I Like the Tao Te Ching!

Tao Te ChingI really like the Tao Te Ching.  One of my online friends here calls it his "favorite book of the Bible."  I first got turned onto it through Thomas Merton's interpretation, and later read the enjoyable Tao of Pooh which was cute and sort of nostalgic, but also surprisingly insightful.

Embracing the Way, you become embraced;
Breathing gently, you become newborn;
Clearing your mind, you become clear;
Nurturing your children, you become impartial;
Opening your heart, you become accepted;
Accepting the world, you embrace the Way.

Bearing and nurturing,
Creating but not owning,
Giving without demanding,
This is harmony.

I highly recommend TaoTeChing.org for an easy, readible way to explore the verses.  And if anyone happens to be counting, this is my fourth positive post in-a-row about things I like and things I am for.  My ratios are starting to realign...



Ted said...

Have you found translation you particularly like? I notice you posted Stephen Mitchell's book cover, and that's the one I have, but I also know Mitchell takes some liberties and I was wondering if you've done any comparing.

tmamone said...

I have the Tao on my bookshelf. It's full of beautiful poetry.

Peter J Walker said...

Not one I really love more than others. I've read Mitchell's. Merton's takes a lot of liberties too, and it isn't a complete or traditional "translation." More of an interpretation. From time to time I'll grab a different version off the shelf when I'm at the library. I like that it hits me a different way each time. I read Jonathan Star's translation at some point, but can't say it struck me in a particularly unique way...

Jonathan Brink said...

Dr. Dwayne Dyer wrote a book of reflections on the Tao. I listened to it on audio and found it beautiful.


Anthony said...

Good translations:
Lao Tsu : Tao Te Ching, tr. Gia-Fu Fang and Jane English
The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu, tr. Witter Bynner
Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching, tr. D. C. Lau
The Wisdom of Laotse, tr. Lin Yutang
The Lao Tzu (Tao-Te Ching, tr. Wing-Tsit Chan
The Way and Its Power, tr. Arthur Waley

These are all mid-twentieth century, but should be easily available, at least used, if not still in print, except maybe the Chan version.

There are innumerable others: the Tao Te Ching is one of the most frequently translated books in all of literature.

Anthony said...

Spelling error: Gia-Fu Feng, not Fang.

Peter J Walker said...

Awesome, Anthony, THANK YOU!!

Deanna said...

Mitchell's translation, liberties and all, is interesting because both masculine and feminine pronouns are used. When I was introduced to this lovely poetry - this translation - 13+ years ago, it was such a respite from the masculine-dominated, fundamental Protestantism in which I was raised. It was revelatory; and for that, I'm grateful. The book still sits in my nightstand drawer and is read often.

Herb said...

Many "translations" of the Tao Te Ching are not true translations, but rather, are translations that are based on other translations (the translator did not know Chinese). Included in this group are the "translations" by Mitchell, Bynner, and Dyer. Mitchell has the audacity to "improvise" when he does not think the original is up to snuff.

Even translations that are from Chinese are not always accurate. For example, the Feng-English translation simply elimates chunks of the original that are difficult to understand.

I thought I knew most of the major translations of the Tao Te Ching, but I never heard of a translation by Thomas Merton. Did I miss one?

To see what is probably the truest translation of the Tao Te Ching, go to: TaoOfSilence.com.

Peter said...

Ah ha! Not surprising. Sort of like shoddy Bible translations (and then pseudo-translations like 'The Message'). Thanks for the link, Herb!

Peter said...

Oh, and in his own forward, Merton doesn't call his work a "translation." I don't have it in front of me right now, but it's really sort of a creative "riff" on the Tao Te Ching. He's well acquainted with the text, and spent a lot of time with Buddhists in his later years, but it's not a real translation.

Herb said...

Peter - two things

First: I think you might be interested in knowing that John 14:6 if put into Chinese reads: I am the tao, ...

Second: It is sad that there are no true translations of the Bible. For example, Gen 1:1 starts with "In the beginning God created". The only problem is that the Hebrew word translated as God is 'Elohim', which is not God, but rather, gods. 'El' is God and 'elohim' is the plural form, gods.

Peter said...

Yeah, I've studied ancient Hebrew in seminary for the last couple of years. The process of "translation" is pretty fraught.

Popular Posts