Tao Te Ching – Chapter 55

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Paraphrase

Cultivators who accumulate virtues become naturally protected by the Tao, like babies kept safe from danger by the nurturing mother. They need not fear the negative people in life — the ones who spread vicious rumors, launch personal attacks, or try to exploit others with aggressive greed.

They are also similar to babies in that they use the soft and flexible approach in life, along with a firm resolve to realize their dreams. They experience life with a sense of fun, excitement and wonderment. No matter what they do, they harmonize and moderate their energy output, so they can keep going without exhaustion.

They know the Tao is eternal, so when they find themselves living in harmony and outlasting most people, they know they are aligned with the Tao. Their clarity gives them insights. It lets them know too much power cannot be a good thing.

Unlike those that live in balance and last, all things that get too strong begin to wither and die. Their way is contrary to the Tao, and there is no exception to the rule that anything contrary to the Tao will soon perish.

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Translation Notes

As usual, Lao Tzu uses memorable metaphors to make his points. 毒蟲 (poisonous insects), 猛獸 (ferocious beasts) and 攫鳥 (birds of prey) should be translated literally, but understood metaphorically. When Lao Tzu says the infant is not harmed by them, he is really talking about the virtuous person being protected from the harmful elements of life.

Most translators can handle the above with acceptable renditions, but there are a few exceptions. One author mistakes “poisonous insects” as “venemous reptiles.” Another author, perhaps not really getting the metaphors, skips them altogether — thereby doing the reader a significant disservice.

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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