Ancient Wisdom: Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching – 1st Verse Explained

Tao the Ching translates to The Classic Book of the Supreme Reality and Its Perfect Manifestation, or The Book of the Way of Virtue. It contains deep wisdom in condensed form.

This short book – written by Chinese Sage Lao Tzu in the 6th century B. C. – is an ancient attempt to point us towards Truth.

Here is the first verse, followed by an explanation.

VERSE 1

A way that can be walked
is not The Way
A name that can be named
is not The Name

Tao is both Named and Nameless
As Nameless, it is the origin of all things
As Named, it is the mother of all things

A mind free of thought,
merged within itself,
beholds the essence of Tao

A mind filled with thought,
identified with its own perceptions,
beholds the mere forms of this world

Tao and this world seem different
but in truth they are one and the same
The only difference is in what we call them

How deep and mysterious this unity is
How profound, how great!
It is the truth beyond the truth,
the hidden within the hidden
It is the path to all wonder,
the gate to the essence of everything!

Breakdown of Verse 1

A way that can be walked
is not The Way
A name that can be named
is not The Name

This is the paradox of all holy and prophetic texts; something is lost in communication through the word. Teachers only open the door, you must enter by yourself.

Tao Te Ching tells us to let go, and to see through mental constructs.

Our need to label everything distorts our vision. Words describing truth are not The Truth. A name that can be named is a form of The Name yet not The Name.

Tao is both Named and Nameless
As Nameless, it is the origin of all things
As Named, it is the mother of all things

To be both Named and Nameless implies a distinction between All That Is, the energy that everything consists of; and the Absolute, the void that All That Is originates from.

The Nameless points to the ungraspable origin of all things. The Nameless is the pure, undistorted, no-thing-ness that is beyond experiencing.

The Named points to the presence energy that permeates everything, the fundamental is-ness of everything. It is the presence you notice when you let go of your thoughts.

A mind free of thought,
merged within itself,
beholds the essence of Tao

In meditation, when you stop identifying with your mind, all you see is the essence of Tao. All you experience is the present moment – the fundamental mother of all things.

A mind filled with thought,
identified with its own perceptions,
beholds the mere forms of this world

The mind’s job is to label, categorize, and make sense of appearances. If you identify with the mind and its perceptions, you behold the forms of this world. You reinforce the sense of being a separate person inside of this world filled with other things, as opposed to seeing the presence – the essence of Tao – that permeates everything. We are all One.

This does not mean that you should always be in a meditative state of no-mind. But it can be really helpful to be able see past the mind’s filter.

Tao and this world seem different
but in truth they are one and the same
The only difference is in what we call them

The fundamental presence is present in your body, just as it is present in the chair you are sitting on. Your are experiencing your body inside of your awareness, just as you are experiencing the chair inside of your awareness. There is no chair without the awareness of it. There is no body without the awareness of it. Nothing exists without, or apart from, Awareness.

Your stories, your worries, your perceptions, your friends, all of your circumstances – all of these are inseparable from your awareness. All of these are inseparable from the unity of presence.

How deep and mysterious this unity is
How profound, how great!
It is the truth beyond the truth,
the hidden within the hidden
It is the path to all wonder,
the gate to the essence of everything!

When you realize that everything is inseparable from the essence, you start to see this unity in everything. You are no longer distracted by the mind’s perceptions. Every experience you have confirms that presence is the essence of everything.

You start to see that since everything is connected you can access everything. This interconnectedness is the gate to the essence of everything – this entire universe is vibrational Presence Awareness.

There is no limits to what you can tune into. Imagination is, in a sense, the remote viewing of other parallel realities within your awareness. You can tap into them, and manifest them.

If you can dream it, you can be it.
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Each verse of Tao Te Ching is packed with wisdom. Stay tuned for clarifications of more verses!

My explanation of Verse 2 can be found here.

About the author:

Vegard Paulsen is co-founder of Global Harmony Crew; a movement to transform the world through pointing people towards realizations of Truth, and helping them manifest their lives from love and joy.

Let’s move from separation to Unity together, and wake up this world in ecstatic joy!

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Resources:
Translation of Tao Te Ching by Jonathan Star, found here.