The Tao That Can Be Spoken of Is Not the Eternal Tao

Poem One

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 ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see 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.

– Gia-fu Feng and Jane English

A way that can be walked
is not The Way
A name that can be named
is not The Name

Tao is both Named and Nameless
As Nameless, it is the origin of all things
As Named, it is the mother of all things

A mind free of thought,
merged within itself,
beholds the essence of Tao
A mind filled with thought,
identified with its own perceptions,
beholds the mere forms of this world

Tao and this world seem different
but in truth they are one and the same
The only difference is in what we call them

How deep and mysterious this unity is
How profound, how great!
It is the truth beyond the truth,
the hidden within the hidden
It is the path to all wonder,
the gate to the essence of everything!

– Jonathan Star

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 again deep:

The gateway to all mystery.

– Stephen Addiss & Stanley Lombardo

The way you can go
isn’t the real way.
The name you can say
isn’t the real name.

Heaven and earth
begin in the unnamed:
name’s the mother
of the ten thousand things.

So the unwanting soul
sees what’s hidden,
and the ever-wanting soul
sees only what it wants.

Two things, one origin,
but different in name,
whose identity is mystery.
Mystery of all mysteries!
The door to the hidden.

– Ursula K. Le Guin


This first poem contains the essence of the entire Daodejing; there are over 170 translations of it in English alone. How relieving is it to see a scripture of an ideology say, as its first thing, to not mistake its words, nor the words of any of its adherents, for the truth! Instead of studying God’s word, let’s experience God and have her tell us directly. To think of all the suffering caused by fundamentalism…


2 Comments The Tao That Can Be Spoken of Is Not the Eternal Tao

  1. Pingback: Year of the Fire Monkey: My Top 10 Biggest Changes of 2016 -

  2. Pingback: Defining Spirituality and The Science of Enlightenment (Part 1) -

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *