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"If there were no laughter it would not be the Way."

Tao Te Ching 41

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.

The Lao Tzu Taoist Classic
Translated and Explained


41

The superior student listens to the Way

And follows it closely.

The average student listens to the Way

And follows some and some not.

The lesser student listens to the Way

And laughs out loud.

If there were no laughter it would not be the Way.


So, it has been said:

The light of the Way seems dim.

The progress of the Way seems retreating.

The straightness of the Way seems curved.

The highest virtue seems as low as a valley.

The purest white seems stained.

The grandest virtue seems deficient.

The sturdiest virtue seems fragile.

The most fundamental seems fickle.

The perfect square lacks corners.

The greatest vessel takes long to complete.

The highest tone is hard to hear.

The great image lacks shape.


The Way is hidden and nameless.

Still only the Way nourishes and completes.



Laughing Out Loud

What Lao Tzu says about students is true for all mankind. Some listen and learn, others do it sporadically, and those with the least respect just laugh and call it absurd. If there were no people reacting like that, it would probably not be Tao, the Way. Tao is absurd to the thoughtless mind.

     Certainly, not only Tao meets this response in minds unwilling to ponder. Almost every breakthrough in science has met the same reaction – not just among the unknowing public, but also from several fellow scientists. Revelations are easily ridiculed by those who didn't come up with them.

     It happened a lot to Charles Darwin, when he presented his theories about the evolution of the species. There were lots of caricatures in which he was portrayed as an ape, since people misunderstood him as saying that we evolved from them.

     What he did say, of course, was that we as well as the other apes have evolved from common ancestors. But loads of people, even many who regarded themselves as both learned and reasonable, were outraged at the idea.

     When Albert Einstein presented his idea that time is not a constant, but has a speed depending on the speed of the object on which it is measured, there were few who could grasp it. Many scientists doubted it for years, until measurements could be made that supported his theory. He got his Nobel Prize for something else, because his theory of relativity was still in dispute.

     Actually, when we examine the history of science we notice that almost all significant breakthroughs have met with resistance and ridicule.

     The reception of Tao among Lao Tzu's contemporaries had little chance of being any different. Mankind is reluctant to accept change, whether that change is one of thought or one of material circumstances.


What We Expect

We look at the world with prejudice, because we don't see what is, but what we want and expect. Tao in its yielding humility seems dim, whereas we expect great truth to shine like gold. Its progress seems retreating, because it makes little noise and shuns the spectacular. Its course seems curved and twisted, because it accomplishes its goals indirectly and discreetly.

     Virtue is perceived similarly. Its highest form is the most humble, wherefore it seems as low as if cherished only by failing people. That's also why its grandest perspectives seem lacking, and its firmest rules seem faltering. We tend to expect the supreme to have the most impressive features, so we doubt any truth that lacks magnificence.

     We expect grandeur, but the Way leads to the infinitesimal. That's where the secrets of the universe hide, as is currently confirmed by the science of quantum physics, not to mention string theory. The world is so grand, we go to telescopes to explore it, but its essence is ever-present and should rather be searched in microscopes.

© 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.

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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

The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods, by Stefan Stenudd. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


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The life energy qi (also chi or ki) explained, with exercises on how to awaken, increase, and use it. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


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


About me

I'm a Swedish writer 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 the thought patterns in creation myths. Click the image to get to my personal website.

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