Let’s look at the first nine Chapters, out of the eighty-one, of the Tao Te Ching. Even though most commentators state that the divisions into lines and chapters were added much later, there seems to be a relevant relationship between them, and they fall into Groups of Nine. This writer would like to remind the gentle reader that these chapters are all renderings, written by him, based on a review of over sixty translations. All interpretations are his own, as well, and may or not agree with classic or modern interpretors and translators.
CHAPTER ONE: CAN WE KNOW THE TAO?
1.1 The Road that can be ridden is not the True Road.
1.2 The Name that can be named is not the True Name.
1.3 The Nameless is the Origin of Heaven and Earth.
1.4 The Named is the Mother of the Ten Thousand Things.
1.5 If you are free from Desire, you can observe the Secret,
1.6 But if you are captured by Desire,
1.7 You can only observe the Manifestation.
1.8 These Two emerge together but differ in Nature.
1.9 Their Unity is a Mystery,
1.10 Indeed, the Mystery of all Mysteries.
1.11 This is the Gateway to Spirit.
CHAPTER TWO: UNDERSTANDING OPPOSITES
2.1 When we know Beauty as Beauty, we become aware of Uglyness.
2.2 When we know Good as Good, we become aware of Evil.
2.3 Thus, being and non-being create each other, difficult and easy support each other, long and short reveal each other,
2.4 High and low distinguish each other, bass and treble harmonize each other, and
Past and Future follow each other.
2.5 Therefore the Sage does by non-action, and teaches a Doctrine without words.
2.6 Through the Sage, the Ten Thousand Things are brought forth from the Road,
2.7 Yet he imposes no authority on them. He gives them life without possessing them; He nourishes them without seeking fame. Because he seeks no fame for his actions, he is forever famous.
CHAPTER THREE: THE SAGE RULER
3.1. If you over-esteem talented individuals, people will become overly competitive.
3.2. If you over-value possessions, you encourage theft.
33. Do not display objects of desire, so that the People’s hearts will not be disturbed.
3.4. Therefore the Sage Ruler leads by keeping the People’s hearts pure, and their bellies full; by discouraging envy, he makes them strong.
3.5. By purifying their hearts from Desire, he protects the People from those who would otherwise take advantage of them.
3.6. He does this by non-action, without interfering, and everything falls into place.
CHAPTER FOUR: CHARACTER OF THE ROAD
4.1 The Road is like an empty vessel, yet when used it cannot be exhausted.
4.2 However, it seems to be the ancestor of the Ten Thousand Things.
4.3 It blunts the sharpness, untangles the knots, softens the glare, and merges with dust.
4.4 It is like a hidden, deep well, which cannot run dry.
4.5 The Road has no Origin, but it seems to have existed before the God.
CHAPTER FIVE: STRAW DOGS
5.1 Heaven and Earth are impartial; they see the Ten Thousand Things as straw dogs.
5.2 The Sage is impartial; he sees the People as straw dogs.
5.3 Between Heaven and Earth, there is a Space like in a hollow bellows, filled with potential Energy.
5.4 Speak less, understand more, and keep to the Center.
CHAPTER SIX: SPIRIT OF THE VALLEY
6.1 The Immortal Spirit of the Valley is the Mysterious Lady.
6.2 Through Her Gateway, She gave birth to Heaven and Earth.
6.3 The bottomless River, which flows through Her Valley, grants all seekers Abundance!
CHAPTER SEVEN: HEAVEN AND EARTH
7.1 Heaven and Earth are eternal.
7.2 Why? They can be eternal, because they do not exist for themselves.
7.3 Therefore the Sage puts himself last, but becomes the first.
7.4 He is indifferent to himself, and yet he always remains.
7.5 Through unselfish action he achieves fulfillment.
CHAPTER EIGHT: WHAT IS WORTHY?
8.1 The Worthy are like Water, which benefits the Ten Thousand Things without contention. It seeks its own level, and is easily absorbed. Water strongly resembles the Road.
8.2 The worthiness of a house is the location, of Meditation is the depth, of friends is the kindness, and of speech is the honesty.
8.3 The worthiest government is orderly; the worthiest deeds are timely.
8.4 Avoid contention and all will be well.
CHAPTER NINE: ROAD TO HEAVEN
9.1 To fill a cup to overflowing is not as good as to stop in Time.
9.2 Sharpen a sword edge to its very sharpest; it will not last long.
9.3 Fill your hall with gold and jade; you will not keep them.
9.4 When wealth and power lead to pride, downfall comes.
9.5 Withdraw as soon as your work is done. This is the Road to Heaven.
Chapter One is a concise, carefully worded introduction to the Tao (Road). Chapter Two introduces the Sage, the person who can see through the opposites and be aware of the Unity behind them. Chapter Three postulates that, if the Ruler becomes a Sage and implements the Tao, he will lead by example. Chapter Four deals with the origins (or lack thereof), not only of the Tao itself, but also of God. Chapter Five continues the idea of the Sage siphoning the influence of the Tao into the physical universe. Chapter Six depicts the Tao as Mother of Heaven and Earth, and Chapter Seven talks about how the Sage emulates Heaven and Earth. Chapter Eight compares the Tao to Water, and Chapter Nine concludes this by cautioning not to overuse the Water.
We can see how there is an apparent order and sequence between these passages. However, perhaps we can also read into them haste. This picture keeps resurfacing in this writer’s Mind. He envisions an elderly man, on the brink of being exiled from the Society he protested against his entire life, hastily organizing his writings at the behest of the Gate Keeper. The image of this is haunting.
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