزیسته است؛ «لائو تزو» همان مرشد، پیر، یا استاد هستند؛ تاریخنگار، و کتابدار دربار امپراطوری «جو»، بوده اند، و تنها همین کتاب، از ایشان به یادگار مانده؛ راهنمای هنر زندگی، و خرد ناب است؛ گفته اند: «لائو تزو» یک زندگی ساده، و هماهنگ با طبیعت، داشته اند، که همان پیام «تائو» میباشد، عمری دراز زیسته اند، گویا بین یکصد و شصت تا دویست سال زیسته باشند؛ ...؛

نقل از متن: خوب همانند آب است، بدون تلاش همه را سیراب میکند، جمع شدن در گودها را کوچک نمیشمارد؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 02/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 02/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,066 reviews1,759 followers
August 18, 2018
آيين تائو
"تائو" مبدأ و جوهر نهانى جهان را نوعى ظلمت و بى شكلى مى داند كه توصيفش از آن به قدرى به "عدم" نزديك است كه سخت بتوان آن را منطبق بر مفهوم رايج "خدا" دانست.
بر اساس حكمت تائو سالك با رسيدن به اين ظلمت و عدم است كه به آرامش مى رسد: با رها كردن انديشيدن و همۀ دانش هايش، با واگذاشتن "ذهن" و رسيدن به "بى ذهنى" و يكسره متحد شدن با "عين". تائو مى گويد همۀ بلايا و رنج ها و تيره بختى هاى بشر، به خاطر همين "ذهنيت" و توهم "تشخص" است، و در صورتى كه بشر تشخصش را كنار بگذارد، آرامش طبيعت بر زندگى بشر هم حكمفرما خواهد شد.

تائو که در اصل آیینی چینی بود، پس از ورود بودیسم به چین، با آن ترکیب شد و شاخه ای مهم از بودیسم را ساخت که امروزه شناخته شده ترین شاخۀ بودیسم در دنیای غیربودایی است: ذن بودیسم.

تائو ته چینگ
کتاب "تائو ته چینگ" اصلی ترین کتاب آیین تائو است و مجموعه ایست از ۸۱ گفتاورد کوتاه و شعرگونه حول زندگی ای توأم با آرامش درونی و حکومت کردن بدون اعمال قدرت.
اسم کتاب، به معنای "کتاب راه نیکی" است و آن را عموماً به "لائو تسو" حکیم چینی نسبت می دهند که دو هزار و ششصد سال قبل می زیست. معروف است که وقتی لائو تسو از فریب ها و توطئه های سیاستمداران دلزده شد، از شغل خود که کتابدار کتابخانۀ سلطنتی بود، استعفا داد و چین را ترک کرد. در دروازۀ شهر، یکی از نگهبانان از او درخواست کرد به او بگوید که تائو چیست، و لائو تسو این کتاب کوتاه را بر او املا کرد، سپس رفت و کسی دیگر او را ندید.

از کتاب:
وقتى كشورى بر اساس حكمت اداره شود،
در انبارها، گندم و جو انبار مى شود
و وقتى بدون حكمت اداره شود،
در انبارها شمشير و نيزه انبار مى گردد
درخت کاج عظیم، از بذری کوچک می روید
و سفر هزار فرسنگی، با یک گام آغاز می شود.
Profile Image for Dolors.
540 reviews2,280 followers
October 6, 2014
“The Tao is always nameless” (Chapter 71)

Trying to narrow down the philosophy of the Tao Te Ching with limiting words is to violate its primordial essence. How can one describe the Universe, the natural order of things, the incessant flowing from being to non-being, the circular unity of a reality traditionally mismatched in dualistic terms?

The Tao Te Ching doesn’t provide answers because there needn’t be questions, just the harmony of moulding to the landscape rather than trying to impose a particular shape on it.
The Tao Te Ching is the route in itself, the path to emptying the human mind of ambitions, schemes and desires and allow it to be flooded with the smoothness of humility and the exhilarating liberation of a simple life.
The Tao Te Ching exults the feminine yin over the masculine yang in the eternal interdependence of opposites, identifying its indwelling suppleness with the intrinsic elements of the Tao.

“The great state should be like a river basin.
The mixing place of the world,
The feminine of the world.
The feminine always overcomes the masculine by its softness
Because softness is lesser.”
(Chapter 61)

Thus the Tao cannot be expressed, it has no name, it is indivisible, inaudible and immutable but also the origin of multiplicity that gives way to ambivalent interpretation, which in turn engenders the befuddling suspicion that the more one wants to unravel the Tao the less one masters it because its aim relays precisely in attaining unforced wisdom.

Composed of eighty one aphorisms with aesthetic lyricism reminiscent of ancient riddles or even taunting wordplay, the Tao Te Ching dismisses moral teachings, embraces paradoxical dichotomies and differentiates itself from other doctrines like Confucianism because it relays in intuition rather than in duty rooted on imposed moral principles or any other contrived authority.
According to the introduction (*), some schools of thought have accused the Tao of endorsing chaotic anarchy and of not responding to consistent criteria, but such ambiguity in the use of language and its playful axioms are in fact a pure reflection of its skeptical views on measuring all actions according to artificial rules disguised as traditional rituals.

I can’t claim to have found everlasting serenity in connecting to the natural flow of Taoism and accepting its philosophy of “action through inaction”, but the idea of finding comfort in the constant contradiction of the positive and negative forces within oneself in order to embrace the convoluted intricacies of existence casts an overwhelming shadow to the absolute dichotomies and blind beliefs prompted by the more familiar monotheistic “fear based” religions, where guilt, punishment and suffering are the conduits to salvation.
Why crave for redemption if we learn to follow the “way things are” and welcome the natural interdependence between opposites, accepting disorder, nothingness and non-being as part of the indestructible unity of all things?

“There is nothing better than to know that you don’t know” (Chapter 71)

(*) Note: The Barnes & Nobles edition comes with an explanatory introduction about the origins of the Tao, a very useful epilogue and an historical timeline of the identity of its mysterious author(s). Highly recommended edition.
Profile Image for Burt.
272 reviews34 followers
March 13, 2010
This is, by far, my favorite translation of the Tao Te Ching. I own a few others and they're all well and good, but this one is the one I continually read from and refer to when people ask me about the Tao.

The translation is well done, it captures the nature of the text well, and it flows fairly evenly. It's not overly flowery or ornate, it gives you the basics of what you need to understand the various entries and assist in understanding what Tao is (i.e. the the Tao named Tao is not the great, eternal Tao).

It's a book that changed my life. I learned of Taoism in a world history class in high school, and when my friends took their Philosophy 101 course at the local university this was the text they worked with. My copy came second hand from the U's bookstore and I have had it ever since. It has taught me to understand a lot of the things in the world that otherwise would baffle me and lends a lot to my own personal philosophies.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is lost on their path through life. It doesn't have all of the answers, but it does have a LOT of perspective.
Profile Image for فايز غازي Fayez Ghazi .
Author 2 books3,907 followers
January 23, 2023
- قرأت الكثير عن المعتقدات الصينية خلال حياتي، لكني بكل تأكيد ما كنت اعتقده فهماً تاماً لتلك المعتقدات هو فهم مقصور وخاطئ. هذه النتيجة اتضحت جلية خلال وبعد انتهائي من هذا البحث.

- التاو-تي شينغ، جذر المعتقدات الصينية، كتبه لاو – تسو ما بين اواسط القرن السادس والخامس قبل الميلاد بلغّة مكثّفة ومختصرة، و"التاو" ترجمه السوّاح على انه "الطريق" لكنني اظن ان ترجمة "المسلك" كانت لتكون ادّق بناء على المعنى.

- "التاو" أثّر في مجمل الحياة الصينية اللاحقة:

"رغم ان الميثولوجيا الصينية حافلة بالآلهة من شتى الأشكال والأنواع والإختصاصات، إلا ان هذه الآلهة لم تكن في حقيقتها إلا أسلافاً اسطوريين رفعهم الخيال الشعبي الى مراتب عليا وقدسهم واقام لهم المعابد. وتظهر السير الأسطورية لهؤلاء الأسلاف كيف ابتدأ أمرهم كرجال صالحين على الأرض وكبف تم تأليههم وعبادتهم فيما بعد."

"اما المصدر الحقيقي لقدرة الآلهة الصينية فهو مفهوم مجرد عن الألوهة يتمثل في قوة السماء التي يدعونها تي-يين... ويرى كونفوشيوس ان ارادة السماء انما تفعل من خلال عناية متضمنة في صلب نظام الطبيعة لا من خارجها. ويقابل هذا النظام الطبيعي، عنده، نظام آخر يسود على المستوى الإنساني في المجتمع هو القانون الأخلاقي"

- ما الفرق بين مفهوم "التاو" ومفهوم "الإله الخالق" او بمعنى آخر بما تختلف ثقافتنا (بشكل عام) عن الثقافة الصينية في هذا الموضوع؟

"ان الفارق بين مفهوم التاو ومفهوم الإله الخالق، هو ان الإله انتج العالم عن طريق الخلق الإرادي بينما انتج التاو العالم عن طريق الخلق غير الإرادي. الإله خلق العالم بواسطة الفعل اما التاو فبواسطة اللافعل... الخلق الإرادي يتم التشكيل من الخارج نحو الداخل... اما الخلق غير الإرادي فإن التشكيل يتم من الداخل نحو الخارج وبشكل تلقائي."

ان التاو ليس سيداً للكون يمارس سلطانه عليه من موضع مستقل ومفارق، وكأنه والكون هويتان مستقلتان، بل هو عين النظام الداخلي للطبيعة الحر من اية ضرورة خارجية. من هنا فإنه لا يتطلب من الكائنات عرفاناً ولا يدعي امتلاكاً ولا ينسب لنفسه فضلاً."

- ما هو جوهر "التاو"؟

"ان روح الوادي تعني جوهر الفراغ الذي يمكن تحقيقه من خلال السكون وإفراغ الذهن من كل انشغال بالذات الفردية، حتى اذا وصل الإنسان الى حالة الإفراغ التام امتلأ بالعدم الخلاق الذي هو جوهر التاو."

"اكثر سطوعاً من اي نور، اكثر عتمة من اي ظلام. جوهر النور وجوهر الظلام. عندما يلتقي اقصى النور واقصى الظلام في واحد، ذلك هو الفراغ العظيم والعدم الخلاق الذي ينشأ عنه كل شيء... ليس له بداية او نهاية، وأبده عين ازله. اذا قلنا انه الصورة التي لا صورة لها، والشكل الذي لا شكل له، وقفنا امام جدار الصمت وتساقطت الكلمات"

- "التاو" كعودة الى الفطرة الأولى:

"من يسلك وفق قواعد أخلاقية مقررة سلفاً انما يسلك بشكل لا أخلاقي، ومن يحب جاره تطبيقاً لتعاليم متعارف عليها لا يعرف شيئاً عن الحب، ومن يرعى اولاده خوفاً من القانون ومن تقولات الناس لا يعرف شيئاً عن الأبوة"

"اذا عاد الجميع الى طبيعتهم الأصلية غير المصقولة، تلمس كل واحد في صميمه ذلك المنبع الحقيقي للمحبة، وسلك بشكل تلقائي فأحب دون ان يسمي ذلك حباً وتعاطف دون ان يسمي ذلك تعاطفاً ورفق بالحيوان دون ان يسمي ذلك رفقاً واطاع الوالدين دون ان يسمي ذلك طاعة. لقد تخلص من زينة الأخلاق ليسلكها."

- التاوية والحكم:

أفضل الحكام من شابه الظل عند رعيته
يليه الحاكم الذي يحبون ويمدحون
يليه الحاكم الذي يخافون ويرهبون
يليه الحاكم الذي يكرهون ويحتقرون

- "التاوية" والحرب:

"ان السلاح أداة شؤم يبغضها الناس، لذا فرجل الدولة التاوي لا يلجأ لإستخدامها. فإذا كان لا بد من شن الحرب وإشهار السلاح، فإن على رجل التاو ان يخوض حربه في حياد. والحياد هنا هو الحياد النفسي الذي يخلو من الإنغماس العاطفي. التاوي يحارب وهو في حالة صفاء الذهن والنفس، ... كما انه يتفادى ما تثيره الحرب من مشاعر العنف والرغبة في القتل والتدمير."

"لا مجد في الإنتصار، لأنه لا يتحقق الا على اشلاء الوف القتلى. وتمجيد الإنتصار يعني تمجيد القتل واعطائه مشروعية وقيمة."

- التاوية والشرائع:

"عندما تظهر الشرائع المفروضة من قبل أية سلطة، فإن في ذلك مؤشراً على وجود خلل في المجتمع، لأن المجتمع السليم المتماشي مع سبيل التاو لا يتطلب شريعة أخلاقية تنظم علاقات افراده. الشريعة هي قشرة خارجية للإيمان والإخلاص، ورجل الفضيلة الحقة لايأبه لها بل يصدر في سلوكه عن منبع الأخلاق الأصلي."

"من يسلك وفق قواعد أخلاقية مقررة سلفاً انما يسلك بشكل لا أخلاقي، ومن يحب جاره تطبيقاً لتعاليم متعارف عليها لا يعرف شيئاً عن الحب، ومن يرعى اولاده خوفاً من القانون ومن تقولات الناس لا يعرف شيئاً عن الأبوة"

- التاوية مبنية على التكامل لا على التضداد، والدائرة المشهورة التي يدور اليانج والين داخلها ليست صراعاً بين الخير والشر كما "علّمونا" بل تكامل بين الإثنين، حركة أزلية متوازنة:

"ان فن الحياة ينبغي الا يقوم على طلب اليانغ (الإيجاب) واستبعاد الين (السلب)، بل الحفاظ على حالة من التوازن بين القطبين، لأنه لا قيام لأحدهما إلا بوجود الآخر."

نهاية المراجعة مع هذه القصة:

"عاش معلم الزن ريوكان في كوخ متواضع عند سفح الجبل. في احدى الأمسيات دخل الكوخ لص فوجد المكان خالياً، وبينما هو خارج امسك به ريوكان وقال له: لقد اتعبت نفسك في الوصول الى هذا المكان النائي وانه ليعز علي ان اتركك تذهب خالي الوفاض. اليك ثوبي هدية. اخذ اللص الثوب وولى هارباً. جلس ريوكان عارياً تقريباً قبالة النافذة يرقب القمر الذي توسطها، ثم هز رأسه بأسف قائلاً: كم وددت لو اعطيته هذا المشهد الجميل"

ملاحظة: الطبعة التي قرأتها (الطبعة الاولى/ دار علاء الدين) بحاجة للكثير من التدقيق.
Profile Image for Tanu.
355 reviews424 followers
August 22, 2023
"If you realize that all things change, there's nothing you will try to hold on to."

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.

The Tao Te Ching clarifies the concepts of Taoism, an ancient school of philosophy that continues to be relevant today. In the 6th century BCE, Lao Tzu created Taoism, passed down through the generations.

This book definitely is not a one-time read. Something to keep coming back to once in a while. It is poetry to the soul and mind.

Grab your copy here or here.
Profile Image for Heidi Parton.
8 reviews19 followers
November 5, 2014
This version irritates me a lot, largely because of Stephen Mitchell's arrogance in writing it (I'll go into that in a bit). This is not a translation (which Mitchell was at least gracious enough to make clear in the back of the book); it's a translation of various translations. The problem with this is that a translation of a translation turns out the same way that a copy of a copy does: while some of the original words and phrases are identifiable, there's a lot that's lost or skewed.

For example, here is a good translation of the first line of Ch. 3 by D.C. Lau: "Not to honor men of worth will keep the people from contention."

Stephen Mitchell's translation of the same line is: "If you overesteem great men, / people become powerless."

The original Wang Bi character in question is 爭, or zhēng, which means "dispute," "strive," "contend," "fight," etc. It does not mean "powerless." By free-handing the translation, Mitchell alters the meaning of the text. While it doesn't damage the understanding of someone already familiar with Taoism and its literature, it does mislead those new to Taoism who seek an authentic introductory text to understand the philosophy.

As I mentioned above, what really irritates me is Mitchell's arrogance regarding his version of the text versus the original Chinese versions and the translations that more closely adhere to their meaning. In the question-and-answer section located in the back of the book, the querent says: "But it's one thing to translate Rilke and the Book of Job when you read German and Hebrew; it's quite another to translate books like the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, or Gilgamesh without any knowledge of the original languages." Mitchell's response is: "Yes, it's a different kind of venture, but not so different as you might think. Of course, I wouldn't dare work with a text that I didn't feel deeply connected to--I used to speak of my 'umbilical connection' to Lao-tzu. I had discovered the Tao Te Ching shortly before I began Zen training in 1973." Later, the querent asks: "You knew what Lao-tzu was talking about, through direct experience [in Zen meditation] of your own?" And Mitchell replies: "That's where my confidence came from." Essentially, Mitchell is claiming that his text is authentic because of his felt spiritual connection to its author, rather than it being an accurate translation of the text. But isn't the best translation one that is authentic on multiple levels, emotionally and literally? However, if I had to choose, I'd rather read a translation that is accurate and discover the emotional resonance on my own. Also, FYI: Zen is a school of Buddhism, not Taoist, though it was influenced by Taoism. They share some similar values and qualities, but they are distinct.

Mitchell continues: "There was also the excitement of the aesthetic challenge. Some calculated that by 1986 there were 102 translations of the Tao Te Ching into English alone. I had read six or seven of them, and although I loved the content, the language was mediocre at best: not much poetry in it, not much sparkle. This may sound arrogant too, and irrational. How can you fall in love with a book whose actual words bore you? But that's what happened." This sentiment, I think, is the source of all the problems I have with the text. It's completely non-Taoist. If Mitchell had paid attention to even his version of the last chapter, 81, which reads: "True words aren't eloquent; / eloquent words aren't true," he would have seen the folly of his approach. Instead, he decided that he'd rather cut entire paragraphs, rearrange the remaining words, and even alter the meaning to better suit his aesthetic values. His disregard for accuracy and his preference for his concept of beauty over truth not only shows a complete lack of respect for the text, the tradition and its culture of origin; it's also just not scholarly.

Another interesting admission made by Mitchell is that he spent only four months writing this version. "By contrast," he says, "it had taken me seventeen years to finish my translation of the Book of Job. So, obviously, I was getting more focused, or more efficient..." I disagree with him there--it's not obvious to me that he was any more focused or more efficient. The vast difference in time spent translating Job and rewriting the Tao Te Ching instead tells me that he worked very hard to faithfully render the former and just cobbled together the latter. Mitchell actually reads and understands Hebrew, so it's likely that he was aware of the nuances of the language and therefore understood the importance of accurately rendering the text into English. Mitchell doesn't read any Chinese. If the language is incomprehensible to him, how can he possibly grasp the nuances of the characters in order to accurately translate them for others?

This isn't to say that his version is completely wrong. Many sections are fairly accurate (like the line in Ch. 81 that I mentioned above). But there are also many places in his text that are inaccurate to the point of misconstruing the core concepts of the belief system.

So if you're new to Taoism and are looking for a translation that accurately communicates Taoist beliefs and sensibilities, I suggest that you go somewhere else. There are many other translations that more accurately render the Tao Te Ching in English. Each has its own particular "flavor" and may contain slightly different words or rhythms, but most aim to faithfully present an accurate translation of the text that, while not serving every culture's aesthetic requirements, is very beautiful in its own way and has a lot of wisdom to offer, regardless of cultural and generational differences in taste. Here's a good website to get you started: http://wengu.tartarie.com/wg/wengu.ph... The site provides not only several different translations, but also the original Wang Bi text with translations of each character.

If, however, you're already familiar with the Tao Te Ching and other Taoist literature, Mitchell's book at least serves as a good example of Taoism's effect on contemporary American culture.
Profile Image for Jonathan O'Neill.
174 reviews352 followers
March 27, 2021
4 ⭐

The Tao is definitely the most beautifully elusive and intangible philosophy that I've had the pleasure of trying to wrap my head around. Everything about it drips with mystery and mysticism, right down to it’s purported author, the enigma that is Lao Tzu. I really made an effort to understand what was meant by each and every poem. I read Ursula K. Le Guin’s rendition alongside this, more scholarly translation, by D.C.Lau and I listened to multiple audio versions, driving to and from work, but still, I feel I only received just the barest glimpse into the depth of Lao Tzu’s words. I’m not particularly surprised by this, people spend their entire lives studying the Tao, attempting to keep to ‘The Way’. You don’t just read this on a whim and suddenly start living the Tao. In fact, in my opinion, if one were to heed Lao Tzu’s words, one would likely come to the conclusion that we’ve strayed so far off the path as a people, that to get back on it would take an unrealistically monumental change in worldview, philosophy and ideology.

The book relishes in its own mystery. As Le Guin states so aptly in her rendition, there is a “temptation… to grasp at something tangible in the endlessly deceptive simplicity of the words” but, on occasion, the slipperiness of the idea… Is the idea.
If I had a dollar for every 30-something pommy hipster I’ve seen on YouTube, repeating Lau Tzu’s 1st chapter with a self-satisfied smirk…

”The way that can be spoken of
Is not the constant way;
The name that can be named
Is not the constant name.”

… only to then immediately attempt to explain it anyway! They obviously never reached chapter 71: ”Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty.”

You can’t label or define the Tao as by doing so you limit its function which is, inherently, limitless. All one can know is that it was “born before heaven and earth” and supports the universe. It is responsible for the strong being strong but equally responsible for the weak being weak. We can’t define it but we can definitely discuss the concepts that make up the Taoist teachings.

"The reason I have great trouble is that I have a body. When I no longer have a body, what trouble have I?"

Ideal attributes of the Taoist include modesty, frugality, contentment (desirelessness), compassion, tenderness, softness, vulnerability, selflessness (benefitting others without expecting gratitude), non-contention, ignorance (apparently) and the ability to find positives in negatives (i.e. without lows, there are no highs… Without death, there is no life… We suffer, but only because we have a body).

Doing not doing is also an ongoing theme in the book. I’ve been banging on about this one for years to my fiancé and she just tells me I’m a lazy fu… sod! Lao Tzu says: ”One does less and less until one does nothing at all, and when one does nothing at all there is nothing that is undone”…. What? If everyone else is allowed to take ancient philosophies out of context, so am I damn it! In all seriousness though, Lao Tzu usually uses this phrase in relation to governance, as in, a leader should lead with minimal meddling in the affairs of the people. Or in relation to the individual, living without striving for more. So, yeah, still gotta do the dishes.

“He who shows himself is not conspicuous;
He who considers himself right is not illustrious;
He who brags will have no merit;
He who boasts will not endure."

Be like water. Another common theme… ”there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it. I have come across this idea in the form of analogy and/or metaphor now in 3 works. Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’, Lao Tzu’s ‘Tao Te Ching’ and Bruce Lee’s ‘Tao of Jeet Kune Do’, each time given slight variation in its implication and, I love it! The only issue I have, in this case, is that, at times Lao Tzu’s “weak” and “soft” descend into utter subservience to anything stronger or greater than yourself. Essentially giving in as a means of survival. D C Lau explains that this is likely a result of the time in which the book was written (The Warring States) in which self-preservation was as much as many would dare to achieve.

The Tao Te Ching is not just a book about a way for the individual to live in sync with the Tao. Lao Tzu also likes to comment on the dangers of wealth and living beyond ones most basic needs, as well as expressing his opinions on governance and anti-violence sentiments. Lao Tzu was an anti-capitalist and anarchist before these things even existed.

Those who possess too much wealth while others starve, who are “dressed in fineries” or “filled with food and drink” while others go hungry, he condemns as “taking the lead in robbery”.
Whilst not completely anarchistic, Lao Tzu is almost completely anti-legislative and believes that leaders should lead with minimal meddling in the affairs of the people, stating, ”…the myriad creatures all revere the way and honour virtue. Yet the way is revered and virtue honoured not because this is decreed by any authority but because it is natural for them to be treated so”. Later, he likens governing a large state to “boiling a small fish” because a small fish can be spoiled with too much handling.

”The rites are the wearing thin of loyalty and good faith
And the beginning of disorder;
Foreknowledge is the flowery embellishment of the way
And the beginning of folly.”

These views regarding governance tie in with one of his more extreme ideas that education, innovation and progress are all things to be avoided. Ignorant people are easier to rule and one should also rule in ignorance. It’s essentially an expansion on the idea of not doing. There’s an anti-change and anti-intellectual leaning in his words. In Chapter 29, Lao says: ”The empire is a sacred vessel and nothing should be done to it. Whoever does anything to it will ruin it; whoever lays hold of it will lose it”. Le Guin says: ”As a model for the Taoist, a baby is in many ways ideal: totally un-altruistic, not interested in politics, business or the proprieties, weak [and] soft”.

Although I disagree, on many levels, with Lao’s concept, it’s hard to ignore the fact that for all the progress the human race has made on an industrial, technological, political and psychological level, we’ve still managed to completely fuck our planet, almost beyond repair, and despite the fact that many have a better standard of living than 2500 years ago, it is hard to remember a time when so many people were so desperately unhappy.

This specific edition contains a magnificent and substantial introduction in which Lau (not to be confused with Lao) gives his own thoughtful and scholarly opinions on what some of the key concepts that can be taken from the text are. He also discusses what is known about the history of the text and the period in which it was, traditionally, thought to have been compiled in and addresses inconsistencies in the text, giving convincing arguments for the case that the book was likely not written by one wise old sage named Lao Tzu at all, but in fact was a compilation of many different Taoist thinkers, their disciples and, later, various commentators. Lau later comments further on this in two very interesting appendices titled ‘The Problem of Authorship’ and ‘The Nature of the Work’. Personally, I’d prefer not to acknowledge that this text may have been written after Confucius’ time or that Lao Tzu may never have existed. I’m too enamoured with the idea of an old sage, so wise and all-knowing as to render Confucius himself bewildered enough to allegedly exclaim to his own disciples:

”I know a bird can fly, a fish can swim, and an animal can run… But the dragon’s ascent into heaven on the wind and the clouds is something which is beyond my knowledge. Today I have seen Lao Tzu who is perhaps like a dragon.”
Profile Image for Jonathan O'Neill.
174 reviews352 followers
January 23, 2022
4.5 ⭐

I have delved deeper into the ‘Tao Te Ching’ in my review of the more scholarly translation by D.C.Lau which you can find HERE.
In this space I just want to focus on what Ursula K. Le Guin brings to the table and what exactly makes her rendition of the classic, unique from the plethora of other translations and renditions that are available.

I have to commend D.C.Lau for his fantastic translation of the Tao, which includes a wonderful introduction as well as two very informative appendices. But as his expertise really shines through in these elaborate discussions on the history and meaning of the text, so too does Ursula’s incredible talent as a writer, a poet and a humble student of the Tao throughout the entirety of this 126-page book.

”Most translations have caught meanings in their net, but prosily, letting the beauty slip through. And in poetry, beauty is no ornament; it is the meaning.”

Le Guin’s rendition is one for the modern reader. Where some of the passages in other translations make it clear that this was, in many ways, a manual for rulers; Le Guin takes liberty in changing certain phrases to relate more to the everyday individual. I loved the confidence she showed in taking on and re-interpreting this ancient work, whilst always showing respect to the material and addressing, clearly, any amendments that she made. With regard to Chapter 24, Ursula says: ”My version of the first four lines of the second verse doesn’t follow any scholarly translations, and is quite unjustified, but at least, unlike them it makes sense without horrible verbal contortions”. Regarding Chapter 72, she says: ”I take the liberty of reading this chapter as a description of what we, we ordinary people, should fear. The usual reading is in the manual-for-princes mode”. I love this type of honest commentary from Ursula, and it’s prevalent throughout the Chapter Notes as well as the Footnotes at the bottom of most pages which are just phenomenal, short and sharp insights into the text, nearly as sagacious as the passages of the Tao themselves.

”To those who will not admit morality without a deity to validate it, or spirituality of which man is not the measure, the firmness of Lao Tzu’s morality and the sweetness of his spiritual counsel must seem incomprehensible, or illegitimate, or very troubling indeed”.

In addition to her fantastic commentary on the chapters of the Tao, Le Guin also brings her own insight to the questionable origins of the text through analysis of the poem structures within. At one stage, regarding Chapter 42, Ursula explains: ”The last stanza is uncharacteristic in it’s didactic tone and in assimilating the teaching to a tradition… I was inclined to dismiss it as a marginal note by someone who was teaching and annotating the text”.. Regarding Chapter 44, she states: ”The intense, succinct, beautiful language of the first verses of the poem is sometimes followed by a verse or two in a more didactic tone, smaller in scope, and far more prosaic. I believe some of these verses are additions, comments, and examples, copied into the manuscripts so long ago that they became holy writ”. What a keen mind. D.C.Lau comes to the same conclusion for similar reasons.

I thoroughly enjoyed this rendition of the Tao Te Ching and am pleased I started my Ursula K. Le Guin journey here. She reveals in the ‘Sources’ section that the title for her 1971 Science Fiction novel, ‘The Lathe of Heaven’ came from an incorrect translation of a passage from the Chuang Tzu(Another essential Taoist text) by James Legge. Joseph Needham, the great scholar of Chinese Science and Technology would later explain to her that when the Chuang Tzu was written, the lathe hadn’t been invented. I’m very curious to read ‘The Lathe of Heaven’ to see how much of an influence Le Guin’s lifelong study of Taoism had on the work.

“The way is more than the cycle of any individual life. We, rise, flourish, fail. The way never fails. We are waves. It is the sea.
Profile Image for Eddie Watkins.
Author 6 books5,470 followers
October 4, 2014
There are many translations of the Taoteching, nearly every one of which is probably worth reading, but this is my favorite version. I can’t attest to the accuracy of the translation, but having read so many different translations of the same text I feel like in some strange way I have a grasp of the original; as if a blank space (the Chinese original) has been given shape and definition by all the English versions surrounding it. But anyway... while I like the spare sensitivity of the language in this version, what makes this version extra special are the added bonuses: an engagingly detailed introduction exploring the life of Lao Tzu, what amounts to an original thesis on the very meaning of “tao”, and commentaries (on specific lines, even specific words) appended to each of the 81 entries that have been culled from centuries upon centuries of critical commentary, by scholars and eccentric mystics alike.

There is recent scholarship that is making the argument that instead of meaning “way” or “path”, which is usually taken to mean how we as people conduct ourselves in accordance with a mysterious spiritual principle, that “tao” actually refers to the Moon and its various phases and paths in space, with particular emphasis on the darkness of the new moon and its significance as potential in darkness. The new moon “hides” its fullness. The fullness is there in potential, unspent. I like this. There’s something pleasingly primitive about it (gimme that old-time religion!), i.e. something real and tangibly mysterious, but also something practical and spiritual – a connector between eye and heart that through some subtle gravity guides our feet along a path.

The commentaries that follow each poem or entry are fascinating and just scratch the surface of what I understand is a vast accumulation of scholarship on this text. The commentaries are often wildly contradictory and tangential, obsessive to an anal nth degree, but also at times wise in their own right. These commentaries have been written by official scholars, by mendicant monks, and even one or two extreme eccentrics living on the fringes of society unaffiliated with any institution. At the back of the book are short biographies of each commentator, which is fascinating reading in itself. It all adds up to evidence that this is a living book, with enough clear and direct meaning to be perpetually valid, and enough obscurity to be endlessly pondered.

The translator is an American who goes by the name Red Pine. He’s almost 70 now and has been a practicing Buddhist for years, but more in the wandering independent scholar Gary Snyder type style. He’s also translated the Diamond Sutra, poems of Han Shan (Cold Mountain) and Stonehouse, and some other Buddhist texts. In every work of his I’ve read there’s serious scholarship in evidence, but also a free spirit and independent thinker with a unique store of fresh air.
Profile Image for Florencia.
649 reviews1,940 followers
September 30, 2018
Concatenated thoughts. Review #1 ✔ - #2

They come to be and he claims no possession of them,
He works without holding on,
Accomplishes without claiming merit.
Because he does not claim merit,
His merit does not go away.

The Tao Te Ching is a classical text credited to Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu (6th century) and on which Taoism is based. It consists of 81 short chapters written in poetic form which, using a pithy language brimming with evocative and, at times, repetitive contradictions, provide guidance on how humanity may have a harmonious relationship with nature, with the Tao. In an inspiringly laconic way, the chapters reveal the sage’s fundamental truths that range from theology to politics, inseparable components of the Tao Te Ching.

I read two editions simultaneously: Ellen Chen’s The Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary and Stephen Mitchell’s Tao Te Ching: A New English Version. After reading chapter 11 by the latter, the merits of each work became particularly noticeable.
Chen's translation is an accurate marvel. It's the kind of translation I like; literal as possible. I don't want only the translator's interpretation, I want to know the precise words that went through the author's mind. I've made peace with everything that gets lost in translation, so at least give me surgical precision.
On the opposite side stands Mitchell with another approach: divesting the verses of all metaphor, he focuses on the meaning, the thoughts Lao Tzu intended to convey. In that sense, it's a remarkable work; a detailed examination of all the elements that constitute this treatise. While keeping a small amount of literality, it expresses a similar interpretation.

If I have to choose, I prefer Chen's academic translation with its enriching commentary over Mitchell's version with its still lyrical directness. Even though she generally refers to the sage as a man, whereas Mitchell states that since we are all, potentially, the Master (since the Master is, essentially, us), I felt it would be untrue to present a male archetype, as other versions have, ironically, done. Ironically, because of all the great world religions the teaching of Lao tzu is by far the most female.

As for my experience with this book, I should revisit it in a few years... The dynamics between opposites that say and don't say, that affirm and deny, that teach without speaking and act without doing; it all starts to get a tad annoying after a while. I wasn't able to identify with some notions, naturally; my skeptical disposition began to take control rather soon. However, The Tao Te Ching includes several useful concepts to improve our fleeting stay in this world. Moreover, many of those impressions are addressed to politicians. In that regard, this book should be required reading for every single one of them.

I close this 'review' with some chapters according to the views of each translator.**

On the decline of the great Tao,
There are humanity (jen) and righteousness (i)...

General comment
The overall message of this chapter, just as in preceding and subsequent chapters, is that the unconscious state of nature is superior to the conscious state of virtue. Consciousness marks a lack. We are not aware of and do not pursue something until we have already become separated from it.


One who assists the ruler with Tao,
Does not overpower (ch 'iang) the world by military conquests.

Such affairs have a way of returning (huan):
Where armies are stationed,
Briars and thorns grow,
After great campaigns,
Bad years are sure to follow.

The good person is resolute (lwo) only,
But dares not (kan) take the path of the strong (ch 'iang).
Be resolute (kuo) yet do not boast (ching),
Be resolute yet do not show off (fa), Be resolute yet do not be haughty,
Be resolute because you have no choice,
Be resolute yet do not overpower (ch 'iang).

When things are full grown, they age.
This is called not following Tao.
Not following Tao they perish early.

General comment
While the preceding chapter serves as the basis of a theology of nature, this chapter provides the rationale for a theology of peace. It carries the theme of non-action or non-domination in the preceding chapter to international relations. If humans are not supposed to dominate other creatures, neither should they dominate fellow humans. This chapter is a critique of military power (ch 'iang) specifically against wars, which are instruments of death.


Rivers and seas can be kings of the hundred valleys,
Because they are good at flowing downwards (hsia).
Therefore they can be kings of the hundred valleys.

Thus if you desire to be above the people,
Your words must reach down (hsia) to them.
If you desire to lead the people, Your person (shen, body) must be behind them.

Thus the sage is above,
Yet the people do not feel his weight.
He stays in front,
Yet the people do not suffer any harm.
Thus all gladly praise him untiringly (pu yen).

Because he does not contend with any,
Therefore no one under heaven can contend with him.

General comment
This chapter on the relationship between the ruler and the people is directly connected with chapter 61, which is on the relationship among states. The key concept is again hsia, low or downward flowing. In domestic affairs as well as in international relations, the ruler is to imitate water by reaching downward to the people, assisting in their own self-unfolding without imposing himself on them.

Aug 18, 18
* Also on my blog.
** I shared the same chapters on each review.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
October 28, 2018
This was immensely interesting to read, though I found myself somewhat aggravated by the passivism that ran through the writing.

It's almost like a poetical treatise on humility, but what of ambition and a drive to make the world a better place? Should we all accept our station in life and never aim to improve? I think not. It accepts things as they are (however they are) and cannot conceive of a better future. Everything should stay the same, and exist within the natural order of things.

But how do we define the natural?


The Spirit of the valley never dies
This is called the mysterious female.
The gateway of the mysterious female
Is called the route of heaven on earth.
Dimly visible, it seems as if it were there,
Yet use will never drain it.


The poem speaks of mother nature as replenishing and everlasting; she will always endure and is the gateway to heaven on earth, to our own nirvana. We can never completely spend her. The metaphor is for the path as Taoism and nature are one and the same here. For the speaker, Taoism (or the way) is the most natural of things we can partake in. We will also never drain the benefits of it and they will also last perpetually. And these ideas for me felt strong and real, but the writing also muses over empire.


Whoever takes the empire and wishes to do anything to it
I see will have no respite. The Empire is a sacred vessel and
nothing should be done to it. Whoever does anything to it
will ruin it; whoever lays hold of it will lose it.
Hence some things lead and some follow;
Some breath gently and some breathe hard;
Some are strong and some are weak;
Some destroy and some are destroyed.
Therefore the sage avoids excess, extravagance and arrogance.

I take so much issue with this quote. In what way can we ever refer to an Empire as natural? Empire's are always built with the blood of someone else. The quote also shows how people are all different, though it concludes that this is simply the way of things. A weak person should not try to make himself strong. Such a thing is an excess. We should simply stay humble and never challenge the norms of an Empire. (Seriously?)

And that's when I stopped listening to what the book had to say. As an historical piece it's interesting to study, but I take absolutely no stock in the words.
Profile Image for Peiman E iran.
1,430 reviews693 followers
October 13, 2017
‎دوستانِ گرانقدر، این کتابِ ارزشمند، نوشتهٔ انسانِ خردمندی به نامِ <لائو تزو> است که در زمانِ <کنفوسیوس> بزرگ، در چین زندگی میکرده است... داستانِ زندگیِ او در چین بیشتر به یک افسانه شباهت دارد... امّا آنچه مهم است، سخنانِ زیبا و اندیشمندانه ایست که از این انسانِ خردمند و فرزانه، به یادگار مانده است
‎در زیر به انتخاب نوشته هایی از این کتاب را برایِ شما خردگرایانِ گرامی، مینویسم
‎شکست یک فرصت است... اگر دیگری را مقصر بدانی، پایانی برای مقصر دانستنِ دیگری، وجود نخواهد داشت... انسانِ فرزانه به وظایفش عمل میکند و اشتباهاتش را اصلاح میکند... او آنچه ضروری است را به انجام میرساند و از دیگران چیزی طلب نمیکند
‎انسان نرم و لطیف، زاده میشود و به هنگامِ مرگ، خشک و سخت میشود.... گیاهان هنگامی که سر از خاک بیرون می آورند، نرم و انعطاف پذیر هستند و به هنگامِ مرگ، خشک و شکننده میباشند... پس هرکه سخت و خشک است، مرگش نزدیک شده و هرکه نرم و انعطاف پذیر است، سرشار از زندگی میباشد... سخت و خشک میشکند.. نرم و انعطاف پذیر، باقی میماند
‎سعی در تسلط بر آینده، مانندِ این است که بخواهید یک شبِه، استادِ نجاری شوید... وقتی ابزارِ نجاری را در دست دارید، ممکن است حتی دست هایِ خویش را قطع کنید
‎رودها به دریا میریزند، زیرا دریا از آنها فروتر است... فروتنی به دریا، قدرت میبخشد... اگر میخواهید زندگیِ مردم را سامان ببخشید، فروتر از آنها قرار بگیرید... اگر میخواهید مردم را رهبری کنید، یاد بگیرید که چگونه از آنها پیروی کنید
‎ادارهٔ کشوری بزرگ، همچون سرخ کردنِ ماهیِ کوچک است... با دستکاری کردنِ بیش از حدِ آن، به حتم کار را خراب میکنی.... بهانه ای به بدی برایِ مخالفت مده... بدی خود به خود از میان خواهد رفت
‎من تنها سه چیز را آموزش میدهم: سادگی، شکیبایی، مهربانی ... این سه گرانبهاترینِ گنجها هستند... ساده در اعمال و افکار; به منبعِ وجود باز میگردید--- شکیبا با دوستان و دشمنان; با همه چیز هماهنگی می یابید--- مهربان با خود; با تمامیِ موجوداتِ جهان در صلح و آشتی، خواهید بود
‎امیدوارم این ریویو برایِ شما خردگرایانِ ایرانی، مفید بوده باشه
‎<پیروز باشید و ایرانی>
Profile Image for Issa Deerbany.
374 reviews432 followers
July 12, 2017
عرفت الان بعد قراءة هذا الكتاب سر التواضع والاحترام التي تسود سكان شرق اسيا عموما والصين واليابان خصوصا.
التاو تدعوا الى التكامل وليس التناقض.
الفلسفة السائدة في الشرق الأوسط وأوروبا هي فلسفة التناقض:
الخير ضد الشر، السلام ضد الحرب، الليل ضد النهار.....الخ.
فلسفة التاو ان الكل مكمل لبعضه:
فلولا الشر لما كان هناك خير، لولا الليل لما كان هناك نهار، لولا الحرب لما كان هناك سلام.
وتطرقت فلسفته أيضا الى التعامل بين البشر بالتواضع والاحترام وليس قيادتهم والتأثير عليهم.
وكلما قل تدخل الحكومة كلما كانت قيادة الشعب اسهل. والحاكم يسير في الخلف وراء الشعب ولا يقودهم.
والقسوة تؤدي الى الموت لان الشعب يبدأ بعدم الخوف من الموت.

فلسفة رائعة رغم أني أراها مثالية زيادة عن الحد.
والتعرف الى هذه الفلسفة شيء جميل.
Profile Image for Florencia.
649 reviews1,940 followers
September 30, 2018
Concatenated thoughts. Review #1 - #2 ✔

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.

The Tao Te Ching is a classical text credited to Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu (6th century) and on which Taoism is based. It consists of 81 short chapters written in poetic form which, using a pithy language brimming with evocative and, at times, repetitive contradictions, provide guidance on how humanity may have a harmonious relationship with nature, with the Tao. In an inspiringly laconic way, the chapters reveal the sage’s fundamental truths that range from theology to politics, inseparable components of the Tao Te Ching.

I read two editions simultaneously: Ellen Chen’s The Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary and Stephen Mitchell’s Tao Te Ching: A New English Version. After reading chapter 11 by the latter, the merits of each work became particularly noticeable.
Chen's translation is an accurate marvel. It's the kind of translation I like; as literal as possible. I don't want only the translator's interpretation, I want to know the precise words that went through the author's mind. I've made peace with everything that gets lost in translation, so at least give me surgical precision.
On the opposite side stands Mitchell with another approach: divesting the verses of all metaphor, he focuses on the meaning, the thoughts Lao Tzu intended to convey. In that sense, it's a remarkable work; a detailed examination of all the elements that constitute this treatise. While keeping a small amount of literality, it expresses a similar interpretation.

If I have to choose, I prefer Chen's academic translation with its enriching commentary over Mitchell's version with its still lyrical directness. Even though she generally refers to the sage as a man, whereas Mitchell states that since we are all, potentially, the Master (since the Master is, essentially, us), I felt it would be untrue to present a male archetype, as other versions have, ironically, done. Ironically, because of all the great world religions the teaching of Lao tzu is by far the most female.

As for my experience with this book, I should revisit it in a few years... The dynamics between opposites that say and don't say, that affirm and deny, that teach without speaking and act without doing; it all starts to get a tad annoying after a while. I wasn't able to identify with some notions, naturally; my skeptical disposition began to take control rather soon. However, The Tao Te Ching includes several useful concepts to improve our fleeting stay in this world. Moreover, many of those impressions are addressed to politicians. In that regard, this book should be required reading for every single one of them.

I close this 'review' with some chapters according to the views of each translator.**

When the great Tao is forgotten,
Goodness and pity appear…

the great Tao: Jayata said to Vasubandu, “If you have nothing to ask for in your mind, that state of mind is called the Tao”.
goodness and pity appear: When the Tao is forgotten, people act according to rules, not from the heart. This goodness is as insecure as Job's and can be as self-satisfied as Little Jack Horner's. Whereas a good father has no intention of being good; he just acts naturally.


Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn't try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counter force.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon oneself.
The Master does his job and then stops.
He understands that the universe
is forever out of control,
and trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn’t need other’s approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.

doesn't try to force issues: He lets the issues resolve themselves.
out of control: Out of control of his own, tiny, personal, conscious self.


All streams flow to the sea
because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power.

If you want to govern the people,
you must place yourself below them.
If you want to lead the people,
you must learn how to follow them.

The Master is above the people,
and no one feels oppressed.
She goes ahead of the people,
and no one feels manipulated.
The whole world is grateful to her.
Because she competes with no one,
no one can compete with her.

The Master is above the people: Not that she feels superior, but that, looking from a higher vantage point, she can see more.
The whole world is grateful to her: Even those who think they are ungrateful.
no one can compete with her: She sees everyone as her equal.

Aug 18, 18
* Also on my blog.
** I shared the same chapters on each review.
Profile Image for Olga.
182 reviews53 followers
September 7, 2023
The secret of happy life according to Tao Te Ching completely contradicts our current way of life in the globalized world:

Chapter 80
Small countries with few people are best.
Give them all of the things they want,
and they will see that they do not need them.
Teach them that death is a serious thing,
and to be content to never leave their homes.
Even though they have plenty
of horses, wagons and boats,
they won't feel that they need to use them.
Even if they have weapons and shields,
they will keep them out of sight.
Let people enjoy the simple technologies,
let them enjoy their food,
let them make their own clothes,
let them be content with their own homes,
and delight in the customs that they cherish.
Although the next country is close enough
that they can hear their roosters crowing and dogs barking,
they are content never to visit each other
all of the days of their life.

...and on true wisdom:

Chapter 81
True words do not sound beautiful;
beautiful sounding words are not true.
Wise men don't need to debate;
men who need to debate are not wise.
Wise men are not scholars,
and scholars are not wise.
Profile Image for Farhan Khalid.
404 reviews97 followers
February 8, 2021
When people see things as beautiful, ugliness is created

When people see things as good, evil is created

The master leads by emptying people's mind

The Tao is like an empty vessel

It can never be emptied and can never be filled

Master doesn’t take sides

The spirit of emptiness is immortal

The location makes the dwelling good

Depth of understanding makes the mind good

A kind heart makes the giving good

Integrity makes the government good

Accomplishment makes your labors good

Proper timing makes a decision good

Can you love people and lead them without forcing your on them?

To grow, yet not to control: This is the mysterious virtue

Too much activity dangers the mind

Too much wealth causes crime

Success is as danger as failure

Love the whole world as if it were your self

Then you will truly care for all things

Look for it, and it can't be seen

Listen for it, and it can't be heard

Grasp for it, and it can't be caught

Unending, unnamable, it return to nothingness

Formless forms, imageless images

Subtle, beyond all understanding

Returning to the resource is tranquility

If you want to become whole first let yourself become broken

If you want to become straight, first let yourself become twisted

If you want to become full, first let yourself become empty

If you want to become new, first let yourself become old

Before the universe was born

There was something in the chaos of the heaven

The Tao follows only itself

A good traveler leaves no tracks

Know the masculine but keep to the feminine

Some are meant to lead and others are meant to follow

The Master accepts the things as they are

Those who know others are intelligent

Those who know themselves are truly wise

Those who master other are strong

Those who master themselves have true power

All of creation is born from substance

Substance is born of nothing-ness

Few in the world can comprehend the teaching without words

Which is more destructive, success or failure?

To understand the small is called clarity

Knowing how to yield is called strength

Those who know do not talk

Those who talk do not know

Act by not acting

Do by not doing

A journey of thousand miles starts with a single footstep

If you rush into action, you will fail

If you hold on too tight, you will lose your grip

Compassion is the protector of Heaven's salvation
Profile Image for 7jane.
683 reviews268 followers
March 6, 2016
(review after rereading:)
This book's contents and history have both a sense of vagueness, but not in a bad way, in my opinion. It's somewhat uncertain when it was written (circa 4th-3rd century BC), the author's life details are largely invented, and the existence of the author is not quite certain either (Lao Tzu is just his title, and also it's not known if the text is by one author, or a group of authors worked over some years). It was first translated in the late 1700s, and the oldes existing copy is from circa 300 BC.

It's a bit hard to categorise: ethics? religious? philosophy? But really, in my view any of those would do. In a way it felt a bit like Dhammapada, which I've read earlier, in that even if you're not interested in the religion it's part of, it will still appeal, and is a pretty easy a read. I read it quite quickly now.

Taoism is clearly put as an opposite way of thinking against Confucianism - which shows in some parts of this text - the latter being based on duties to the community and the family, but somewhat rigidly black and white at its hardest. Taoism is in its end less rigid, putting weight on the coexistence of the opposites, reverence of nature, flexibility and not being too controlling. The Tao is a force in the world, not completely graspable or something one can give a finite meaning, but which balances our world. It is gentleness, avoiding conflict of grasping, seeking peacefulness, simplicity, detachment and humility. Making the point without engaging in rhetoric and arguments.

The book's message is simple, the prose spare with plenty of natural imagery. The wisdom (the Tao) of the book is feminine, yin in balance with the yang (while in Confucianism the yang seems sometimes bit heavily-leaned on).

The message seems simple, yet is deep. Quite a few sentences bounced out of the text as familiar, things I've seen quoted. Reading and rereading each page will most certainly happen for me in the future. The whole thing reads just like a beautiful ancient Chinese nature painting... and the view is beautiful, peaceful. Such is this book.
Profile Image for Brian .
415 reviews5 followers
April 17, 2022
I read this translation by Sam Torode every day on my phone, with a hard copy of another translation I will review soon. The simplicity of Torode's translation makes it my favorite so far and lines up with the Taoist philosophy of simplicity. I may consider other works translated by Torode. He has some interesting works out there, such as "The Song of Solomon."

Update: 3.14.18
Third translation I've read, my favorite of the three. I love this book of philosophy. It gives great common sense and helps pave new thought patterns not taught in American culture, paths that lead to peace and sanity. My favorite book of philosophy.

12-13-17: Great translation, helped me understand it. My favorite religious/ philosophical book aside from the Christian Bible. Shows a path of peace, contentment and subtle, quiet, managable power.

Update, 9/15/17:
I found this quote in my notebook, the only one I wrote down. Beautiful.
"Heaven is long-enduring and earth continues long. The reason why heaven and earth are able to endure and continue this long is because they do not live of, or for, themselves. This is how they are able to continue and endure."


“Nothingness cannot be defined; the softest thing cannot be snapped.” – Bruce Lee

My favorite quote from Bruce Lee, thus far, stretches across this page, above. The quote has reminded me of the power of humility, and the deceptive and dichotomous nature of that power. Humility clothes itself in rags of weakness and frailty but draws superhuman strength, and the Tao Te Ching calls this an empty vessel being filled with another power.

Bruce Lee based much of his life and work on the Tao Te Ching, so I read it. I admire this amazing and deeply profound piece of religious literature. The philosophy coincides with my own faith. I hear echoes of teachings I’ve heard in Christianity. The book teaches, as already mentioned, the power of humility. It teaches the value of things considered meaningless, such as empty space. We build houses, form rooms with four walls, but the basis of this structure lies upon the importance of the empty space. Empty space provides room to live, to breathe, to walk, to make love, to work.

The author also likens the paradox (and there are many, sometimes frustrating paradoxes, confirming the understanding can’t be grasped in one simple read) to that of the empty space between the spokes of a wheel. The power and mechanics of a wheel depend on the empty space.

Thus, we consider worthless things, abased things, as meaningless. We say we live life to the fullest when we have what we want, and when we lose it all, we have no meaning, no purpose, no life. The book attempts to explain this. Balance. The Yin-Yang. The point of the argument concludes with something underlying the whole of existence. One constant, the Tao. I like to think of this, in my personal paradigm of faith, as God. The book says Tao came before the existence of God, which I believe refers to man’s interpretation or attempt to understand God. The Tao exists as the fundamental, underlying essence of the universe. Above the Tao, we have the evidence of “life,” the events, the good, the bad, acceptance, rejection, bliss, pain, heaven, hell, male, female – you get it. Under all these events we also have a soul, eternal and unchanging in nature.

The book changed my perspective. I’ve recently divorced. As I experience grief, the thoughts come: life has no purpose now. Right now, in the present situation, I’m in a low, one side of the Yin-Yang. If I look back, and as Sarah Mclachlan says, “don’t let life pass [me] by; hold on to the memories,” I see the whole Yin-Yang, the whole balance, the beauty, the essence of life itself. I see a proud mother, her warm, soft hand holding mine as she says, “Lord, we come now to the throne of God.” I see a shriveled woman with tubes in her nostrils taking final breaths and slurring the words, “My son.” I see triumph as a child pitching a no-hitting season of baseball. I see my mother’s tears, and hear her weeping as we came home from my first attempt and fail at college (because of partying). I see a Father who loves me, and plays baseball with me, fishes with me. I see a father choking to hold back tears by my mother’s casket. The high, the low. The wave. Up, down, up, down. I see a beautiful lady with sea-blue eyes lying on my chest of happiness. I see a house I’m leaving as I gather my last things, and a baby-dog I’ll never see again, crying upstairs because Daddy’s going away and he knows I won’t return to walk him again.

See it all. See life. See the beauty, the lesson. See the tenderness of a mother deer licking her baby. See the lion chasing and biting the bleeding neck of her prey. See it all. This is life. The wonder, the blessing. Life. We live. We experience. The experiences only flow through a constant medium, us. I believe we exist in a timeless place called soul, and this place holds it all, the good and bad, in memories. We extend from the underlying Principle, the “Tao,” or some call it the Universe, some God. I believe this God has a face and He wants to be seen.

The author points out the paradox of softness. He refers to women as feminine, or weak, but then turns to say weakness stands stronger than strength, because strength depends on the weakness, as the walls depend on the space for meaning.

He says maturity is the end, the death, and Tao has no place with this. When we master something, it ends. A full-grown tree has only to be full-grown, and eventually wither. A new tree has begun to grow, and has a softness, and in this potential to grow, most of life abounds, because the process has just begun.

My end becomes a new beginning, always, so long as air feeds oxygen into my lungs and body.
Profile Image for Amethyst.
185 reviews345 followers
January 15, 2019
چقدر زیبا و لذت بخش بود، به قول دوستی ، متن کتاب شبیه شعری لطیف و دلنشین هست که آدم دوست داره بارها بخونتش. بخش هایی از کتاب رو که دوست داشتم اینجا قرار میدم :


قبل از تولد جهان
چيزي بي شكل و كامل وجود داشت.
آن آرام است؛ خالي،
تنها، تغيير ناپذير،
بي نهايت، حاضرِ ابدي؛
مادرِ جهان است.
چون نام بهتري برايش نمي يابم،
آن را تائو مي نامم.
در هر چيز جاري است؛
بيرون و درون
و به منبع اصلي باز مي گردد.

تائو پهناور است.
جهان پهناور است.
زمين پهناور است.
انسان پهناور است.
اين چهار قدرت بزرگ هستي است.
انسان از زمين پيروي مي كند.
زمين از جهان پيروي مي كند.
جهان از تائو پيروي مي كند.
تائو از خود پيروي مي كند.


تقدس و خرد را فراموش كنيد
و مردم هزار بار شادتر خواهند بود.
عدل و اخلاقيات را فراموش كنيد
و مردم تنها آن چه درست است را انجام مي دهند.
سود و صنعت را فراموش كنيد
و ديگر دزدي وجود نخواهد داشت.
اگر اين سه كافي نيستند،
در مركز دايره باقي بمانيد
و اجازه دهيد همه چير به دور خود بگردد.


كسي كه روي انگشتانش مي ايستد
نمي تواند تعادلش را حفظ كند.
كسي كه عجله مي كند
نمي تواند خيلي پيش رود.
كسي كه سعي در درخشيدن مي كند
نور وجودش را خاموش مي كند.
كسي كه خود را بزرگ مي داند
نمي تواند بداند به واقع كيست.
كسي كه بر ديگران فرمان مي راند
نمي تواند بر وجود خويش فاتح شود.
كسي كه به كارش مي چسبد
چيزي كه ديري بپايد، خلق نمي كند.
اگر مي خواهيد با تائو در همانگي قرار گيريد،
كار خود را بكنيد و سپس همه چيز را رها كنيد.


اگر مي خواهيد چيزي كوچكتر شود،
اجازه دهيد خوب گسترده شود.
اگر مي خواهيد از چيزي رها شويد،
ابتدا اجازه دهيد شكوفا شود.
اگر مي خواهيد چيزي را بدست آوريد،
ابتدا آن را ببخشيد.
اين درك ظريفي از قانون هستي است.
نرم بر سخت غلبه مي كند.
آرام بر سريع پيروز مي شود.

اجازه دهيد آن چه مي كنيد پنهان باقي بماند
و تنها نتيجه را به ديگران نمايش دهيد.


وقتي كشوري در هماهنگي با تائو است،
كارخانه هاي آن ماشين هاي باروري و كشاورزي مي سازند.
وقتي كشوري راه خلاف تائو مي پويد،
ابزار و ادوات جنگي در حومه ي شهرها انبار مي شوند.
توهمي بالاتر از ترس وجود ندارد
و اشتباهي بزرگتر از آماده شدن براي دفاع ازخود
بد شانسي اي بد تر از دشمن داشتن نيست.
هر كه بتواند در ميان ترس هاي خود به مشاهده آن چه رخ مي دهد بپردازد،
هميشه در امان خواهد بود.
Profile Image for Raha.
186 reviews186 followers
November 22, 2018
گاهی اوقات لازمه که کمی از زندگی هامون فاصله بگیریم و اندکی دورتر بایستیم تا دید بهتر و بازتری نسبت به شرایط و مسائلی که در اطرافمون می گذره داشته باشیم

بعضی وقت ها بهترین کار اینه که از دور و در سکوت شاهد و نظاره گر جریان زندگی مون باشیم. اینکه هر از گاهی مثل یه تماشاچی سینما، به صندلی مون تکیه بزنیم و زندگیمون رو درست مثل یک بیننده و از روی پرده ی سینما تماشا کنیم. وقتی یاد می گیریم که چطور سکوت کنیم و یک نظاره گر خاموش باشیم، وقتی یاد می گیریم که چطور احساسات و قضاوت هامون رو کنترل کنیم و دست از گله و شکایت کردن هامون برمیداریم، اون لحظه ست که می فهمیم زندگی همین تحمل دشواری ها و در عین حال لذت بردن از لحظه های کوچک و ناپایداری از "آرامشه". اون لحظه ست که یاد می گیریم وجود یک انسان وقتی بزرگ تر و عمیق تر می شه که تجربه ها و اتفاقات سخت تر و بیشتری را پشت سر گذاشته باشه، وگرنه که همیشه زندگی کردن در "نقطه ی امن" مون چیزی کمتر از مرده بودن نیست

کتاب "تائو ت چینگ" یکی از اون کتاب های دوست داشتنی و دلچسبی بود که شیوه ی "درست زندگی کردن رو " به ساده ترین و زیباترین شکل ممکن توضیح داده بود. اون حس سکون و آرامشی که در تمام طول کتاب حضور داشت رو واقعا دوست داشتم. و چقدر آموزنده و ارزشمند بود نوشته های این فرزانه ی چینی
زندگي را همان گونه كه هست جشن بگيريد
وقتي درك كنيد که هيچ كاستي و نقصي وجود ندارد
كل دنيا متعلق به شما خواهد بود
Profile Image for withdrawn.
263 reviews258 followers
October 6, 2016
This version of the Dao De Jing, translated by Richard John Lynn, is highly recommended to those who are not looking for the touchy feely Laozi. Rather it is a translation for those interested in ancient Chinese thought. A wonderful translation.

The Dao De Jing was probably written, by author or authors unknown, in the fourth century B.C.E. and "is primarily addressed to the ruler who would be a sage-king and is mainly concerned with achieving the good society through harmony with nature....". This version includes an interpretation of the text written by Wang Bi (226-49 C.E.) not long before his premature death. Both Wang Bi and the translator or this edition, Richard John Lynn, have maintained the original intent of the Dao De Jing in not bringing in any mystical or religious concepts, which by Wang Bi's time were part of the popular view of Daoism.

In reading this version, I perceive more clearly than in most versions three strands of thought. (I acknowledge that this thing may be sliced in many other ways. See for example Michael Lafarge's quite good translation.) The first strand is basically a description of how the sage-ruler behaves/develops, 'De' (virtue, potential). The second strand is a guide to self cultivation, how to become a sage, and the third is an articulation of the basis for the other strands (and everything else, 'the myriad of things'), the 'Tao'(the nature of the universe). These strands are not kept discrete but are, rather, presented as a synthesis.

As noted above, both Wang Bi and Lynn have avoided mystical language with the result that many of the terms with which readers of other translations are familiar are translated differently. Thus: "wuwei" usually translated as "no action" is here presented as "no conscious effort". The effect of this is important in that "no action" suggests that the agent accomplishes ends by doing nothing, a mystical concept which captures the modern reader's imagination. The words "no conscious effort" suggests more of a lack of purpose. The ruler acts but not to his own ends but rather in accordance with the unfolding nature of the universe, the Tao. To act out of the Tao is to act out of nothingness, as opposed to acting out of the myriad of things which will mislead and lead to disaster.

Wang Bi begins his introduction to the work with "The way things come into existence and efficacy comes about is that things arise from the formless and efficacy emanates from the nameless. The formless and the nameless [Dao] is the progenitor of the myriad of things.". I tend to view this as I do the concept of the "big bang' in popular physics. There is nothing there and then there is an explosion out of which all that exists emanates. The "Dao" is the ever expanding universe and everything that exists and happens within it. (This last bit is totally my own fabrication to put the concept into terms which I can grasp. It works for me for now.)

Thus, the Dao is conceived of as coming out of nothing and as ever changing. It cannot be named because it does not exist as a thing. It has no form or substance and is always becoming. It cannot be known. To act in accordance with it is therefore to act according to the changing universe as an unfolding, not as a thing to be learned.

The process of becoming a sage is thus a process of coming to be aware of how the Dao unfolds. To know the essence of the Dao is to know that it is empty, that it is nothing. To understand this is to be 'authentic'. I struggled with Lynn's translation of "zhen" as 'authentic' because of the connotations carried by that English term, especially as we use it in terms of 'being authentic to the self'. Lafargue translates "Zhen" as 'genuineness' which, for me, carries the same meaning but without the same connotations. "Zhen" is used to refer to the relation to the emptiness of the Dao. One thus becomes 'authentic', not by aligning one's life with the self, but by developing an ever-changing, ever-becoming self that moves with the Dao and thus acts with the Dao. The sage-king is one who rules with the Dao by taking action only within the emptiness of the Dao. In other words, the sage-king goes with the flow.

This a very different way of conceiving of the world and how we react within it. Unlike Western thinkers, the ancient Chinese thinkers did not value learning about the world. Nor did they look to an afterlife, ancestors or gods to bring their lives into accord with the universe. (I shall continue to read this stuff until I can feel like I actually grasp it.)
Profile Image for Krystal.
1,654 reviews383 followers
September 24, 2018
A short read but worth taking the time with.

I really enjoyed mulling over the short passages, and taking the time to re-read them and really think about what the words meant. So many incredibly great lines, full of inspiration.

It will confuse people looking for face-value prose but for the deep thinkers this will really challenge you to think about life in all its intricacies, and to question your own nature. Great read.

Highly recommend for the more spiritually inclined, or those looking for purpose/life meaning.
Profile Image for Paul Haspel.
563 reviews84 followers
February 13, 2021
The Tao is the Way, and the Way is the Tao. But if you expect the Tao Te Ching to get much more specific than that, then I’m afraid you’re likely to be disappointed. The Tao Te Ching is not a how-to – or, if you’ll forgive the phrase, a Tao-to.

Author Lao Tzu is a highly revered figure in modern China – making it all the more interesting that, as scholar D.C. Lau of the Chinese University of Hong Kong points out in an informative foreword, there is no real way of proving the historicity, even the actual historical existence, of a monk who lived in the 6th century B.C. and was named 老子, Lao Tzu. Therefore, stories about Lao Tzu – like the one in which Lao Tzu supposedly told a young Confucius to “Rid yourself of your arrogance and your lustfulness, your ingratiating manners and your excessive ambition. These are all detrimental to your person” (p. viii) – must be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.

What cannot be denied is that the Tao Te Ching – whoever its author(s), whatever the circumstances of its composition – provides the basis for one of the world’s great philosophical and religious traditions. In its 81 short, poetic chapters, the Tao Te Ching invites the reader to approach life in a spirit of acceptance and humility. That emphasis is no accident, as the book was compiled sometime during the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.) – a singularly turbulent and unstable time from Chinese history, when both ordinary citizens and powerful leaders were only too aware of the uncertainty of human affairs. It is understandable, then, that so many passages from the Tao Te Ching emphasize contentment, caution, endurance: “Know contentment/And you will suffer no disgrace;/Know when to stop/And you will meet with no danger./You can then endure” (p. 51).

On my first reading of the Tao Te Ching, I found myself focusing upon areas where I could see the document’s influence on Western culture. In Chapter V, for example, Lao Tzu writes that “Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs; the sage is ruthless, and treats the people as straw dogs” (p. 9). Sure enough, it turns out that Sam Peckinpah’s violent and controversial film Straw Dogs (1971), with its own thematic focus on ordinary people in a ruthless world, takes its title from this chapter.

And then there is Chapter XLVII, the chapter that may be my favorite from the entire Tao Te Ching: “Without stirring abroad/One can know the whole world;/Without looking out of the window/One can see the way of heaven./The further one goes/The less one knows” (p. 54). Fellow Beatles fans will recognize at once that this passage from the Tao Te Ching provides the lyrical inspiration for “The Inner Light,” a 1968 George Harrison composition that originally served as the B-side for the hit single “Lady Madonna.” George Harrison’s interest in the religious traditions of the East is a matter of record, and it makes perfect sense that, amid the chaos of being a Beatle, he would have been drawn to the Tao Te Ching’s message of letting go of the pursuit of material things in favor of seeking spiritual sustenance.

To my mind, one of the passages that is most explicit in defining the Way comes in Chapter VIII, when Lao Tzu writes that “Because water excels in benefiting the myriad creatures without contending with them and settles where none would like to be, it comes close to the way” (p. 12). Part of understanding the Way seems to involve the idea that the Way cannot be pinned down like a dead butterfly in a glass case; indeed, attempting to seize control of the Way will only take one further from the Way. “Go up to it and you will not see its head;/Follow behind it and you will not see its rear” (p. 18). In a way, Lao Tzu’s Way reminds me of physicist Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle from quantum mechanics – the idea that one can accurately measure the position or the momentum of a subatomic particle, but not both. The only way to achieve some measure of knowledge is to let go of trying to know everything. How scientific, and how Taoist.

One can also, if one looks, find connections with the religious traditions of the West. When Lao Tzu writes in Chapter 53 that “The great way is easy, yet people prefer by-paths” (p. 60), readers acquainted with the Judeo-Christian heritage might find themselves thinking of one of Jesus Christ’s admonitions from the Sermon on the Mount: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). And Lao Tzu’s call in Chapter 63 for his disciples to “do good to him who has done you an injury” (p. 70) will similarly bring to mind Jesus’ call for his disciples to “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6:27-28).

Helpful appendices to this edition of the Tao Te Ching deal with the problem of Lao Tzu’s authorship of the Tao Te Ching, as mentioned above, and with the nature of the work. There is also a glossary of authors and works from the tradition of classical Chinese philosophy, along with a chronological table that takes one all the way from the beginning of the Eastern Chou Dynasty in 770 B.C. through the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty in 225 A.D. – all very helpful for any reader for whom all this history may be relatively new.

I read the Tao Te Ching while my wife and I were in Beijing; touring the Temple of Heaven complex, a magnificent group of religious buildings associated with the Taoist faith, I wondered how many believers, during the 600 years since the complex’s construction, had walked to or from a ceremony of harvest prayers reciting a favorite chapter from the Tao Te Ching. I felt very fortunate to be acquainting myself with this world classic of literature, religion, and philosophy while traveling in the land from which it came.
Profile Image for Mustafa Nuwaidri.
379 reviews144 followers
May 8, 2019
مراجعتي مع مقتطفات من كتاب الطاو بصوتي

كلنا نعرف المثل الذي يقول مشوار الالف ميل يبدأ بخطوة واحدة ولكننا لا نعرف من الذي قاله، وفي الحقيقة ان هذه الحكمة الجميلة جاءتنا من الصين وتحديدا من الحكيم الصيني القديم لاوتسو، الذي عاش قبل الفين وستمئة سنة ولكن هذه الحكمة تم اختزالها من مقطع جميل كامل.

هذا الحكيم الصيني لديه الكثير ليقوله لنا، كتب كتابا اسماه تاو تي تشينج او كتاب الطاو وهو كتاب صغير كله مثل وحكم ، ويحتوي على فلسفة عميقة اعتنقها بعض الصينيين الى يومنا هذا وتسمى بالديانة أو الفلسفة الطاوية وان كان ليس ديانة. ازداد اهتمام العالم بهذا الكتاب في القرنين الأخيرين وفعلا هذا الكتاب يحمل حكمة نفاذة غاية في العمق والاستبصار استطاعت ان تلهم الكثيرين في القديم والحديث

ما هو التاو؟ التاو امر عميق لا يستطيع ذات الكاتب ان يقدم وصفه، مافهمته ان الطاو هو روح الكون الأصيلة، ثمة نظام يحكم العالم فيه توازن بين الخير والشر، يقول لاوتسو ان الشر والمشاكل لا بد من وجودها دائما بين قلة وكثرة ولكن السبيل لتقليل الشر يكمن في الا نحاربه، لا نستعمل العنف من اجل ان نحظى بالسلام ولا يجب ان نحاسب الناس ونضيق عليهم اكثر من اللازم فاسلوب القهر سيعقبها دائما تمرد المقهور، على نفس المبدأ القائل ان كل فعل يصاحبه ردة فعل مساوية في المقدار ومعاكسة في الاتجاه، فإن اي شيئين متناقضين في هذا العالم عندما نجعلهم يتصارعان سوف تحدث مشكلة اكبر من لو جعلناهم يعيشان سويا بهدوء.

توجد مفردات في الكتاب تختلف دلالاتها عن المعنى الذي يتبادر الى ذهننا ، على سبيل المثال الكاتب كثير ما يقول (لا تفعل شيئا) وهو بذلك لا يقصد ان تكون كسولا، ولكن هو يريد معنى اعمق من ذلك وهو الا تتكلف الافعال التي تقوم بها، لا تنوي القيام بعمل هائل يغير الكون، فقط افعل شيئا صغيرا جيدا مثل طبخ سمكة صغيرة، وعندما تسترسل في عملك البسيط سترى ان انجازك صار اكبر واكبر، إن اعظم الانجازات الكبرى في العالم خرجت من نية ابسط كثيرا مما تعتقد ..هكذا يقول الحكيم لاوتسو.

ونأخذ مفردة اخرى هي الأذكياء مثلا، يسيقها الكاتب بالذم ، فيذم اصحاب الذكاء المتقد، وبرأيي انه لا يقصد ما نعرفه وانما يقصد الدهاة منهم الذين يقومون بالكثير من الخطط الذكية ولكنها خطط تخرب العالم من وجهة نظر الحكيم. يبدو ان الكتاب موجه بالدرجة الاولى الى حاكم الدولة ينصحه بكثير من الرؤى و المثل الت�� يجب ان يفهمها ولكن الكتاب يصلح لأن نقرأه نحن ايضا بعد الاف السنين وان نأخذ من هذا الكتاب اجمله ونترك الافكار الغير صحيحة والتي لاتناسبنا.
Profile Image for Tahani Shihab.
592 reviews871 followers
December 16, 2021
لاو تسو، ليس هو اسم الفيلسوف، لكنه مجرد لقب صيني قديم معناه الشيخ الأكبر، أو المعلم الحكيم. يعتبر لاو تسو فيلسوف الطاوية، وهو ثاني أكبر اثنين من رجال الفلسفة بعد كونفوشيوس، وثاني أهم تيار فلسفي في الفكر الصيني، ألا وهو الاتجاه الطاوي، الذي تحول إلى ديانة رسمية في الصين، عندما ظهرت بوادر تغلغل البوذية إلى قلب الحضارة القديمة في شرق آسيا.

ليس هناك تعريف محدد للطاو، لكن التقدير السائد لدى الباحثين والمتخصصين بالفلسفة الصينية، يشير إلى أن الطاوية فلسفة صوفية بالمعنى الطبيعي وليس بالمعنى الديني. فلئن كان متصوفة الإسلام والمسيحية يبحثون عن الاتحاد الجمعي بروح الله. فإن التصوف الطاوي يبحث عن الاتحاد الجمعي بالطبيعة المطلقة.

الكتاب من جزئين، كتاب الطاو طاوجين، وكتاب الأخلاق داجين.


“الحرب أشلاء وضحايا، ومواكب جنائزية. في الحرب تسقط البشرية، ويصير المهزوم ـ والظافر جميعًا، أسرى موكب جنائزي تجلله الأحزان”.

“من تجلت له دفائن النفوس، فهو الذكي ذو الفراسة. أما من كشف خبايا نفسه التي بين جنبيه، فهو الفطن البصير”.

“الساعي إلى الخسران تتوارد عليه موارد الخسران، تجري إليه جَرَيان مشتاق. إنه لا يحيق المكر إلا بقلب واجس بالظنون”.

“كادت خطوة الواثق تتعثر، ثم كادت وثبة اللهفان تتقهقر، وأوشك دعي الجاه أن ينخسف في حضيض الذلة. فما بال المختال يزهو بغير تيجان، وما بال المغتر يتشامخ بغير صولجان!”.

“الدنيا ملكوت قاهر يتأبى عن أن يذعن لعبث الأهواء. من تسلط على الدنيا بالقهر، نازعته بالخسران. من نازعها بالغَلَبَة، ناوأته بالخذلان. ذلك بأن غالبها مغلوب، وآخذها مأخوذ بضياع جنى مسعاه”.

“الطغيان بدايته غلبة بالقهر، وعاقبته سوء الخاتمة”.

“إنه لا جريمة أبشع من الجشع والفساد، ولا كارثة أفجع من الطمع الجائر، ولا مصيبة أنكد من نهمة لا تشبع، فلذلك؛ كانت العفة عين القناعة، وكانت القناعة مدد من الرضا إلى أبو الآباد”.

“كلما زادت النواهي والتحريمات، في مملكة من الممالك، ازداد الناس بـؤسًا وفقرًا. وكلما حرص الناس على اقتناء أسلحة حادّة النصال، تفشت الفوضى والجريمة. وكلما ازداد الناس فطنة وذكاء، تعددت ألاعيب الدهاء والغش والحيل الشيطانية. وكلما صارت اللوائح القانونية أكثر صرامة، وتغليظًا للعقوبات، استفحلت الجريمة وتعددت وقائع الجنايات”.

“إذا رأيت الرهبة سقطت من عين الناس، وقد استمرأت بطش جلاديها، فاعرف أن مزي��ًا من التنكيل، واقع بها لا محالة. ولسوف يتنغص عيشها، ويضيق بها المقام في رحب أوطانها، وينزع وارد الحياة عنها كف العطاء. ثم إن النفوس لا تتجرع مرارة الذل، إلا بغلبة سطوة القهر”.

“الكلمة الطيبة تطوي لك الأعناق، في تقديس وإجلال. المعاملة الكريمة تضيء أنوار محبتك، في القلوب. فيتجلى باهر مجدك للناظرين، ويطيب بك مطاب الذكرى في أسماع الذاكرين. أقِلْ عثرة من أساء، ولا تخاصم من لم يتق الزلل، فما الذي تجنيه من اجتنابك إياه؟ ما ضرك لو هديته للرشاد؟”.

“مهما تصالح الخصمان، تظل في مكنون النفوس بقايا عداوة وثارات وضغائن”.

“صُلْح الغرماء، لا يصفي كل الدين مرة واحدة. فكيف نعد مثل تلك التسوية، منتهى الخير، وغاية المنى؟”.

“الكلمات الصادقة ليست جميلة. والكلمات الجميلة لا تقول الصدق. لسان الطيبين غير معسول، وليس في فنون الكلام، أطلق من لسان الخبثاء”.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
1,018 reviews1,183 followers
July 15, 2019
I knew Ursula Le Guin was interested in Taoism : one only has to read “The Left Hand of Darkness” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), her Earthsea stories (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), or even “The Dispossessed” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) to see an ever-present underlying theme of balance, of difference and unity – and of compassion. But I had no idea she had actually written an English version of the “Tao Te Ching” until Saturday, when I was idly browsing the Buddhism section of a book store. I didn’t even catch it: my husband saw it and handed it to me. Obviously, I bought it, because, you know, Ursula Le Guin is one of my heroes and two of the above-mentioned books are works that have changed my life. If there was any version of the Tao that I was going to read, it was definitely going to be this one.

I had never read the “Tao Te Ching” before, which, considering I was raised by hippies, hung out with a bunch of esoterica enthusiasts for years, and have been practising Soto Zen for a while, is a bit surprising. But I guess I was just waiting for the perfect version of it to find its way into my hands (thank you, Jason!).

For each “chapter”, Le Guin added little notes, which she says are “idiosyncratic and unscholarly” and entirely her own personal reactions and ideas about the text. She says in the introduction that they can be ignored, but I found they really added depth to my experience of the text, refined the words on the page, and of course, gave me glimpses into the amazing lady’s mind. Le Guin’s turn of phrase is elegant, but also full of humour, and never ponderous.

The text’s emphasis on self-mastery, humility and moderation is an inspiring and gentle philosophy, that while not always directly applicable in the world, should be contemplated carefully. A lot of this, when looked at lucidly, is common sense and a sane perspective on living. In the crazy world we live in, we could all use that from time to time. This is definitely the kind of book that benefits from multiple reads, or oven opening it at a random page at one’s leisure. It might be short and quick to read, but it ought to be digested slowly.
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