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Lao Tzu for Everyone

Students, Scholars

& Seekers

Peter Gilboy, Ph.D.

十 一

Line 1  卅輻同一轂


Line 2  然埴為器當其无



Line 3  鑿戶牖 當其无 有室之用

Line 4  故有之以為利 无之以為用 ​​​


On Nonbeing

and Being








​     Lao Tzu cautioned us in the first line of his first lesson that what he wants to communicate to us can't be said.

The way that can be spoken about

is not the timeless way.

So once again he must turn to an analogy, this one to illustrate how  nonbeing and being need each other.

     We readily notice the things around us that have physical being: Motorcycle. Vase. House. And so on. They only come into being, though, because of what is also present, but not physically so

     The examples in this lesson are Lao Tzu's analogies to a much larger issue. Nonbeing exists. Being exists.  Their relationship is mutual, or better yet, collaborative. Whether this is so, or not, can be easily tested out by the many examples all around each of us.





Click on each line number


for Chinese-English interlinear


& commentary



Thirty spokes converge on a hub. 

It is only because of

the empty space

in the hub that a

wheel has become a wheel.


We fire clay to make a vessel.

But it is only because of what

is not there that a

vessel has become a vessel.




We make doors and windows.

It is because of what is

not there that the

room has become a room.





Therefore, while what exists

physically is needed, it is what

exists nonphysically which

has allowed each thing to

become what it is.


​​​​​​​​​​. . . . . . .





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