Tao Thought: Searching and daodejing 68

Chinese Characters for "searching"


Where is Tao right now?
You say that it is all around me, but I
Only see my surroundings, only feel my own heartbeat.
Can you show me Tao without reasoning it out in my mind?
Can you help me see it here and now?
Can you help me feel it as doubtlessly as I touch?

You argue that Tao is beyond the senses,
But how do I know it exists?
You say that Tao is beyond definitions,
Then how will I understand it?
It is hard enough understanding the economy, my relationships,
The bewilderment of world events, violence, crime,
Drug abuse, political repression, and war.

With all these things requiring years to fathom,
How can I understand something that is
Colorless, nameless, flavorless, intangible, and silent?

Show me Tao! Show me Tao!

Look within, beyond the physical body; you have the faculties to do so. Focus your mind away from sensual input, and you will discover a new mode of perception. With this mode of perception,you can sense Tao. Once you search in this way, you will find Tao and have no doubts about it.

365 Tao
Daily Meditations

Deng Ming-Dao (author)

ISBN 0-06-250223-9

Stanford Studies on Daoism


  • The Laozi Story
  • Date and Authorship of the Laozi
  • Textual Traditions
  • Commentaries
  • Approaches to the Laozi


From the Tang period, one begins to find serious attempts to collect and classify the growing number of Laozi commentaries. An early pioneer is the eighth-century Daoist master Zhang Junxiang, who cited some thirty commentaries in his study of the Daodejing (Wang 1981). Du Guangting (850-933) provided a larger collection, involving some sixty commentaries (Daode zhenjing guangshengyi, Daozang 725). According to Du, there were those who saw the Laozi as a political text, while others focused on spiritual self-cultivation. There were Buddhist interpreters (e.g., Kumārajīva and Sengzhao), and there were those who explained the “Twofold Mystery” (chongxuan). This latter represents an important development in the history of interpretation of the Daodejing.

The term “Twofold Mystery” comes from chapter 1 of the Laozi, where Dao is said to be the mystery of all mysteries (xuan zhi you xuan). As a school of Daoist learning, “Twofold Mystery” seizes this to be the key to understanding the Laozi. Daoist sources relate that the school goes back to the fourth-century master Sun Deng. Through Gu Huan (fifth century) and others, the school reached its height during the Tang period, represented by such thinkers as Cheng Xuanying and Li Rong in the seventh century. The school reflects the growing interaction between Daoist and Buddhist thought, particularly Mādhyamika philosophy. Unlike Wang Bi, it sees “nonbeing” as equally one-sided as being when applied to the transcendence of Dao. Nonbeing may highlight the profundity or mystery of Dao, but it does not yet reach the highest truth, which according to Cheng Xuanying can be called the “Dao of Middle Oneness” (Kohn 1992, 144). Like other polar opposites, the distinction between being and nonbeing must also be “forgotten” before one can achieve union with Dao.

The Laozi has been viewed in still other ways. For example, a Tang commentary by Wang Zhen, the Daodejing lunbing yaoyishu (Daozang 713; fasc. 417), presented to Emperor Xianzong (r. 806-820) in 809, sees the text as a treatise on military strategy (Rand 1979-80; see also Wang Ming 1984 and Mukai 1994). The diversity of interpretation is truly remarkable (see Robinet 1998 for a typological analysis). The Daodejing was given considerable imperial attention, with no fewer than eight emperors having composed or at least commissioned a commentary on the work. These include Emperor Wu and Emperor Jianwen of the Liang dynasty, Xuanzong of the Tang, Huizong of the Song, and Taizu of the Ming dynasty (see Liu Cunren 1969 for a discussion of the last three).

By the thirteenth century, students of the Daodejing were already blessed, as it were, with an embarrassment of riches, so much so that Du Daojian (1237-1318) could not but observe that the coming of the Dao to the world takes on a different form each time. That is to say, different commentators were shaped by the spirit of their age in their approach to the classic, so that it would be appropriate to speak of a “Han Laozi,” “Tang Laozi,” or “Song Laozi,” each with its own agenda (Xuanjing yuanzhi fahui, DZ 703; fasc. 391).

daodejing translated by current scholars

In ancient times the perfect officer wasn't armed
the perfect warrior wasn't angry
the perfect victor wasn't hostile
the perfect commander acted humble

This is the virtue of nonaggression
this is using the strength of others
this is uniting with Heaven
which was the ancient end



A good general doesn't show off his power.
a good warrior doesn’t get angry.

A good conqueror doesn't attack people.
A good employer puts himself below his employees.

This is called the power of non-contention.
This is called using the strength of others.
This is called perfect emulation of heaven.



The best athlete
wants his opponent at his best.
The best general
enters the mind of his enemy.
The best businessman
serves the communal good.
The best leader
follows the will of the people.

All of the embody
the virtue of non-competition.
Not that they don't love to compete,
but they do it in the spirit of play.
In this they are like children
and in harmony with the Tao.


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