Lao Tzu, Chapter 16

Tao Te Ching —
The Classic about Ways And Instances

Lao Tzu

(Translated, with comments, by William P. Coleman)

Chapter 16

Reach to the farthest end of emptiness;
maintain unmoving stillness.

If I look at many things as combined,
then I see them correspond.
For things grow — they flourish —
but they return, revert to their root.
Returning to the root is “stillness” —
It’s a return to one’s nature.

To return to one’s nature is to become eternal;
to know the eternal is called “enlightenment.”
Not knowing the eternal — “error” — brings disaster,
but knowing the eternal makes one all-encompassing.

To be all-encompassing means to be impartial;
to be impartial means to be kingly;
to be kingly means to be divine;
to be divine means to accord with Tao;
to accord with Tao means to be everlasting.

It means to go to the end of one’s life free from peril.

<– Chapter 15

Table of Contents

Chapter 17 –>

my comments:



For comparison, I’m including the translation by Lin Yutang, which I always love and respect, even when I disagree:

16. Knowing the Eternal Law

Attain the utmost in Passivity,
Hold firm to the basis of Quietude.

The myriad things take shape and rise to activity,
But I watch them fall back to their repose.
Like vegetation that luxuriantly grows
But returns to the root (soil) from which it springs.

To return to the root is Repose;
It is called going back to one’s Destiny.
Going back to one’s Destiny is to find the Eternal Law.
To know the Eternal Law is Enlightenment.
And not to know the Eternal Law
Is to court disaster.

He who knows the Eternal Law is tolerant;
Being tolerant, he is impartial;
Being impartial, he is kingly;
Being kingly, he is in accord with Nature;
Being in accord with Nature, he is in accord with Tao;
Being in accord with Tao, he is eternal,
And his whole life is preserved from harm.

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