Tao Te Ching – Chapter 47

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Paraphrase

You don’t need to travel all over the world to understand the world. You can see the Tao by looking into your heart, rather than looking out of the window.

Notice all the people out there who fixate on the external world in search of answers. The more frantic their search, the less they actually find.

Observing all this, the sages know the path of the Tao must be different. When you are truly walking the Tao, you don’t need to go on a pilgrimage to reach the divine. You don’t need to chase after knowledge to attain wisdom. Everything can be effortless — just like the way your heart requires no effort to function.

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Translation Notes

Line 3 and 4 should be easy and straightforward. 其出彌遠 其知彌少 can be translated as “the farther you go, the less you know.” This refers to the futility of searching externally, in the physical world, for knowledge or wisdom that can only be found internally, in one’s heart or mind.

A translator who does not grasp the above may interpret the line literally, and disagree with it. We know that travel can be a broadening experience. Isn’t this line saying the exact opposite? How can it be true?

Perhaps to express objection, one author distorts the original into “The more you know, the less you understand.” This is incorrect. The character 出 means to go out or travel. None of its definitions even comes close to “know.” More importantly, the distortion misses an important messages from this chapter — to look within for your answers to life’s deepest questions.

Derek Lin

Derek Lin is an award-winning, bestselling author in the Tao genre. He was born in Taiwan and grew up with native fluency in both Chinese and English. His background lets him convey Eastern teachings to Western readers in a way that is clear, simple and authentic.

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