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"Hold on to the great image."

Tao Te Ching 35

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.

The Lao Tzu Taoist Classic
Translated and Explained


35

Hold on to the great image,

And the whole world follows,

Follows unharmed,

Content and completely at peace.


Music and food make the traveler halt.

But words spoken about the Way have no taste.

When looked at, there's not enough to see.

When listened to, there's not enough to hear.

When used, it is never exhausted.



Elusive, But Never Exhausted

The image that Lao Tzu refers to is Tao, the Way. The word he uses also means appearance, similarity, and likeness. One might call it an impression or a symbol. He wants to make clear that the elusive Tao is more than its image. What we see of it is much less than what it is.

     Still, what we perceive is what we see and hear, so we need to go in the direction pointed out by our senses – yet, constantly reminding ourselves that there is more to it and that the Way reaches farther than we are able to detect. If we hold on to it and go where it leads, we will find that the whole world complies and benefits as well.

     Although Tao is hard to see or hear, and words to describe it become far from spectacular, it's inexhaustible. That's because it's not a thing or a creature, but a principle, a natural law that governs the universe. Tao is the way the universe works. The whole universe may dissolve without the law of its fate doing so. Like a formula it can be used over and over and over, without suddenly ceasing to function.

     This is more evident to us than to people of antiquity. They saw everything in the world as expressions of struggling powers, whether those were divinities or other forces. Therefore, they could imagine the sun one morning refusing to rise, or crops one year failing completely to grow. They had little idea of irresistible natural laws that Heaven and Earth and all things therein could but obey.

     Nowadays, we imagine the universe completely controlled by nothing but natural laws, without any will of its own or any will beyond it. We regard it all as machinery. This image comes closer to Lao Tzu's idea of Tao, but it lacks some of the poetry and beauty of the latter.

     Strangely, the word for image, hsiang, also means elephant. This probably stems from a time when elephants could only be seen on pictures from other parts of the world.

© Stefan Stenudd.

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Tao Te Ching Explained


Preface


Introduction


Literature


The 81 Chapters of Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
translated and explained by Stefan Stenudd.
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Tao Te Ching Explained


James Legge's Tao Te Ching


Aleister Crowley's Tao Te Ching


The 1st Chapter of Tao Te Ching in 76 Versions


Lao Tzu - Legendary Author of Tao Te Ching





My Taoism Books:


Tao Te Ching - The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd.
Tao Te Ching

The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. The great Taoist philosophy classic by Lao Tzu translated, and each of the 81 chapters extensively commented. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

More about the book here


Tao Quotes - the Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd.
Tao Quotes

The Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. 389 quotes from the foremost Taoist classic, divided into 51 prominent topics. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

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Other Books by Stefan Stenudd:


Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Cosmos of the Ancients

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Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd


About me

I'm a Swedish author and aikido instructor. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism and other East Asian traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.

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