The Tao of the Tao Te Ching: A Translation and Commentary

By Michael LaFargue; Lao-tzu | Go to book overview

Introduction

The Tao Te Ching stems from the early formative period of Chinese thought (c. 500-200 B.c.). It is one among a small number of books from this period that have a place in Chinese tradition roughly similar to that of the Greek classics, the Bible, and the Koran in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, and to the Upanishads and the Pali Canon in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. In this century, the Tao Te Ching has become immensely popular in Western countries as well, reputedly having been translated more than any other book in the world except the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita. 1

The approach of this book to interpreting the Tao Te Ching differs in many respects from its predecessors. If there is any merit in these differences, this derives primarily neither from new spiritual or philosophical insights, nor from new historical or linguistic research. It comes rather from an attempt to develop and apply some facets of modern "hermeneutics"—the theory and practice of trying to recover the original meaning of written texts. 2 Hermeneutics has been the subject of intense discussion in areas such as biblical studies (my own original field of study), but only recently has begun to be discussed in an explicit and extensive fashion among Western interpreters 3 of the Chinese classics. Despite its origin in scriptural study, modern hermeneutics in its best moments has striven to overcome many tendencies ordinarily associated with the interpretation of "scriptural" writings. One resultant principle, of special importance in the present study, is that the ideas we find in scriptural writings did not fall from the sky. They grew out of human experiences—often extraordinary experiences, to be sure, but experiences that are not radically different from experiences we ourselves might have or imagine ourselves having. 4 One of the main reasons that writings like the Tao Te Ching are so interesting is that they stand at the origin of a tra

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The Tao of the Tao Te Ching: A Translation and Commentary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Tao of the Tao Te Ching *
  • Contents vii
  • How to Read This Book ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • Translation and Commentary *
  • 1 - Excellence That is Not Outstanding *
  • 2 - Stillness and Contentment 39
  • 3 Self-Cultivation 53
  • 4 - Knowledge, Learning, and Teaching 87
  • 5 - Majesty That is Not Awesome 109
  • 6 - The Soft Way 143
  • 7 - Against Disquieting "Improvements" 165
  • Additional Textual Notes 179
  • Hermeneutics - A Reasoned Approach to Interpreting the Tao Te Ching *
  • Topical Glossary 217
  • Notes 255
  • References 263
  • List of Chapters in the Traditional Arrangement 269
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