Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Tao Te Ching
Chapter 4
The Father of All Things

The Tao is like an empty bowl,
Used but never used up.
Those who use it never become full again.
And deep – the source of the ten thousand things.
It blunts sharp edges,
Unties all tangles,
Softens all glare.
One with the dust,
It unites the world into one whole.
It’s like a deep pool that never dries up,
Hidden deep but always here.
Was it too the child of something else?
Or the common ancestor of all,
The father of all things?


“[The Tao] unites the world into one whole.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via John Wu, chapter 4
from Tao The Ching

Themes: Oneness

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“Alexander the Great found the philosopher looking attentively at a pile of human bones. Diogenes explained, ‘I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave.’”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE via Will Durant
(of Sinope)
from Life of Greece

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“Balance is the beginning of the Way. Emptiness is the heart of the way.”

Liú Ān 劉安 1

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“Whoever sees the nature of one thing sees the nature of everything because the emptiness of one thing is the emptiness of everything.”

Āryadeva འཕགས་པ་ལྷ། 1
from Four Hundred Verses on the Yogic Deeds of Bodhisattvas

Themes: Emptiness

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“Those who seek the Tao seek to return to emptiness and nothingness. When something is done, something is left out. When nothing is done, nothing is not done.”

Wang Bi 王弼 226 – 534 CE

Themes: Wu Wei Emptiness

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“In the interlaced net of principle and phenomena, true emptiness appears. Shining to obliterate the fundamental delusion.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE

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“‘Empty’ means ‘empty like a bowl.’ The Tao is essentially empty and people who use it should be empty too. To be full is contrary to the Tao. ‘Deep’ means ‘what cannot be measured.’”

Wu Cheng 吴澄 1249 – 1333 CE via Red Pine
"Mr. Grass Hut"
from Tao-te-chen-ching-chu

Themes: Emptiness

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“The word ‘ch’an, ‘dust,’ is a Buddhist term which means ‘the worry of worldliness’.”

Paul Carus 1852 – 1919 CE
The Teachings of Lao Tzu

Themes: Suffering

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“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.”

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 CE

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“As soon as you're alone, things lay hold of you by themselves and always force you to take the roads that are hardest to climb. And even if you don't get there, what fine views you have, and how reassuring everything is.”

Jean Giono 1895 – 1970 CE

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“From emptiness, everything comes out. One whole body of water, or one whole mind, is emptiness. When we reach this understanding we find true meaning to our life.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

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“passages such as this one… offer what so many people for so many centuries have found in this book: a pure apprehension of the mystery of which we are part.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

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“The path to true happiness is the same whoever, whenever, or wherever you are.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Happiness Health

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“When we draw down the power and depth of vastness into a single perception, then we are discovering and invoking magic.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

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“For such an enigmatic verse, there are surprisingly few variants… I’ve read them as an explanation of the Tao’s ancestral status, which makes kin of us all.”

Red Pine 1943 CE –
( Bill Porter)
Exceptional translator, cultural diplomat

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Comments (1)

  1. Shan Dao
    Shan Dao 6 years ago
    This is much longer than most other translations. In some chapters, the various translations are very similar; but in this one, the renditions are very different from each other. Rather than only choosing one out of many good ones, we’ve included several different versions of the same text.
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