Richard G. Petty, MD

The Tao That Can Be Spoken Is Not the Eternal Tao


I’ve been studying the Tao de Ching, a.k.a.”Tao Te Ching,” a.k.a. Dao De Ching” since my early teens, and I’ve recently been spending some time with a translation by Derek Lin. (You can find it at: and Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006)

See what you think of this version of the famous first chapter:

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, constantly without desire, one observes its essence
Constantly with desire, one observes its manifestations
These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders

–Lao-Tzu (Obscure Chinese Philosopher, Founder of Taoism and Alleged Author of the Tao te Ching, c.604-c.531 B.C.)

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