81 Chapter Translations & Interpretations

Chapter 01 – The Tao That Can Be Told

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

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

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

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

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.


Support Author: Stephen Mitchell
Get your copy of this Translation here:
Tao Te Ching: An Illustrated Journey by Lao-Tzu

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10 Responses to “Chapter 01 – The Tao That Can Be Told”

  1. Tolle says:

    Behind seemingly random or even chaotic events in our lives as well as in the world lies concealed the unfolding of a higher order and purpose.

    “The Snow falls, each flake in its appropriate place.”

  2. Chew says:

    The tao IS. Being all things it is beyond naming. Being eternal it is beyond time.

    Being caught up in desire; love, wealth, fame; is like seeing with only one’s focused eye without peripheral vision. We see the focus of our desire but miss the bigger picture. Free from desire we experience the broader reality, free to discover the broader truths.

    Darkness is the unknown. The unknown is like an onion where one sees through one layer only to discover more questions below. Each layer revealing new questions, layer after layer on the path through the darkness to knowledge, wisdom and understanding.

  3. Robert says:

    It begins with explaining that within the confines of language, we will not be able to experience the Tao. The Tao is in its essence undefinable by our own notions. That said, we also put, though language, our own preconceived notions (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbKw0_v2clo) onto ourselves and unto the world around us. “Naming is the origin of all particular things”

    Our being is a function of the language we use to describe our “being” or existence. It creates the desires/wants/concepts of need that we maintain, but these are only material. freeing yourself of this material you can “realize the mystery.” or the beauty, complexity or potential of your being. If you cannot by any means at any time rid your “being” of these confines/shackles (perhaps even walls that you build for yourself, others), notions of truth, and the absolute. – which, mind you, the Tao says over and over again we cannot “know”, you will be “Caught in desire”, and only realize/experience “the manifestations.” thereof.

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

    i.e. language is the darkness in the case I’m making – It, darkness, like many things in the Tao, can be either or. The mystery or the manifestations. The beauty or the shackles, it depends on you. thus-

    “Darkness within darkness.
    The gateway to all understanding.”

    • Andrew Stergiou says:

      Robert, though generally fools can be forgiven I take offence from those who are insulting in the defects of their convoluted statements of sophistry by which they test our limits, then add and subtract to their own words when confronted with those matters.

      As your text is premised sequentially, I will simplify matters by ignoring your superfluousness, and only regarding your stating “Our being is a function of the language we use to describe our ‘being’ or existence.”.

      In keeping with the understanding that one begets two, and two begets three, and three begets a myriad number of things as ad infinitum we would of been better off not saying anything as that creates its own dilemmas.

      In that I quoted and referred to a small section of what you wrote I attempted to limit your ego and madness. In using more than one word I failed but I have exemplified your errors.

      But generally in philosophy in referring to the convoluted you made that”Our being is”Our being is a function of the language to describe our “being” or existence.” it can be see as nonsense simply by use of reductionist methods as in “”Our being is a function of the language” for if you emphasis our dependence as in “our being” as “”Our being is a function of the language [we use] to describe our “being” or existence.” when in actuality that language is generally thought of as non-existent without our being existing.

      Now I can understand that is sort of a chicken and the egg argument (on which I do take sides) but in that you have mishmashed it all together, I am inclined to point out your errors simply for the hell of it as you sounded pompous, and as I am insulted that you did not think that someone would notice it.

      As for everyone else they said nothing either out of conformity, complacence, inability to argue, or simple polite convention but I do.

      If you wish to continue you may join me for tea to discuss it as you can not fairly present (as some evangelicals do) one aspect of thought and not the obvious arguments it is unfair to you as well as others as muddled thinking.

      Though I agree that there is a sense of futility often in all matters as you said for example “Darkness within darkness”, though one has to begin some where as in the recognized understanding of what darkness is depicted as. Darkness which in your case you can consider as a form of your eventual enlightenment.

      I hope my typing have adequately kept pace with my thoughts.

      Best wishes

      • Siti says:

        When it comes to the Tao, I like . Also, fits right in with GAF’s unholy mix of walniffg respect for tradition, existential postmodern angst, and come-to-papa self-affirming greed.

  4. Saki says:

    Chew and Robert, both of your comments were very helpful for my understanding. And Robert, cool video to demonstrate your words.

  5. Nibby says:

    I’m not easily impressed. . . but that’s impressing me! :)

  6. OBYONETAOPY says:

    I CHING books and MUSICS, all in French so : http://www.yiking-music.com/

  7. Wing says:

    Language only expresses concept/understanding , it is not concept/understanding itself.

    All things come from the same, whether truth or delusion.

    The darkness here refers to Wuji, the emptiness/nothingness from which taiji/yinyang is born, and then everything.

    This translation makes more sense if you have a background knowledge of Chinese culture. It also helps if you compare other translations; even the original is open to interpretation. The key to understanding is to observe the world around you. Words will not bring you understanding, only experience. Books only serve as an inspiration to gain one’s own experience.

  8. Chris says:

    The darkness or nothingness is not actually nothingness.
    You can not get something from nothing.
    But “something” can be so dispersed as to seem as nothing.

    If there was ever absolute “nothing” then “something” could never arise.
    The eternal is constant without beginning or end.
    Which alone in itself is incomprehensible to most.

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