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Contemplation on the Tao Teh King

You can listen to our contemplation: here


The book Tao Teh King is the only known text from the writings of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. Although written around 2500 years ago, its content never gets old. Its divine core is the same as that of original texts from all philosophies and religions. 

The great challenge in these texts is to express that which is beyond words.

The first verse of the Tao Teh King by Lao Tzu reads:

”The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.” 

And despite this, we constantly try to put it in words. 

We do that to communicate with each other as seekers and to help each other and ourselves to understand and recognise the Tao within us. 

As someone once said, when we talk about the Tao in this way, all we can do is fail as well as we can. 

In verse fourteen of the Tao Teh King we read:

Look, it cannot be seen – it is beyond form.

Listen, it cannot be heard – it is beyond sound.

Grasp, it cannot be held – it is intangible.

These three are indefinable;

therefore they are joined in one.

From above, it is not bright;

from below, it is not dark;

an unbroken thread beyond description.

It returns to nothingness.

The form of the formless,

the image of the imageless,

it is called indefinable and beyond imagination.

Stand before it, and there is no beginning.

Follow it, and there is no end.

Stay with the ancient Tao,

move with the present.

Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Tao.

As a pupil of Tao, you need to give your animal ego, in total surrender to the Kingdom within you, to the rose of the heart.

That is our most important task. 

It is with this Johannine practice that the true seekers path must begin. 

The light of this path is our deepest longing, a longing for something we don’t really know.  

We can view our longing as the thread of Ariadne, the thin thread leading out of the maze created by our conflicted hearts and minds.

By following this archaic longing, we can arrive at a way of living that, in the Tao Teh King, is called Wu-Wei.

The concept of Wu-Wei is central to the teachings of Lao Tsu. It is often translated as not-doing or non-action.

Verse forty-three reads:

The softest thing in the Universe

overcomes the hardest thing in the universe

That without substance can enter where there is no room.

Hence, I know the value of non-action.

Teaching without words and work without doing

are understood by very few.

The heart must exist in a state of not-doing, not-being. If it is in the state of being, it will be filled with a thousand and one worries, desires and concerns of ordinary life. 

Not doing, does not just mean distanceing ourselves from ordinary, everyday life. 

Lao Tzu’s not-doing means that we do not try to grasp anything with our ego but abide in a still, tranquil joy. 

Not doing does not mean not existing, but abiding in a stillness where one can feel the pulsation of Taos’s spiritual essence. 

What is meant by not doing, with the expression Wu-Wei, is to go forward in this joy, in total self-surrender to the rose of the heart.

Such a heart forms the mystery of the gate unto life.

Verse sixteen of the Tao Teh King reads:

Empty yourself of everything.

Let the mind rest at peace.

The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.

They grow and flourish and then return to the source.

Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.

The way of nature is unchanging.

Knowing constancy is insight.

Not knowing constancy leads to disaster.

Knowing constancy, the mind is open.

With an open mind, you will be openhearted.

Being openhearted, you will act royally.

Being royal, you will attain the divine.

Being divine, you will be at one with Tao.

Being at one with Tao is eternal.

And though the body dies, Tao will never pass away.

The new life is not of us but of the other One, in whom our self melts entirely away. 

And that is the meaning of not doing. That is the way, the Path. 

That is Tao.

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