Tao-te ching Comments

About Wu and Tao

In chapter 4 of Tao-te ching we read: Tao is like the empty of the vessel but in our usage of the vessel we must be in guard against the fullness. (James Legge).

Legge doesn't explain why should we be on guard against the fullness? In fact Legge translates "all fullness", meaning any kind of fullness. Still it doesn't make sense.

But in the Ma Kou version* of the same sentence we read: "The Tao is void and the usage of it (of the Tao) will never fill it." That is, the usage of the Tao never exhausts it. Here is missing the word "vessel" but the meaning of the sentence is clearer: one will never exhaust the Tao (although it is void, that is, nothing or, more precisely, without any substance or shape.**)

Returning to Legge's translation we can say that the Tao is like emptiness (the empty part of a vessel) that can be filled but never to the fullest (no matter what one is filling it with).

To conclude with: both translations insist on the usage of the Tao and its inexhaustible character.

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*Lao Tseu, Tao Te King, translation by Ma Kou, Albin Michel, Paris, 1984. My translation from French.

** These specifications are evidence of Tao's connection with the emptiness (wu) or, more precisely, with the power of the spirit that lies in the void. I already talked about this power in my Taoism initiation course, Level 1.

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Commentary by Jhian

 

 


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