Tao Te Ching – Chapter 52

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Paraphrase

There is a beginning of everything. It is the Tao, and we describe it as the mother of the world. What we know about it gives us insights into its children — all things in existence, including us. Similarly, knowing about ourselves gives us insights into the Tao and how it works. If we can hold on to its principles, our lives will be much smoother and easier.

For example, one of the principles tells us that if we close the mouth, refrain from speaking untruths, and shut the door on temptations, we will have far fewer problems in life. On the other hand, if we cannot do that, and can’t keep ourselves from messing with other people’s business, then it will be quite the opposite.

Those who observe details can understanding an overall situation; those who hold to the gentle approach possess true strength. These are some of the concepts to illuminate life, take us back to clarity, and save us from the disasters we create for ourselves. This is why we talk about constant practice — Tao cultivation is truly a lifelong quest!

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Translation Notes

One important advice in this chapter is to talk less. 塞其兌 means closing the mouth, which leads to a carefree life without strife. The opposite, 開其兌, means being a blabbermouth, which leads to a disastrous life beyond salvage.

These lines are easy to translate. However, one particular author has turned “close your mouth” into “close your mind.” This leads to “your heart will be troubled” — a negative consequence invented out of whole cloth, resembling nothing in the original text.

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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