Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6

(Hon Sing Lee, Mar 10, 2003)

This is my translation of the sixth chapter.  This is by far the most difficult chapter to translate, and my translation is vastly different from many conventional ones.  Thus I apologize for possible misinterpretations.

The spirit of the land never dies, this is the mysterious regeneration.
'?' means valley.  During the author Lao Tze's time, civilizations were located near rivers and valleys.  Hence here, valley could refer to the entire world as Lao Tze saw.  Therefore I translate the word as the land.  '?' is as in '??', meaning the spirit of a group, team spirit, the morale etc.  Thus Lao Tze saw that the life on the fertile land went on and on.  Sometimes the land was in bad shape, while other times in prosperity.  Nevertheless the land always went on, with life.  Therefore he exclaimed, ‘The spirit of the land never dies’ and he named this the mysterious regeneration.

The door to this mysterious regeneration, is the root of Heaven and Earth.
'Heaven and Earth' here refers to the entire world.  Lao Tze contemplated into this mysterious regeneration and realized that this is precisely the energy source of the world.  The world regenerates, gives lives, rebuilds, and restores balance by itself.

It flows continuously and yet inconspicuously.  Nature does not draw on it in a hurried way.
Lao Tze contemplated further into the nature of this regeneration force.  He felt that this regeneration force flows smoothly, continuously and unhurriedly.  It would have been invisible if not for its long term visible effects.

This chapter is about regeneration of life.  The world continually regenerates and gives life.  Entities in this world, act on individual consciousness and characteristics.  They may or may not upset the overall harmony of the world.  Whenever the harmony and balance are upset, this regenerative force pushes the world back to equilibrium.

This is how cycles exist.  This regenerative force is also a ‘mean-reverting’ force, always pushing the world back to the mean.  Hence riches precedes poverty and poverty precedes riches, the recessive precedes the dominant and the dominant precedes the recessive, the dark precedes light and the light precedes dark.

Due to the existence of cycles, therefore the world never rests on an absolute state.  It is forever changing.  Hence the way to be at one with the world (Tao), is to harmonize with this change by practicing non-action, rather than try to forcefully effect certain outcomes by actions.  If we practice action, this regenerative force will work against us instead.

Send me your comments.