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Lao Tzu for Everyone

Students, Scholars

& Seekers

Peter Gilboy, Ph.D.

Line 1  至虛極也守靜督也

Line 2  萬物旁作吾以觀其復也

Line 3  夫物雲雲



Line 4 靜是胃復命

Line 5  復命常也知常明也


Line 6   不知常妄妄作兇

Line 7   知常容



Line 8    王乃天 天乃道

Line 9    道乃 久沒身不殆






     Lao Tzu has already used a number of similes and metaphors in addressing us. He must, because what he wants to convey cannot be said any more than someone telling us about a particular taste or ache can convey that same taste or ache.

     In this lesson we have a new metaphor-- 復fù return, or 復fù 歸guī, "returning homeward."   But "return" does not suggest having gone somewhere, such as the market or a friend's house, and now we are coming back.


    復fù is the return to who we are, our self, or 自zì 然rán self-so-ness, which we have been along but have continually overlooked. It is the realization of that quiet still-point in us that goes wherever we go. 

    Obviously this cannot be understood intellectually.  Lao Tzu's words on the page do not translate into any kind of understanding at all.  Merely reading about 復fù 歸guī "returning homeward" is like reading about breathing without taking into account the testimony of one's own breathing, which is already closer than hands and feet.


  ​​​ ​​​​. . . . . .

Click on each line number

 for Chinese-English interlinear

& commentary


Attaining to emptiness

is our utmost condition.

Holding to our still-point

is the most profound.




The myriad things

are bustling around me.

It is in stillness

that I behold them

ever returning to the Way.




You see, the myriad things

arise in all their varieties,

with each of them 

ever returning

homeward to its root.




Call it our



To discover one's

still-point is called

returning to

one's own nature.





To be returning to

one's nature

is to abide in it

To know the abiding


is to be enlightened.







Not realizing what abides,

is to be blind to oneself.

To be blind to oneself

does not bode well.





Knowing the abiding

is to be all-embracing.

Being all-embracing is

to be impartial

Being impartial is

to be kingly.






Being kingly

is to be heavenly.

Being heavenly

is to be in step

with the Way.


When one is in step

with the Way,

evermore one's sense

of "me" sinks away

without any harm at all.


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