The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.
The unnameable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.
Free from desire,
you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire,
you see only the manifestations.
Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 1, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday, we ended the journey. Today, we begin it again. The Tao Te Ching is divided into 81 short chapters. I will take a chapter each day, offering my own commentary on each chapter. I have been making this 81 day journey for a couple of years now. And some of you have been around for all that time. Wow! Thank you! Others have come along at various points along the way. Welcome to all of you! All along, I have been using Stephen Mitchell’s translation. Of the bazillion different translations out there, his is my favorite, by far. Still, I do refer back to the original and consult other translations for inspiration. Looking at the same thing from a different perspective is always a good thing. That is also a good reason for me to keep starting this journey over. I am not just rehashing my old commentary on these chapters. I am actually sitting down fresh with it each day. It keeps me renewed. Now, before I go on to the commentary, I just wanted to say, here on a new Day One, how much the Tao has transformed my life. And, how much I want it to transform your life too. That is why I do this each day. And, just so you all know, I love to get messages from you guys. To hear what you think. To answer your questions. I consider you all to be friends. Keep it coming. Now, on to chapter one…
What can be told about the eternal Tao? Just giving it a name presumes more than I can possibly know. How can I, a finite man, possibly expect to fully tell of something that is infinite, eternal? All that the eternal Tao is, is a mystery, shrouded within darkness. I peer into the darkness. I desire to realize the mystery; and to tell of it. But it is just that, my desire, which hinders me. I know, somehow, I know, that within that darkness is the gateway to all understanding. If only I could see through this darkness. How do I circumvent this problem, and tell you about the Tao?
I must be free from desire. That is the only way to realize the mystery. While I am still caught in desire, I can only see the manifestations. This was Lao Tzu’s problem. It is a universal problem. So, how did Lao Tzu circumvent this problem?
Okay, okay, I know that the Tao, being the eternal reality, is unnameable. But I know a way I can get around that. I can’t really tell of the mystery of the eternal Tao; but I can tell of its particular manifestations. Those particular manifestations can be named. They can be described. They can be explained. And maybe, just maybe, if we look enough at the manifestations, we will see a common thread. A thread that will take us back to the Source. The same source for both the manifestations and the mystery.
That is it for today. Just an introduction. We will begin following that thread, back to the Source of both the mystery and the manifestations, tomorrow.