Tao Te Ching – Chapter 54

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Paraphrase

Unlike physical objects that can be taken by force, the Tao in your heart can never be pried away. If you hold on to it and cherish it, it will be yours forever. If you teach it in your family, then it can be everlasting for your future generations.

It begins with you, as you cultivate the truth within yourself. Then, you can cultivate the Tao in your home, bringing abundance and joy to your loved ones. After that, the positive influence of the Tao can spread to other families, bringing benefits to the community. It may keep going from there. Perhaps you will have an impact on the country — and even the world!

How do we move closer to this grand vision? We start by observing others based on our own self-knowledge. There is much we can learn, simply by being the watcher. Similarly, we would also observe the dynamics in different families, different communities and different countries to gain insights. We can do the same thing with the world too — except here it’s all about observing the world’s present state as the result of its past, in order to figure out its future.

How do I know the above will work? It’s simple. I have absolute certainty through this — the connection to the Tao in all of us.

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Translation Notes

The characters 祭祀 are often mistranslated as “sacrifice” or “sacrificial celebration” or “the offering of ancestral worship.” In actuality, it’s the ritualized veneration of previous generations, for the purpose of remembrance rather than religious worship.

In the earliest human tribes, rituals might involve animal sacrifice or even human sacrifice. In Chinese culture, rituals sometimes involve the ceremonial offering of food and / or wine. In this chapter, the essence of 祭祀 is not so much sacrificing or offering anything. Rather, it’s all about the descendants’ practice of honoring and affirming the virtues of the Tao. Thus, to translate 祭祀 as “sacrifice” is to… sacrifice… the actual meaning — and Lao Tzu’s original intent.

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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