BY STEFAN STENUDD
I'm a Swedish writer, and instructor of the peaceful martial art aikido. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism as well as other Chinese and Japanese traditions. I'm also a historian of ideas, researching the thought patterns in creation myths. My personal website: stenudd.com
Tao Te Ching 14
The Lao Tzu Taoist Classic Translated and Explained
Look, it cannot be seen,
So it is called invisible.
Listen, it cannot be heard,
So it is called soundless.
Touch, it cannot be caught,
So it is called elusive.
These three cannot be examined,
So they unite into one.
Above it there is no light,
Below it there is no darkness.
Endlessness beyond description.
It returns to non-existence.
It is called the shapeless shape,
The substance without form.
It is called obscurely evasive.
Meet it and you do not see its beginning,
Follow it and you do not see its end.
Hold on to the ancient Way to master the present,
And to learn the distant beginning.
This is called the unbroken strand of the Way.
Now and then Lao Tzu marvels at the splendid mystery of Tao, the Way, portraying it with obvious amazement, as if intoxicated by it. This is one such occasion.
Here, he focuses on its obscurity as well as its infinity. The latter is the reason for the former. Because Tao has no limit in time or space, it cannot be described, not even perceived.
It's the law out of which the universe emerged. It still rules the world and everything in it. So, nothing comes before or after it. Nothing is outside of its reach.
Because it's the natural law that everything must obey, you need to follow it to manage your life. That's the only way to get some kind of bearing on your life – learning the inner workings of life itself. Then you can avoid futile struggle against the nature of things.
If your path is in accordance with Tao, the Way, you can travel through life with ease. Otherwise, it's bound to take you nowhere.
As you get to know the workings of Tao, you also perceive its role in the world as a whole, all the way back to the moment of its emergence. One thing led to the next, which led to the next. That first thing was Tao, and it's still the fundamental cause to every effect. Tao brought order to chaos, whereby the world was shaped. Without Tao it would return to shapeless chaos.
The unbroken strand is the eternity of Tao, from before the world emerged and forever on. Even if the world would collapse, Tao would remain the principle by which the world could emerge anew. Our world is such that everything perishes. But the laws by which things appear and disappear, including the universe itself, remain undamaged. The unbroken strand is the endless procreation according to the law of Tao.
Lao Tzu (Lao Zi), the legendary writer of Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing), left the Chinese emperor's court on a water buffalo, after growing tired of politics. He wrote the Tao Te Ching on the request of a border guard. Here is my translation and explanation, chapter by chapter. From the book:
Translated and explained by Stefan Stenudd.
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36
37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45
46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54
55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63
64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72
73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81
Tao Te Ching - the Book