Tao Teh Ching 41

Serious students find
A Way and
practice it diligently.

Those less serious
sometimes practice
and sometimes don’t.

Those less serious still
merely laugh at ways—which
proves this is serious.

Ancient writers said
this of The Way—

The Way, at its brightest,
looks dark; those following
appear to be going backward.

Its smoothest places
are a rugged path;

its highest places
look like a valley.

Its greatest beauty
offends the eyes.

Those with most
appear to have least.

The excellence of The Way
looks lax; the solidest
truth looks like sand;

its sharpest edge
has no corner;

its loudest sound
makes no noise at all.

It is amorphous,

It is the shadow
of a shadow.

The Way is hidden,
is nameless; The Way

is the beginning that
completes everything.


2 thoughts on “Tao Teh Ching 41

  1. Part of a correct translation of 41:

    When the lofty hear of the Way
    they devote themselves.
    When the common hear of the Way
    they wonder if it’s real or not.
    And w hen the lowly hear of Way
    they laugh out loud.
    Without that laughter, it wouldn’t be Way.
    Your translation is WAY off!
    Suggest David Hinton’s translation for those interested.

  2. David Hinton is fluent in Chinese and I’m not, so I won’t quible with his translation. It is probably correct in regards to the original intent. I avoided the language of “common,” etc, which may be the intent of the original but perhaps isn’t. Hard to say. The saying may be (probably is) based on a Confucian saying that drew class distinctions and considered the “common” incapable of “lofty” thinking. The Tao Teh Ching, however, tends to be a bit more circumspect about social class. Since my attempt is to make the sayings relevant to contemporary thinking, I avoided the issue by talking about the seriousness of students, not their social class.

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