Chapter 57- 

There are many different translations of this & the author of the translation we are using discusses how the first three lines are not supposed to be a piece of advice as other translations attempt to do. 


Attempts to order and control people leads to the deformation of their nature. 

–>  Following with the discussion of the different images of how to “carve” wood. 

17, 18, 19  – we want to become like the uncarved wood. 

–>  even the one that is loved and praised can be a movement away from the tao

–> Confucian virtues only occur when there is a decline. 

When there is good, there is also evil. All a balance. 

“reduce the sens of self and lessen your desires” 




Chapter 15: 

1. Those in the past who were good at practicing Tao, Were subtle, mysterious, dark, penetrating (wei miao yüan t’ung), Deep and unrecognizable. Because they were unrecognizable, I am forced to describe their appearance (yung).  

2. Careful, like crossing a river in winter, Hesitating, like fearing neighbors on four sides, Reverent, like being guests, Dissolving, like ice beginning to melt, Thick, like uncarved wood, Open, like a valley, Chaotic (hun), like murky (cho) water.  

3. What can stop the murkiness? Quieting (ching) down, gradually it clarifies (ch’ing). What can keep still for long? Moving, gradually it stirs into life.

 4. Those who keep this Tao, Do not want to be filled to the full (ying). Because they are not full, They can renew (hsin) themselves before being worn out (pi).

(2012-09-08). Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary (Kindle Locations 2454-2475). Paragon House. Kindle Edition.

We move into a dark space, and instead of saying that nothing makes sense… we stick with it and keep moving forward

–> relatable to the allegory of the cave. the shadows are familiar but the light is blinding and yet we ultimately want to know the truth. 


The sense of fullness and being finished:   If you are too filled then you can learn or appreciate nothing. You must become comfortable with murkiness and accept that you cannot control or know everything. 


With making people virtuous, which image works better? Guiding the nature or completely create something new? 


Is there something unnatural about being so committed to something as to give up the drive for self-preservation? 


Are humans like tigers where we must be trained to be tame.  –> argument for why we need to carve people. But Lao Tzu indicates that we should help guide development, not carve. 


((I had to leave the meeting before we finished discussion))


There might be a kind of power in vulnerability. 

Chapter 68

1. A good captain does not exhibit his martial prowess. A good warrior does not get himself angry. A good conqueror of enemies does not instigate a combat. A good employer of people puts himself below them.   2. This is called the power (te) of non-contention. This is called using the strength of others. This is called perfection (chi) in matching the heaven of old.

(2012-09-08). Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary (Kindle Locations 5965-5972). Paragon House. Kindle Edition.

This portion could help us to understand how flexibility or inaction can prove to be a sign of strength. 

Annnnnd Back to chapter 10 

3. In cleansing your mirror (lan) of the dark (hsüan), Can you make it spotless?

(2012-09-08). Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary (Kindle Locations 2084-2085). Paragon House. Kindle Edition. 

you as a person reflect the world/yourself so in cleansing your mirror you cleanse yourself. 

This mirror depicts the act of a person… 

–>to clean a bronze mirror it takes constant practice and polishing. Just as having a clear mind takes extreme and habitual effort. 

How can the mind be a false reflection of the world? 

–> selfishness, wrong point of view

–> solution: meditation- center yourself, calm, 


In opening and closing heaven’s gate you can be the female:  according to translation option it can “be” or “Be without” 

           – supposed to be a meditation thing. Where we open and shut ourselves off from the world. Become passive and yet accepting. 


In being enlightened & comprehending all can you do it without knowledge? 

           – think about knowledge as animate action that creates boundaries & categories

           – So, how does comprehending even arise as a question? 

           – Comprehend is knowing how to get along with it. 

            – clarify = understand/simplify

             – knowledge is translatable/related with also assumption

Is it possible to comprehend without shaping experience or understanding with assumed ideas or knowledge. 


Last Stanza: 

7. To give birth, to nurture. To give birth yet not to claim possession (yu), To act (wei) yet not to hold on to, To grow (chang) yet not to lord over (tsai),12 This is called the dark virtue (yüan te).

(2012-09-08). Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary (Kindle Locations 2095-2101). Paragon House. Kindle Edition.

— one professor that it remids him of mentius. 

            – farmer comes in one morning after working in the field all night and his wife asks him what he was doing. He said he was helping the plants grow. But he actually had killed them all because he was trying to pull the plants higher. 

   — dark = passive. 


Chapter 11 

The emptiness as a the use of the thing.


Chapter 12 

the search for the middle path of experience. 

enslave your passions, don’t let them control you. 


Chapter 13 

Accept all negative as a part of the experience of the body. 


How to be in contact with the Tao? 

The practice of the Tao will result in some sort of practical shift that changes how we live our lives. This is because we will be concerned with things greater than ourselves. 

Chapter 8: 

1. A person with superior goodness (shan) is like water, Water is good in benefiting (li) all beings, Without contending (cheng) with any. Situated in places shunned (o) by many others, Thereby it is near (chi) Tao.   2. (Such a person’s) dwelling is the good earth, (His/her) mind (hsin) is the good deep water (yuan), (His/her) associates are good kind people (jen),9 (His/her) speech shows good trust (hsin), (His/her) governing is the good order, (His/her) projects (shih) are carried out by good talents (neng), (His/her) activities (tang) are good in timing. Because he does not contend (pu cheng) with any, He commits no wrong.

(2012-09-08). Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary (Kindle Locations 1971-1988). Paragon House. Kindle Edition.

–> Water = flow with, with with our environment. Find our way into a situation that benefits all. Bend instead of break. move with / out of the way. 

The martial arts idea in essence is tied with the concept of flowing like water. Move & adapt. Don’t need to directly confront all the time.

–> Enlightenment in this chapter almost seems the opposite of moving up out of the cave. Here the idea appears to me more of settling.  (( Such a person’s dwelling is the good Earth)) This isn’t about transcending beyond common life but find a space to exist and live. No need to fight and contest. 

–> One member commented that the act of doing nothing seems very non-motivated. But, we will probably later see that there is more power to passiveness than we may immediately see in terms of speaking out for justice. 

“You don’t bomb the bus you sit in front of it”  – quote of the day from member. 

–> Water as overflowing – peace or great kindness or pasivity can go beyond the normal in a positive way. 


Chapter 9 

1. To hold and fill (a vessel) to the full (ying),10 It had better not be done. To temper and sharpen a sword, Its edge could not be kept (pao) long.   To fill the hall with gold and jade, There is no way to guard (shou,) them. To be rich, exalted, and proud, This is to invite blame (chiu) upon oneself.   2. When work is done (suit, the person (sheng) retires, Such is the Tao of heaven.

(2012-09-08). Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary (Kindle Locations 2037-2049). Paragon House. Kindle Edition.

–> “Water is never flat” 

–> Doing things just right. Be careful and don’t over-do something. 

–> such as too much kindness can lead to someone being taken advantage of or become an enabler 


Chapter 10 

1. In bringing your spiritual (ying) and bodily (p’o) souls to embrace the One, Can (neng) you never depart (li) from it?   2. In concentrating your breath to attain softness, Can you be like an infant (ying erh)?   3. In cleansing your mirror (lan) of the dark (hsüan), Can you make it spotless?   4. In opening and dosing heaven’s gate Wien men), Can you be the female (tz’u)?11   5. In being enlightened (ming) and comprehending all, Can you do it without knowledge?   6. In loving the people and governing the state, Can you practice non-action?   7. To give birth, to nurture. To give birth yet not to claim possession (yu), To act (wei) yet not to hold on to, To grow (chang) yet not to lord over (tsai),12

(2012-09-08). Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary (Kindle Locations 2077-2100). Paragon House. Kindle Edition.

–> How does our breath affect how we act and flow in life? 

–> Control of the breath has a connection to a control of the spirit. 

–> To look into the images further, we are jumping to chapter 28 for a little bit. 

“Being the valley of the world,” ::  also translated as “water course” the emptiness the resting place. 

what do we get from the word infant/child –> What does it mean to be “like a child” – innocence, simplicity with in complexity, going with needs in immediate, creation of world through fresh eyes, forgiving continual moving forward. Happiness is more important than pride? 

Children have a greater flexibility and openness to seeing the possibilities of an object. (divergent thinking) 

Can we return to a place where we are open.

((on another side children are also very easily indoctrinated)) 


Will Breathing really help us with Divergent Thinking? 

            – slows us down.

            – no longer conform to a fast pace traffic and attach to something far greater than the rat race.  

           – Our true selves are more united than we know and taking a breath is something that can refocus from distraction into connection. 


More chatter about the child resulted in jumping to chapter 55. 

1. One who contains te in fullness, Is to be compared to an infant. Wasps, scorpions, and snakes do not bite it, Fierce beasts do not attack it, Birds of prey do not pounce upon it.   2. Its bones weak, its sinews tender, But its grip is firm; Knowing not the union of the female and male animals, Yet its organ stirs. Such is the perfection of its life-force (ching). Crying all day, yet it does not get hoarse. Such is the Perfection of its harmony (ho).   3. To know harmony is to know the everlasting (ch’ang); To know the everlasting is to be illumined (ming). To help life along is to bring ill portend; To use mind (hsin) to direct the life breath (ch’i) is called the strong (ch’iang).   4. When things are full-grown they become old, It is called not following the Way (Tao). Not following the Way one dies early.

(2012-09-08). Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary (Kindle Locations 5235-5255). Paragon House. Kindle Edition.

–> Te is the confucian virtue and this text is saying to let go of the overbearing attempt to control.   ((this chapter goes with the opposite concept)) 

–> there is a strength in weakness. 





We moved onto segment 2! 

There is some way in which the sage is able to to stand back from the changing mass of things. 

3, 4, 5 were jumped around. 

We are today going to start with a glance at broader concerns and then branch out from there. 


“Whirling emptiness”– wants to avoid idea of being & maintain ideas of activity.

        –> not an active creation.

       –> Heidiger argues that “World” is related to “Whirl”. At the time he was writing about this sort of thing he had been working with the Tao Te Ching. 

The whirling is not just a motion or totality but a gathering. 

       —> for one member the word “Whirling” reminder her of whirlpool. & how it is not its own creature but exists among a vastness of the origin. 

It gives an organization but moves. The event of the whirling, not the thing itself. 


“It is better to abide by the center” 

–> but what is the center? Can the whirlpool image continue through?  But we need to be careful of defining still. We have to understand our interpretations as only attempts. 


Does the Sage resemble the Tao? — a question raised by one member. 


1. The Valley Spirit (ku shen) is deathless, It is called the Dark Mare (hsüan p’in).  

2. The door of the Dark Mare, Is called the root of heaven and earth.

  3. Continuous (mien mien), it seems to exist (ts’un), Yet in use (yung) it is inexhaustible.

(2012-09-08). Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary (Kindle Locations 1813-1820). Paragon House. Kindle Edition.

–> We noted that certain contrasts didn’t seem to be contrasts we would normally recognize. 


Immortality was established into “popular Taoism” as a religion. 

There are different approaches toward following & understanding of the Tao. 


((these notes are not as in depth as the conversation– Computer was acting up)) 


Last meeting we were in the middle of discussing the different ways we can look at the complication caused by language. 


To speak something is sortof to walk with it. Contemplate = “to walk with” 

–> this makes sense as to why our translation has the first line translated: “The Tao that can be spoken of” 


There is something about following a path but we can not speak of the path because we do not specifically see it. 

— could it be like walking down a path on which you can only see your feet and not the rest of the path before you because it is dark. 


Naming issue–>  Distinction, name, note of title, 

– could it relate to the human act of naming something?  making it theirs and defining it. 


We could approach the concept of the Tao by discussing the concept of potentiality. Look at what it is not. The not-being of a thing. –> the being is that something is not there. A nothingness. 

–> Just as we explain the usefulness of a wheel because of the hole in the middle so that it can be attached.   Chapter 11 of the text we are using has the examples like this. 

Our language usually does something, but Lao Tzu is trying to point to something that is missed. 


We made a jump to chapter 12 and began discussing our relationship with the overwhelming or blinding nature of certain senses. –> how do our need for these senses both fill and blind us. 

–> Chapter 12 could potentially relate back to  segment 3a in chapter 1: “Therefore, always (ch’ang) without desire (wu-yu), in order to observe (kuan) the hidden mystery (miao); Always (ch’ang) with desire (Yu-yu) In order to observe the manifestations (chiao).”


We then jumped to chapter 5 

–> Once a thing has served its purpose, it is speedily destroyed? 

Is that what nature is like to people? and the sage to people? 

What is the hundred 100 families line about?  who are the 100 families. 

–> the top or elect rise and fall. 

There is a huge theoretical structure that dominates teh world, according to things like the I-ching. & Lao Tsu is possibly refuting this. 

“By many words one’s reckoning (shu) is exhausted.

It is better to abide by the center (shou chung).” 

((Center can also mean: balance, center, core, mean))

–> If you are truly at the center, then you can see and accept things as they are. 


We all have ups and downs in life. But, by having a central/removed perspective allows for a greater removal. 

–the danger is, without making distinctions how do we not become highly apathetic. 


wu-wei non-action as a kind of action. 

A discipline of appreciating what is there according to their proper location in the universe? 

         –> this was an idea that was raised. 



The five items that I would choose to take would be:

  1. My laptop- it contains my college career and academic life in papers and such.
  2.  my teddy bear- Realistically I would try to throw my bears, quilt, and some cloths into a laundry basket/bag and carry that out. But if I couldn’t manage the basket it would be my teddy bear so that I could have something to cling on to.
  3. my coat- its cold out there & that can act as a blanket if need be.
  4. my backpack- which usually has my phone, ipod, kindle, and other necessities in it
  5. More cloths-probably an extra sweater.

It has been some time since I’ve written, yet again.

Life has been rather busy and taking time to write for myself has definitely taken a back seat in the larger scale of finishing up my Senior year of undergraduate and  applying for Graduate School.

In the past year my mother was diagnosed with and cured (hopefully for good) of Colon Cancer.  I found a new boyfriend–rather he found me. I changed my pattern of life from having absolutely no time to myself to  having room to breathe and choose what I want certain activities to domiate my life and when I need a break.

I have moved twice at school. First into my new dorm from home and then again midway through the year from my RA room in the “Townhouse” segment to an RA room in the apartment segment of the upperclassmen dorms. I was extremely nervous about the second move because I had been informed that the residents I would be moving in with did not want an RA after theirs had left the program. But, things are slowly smoothing over as the girls get used to my presence and the idea that I am not going to steal from their rooms or jump down their throats about this or that rule.

So, in a nutshell… this year has been busy with a ton of personal and situational changes. But over all I look forward to each day and now instead of dreading my required commitments I look forward to the opportunity to participate and grow.

((Please note that these are the notes taken by me during club discussion and are not polished or in any way complete)) 

The Tao is not a philosophy Book or a doctrine. It is outside our normal categories to pursue in the atmosphere of the club. 

It calls out a number of our expectations. This is partly because we are choosing to read & analyze it long after it was published and in a different translation than the original. 

Our own attitudes toward the text will often be front & center. We note that it will be important to pay attention to our reactions to the text. 

“The Tao can not be told” or named. We can not define it and yet the attempt to understand is that. In engaging in a dialogue about this text we will be stepping outside our normal interaction with the world. 

it isn’t about reading books but of understanding each other and our interaction with the world. In reading we do not loosely learn but we are changed in interaction with it. 

–> We shall take as a group an approach towards this text as scholars. 


Historical Context: Lao Tsu was around the same time as Confucius. But, other than that much of what we know about Lao Tsu is shrouded in myth & legend. 

–> Confucius had been focused on “li”- ritual practices. Every aspect was proper. 

             – a mental image for this was the way of the samurai. Everything proper and ritualized

–> Lao Tsu was opposed to this because the rigid organization was a sign of when you were starting to use it. 


Tao is one word that we shall choose not to translate. Our own understanding will unfold itself as we read. 

It is good to keep in mind that the title of this text was not the title given to it by Lao Tsu. 


We started off by looking at chapter 38

So, there is a way in which propriety is a thin surface over what we should be seeking: true virtue. Not just what we think is virtue 

In making distinctions, we have lost sight of the truth and therefore lost the beauty of the Tao. 

– We have to maintain the metaphor as metaphor to reach the actual understanding instead of grounding it. 

Te is only created when we loose the tao. –> the idea of virtue is only created when we loose the way of being with things as they are. 

The need for order shows that we have fallen away from the Tao. 


Lao Tsu never wanted to be a teacher. He was living a calm life and everyone wished to learn from him. –> When he had tried to leave the city they had asked him to write down everything before he disappeared into the “wild.” 


Made one professor think of Rousseau. What is the state of nature. 

But, the act of naming is a division. 

As soon as you call the Tao a unity, you claim it as a concept laid over a multiplicity. 

–> The act of naming a unity implies multiplicity. 

The Tao is not the unity because as soon as we name it we separate it into multiplicity. 

We are looking for that state in which the act of making distinctions is already falling away.


If we think it is going to lead us to a conclusion, we have already made a mistake.

–> is this fact contingent or linguistic?

–> what gets us past the claim of being one with the divine to being in experience with diving.


Back to the Beginning: starting with chapter 1.

 ((We ran into some difficulty with all the different possibilities for translation as everyone had a different translation of the text. ))

Tao as way. Discourse & way. how is discourse a way and a way discourse? 

         – discourse is the laying out of a way of things 

         – To communicate, discourse, with someone is to reach them. 

Could this be about Lao Tzu trying to reach us & the impossibility of that act at times. 


PhRST Club

Starting on a blog near you is a lovely new blog that shall be run by my University’s PhRST club. The acronym PhRST stands for Philosophy, Religious Studies and Theoogy and it is a recently inducted club on the campus of Sacred Heart University (although it has been in action for the past year). 


The goal of this group is for us to explore in an open forum our approach toward life & understanding. ((I probably could say more but I am running out of time before our meeting starts. Therefore there shall be more updates and explanations in a later post.