Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching Chapter 16

Translations at a glance

J Legge    J H McDonald   Lin Yutang

Tao Te Ching Chapter 16

J Legge

The (state of) vacancy should be brought to the utmost degree,and that of stillness guarded with unwearying vigour. All things alike go through their processes of activity, and (then) we see them return (to their original state). When things (in the vegetable world) have displayed their luxuriant growth, we see each of them return to its root. This returning to their root is what we call the state of stillness; and that stillness may be called a reporting that they have fulfilled their appointed end.

The report of that fulfilment is the regular, unchanging rule. To know that unchanging rule is to be intelligent; not to know it leads to wild movements and evil issues. The knowledge of that unchanging rule produces a (grand) capacity and forbearance, and that capacity and forbearance lead to a community (of feeling with all things).

From this community of feeling comes a kingliness of character; and he who is king-like goes on to be heaven-like. In that likeness to heaven he possesses the Tao. Possessed of the Tao, he endures long; and to the end of his bodily life, is exempt from all danger of decay.

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 16

J H McDonald

If you can empty your mind of all thoughts
your heart will embrace the tranquility of peace.
Watch the workings of all of creation,
but contemplate their return to the source.

All creatures in the universe
return to the point where they began.
Returning to the source is tranquility
because we submit to Heavens mandate.

Returning to Heavens mandate is called being constant.
Knowing the constant is called ‘enlightenment’.
Not knowing the constant is the source of evil deeds
because we have no roots.
By knowing the constant we can accept things as they are.
By accepting things as they are, we become impartial.
By being impartial, we become one with Heaven.
By being one with Heaven, we become one with Tao.
Being one with Tao, we are no longer concerned about
losing our life because we know the Tao is constant
and we are one with Tao.

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 16

Lin Yutang

Attain the utmost in Passivity,
Hold firm to the basis of Quietude.

The myriad things take shape and rise to activity,
But I watch them fall back to their repose.
Like vegetation that luxuriantly grows
But returns to the root (soil) from which it springs.

To return to the root is Repose;
It is called going back to one’s Destiny.
Going back to one’s Destiny is to find the Eternal Law.
To know the Eternal Law is Enlightenment.
And not to know the Eternal Law
Is to court disaster.

He who knows the Eternal Law is tolerant;
Being tolerant, he is impartial;
Being impartial, he is kingly;
Being kingly, he is in accord with Nature;
Being in accord with Nature, he is in accord with Tao;
Being in accord with Tao, he is eternal,
And his whole life is preserved from harm.

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