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The First Chapter of Tao Te Ching

Tao Te Ching

76 versions of Chapter 1



Lao Tzu, the legendary writer of Tao Te Ching.Lao Tzu, the legendary writer of Tao Te Ching, who rode a water buffalo when leaving the Emperor's court after growing tired of politics. Before leaving China, he wrote Tao Te Ching on the request of a guardsman at the Chinese border.
       Here are 76 versions of Chapter 1 for comparison. I got them from the internet and from my library. They are sorted alphabetically after their translators/interpretors. You will also find my own interpretation among them.



Tao Te Ching, the first verse (Wang Pi manuscript) in Chinese.
Chapter 1 in Chinese (Wang Bi).

ADDISS, STEPHEN & LOMBARDO, STANLEY (1993)
TAO called TAO is not TAO.
Names can name no lasting name.
Nameless: the origin of heaven and earth.
Naming: the mother of ten thousand things.
Empty of desire, perceive mystery.
Filled with desire, perceive manifestations.
These have the same source, but different names.
Call them both deep-
Deep and deep again deep:
The gateway to all mystery.



ALLCHIN, DOUGLAS (2002)
Who would follow the Way
must go beyond words.
Who would know the world
must go beyond names.
Nameless, all things begin.
Named, all things are born.
Empty of intent, one may be filled with awe.
Full of intent, one may know what's manifest.
One source, different fonts.
Wonders both.
From wonder into wonder,
existence opens.



BAHM, ARCHIE J (1958)
Nature can never be completely described, for such a description of Nature would have to duplicate Nature.
No Name can fully express what it represents.
It is Nature itself, and not any part (or name or description) abstracted from Nature, which is the ultimate source of all that happens, all that comes and goes, begins and ends, is and is not.
But to describe Nature as "the ultimate source of all" is still only a description, and such a
description is not Nature itself. Yet since, in order to speak of it, we must use words, we shall have to describe it as "the ultimate source of all".
If Nature is inexpressible, he who desires to know Nature as it is in itself will not try to
express it in words.
To try to express the inexpressible leads one to make distinctions that are unreal.
Although the existence of Nature and a description of that existence are two different things, yet they are also the same.
For both are ways of existing. That is, a description of existence must have its own existence, which is different from the existence of that which it describes; and so again we have to recognize an existence which cannot be described.



BALFOUR, FREDERICK HENRY (1884)
The TAO, or Principle of Nature, may be discussed [by all]; it is not the popular or common
Tao - [e.g., the tao-li of ethics, dealing with the ### and the ###].
Its Name may be named [i.e., the TAO may receive a designation, though of itself it has none]; but it is not an ordinary name, [or name in the usual sense of the word, for it is a presentment or eidolon of the Infinite].
Its nameless period was that which preceded the birth of the Universe, [the ###];
In being spoken of by name, it is as the Progenitrix of All Things, [the period of the ###, which divided and produced the ###].
It is therefore in habitual passionlessness [the ### or Quiescent phase of TAO] that its mystery may be scanned; and in habitual desire [the ### or Active phase of TAO] that its developments may be perceived.
These two conditions, the Active and the Quiescent, alike proceed [from TAO]; it is only in name that they differ. Both may be called profundities; and the depth of profundity is the gate of every mystery.



BECK, SANDERSON
The Way that can be described is not the absolute Way;
the name that can be given is not the absolute name.
Nameless it is the source of heaven and earth;
named it is the mother of all things.
Whoever is desireless, sees the essence of life.
Whoever desires, sees its anifestations.
These two are the same,
but what is produced has different names.
They both may be called the cosmic mystery:
from the cosmic to the mystical
is the door to the essence of all life.



BLAKNEY, RAYMOND BERNARD (1955)
There are ways but the Way is uncharted; There are names but not nature in words:
Nameless indeed is the source of creation But things have a mother and she has a name.
The secret waits for the insight Of eyes unclouded by longing; Those who are bound by desire See only the outward container.
These two come paired but distinct By their names.
Of all things profound, Say that their pairing is deepest, The gate to the root of the world.



BYNNER, WITTER (1881-1968) (1944)
Existence is beyond the power of words To define: Terms may be used But are none of them absolute.
In the beginning of heaven and earth there were no words, Words came out of the womb of matter;
And whether a man dispassionately Sees to the core of life Or passionately Sees the surface,
The core and the surface Are essentially the same, Words making them seem different Only to express appearance.
If name be needed, wonder names them both: From wonder into wonder Existence opens.



BYRN, TORMOND
The way that can be told of is hardly an eternal, absolute, unvarying one;
the name that can be coded and given is no absolute name.
Heaven and earth sprang from something else: the bright nameless;
the named is but the said mother that rears the ten thousand creatures of heaven and earth, each after its kind.
He that rids himself of base desire can see the secret essences;
he that didn't and reached high being, he can see outcomes.
Still the two are the same; the secret and its manifestations came from the same ground, the same mould, but anyway sound different - they're given different names where they appear.
They can both be called the cosmic mystery, awesome deep or rather more secret than so-called mystery.
There's the deeper mystery: the gate and doorway from which issued all secret essences, yes, all subleties,
and the subtle mysterial opening homewards.
Call it the door mystery or golden secret of all life.
OR (other website):
The tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be spoken is not the eternal Name.
The nameless is the boundary of Heaven and Earth. The named is the mother of creation.
Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery. By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.
Yet mystery and reality emerge from the same source. This source is called darkness.
Darkness born from darkness. The beginning of all understanding.



CHAN, WING-TSIT (1901-1994) (1963)
The Tao that can be told of is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth; The Named is the mother of all things.
Therefore let there always be non-being, so we may see their subtlety, And let there always be being, so we may see their outcome.
The two are the same, But after they are produced, they have different names.
They both may be called deep and profound. Deeper and more profound, The door to all subtleties!



CHEN, ELLEN M (1989)
Tao that can be spoken of,
Is not the Everlasting (ch'ang) Tao.
Name that can be named,
Is not the Everlasting (ch'ang) name.
2a. Nameless (wu-ming), the origin (shih) of heaven and earth;
Named (yu-ming), the mother (mu) of ten thousand things.
[alternate...]
2b. Non-being (wu), to name (ming) the origin (shih) of heaven and earth;
Being (yu), to name (ming) the mother of ten thousand things.
3a. Therefore, always (ch'ang) without desire (wu-yu),
In order to observe (kuan) the hidden mystery (miao);
Always (ch'ang) with desire (yu-yu),
In order to observe the manifestations (chiao).
[alternate...]
3b. Therefore, by the Everlasting (ch'ang) Non-Being (wu),
We desire (yu) to observe (kuan) its bidden mystery (miao);
By the Everlasting (ch'ang) Being (yu),
We desire (yu) to observe the manifestations (chiao).
4. These two issue from the same origin,
Though named differently.
Both are called the dark (hsuan).
Dark and even darker,
The door to all hidden mysteries (miao).



CLATFELTER, JIM
Words and names are not the way
They can't define the absolute
It's better that you look within
Hold your tongue and just be mute
Look within and look out too
You will not find a separation
Out there you see appearance
Within you see origination
Look within with wonder
At emptiness and bliss
For wonder names totality
Where nothing is amiss
The space within is always there
If you can moderate desire
A place of utter emptiness
And possibility entire



CLEARY, THOMAS (1991)
A way can be a guide, but not a fixed path; names can be given, but not permanent labels.
Nonbeing is called the beginning of heaven and earth; being is called the mother of all things.
Always passionless, thereby observe the subtle; ever intent, thereby observe the apparent.
These two come from the same source but differ in name;
both are considered mysteries. The mystery of mysteries is the gateway of marvels.



CRONK, GEORGE (1999)
The Tao that can be defined is not the real Tao.
The name that can be named is not the real Name.
The unnamable [Tao] is the source of Heaven and Earth.
Naming is the mother of all particular things.
Free from desire, you experience reality.
Trapped in desire, you see only appearances.
Reality and appearance have different names,
but they emerge from the same source [i.e., the Tao].
This source is called darkness, deep darkness;
and yet it is the way to all wisdom.



CROWLEY, ALEISTER (KO YUEN)
THE NATURE OF THE TAO
The Tao-Path is not the All-Tao.
The Name is not the Thing named.

Unmanifested, it is the Secret Father of
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Heaven
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and Earth
manifested, it is their Mother.

To understand this Mystery, one must be fulfilling one's will, and if one is not thus free, one will but gain a smattering of it.

The Tao is one, and the Teh but a phase thereof. The abyss of this Mystery is the Portal of Serpent-Wonder.
The Tao
.
The Teh,
source of the Mother

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The Tao,
source of the Father

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Heaven
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Fire
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Water
Sun
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Air
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Earth
Moon
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Earth
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FENG, GIA FU & ENGLISH, JANE (1972, 1989)
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.



GANSON, C.
The Tao described in words is not the real Tao.
Words cannot describe it.
Nameless, it is the source of creation.
Named, it is the mother of all things.
To see Tao the observer must be motiveless.
Those with selfish motives see only the surface, not the innermost depths.
These two kinds of observers look alike, but differ in the insight of their observations.
They look alike because they are both human.
Within humanity is the key to the door of creation.



GIBBS, TAM
The tao that can be talked about is not the Absolute Tao.
If it can be named, it is not an Absolute name.
That which has no name is the origin of heaven and earth;
That which has a name is the Mother of all things.
Thus, if always without desire, one can observe indescribable marvels;
If always desirous, one sees merest traces.
These two come from the same source but are differently named.
Both are called Mysterious.
The mystery of the Mysterious is the gateway to all indescribable marvels.



GODDARD, DWIGHT & BOREL, HENRI (1919)
The Tao that can be understood cannot be the primal, or cosmic, Tao, just as an idea that can be expressed in words cannot be the infinite idea.
And yet this ineffable Tao was the source of all spirit and matter, and being expressed was the mother of all created things.
Therefore not to desire the things of sense is to know the freedom of spirituality; and to desire is to learn the limitation of matter. These two things spirit and matter, so different in nature, have the same origin. This unity of origin is the mystery of mysteries, but it is the
gateway to spirituality.



GONG, TIENZEN
Tao that can be spoke of, not the eternal Tao.
Name that can be named, not the eternal name.
Nameless, the beginning of heaven and earth.
Named, mother of everything.
Desireless, sees the mystery.
Desiring, sees the manifestations.
These two, from the same source, differ in name; both are original.
Original of original, gate of all mystery.



GUANGHU, HE & SHINING, GAO, LIDAO, SONG & JUNYAO, XU (1993)
The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;
The named is the root of all things.
Therefore, the subtleties of Tao are always apprehended throught their formlessness,
The limits of things are always seen through their form.
These two (the form and the formless) have the same source but different names.
Both of them can be called deep and profound,
The deepest and the most profound, the door of all mysteries.



GRIGG, RAY (1995)
The Tao that can be named
is not the nameless Tao.
The Tao that can be known
is not the unknowable Tao.
Nameless and unknowable.
the Tao has been from the very beginning.
It is the wisdom of all that is,
and the way of the Great Mother.
With desire,
the Tao is hidden.
Without desire,
the Tao is apparent.
The Tao and the Great Mother
arose from the same dark source.
Their names are different,
but they are inseperable.
Together they are an endless wonder,
And the boundless mystery
of everything's oneness.



HEIDER, JOHN (1985) (Tao of leadership)
Tao means how: how things happen, how things work.
Tao is the single principle underlying all creation.
Tao is God.
Tao cannot be defined, because it applies to everything.
You cannot define something in terms of itself.
If you can define a principle, it is not Tao.
Tao is a principle. Creation, on the other hand, is a process.
That is all there is: principle and process, how and what.
All creation unfolds according to Tao. There is no other way.
Tao cannot be defined, but Tao can be known. The method is meditation, or being aware of what is happening. By being aware of what is happening, I begin to sense how it is happening. I begin to sense Tao.
To become aware of what is happening, I must pay attention with an open mind. I must set aside my personal prejudices or bias. Prejudiced people see only what fits those prejudices.
The method of meditation works, because principle and process are inseparable. All process reveals the underlying principle. This means that I can know Tao. I can know God.
By knowing Tao, I know how things happen.



HANSEN, CHAD
To guide what can be guided is not constant guiding. To name what can be named is not constant naming.
'Not-exist' names the beginning (boundary) of the cosmos (Heaven and earth) 'Exists' names the mother of the ten-thousand natural kinds.
Thus, to treat 'not-exist' as constant is desiring to use it to view its mysteries. To treat 'exists' as constant is desiring to use it to view its manifestations.
These two emerge together yet have different names.
'Together' - call that 'obscure. ' 'Obscure' it and it is more obscure. ... the gateway of a crowd of mysteries.



HATCHER, BRADFORD
A path fit to travel
Is not a general path
A name fit for calling
Is not a generic name
"Nothing" names the origin of heaven and earth
"Being" names the mother of the myriad beings
And so, always be dispassionate
In order to see the mysteries
Always be passionate
In order to see the objectives
These two mean the same (when) emerging
While diverging in significance
The sameness tells of their mystery
Mystery leading to greater mystery
(Is) the gateway to every mystery
[I hate to begin the translation with this controversial a rendering but I have three problems with most traditional versions: First, I do not believe that ke3 (3381) should be translated as "can" or glossed as ke4 (3320) or neng2 (4648). These words have different meanings, very
similar to the difference between may and can. Second, most translators seem to treat chang2 (0221), often translated as eternal, unchanging and ideal, as some sort of transcendent Platonic ultimate, and anything dealing with reality, change and specific existence as inferior to this.
I do not think Laozi was this sort of Platonist. Third, the Dao, before it was anything else, was the metaphor of a path, and not of a field. Now, it may be the path that the field travels through time, the weaving and unweaving of its biodiversity, its seral [sic] succession and so forth, but this does not include all of the things that the field never was or became, any more than the path includes everything that is off of the path. The widest the path gets, then, is at that part along which the universe comes into being. The Dao may also be considered as "natural law," at least prior to its formulation. While it should not be regarded as a creator or first cause, it might be considered to be n vast "enabling."]



HEADLESS
Words and names are not the way
They can't define the absolute
It's better that you look within
Hold your tongue and just be mute
Look within and look out too
You will not find a separation
Out there you see appearance
Within you see origination
Look within with wonder
At emptiness and bliss
For wonder names totality
Where nothing is amiss
The space within is always there
If you can moderate desire
A place of utter emptiness
And possibility entire



HENRICKS, ROBERT G (1989)
As for the Way, the Way that can be spoken of is not the constant Way;
As for names, the name that can be named is not the constant name.
The nameless is the beginning of the ten thousand things;
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Therefore, those constantly without desires, by this means will perceive its subtlety.
Those constantly with desires, by this means will see only that which they yearn for and seek.
These two together emerge;
They have different names yet they're called the same;
That which is even more profound than the profound -
The gateway of all subtleties.



HO, LOK-SANG (2002)
Ways that can be spelled out.
Cannot be the eternal way.
Names that can be named
Must change with time and place.
Emptiness is the origin of heaven and earth;
Existence is the mother of everything that had a birth.
Appreciate Emptiness, that we may see the nature of the Dao's versatility;
Appreciate Existence, that we may see the extent of the Dao's possibilities.
These two, Emptiness and Existence, came from the same source.
Though they bear different names, they serve the same mystical cause.
A mystery within a mystery,
Such is the gateway to all versatility.



HOGAN, RON ("Jesse Garon") (2004)
If you can talk about it,
it ain't Tao.
If it has a name,
it's just another thing.
Tao doesn't have a name.
Names are for ordinary things.
Stop wanting stuff;
it keeps you from seeing what's real.
When you want stuff,
all you see are things.
Those two sentences
mean the same thing.
Figure them out,
and you've got it made.



HOND, BRAM DEN
As for the road,
The Road that can be told is not the eternal Road.
As for names,
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of the ten thousand things.
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Therefore, ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Those constantly with desires,
will only see what they yearn for and seek.
These two spring from the same source.
They have different names; yet they are called the same.
That which is even more profound than the profound
The gateway to all mystery.
[Corrected with the Mawangtui texts.]



JULIEN, STANISLAS (1842)
La voie qui peut être exprimée par la parole n'est pas la Voie éternelle ; le nom qui peut être nommé n'est pas le Nom éternel.
(L'être) sans nom est l'origine du ciel et de la terre ; avec un nom, il est la mère de toutes choses.
C'est pourquoi, lorsqu'on est constamment exempt de passions, on voit son essence spirituelle ; lorsqu'on a constamment des passions, on le voit sous une forme bornée.
Ces deux choses ont une même origine et reçoivent des noms différents. On les appelle toutes deux profondes. Elles sont profondes, doublement profondes. C'est la porte de toutes les choses spirituelles.



KINNES, TORMOD
THE way that can be told of is hardly an eternal, absolute, unvarying one;
The name that can be coded and given is no absolute name.
Heaven and earth sprang from something else: the bright nameless;
The named is but the said mother that rears the ten thousand creatures of heaven and earth, each after its kind.
He that rids himself of base desire can see the secret essences;
He that didn't and reached high being, he can see outcomes.
Still the two are the same; the secret and its manifestations came from the same ground, the same mould, but anyway sound different -
They're given different names where they appear.
They can both be called the cosmic mystery, awesome deep.
Or rather more secret than so-called mystery.
There's the deeper mystery: the gate and doorway all hidden essences issued from: all such subleties.
And the subtle, mysterial opening homewards.
Call it the door mystery or golden secret of all life.



KIYOASHI
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.



KUNESH, TOM
The atheism that one can come to by argument
is not true atheism.
A definition given to atheism in one age
is not the unchanging atheism
nor its permanent meaning.
From the original experience
of being human
atheism arises.
Being the original human experience,
it is the parent of all religion.
From theism we derive the essence of atheism,
although from their names, we see only the conflict.
Both ways of experience
have the same origin
only different names.
Their mutual identity is the mystery
of experience.
And in this mystery
is found
the doorway
to the universe.



KWOK, MAN-HO & PALMER, MARTIN & RAMSAY, JAY (1993)
The Tao that can be talked about is not the true Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.
Everything in the universe comes out of Nothing.
Nothing - the nameless
is the beginning;
While Heaven, the mother
is the creatrix of all things.
Follow the nothingness of the Tao,
and you can be like it, not needing anything,
seeing the wonder and the root of everthing.
And even if you cannot grasp this nothingness,
you can still see something of the Tao in everything.
These two are the same
only called by different names
- and both are mysterious and wonderful.
All mysteries are Tao, and Heaven is their mother;
She is the gateway and the womb-door.



LAFARGUE, MICHAEL
The Tao that can be told is not the invariant Tao the names that can be named are not the invariant Names.
Nameless, it is the source of the thousands of things (named, it is 'Mother' of the thousands of things).
Yes: Always: being desireless, one sees the hidden essentials. Always: having desires, one sees only what is sought.
These two lines are about The Merging - it is when things develop and emerge from this that the different names appear.
The Merging is something mysterious - mysterious, and more mysterious, the abode of all the hidden essences.



LAU, D C (1963)
The way that can be spoken of
Is not the constant way;
The name that can be named
Is not the constant name.
The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named was the mother of the myriad creatures.
Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets;
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations.
These two are the same
But diverge in name as they issue forth.
Being the same they are called mysteries,
Mystery upon mystery -
The gateway of the manifold secrets.



LEGGE, JAMES (1815-1897) (1891)
The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.
(Conceived of as) having no name, it is the Originator of heaven and earth; (conceived of as) having a name, it is the Mother of all things.
Always without desire we must be found, If its deep mystery we would sound; But if desire always within us be, Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.
Under these two aspects, it is really the same; but as development takes place, it receives the different names.
Together we call them the Mystery. Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful.



LINDAUER, DAVID
A tao that one can tao Is not the entire tao A name that one can name Is not the entire name.
In the absence of names Lies the origin of heavens and earth The presence of names Is mother to the 10000 things.
So viewing entireness without desire One may see subtleties Viewing entireness with desire One may see boundaries.
That which is these both Goes about as itself yet there are different names.
Categorizing them together there is insight Very deep insight The gateway to collective subtleties.



"LUDD, NED"
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The names that can be given are not the eternal names. The Nameless is the origin of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of all things.
Therefore, without intentions, I see the Subtle Essence. And with intentions, I see the Manifest Forms. These two are the same, though each has many names. Both may be called the Mystery.



MABRY, JOHN R (1995, "Christian reading")
The Tao that can be described in words is not the true Tao The Name that can be named is not the true Name.
From non-existence were called Heaven and Earth From existence all things were born.
In being without desires, you can experience the wonder But by having desires, you experience the journey.
Yet both spring from the same source and differ mostly in name.
This source is called "Mystery" Mystery upon Mystery, The womb giving birth to all of being.



MACHOVEC, FRANK J (1962)
The Tao described in words is not the real Tao. Words cannot describe it. Nameless it is the source of creation; named it is the mother of all things.
To see Tao the observer must be motiveless. Those with selfish motives see only the surface, not the innermost depths. These two kinds of observers look alike but differ in the insight of their observations.
They look alike because they are both human; within humanity is the key to the door of creation.



MAIR, VICTOR H (1990)
The ways that can be walked are not the eternal Way;
The names that can be named are not the eternal name.
The nameless is the origin of the myriad creatures;
The named is the mother of the myriad creatures.
Therefore,
Always be without desire
in order to observe its wondrous subtleties
Always have desire
so that you may observe its manifestations.
Both of these derive from the same source;
They have different names but the same designations.
Mystery of mysteries,
The gate of all wonders!
OR (Other website):
The Finite cannot be all of the Infinite!
THOU by any specific name is not all there is to THOU.
The un-nameable is the Father of the myriads of things.
The nameable is the Mother of it's own myriads of things.
Therefore; never wanting, one may observe the wondrously subtle;
Desiring, one may witness the manifestations.
Both of these are attributes of the same Source.
They have different 'nameabilities' but the same designation:
Mystery of Mysteries,
the Gate of all wonders!



MCCARROLL, TOLBERT (1982)
The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The name is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Send your desires away and you will see the mystery.
Be filled with desire
and you will see only the manifestation.
As these two come forth they differ in name.
Yet at their source they are the same.
This source is called a mystery.
Darkness within darkness,
the gateway to all mystery.



MCDONALD, JOHN H
The tao that can be described
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be spoken
is not the eternal Name.
The nameless is the boundary of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of creation.
Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery.
By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.
Yet mystery and reality
emerge from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness born from darkness.
The beginning of all understanding.
OR (Other website):
The way that can be told of is hardly an eternal, absolute, unvarying one; the name that can be coded and given is no absolute name.
Heaven and earth sprang from something else: the bright nameless; the named is but the said mother that rears the ten thousand creatures of heaven and earth, each after its kind.
He that rids himself of base desire can see the secret essences; he that didn't and reached high being, he can see outcomes.
Still the two are the same; the secret and its manifestations came from the same ground, the same mould, but anyway sound different - they're given different names where they appear. They can both be called the cosmic mystery, awesome deep or rather more secret than so-called mystery.
There's the deeper mystery: the gate and doorway from which issued all secret essences, yes, all subtleties, and the subtle mysterial opening homewards. Call it the door mystery or golden secret of all life.



MEDHURST, C SPURGEON (1972)
The Tao which can be expressed is not the unchanging Tao; the name which can be named is not the unchanging name.
The nameless is the beginning of the Heaven Earth; the mother of all things is the nameable.
Thus, while the eternal not-being leads toward the fathomless, the eternal being conducts to the boundary. Although these two have been differently named they come from the same.
As the same they may be described as the abysmal. The abyss of the abysmal is the gate of all mystery.



MEREL, PETER A (1995)
The Way that can be experienced is not true; The world that can be constructed is not real.
The Way manifests all that happens and may happen; The world represents all that exists and may exist.
To experience without abstraction is to sense the world; To experience with abstraction is to know the world.
These two experiences are indistinguishable; Their construction differs but their effect is the same.
Beyond the gate of experience flows the Way, Which is ever greater and more subtle than the world.



MILES, THOMAS H (1992)
The tao that can be described
is not the Constant Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the Constant Name.
Something-Without-A-Name is the beginning of Heaven and Earth.
Something-Having-A-Name is the mother of all the ten-thousand things.
Therefore, constantly being without desire,
you can behold the subtleties.
Constantly having desire,
you can behold the manifestations.
These are two things.
They issue forth from the Sameness
but have different names.
This Sameness is called "Profound,
the Profundity of the Profound,
the Gate of the Collective Subtlety



MITCHELL, STEPHEN (1988)
The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.
The unnameable 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.



MORAN, PATRICK EDWIN
A way (dao) that one can be directed along is not the constant Dao. A name that can be given is not a constant name. Nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth. Named is the mother of the myriad creatures.
So, It is always by desirelessness that one sees the hidden (noumenal) aspect, and always by being in a state of having desires that one observes the outer (phenomenal) aspect. These two [aspects of all reality] emerge together and are differently named. Together, they are called the dark and mysterious. The most dark and mysterious of the dark and mysterious Is the portal of the multitudinous wonders.



MULLER, CHARLES (2004)
The Way that can be followed is not the eternal Way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth
While naming is the origin of the myriad things.
Therefore, always desireless, you see the mystery
Ever desiring, you see the manifestations.
These two are the same -
When they appear they are named differently.
This sameness is the mystery,
Mystery within mystery;
The door to all marvels.



PORTER, BILL (RED PINE)
The way that becomes a way is not the Immortal Way the name that becomes a name is not the Immortal Name
the maiden of Heaven and Earth has no name the mother of all things has a name thus in innocence we see the beginning in passion we see the end
two different names for one and the same the one we call dark the dark beyond dark the door to all beginnings



RASMUSSEN, JEFF
Spoken Tao is not eternal Tao
Spoken name is not eternal name
Nameless is the source of all
Named is the source of the myriad things
Ever desireless one sees wonders
Ever desiring one sees manifestations
These two are the same in origin
yet differ in name
The origin is the great mystery
Gateway to all understanding



RIVENROCK.COM
The Tao that is spoken of, cannot be truly explained.
The grandest eloquence cannot define it.
It has no name, and is the creator of Heaven and Earth.
Forced to name it, we can call it the Tao (the Way), and accept that it is great.
When we are lost in desire we can see only the outer manifestations of this greatness.
If we free ourselves from desire we can experience the unfathomable depths, and know the mystery of the great Tao.
The Mystery and the Manifestations are separate, yet they arise from the same source.
This source is deep; so deep its depths cannot be plumbed.
The Great Mystery of mysteries, it is the gateway to all understanding.



ROSENTHAL, STAN
Even the finest teaching is not the Tao itself.
Even the finest name is insufficient to define it.
Without words, the Tao can be experienced,
and without a name, it can be known.
To conduct one's life according to the Tao,
is to conduct one's life without regrets;
to realize that potential within oneself
which is of benefit to all.
Though words or names are not required
to live one's life this way,
to describe it, words and names are used,
that we might better clarify
the way of which we speak,
without confusing it with other ways
in which an individual might choose to live.
Through knowledge, intellectual thought and words,
the manifestations of the Tao are known,
but without such intellectual intent
we might experience the Tao itself.
Both knowledge and experience are real,
but reality has many forms,
which seem to cause complexity.
By using the means appropriate,
we extend ourselves beyond
the barriers of such complexity,
and so experience the Tao.



SARBATOARE, OCTAVIAN
The Way (Tao) that can be named, is not the Ultimate Way.
The name given is not the eternal name.
Without name is the source of Heaven and Earth.
With a name is what creates all things.
Without desires the essence of things can be seen.
Who has desires sees only the manifestation of things.
Both aspects have the same source,
They become different, subject to perception.
But are equal in the depth of depth,
From where everything comes into existence.



SHEN, ICHIN
Tao that can be described is not the constant Tao.
Name that can be named is not a constant name.
The beginning of heaven and earth has no name, naming is the beginning of all things.
So, constantly observe it with no-mind, one [can] see the mystery [of Tao]; to be ever distinctive, one [can] see the manifestations [of Tao].
[Originally,] these two phenomenon (the mystery and the manifestations) are springing from the same source, only names are different.
To see (comprehend) them as the same makes deep wonder; wonder upon wonder, [intuitive comprehension is] the gateway to all mysteries [of Tao].



SHIMOMISSE, EIICHI (1998)
The Tao that refers to here can never be the mundane tao.
The Name that is used here to designate is not a mundane name.
The Tao that is unnameable is the Source of the Heaven and the Earth.
The name, once introduced, becomes the Mother of the Ten Thousand Things.
Without desires one sees its profound mystery revealed.
With desires one can always see its countless appearances.
They are primarily one and same and yet differ in names.
These two ways of revelation are indeed the oldest mystery of dark mysteries.
To understand this is the gate to all mysteries.



STENUDD, STEFAN (2008)
The Way that can be walked is not the eternal Way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of all things.
Therefore:
Free from desire you see the mystery.
Filled of desire you see the manifestations.
These two have the same origin but differ in name.
That is the secret, the secret of secrets, the gate to all mysteries.



SUZUKI, D T & CARUS, PAUL (1913)
The Reason that can be reasoned is not the eternal Reason. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The Unnamable is of heaven and earth the beginning. The Namable becomes of the ten thousand things the mother.
Therefore it is said:
"He who desireless is found
The spiritual of the world will sound.
But he who by desire is bound
Sees the mere shell of things around."
These two things are the same in source but different in name. Their sameness is called a mystery. Indeed, it is the mystery of mysteries. Of all spirituality it is the door.



TAOISM.NET
The Tao that can be spoken is not the constant Tao
The Name that can be named is not the constant Name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, constantly free of desire
One observes its wonder
Constantly filled with desire
One observes its manifestations
These two emerge similarly but differ in name
The unity is the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders



TAFERO, ARTHUR
there are many ways but the Way is uncharted;
there are names, but not Nature in words:
Nameless, indeed, is the source of creation,
but things have a Mother and She has a name.
the secret waits for the insight
of eyes unclouded by longing;
those who are bound by desire
see only the outward shell.
these two come paired, but distinct
by their names.
of all things profound,
say that their pairing is deepest;
the Gate to the root of the world.



TA-KAO, CHU (DA-GAO, CHU)
The Tao that can be expressed is not the true Tao
The name that can be defined is not the true name
Non-existence is called the antecedent of heaven and earth;
Existence is the mother of all things.
From eternal non-existence, therefore, we serenely observe the mysterious beginnning of the universe;
From eternal existence we clearly see the apparent distinctions.
These two are the same in source and become different when manifested.
This sameness is called profundity. Infinite profundity is the gate whence comes the beginning of all parts of the universe.



TAPLOW, ALAN B (1982)
THE TAO THAT CAN BE TOLD
The true Tao escapes definition,
Likewise, Tao is unburdened by Name.
Heaven and Earth originated unburdened by Name,
However, Name serves well to create All Things.
Unburdened by desire, the essence of Tao unfolds.
With desire, its manifestations alone appear.
The same source serves both essence and manifestation.
While viewed differently, both are characterized by deep mystery.
Deep mystery - wondrous mystery -
A gateway to the very essence of existence.



TROTTIER, JOHN LOUIS ALBERT
TAO (THE LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE) can be talked about,
but not the Eternal Tao (Laws of the Universe).
Names can be named,
but not the Eternal Name.
(You cannot name the unknown.)
As the origin of heaven-and-earth,
it is not describable:
As "the Mother" of all things,
it is describable.
(You cannot describe the unknown origin.)
As it is always hidden,
We should look at its Inner Sum and Substance (through philosophy
and poetry):
As always visible,
We should look at its Outer Form (through science and obsevation).
These two flow from the same source
(the Laws of the Universe,)
though differently named;
And both are called mysteries.
The Mystery of mysteries is the Gate of all sum and substance.
(Beyond the gate of experience is the Way.
It is in all ways greater and more subtle than the world.)



WALEY, ARTHUR (1934)
The Way that can be told of is not an Unvarying Way;
The names that can be named are not unvarying names.
It was from the Nameless that Heaven and Earth sprang;
The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand
creatures, each after its kind.
Truly, 'Only he that rids himself forever of desire can see
the Secret Essences';
he that has never rid himself of desire can see only the
Outcomes.
These two things issued from the same mould, but never-
theless are different in name.
This 'same mould' we can but call the Mystery,
Or rather the 'Darker than any Mystery',
The Doorway whence issued all Secret Essences.



WALKER, BRIAN BROWNE
Tao is beyond words and beyond understanding. Words may be used to speak of it, but they cannot contain it.
Tao existed before words and names, before heaven and earth, before the ten thousand things. It is the unlimited father and mother of all limited things.
Therefore, to see beyond all boundaries to the subtle heart of things, dispense with names, with concepts, with expectations and ambitions and differences.
Tao and its many manifestations arise from the same source:
subtle wonder within mysterious darkness. This is the beginning of all understanding.



WAYISM
Tao is beyond words and beyond understanding. Words may be used to speak of it, but they cannot contain it.
Tao existed before words and names, before heaven and earth, before the ten thousand things. It is the unlimited father and mother of all limited things.
Therefore, to see beyond all boundaries to the subtle heart of things, dispense with names, with concepts, with expectations and ambitions and differences.
Tao and its many manifestations arise from the same source:
subtle wonder within mysterious darkness. This is the beginning of all understanding.



WEI, HENRY (1982)
The Tao that can be stated
is not the Eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the Eternal Name.
The Unnameable is originator
of Heaven and Earth.
The Nameable is mother
of the ten thousand things.
Therefore,
Always be desireless,
so as to discern Tao's wonderful essence;
Always have some desire,
so as to discern its manifestations.
These two come out
from the same source,
But are different in name.
Their identical nature is a mystery.
Mystery of mysteries -
That is the gate of all wonderful essence.



WILHELM, RICHARD (1911)
Der SINN, der sich aussprechen läßt,
ist nicht des ewige SINN.
Der Name, der sich nennen läßt,
ist nicht der ewige Name.
"Nichtsein" nenne ich den Anfang von Himmel und Erde,
"Sein" nenne ich die Mutter der Einzelwesen.
Darum führt die Richtung auf das Nichtsein
zum Schauen des wunderbaren Wesens,
die Richtung auf das Sein
zum Schauen der räumlichen Begrenztheiten.
Beides ist eins dem Ursprung nach
und nur verschieden durch den Namen.
In seiner Einheit heißt es das Geheimnis.
Des Geheimnisses noch tieferes Geheimnis
ist das Tor, durch das alle Wunder hervortreten.
Transl: OSWALD, H G (1985)
The DAO that can be expressed
is not the eternal DAO.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name.
'non-existence' I call the beginning of Heaven and Earth.
'Existence' I call the mother of individual beings.
Therefore does the direction towards non-existence
lead to the sight of the miraculous essence,
the direction towards existence
to the sight of spatial limitations.
Both are one in origin
and different only in name.
In its unity it is called the secret.
The secret's still deeper secret
is the gateway through which all miracles emerge.



WIEGER
The principle that can be enunciated is not the one that always was. The being that can be named is not the one that was at all times.
Before time there was an ineffable, unnameable being. When it was still unnameable, it conceived heaven and earth. When it had thus become nameable, it gave birth to the multitude of beings.
-
These two acts are but one, under two different denominations.
The unique act of generation; that is the mystery of the beginning; the effects.



WING, R L (1986)
The Tao that can be expressed
Is not the Tao of the Absolute.
The name that can be named
Is not the name of the Absolute.
The nameless originated Heaven and Earth.
The named is the Mother of All Things.
Thus, without expectation,
One will always perceive the subtlety;
And, with expectation,
One will always perceive the boundary.
The source of these two is identical,
Yet their names are different.
Together they are called profound,
Profound and mysterious,
The gateway to the Collective Subtlety.



WORLDPEACE, JOHN
The infinity that can be conceived is not the everlasting Infinity. The infinity that can be described is not the perpetual Infinity.
The inconceivable indescribable is the essence of the all encompassing Infinite. Conceiving and describing applies only to the manifestations of Infinity.
Free from distinctions, experience the oneness of Infinity. Focus on distinctions and see only the manifestations of Infinity.
Yet distinction and non-distinction are one within Infinity.
Potential within potential is the essence of Infinity.



WRIGLEY, TED
A path is just a path, a name is just a name
What is, is, without sense or differentiation
And only divides itself into things when we give names
Forget the names of things and you sense fit and flow
Use their names and you see uniqueness, significance
Each perspective is as true as the other
How can something be both fragmentary and complete?
There's a mystery here calling for a deeper perception
A perception from which all spirituality springs



WU, JOHN C H (1961)
Tao can be talked about, but not the Eternal Tao.
Names can be named, but not the Eternal Name.
As the origin of heaven-and-earth,
it is nameless:
As "The Mother" of all things,
it is nameable.
So, as ever hidden, we should look at its inner essence:
As always manifest, we should look at its outer aspects.
These two flow from the same source,
though differently named;
And both are called mysteries.
The Mystery of mysteries is the Door of all essence.



YUTANG, LIN (1895-1976)
The Tao the can be told of Is not the Absolute Tao; The Names that can be given Are not Absolute Names.
The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth; The Named is the Mother of All Things.
Therefore: Oftentimes, one strips oneself of passion In order to see the Secret of Life;
Oftentimes, one regards life with passion, In order to see its manifest forms.
These two (the Secret and its manifestations) Are (in their nature) the same; They are given different names When they become manifest.
They may both be called the Cosmic Mystery: Reaching from the Mystery into the Deeper Mystery Is the Gate to the Secret of All Life.



ZENITH, STEVEN ERICSSON
The TAO that can be expressed in words is not the all-embracing and immutable TAO: the Name that can be spoken is not the eternal Name.
Without a name, It is the Beginning of The Universe and Our World: conceived as having a name, It is the Progenitrix of all things.
Those alone who are free from earthly passions can perceive the deep mystery of the Unmanifested One: those who are possessed by desires can only behold the Manifest's outward form.
These two, the Manifest and the Unmanifest, although differing in name, in essence are identical. This sameness is the mystery, the deep within the deep, the door of many mysteries.



ZI-CHANG, TANG (1969)
Dao that can be talked about is not the eternal Dao itself;
A name that can be given is not the eternal thing itself.
The nameless existed
Before the birth of Heaven and Earth - Universe
The names which were given were after
The birth of All Things.
By the eternity of unknown existence
Comprehend the common essence of things;
By the eternity of Existence
Observe the apparent differences.
These two came from the same origin - the unknown
But with different names.
They all are called the "profoundness"
Profoundly and profoundly it is the entrance
From which come all wonders.


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.

       More about the book here.



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I Ching Online

The 64 hexagrams of the Chinese classic I Ching and what they mean in divination. Try it online for free.


Qi Energy Exercises

The ancient Chinese life energy qi (chi) explained, with simple instructions on how to exercise it.


Life Energy

The many ancient and modern life force beliefs all over the world explained.


Creation Myths

Creation stories from around the world, and the ancient cosmology they reveal.


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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. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


QI - increase your life energy. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Qi - Increase Your Life Energy

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.


Aikido Principles. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Aikido Principles

Basic Concepts of the Peaceful Martial Art
Aikido principles, philosophy, and basic ideas. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Life Energy Encyclopedia

Qi, prana, spirit, ruach, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


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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