Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching Chapter 32

Translations at a glance

J Legge    J H McDonald   Lin Yutang

Tao Te Ching Chapter 32

J Legge

The Tao, considered as unchanging, has no name. Though in its primordial simplicity it may be small, the whole world dares not deal with (one embodying) it as a minister. If a feudal prince or the king could guard and hold it, all would spontaneously submit themselves to him.

Heaven and Earth (under its guidance) unite together and send down the sweet dew, which, without the directions of men, reaches equally everywhere as of its own accord.

As soon as it proceeds to action, it has a name. When it once has that name, (men) can know to rest in it. When they know to rest in it, they can be free from all risk of failure and error.

The relation of the Tao to all the world is like that of the great rivers and seas to the streams from the valleys.

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 32

J H McDonald

The Tao is nameless and unchanging.
Although it appears insignificant,
nothing in the world can contain it.

If a ruler abides by its principles,
then her people will willingly follow.
Heaven would then reign on earth,
like sweet rain falling on paradise.
People would have no need for laws,
because the law would be written on their hearts.

Naming is a necessity for order,
but naming cannot order all things.
Naming often makes things impersonal,
so we should know when naming should end.
Knowing when to stop naming,
you can avoid the pitfall it brings.

All things end in the Tao
just as the small streams and the largest rivers
flow through valleys to the sea.

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 32

Lin Yutang

Tao is absolute and has no name.
Though the uncarved wood is small,
It cannot be employed (used as vessel) by anyone.
If kings and barons can keep (this unspoiled nature),
The whole world shall yield them lordship of their own accord.

The Heaven and Earth join,
And the sweet rain falls,
Beyond the command of men,
Yet evenly upon all.

Then human civilization arose and there were names.
Since there were names,
It were well one knew where to stop.
He who knows where to stop
May be exempt from danger.
Tao in the world
May be compared to rivers that run into the sea.

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