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Lao Tzu for Everyone

Students, Scholars

& Seekers

Peter Gilboy, Ph.D.

             第 二十 五

Line 1  有物混成先天地生

Line 2  寂呵繆呵獨立而 不改


Line 3  可以為天地母

Line 4  吾未知其名字之曰道

Line 5  吾強為之名曰大

Line 6  大曰逝 逝曰遠遠曰反



Line 7  道大天大地大王亦大 


Line 8  國中有四大而王居一焉

Line 9   人法地 






Why is there


and not





     Each tradition has its own genesis story. But each is just a “story.” They are not historical. They do not pretend to portray an actual beginning in time.

     Rather, each is an attempt to convey what is happening anew in each present moment, this very moment, all the constant genesis of comings-to-be that are around us always.

    We walk in the woods or a garden, and we see the "doings" of nature. Okay. But what is “doing” nature?

    This is not a utilitarian question. It serves no purpose in our everyday life. It doesn't get us a job. It doesn't get us a nice car. There is no paycheck to pick up for asking it. 


    But perhaps at some time we have wondered about it. What is it that continually brings about these beginnings of things, while apparently content to remain behind the scenes?

     The most we can think and say is that there must be something imperceptible, something with no physical form at all, but which is right now giving rise to and sustaining the many living things that we experience, including ourselves.

     Try to give it a name.  Many societies and traditions have: The Absolute. The Unseen Hand. The Divine. Holy Spirit. Creator. I Am That I Am (Yahweh). Consciousness. God. Brahman. And more.

     Lao Tzu knows that any name is troublesome because we are then likely to turn it into just another "thing" in our world. Still, he tries to say what he can, all the while knowing that it is wholly insufficient.

Click on each line number

 for Chinese-English interlinear

& commentary


There is something


and yet whole,

born before even

heaven and earth.










It is still!

It is self-contained!

Standing alone

and unchanging.


Think of it

as the mother

of heaven and earth.









I do not know its name,
so I just call it the Way.










But if I had to

give it a name,

I would call it "great."


Great means

"spreading out."

Spreading out

"reaching everywhere."

Reaching everywhere means

"returning to itself."


The Way is "great."

Heaven is "great."

Earth is "great."

The ruler too, is "great."


The realm has

four greats, and

the ruler is among them.



We abide in

the law of earth.

Earth abides in

the law of heaven.

Heaven abides in

the law of the Way.

And the Way, well,

the Way

is simply Itself.


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​. . . . . . .




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