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Lao Tzu for Everyone

Students, Scholars

& Seekers

Peter Gilboy, Ph.D.



the Way

             第 三十 二 章

Line 1  道恆无名


Line 2  樸唯小而天下弗敢臣

Line 3  侯王若能守之



Line 4  天地相合以俞甘洛


Line 5   民莫之令而自均焉




Line 6  始制有名名亦既有 

Line 7 夫亦將知止


Line 8  知止所以不殆

Line 9 卑道之在天下也






Dividing Up

the World.


     When we give something a name, we are saying that it is limited, that it has a specific boundary. We are separating it out from other things, asserting that it is "this" kind of thing here and not some other kind of thing: Barn. Daffodil. Buick. House. Mary Sue.


     Separating things out in this manner is handy because it allow us to communicate with each other about that thing. But it presents a special challenge when we are inquiring about the Way.  In just giving it the name, 道tào "the Way," we are likely to start thinking of it as a thing in our world.  But it is not.

     Lao Tzu tells us that 道tào, or the Way, is really 无wú 名míng, nameless.  In Lesson 25  he explains that he names it  道tào only for convenience sake, so that he can talk to us about it.

I do not know its name,

so I just call it 'the Way.'

     If the Way were a another thing in our world, then we could indeed then compare it with other things. But we can't.  The Way is One. There is no "two."  The Way is only itself.  It is always itself. It is that timeless guiding hand which brings thing each and every thing into existence and provides each with their own inner 道tào way.

Click on each line number

 for Chinese-English interlinear

& commentary


The Way is ever

without a name.



















It is so simple, so small,

and yet no one in the world

dare try to control it.











If our rulers could

harness the Way,

then all things would

become themselves.



















The world would

then come together

as a single river,

flowing like

the sweet river Luo.

















And, even though no one

would command it,

the people of themselves
would be in accord.






Once we start

dividing up the world,

it is then that

there are names.











In truth, when it

comes to naming things

isn't it time to stop?










If you know to stop,

then you will not

fall into danger.






The humble presence

of the Way in our world,

is like a small valley stream

flowing to all

the rivers and seas.



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