Read the Dao De Jing
Dao De Jing Study Guide and Translations
The Mysterious Dao De Jing (The Canon of Daoism), written by Lao Zi (over 2000 years ago), is a profound little book that captivates the minds of millions of people around the world. Although obscure and difficult to fathom, its renowned popularity is testament to its intriguing contents which speak to something deep and eternal within us. It speaks to a part of us that cannot be described by words but is recognised as something prevailing and universal.
Oftentimes, You will read the dao de jing and be able to capture the essence of its meaning in its verses or some of the verses. And oftentimes, you will read verses which didn't make any sense upon reading them the first time which then make sense after reading them again months or even several years later. This process could repeat itself again and again as you uncover more and more layers of meaning. What does this mean? It means that something inside you changed. This is what is so captivating about the dao de jing.
The additional difficulty with reading the dao de jing is that it was written in Ancient Chinese. Native Chinese Speakers do not read the dao de jing directly, they read what has been translated into modern Chinese and any version that you read (as an English speaker or any other language) is a translation of this, combined by the translator's personal interpretation and understanding. This means there could be several layers of translation and interpretation before the final, readable result becomes available (which every individual will also interpret differently in their own way upon reading). It is an interpretation of a translation of a translation neatly wrapped in an intriguing and alluring mystery within a mystery! An additional point to be aware of is that translators of the dao de jing may not be daoist or have any kind of experience with daoist or other sppractices and thus researching an individual translator and their background could be of value when choosing a version of the dao de jing to study.
This is why it is good to read many different translations from many different authors to get a better chance of grasping the true meaning of the book. This is one aspect of studying the dao de jing. Despite all this, the intrigue and recognition of the book as a gem still persists. It seems that the wisdom contained in the book is able to speak even through the many layers of translation and interpretation, even if ever so softly.....can you hear its whispers?!
The other aspect of studying the dao de jing is personal practice. The dao de jing is not a book of philosophy! It is first and foremost a practical text based on the understanding of the microcosm and macrocosm and the human being's place in it. When one engages in daoist practice (Such as Qigong, Tai chi, Taoist Meditation and Taoist Internal Alchemy) one has the opportunity to connect with the essence of the dao de jing and better understand it. This is the best way to study the dao de jing: from the inside! This is because Taoist practices such as Qigong are practical and based on the natural principles and phenomena detailed in the dao de jing (such as yin-yang), giving one the power to understand the world within and around them and make positive changes in one's life.
See Below Various Translations of the Dao De Jing