The Tao Te Ching is one of the most influential texts of spiritual wisdom ever created. Also known as the Lao Tzu or Laozi, it is traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC Sage Lao Tzu.
This Book, consisting of 81 poems or entries is a fundamental text for both philosophical and religious Taoism, and is also a lifestyle guide to spiritual seekers of all stripes. God is never actually mentioned in virtually all translations, though some Western, pop culture, handbook versions slip the word “God” into a few of the chapters. The book is also devoid of any discussion concerning the elements common to most formal religions. When I speak of these I refer to such elements as rites, rituals, ceremonies, the clergy, holy books, or houses of worship. The book can be studied by students of any faith or even agnostics and atheists without concern that they are somehow betraying their primary faith
Many ancient as well as modern Chinese artists, including poets, painters, calligraphers, and gardeners, have used the Tao Te Ching as a source of inspiration. Its influence has spread widely outside East Asia and it is among the most translated works in world literature.
When I became a monk, a life I chose to live for over 5 years, I spent much of my time exploring my own inner experiences with those proscribed and described in Lao Tzu’s profound book. At that time, 1972, I began to create a meta-analysis of the text. I did this working with over 20 modern Mandarin to English translations. Since the original work was written in “old Mandarin”, a language no longer spoken, I believe my meta-analysis describes Taoist thought closely to what might have been originally intended.
Here is the first entry of the Tao te Ching with commentary. It is extracted from The-Course In Essential Taoism A-Z And-Beyond-G/
Entry #1: What is Tao?
Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.
Conceived of as being indescribable,
it is the first source of all spirit and matter.
Thus to surrender the desires of the senses
is to know the freedom of spirituality;
and through desire you will learn the limitation of matter.
These two things, spirit and matter, so different in nature,
originate from the same source.
This unity of origin is the mystery of mysteries,
and the gateway to all wonders.
Commentary on Entry #1:What is Tao?
People often speak of spiritual things, including the concept of the divine source as if it is a “he” or “she” or that it can even be accurately described. What Lao is saying in this entry, is that we can only speak of the effects of Tao, if we are “Awakened*”. Only if we are in possession of profound wisdom can we experience Tao. Yet, in neither case can we describe in words that which is the essence of Tao. The human mind perceives that all things have a beginning. Many theologians and even physicists describe whatever this beginning may be, as a first cause or first source. One can say that Tao is that first cause. Yet is there any way to actually understand and know the essence of this first cause, any more than one might describe Tao? The answer is “Yes,” “No,”, “Both,” and “Neither.”
A key element of achieving an Awakened state, according to Lao, is to surrender the desires of the senses. This is how were move the veil that dulls our clarity of inner vision. It is not that Lao wants us to stop seeing, feeling, hearing, touching, and tasting things. It is that we become so attached to these sensory experiences that we lose all sense of who we are, and where we are. So he asks us to reduce our attachment to sensual things. Even so, Lao also recommends that we engage the desires of the sense at some level for it is “through desire you will learn the limitation of matter.” Lao reminds us that surrendering the desires of the senses is to know “the freedom of spirituality. Unfortunately, many spiritual seekers have an inner conflict between these two things, spirit, and matter, which on the surface seem so different. Lao reminds us that they both originate from the same source. How can this be? This unity of origin is the mystery of mysteries and the gateway to all wonders. It is also the path to Awakening
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The Course in Essential Taoism A-Z and Beyond...
Based on our translation, meta-analysis, and commentaries on the writings and teachings of Lao Tzu in the Tao te Ching…
I’m the author: I am a game theorist and a teacher of essential Taoism. I am also a self-improvement coach offering advice for innovators of all levels who are dealing with obstacles and constraints in their work (and play).
Most of my Medium stories, when related to natural healing. self-improvement, life lessons, mental health, and Eastern Philosophy are anchored into the concept of Applied Game Theory. This idea explores how and why people make certain choices, including decisions related to their health, well-being, and self-awareness.
Researchers into game theory have won over twenty Noble Prizes. The movie “A Beautiful Mind” is about the life of John Nash, one of the pioneers in game theory. Of course, the most sophisticated competitive and strategic game in existence is the Chinese game of Go. Learn more about the powerful tool, game theory, for self-improvement. I explain it in the Medium.com article below.
The article was written so that a 12-year-old can easily understand and apply the simple 3 step system. The article also includes a short video interview of me with Jim Selman a pioneer and thought leader in leadership, business success, and innovation.
If you want to read more of my stories on natural healing, self-improvement, creativity, and innovation, I recommend the following story next: