Chinese Texts, Texts, The Masters

In the Beginning was the Tao

The Tao Te Ching – whose name translates as something like The Book of the Way – was written in China at about the same time as Buddha was teaching in India. The tenets of Taoism were deeply ingrained in Chinese life by the time Buddhism spread there centuries later, and when the two world views came together, they produced a very unique form of practice that blossomed as Zen. This extract from the Lao-Tzu’s book – the 52nd chapter – talks about seeing into the origin from which all things spring and all things return. If we can learn not to tether ourselves to judgements, Lao-Tzu says, we are able to see into the darkness and return to the source of the light.


In the beginning was the Tao.
All things issue from it;
all things return to it. 

To find the origin,
trace back the manifestations.
When you recognize the children
and find the mother,
you will be free of sorrow. 

If you close your mind in judgments
and traffic with desires,
your heart will be troubled.
If you keep your mind from judging
and aren’t led by the senses,
your heart will find peace.

Seeing into darkness is clarity.
Knowing how to yield is strength.
Use your own light
and return to the source of light.
This is called practicing eternity. 


Lao Tzu (circa 6th century BC)
From: Tao Te Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell


4 thoughts on “In the Beginning was the Tao”

  1. Over the years I’ve often thought that Lao-Tzu speaks Zen more than other forms of Buddhism (e.g. Tibetan). Finally formally learning this history a few years back of how Chan came from Taoism pairing with Buddhism, it filled in a great many personal suspicions in my mind about their similarity.

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