Happy New Year!
You may remember from my post in December that, this year, my themed reading is World Religions. The first text is Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, A New English Version published by Harper Perennial. The Tao Te Ching is a central text to Taoism (Daoism), but as a secular Buddhist, I’m very much looking forward to beginning the new year with this seminal text from Lao-tzu.
Known as The Book of the Way, the Tao Te Ching (pronounced Dow Deh Jing) is a selection of short verses that are meant to offer balance and perspective. Its primary goal is to help readers and practitioners “to work for the good,” with skill that becomes effortless when one becomes in sync with the Tao, or the basic principle of the universe. Is there a better way to begin a new year than in pursuit of a “serene and generous spirit”? I certainly can’t think of one.
Not much is known about Lao-tzu, though some believe he was a contemporary of Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.). He left little information about himself, his life, or even his work, though some believe he may have served as an archivist. Others imagine he was a hermit, but if this was true, he was a hermit deeply concerned with humanity and society, or at least the welfare of others. What is most important, I suppose, is this text of ancient Chinese wisdom, which is really human wisdom, that he left behind for the benefit of individuals and of all mankind.
My edition of the Tao Te Ching contains 81 short verses. Since there are 30 days in January, that comes out to about 2.5 verses per day. Here’s a general plan for reading that I hope to follow, and I offer it to any who might be interested in joining me this month.
P.S. Don’t get scared by the number of chapters. Each “chapter” in the book is less than one page long.
I’m reading the version by Ursula K. Le Guin (it came in from the library before Mitchell). So beautiful! I’m very grateful you gave me the push to read it.
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I started the Tao Te Ching this morning – am on Chapter 22 at the moment. Will post my thoughts when I’m done!
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