The Tao Te Ching is a Chinese classic text written approximately 400 BCE and traditionally credited to the sage Lao Tzu (or Laozi) and is a true classic of spiritual literature. Through aphorisms and parable, it leads readers toward the Tao, or the “Way”: harmony with the life force of the universe.
The popularity of the Tao-te Ching is reflected in the vast number of commentaries that have been written: over 350 have been preserved in Chinese and about 250 in Japanese. Since 1900 more than 40 translations have appeared in English.
Ursula Le Guin, in her translation of the Tao Te Ching wrote, “It is the most lovable of all the great religious texts, funny, keen, kind, modest, indestructibly outrageous, and inexhaustibly refreshing. Of all the deep springs, this is the purest water. To me, it is also the deepest spring.”
The following is a translation of the first chapter (not Le Guin’s translation):The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.
The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin of all particular things.
Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.
Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.