The mediation of the concept of balance in the Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu;
‘The way’ is cluttered with constant imagery of contradictory views which are both compelling and insightful, through which we are taken on a journey, our final destination being the true meaning of life. In a world where we are all yearning for the meaning for life, true harmony and real balance it is no surprise that the Tao Te Ching is a very haunting piece of literature that holds the reader in an almost trans like state of mind as it attempts to portray the way to accomplish the above.
‘The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.’
The opening two lines of this collection of 81 proverbial chapters introduces the reader to the superstitious sense of mystery that prevails right until the very end. From a literary perspective we can see this as a paradox in itself. It is nothing unusual in literary texts to find the use of contrasting images and\or ideals so as to produce a clear image in the reader’s mind of what the author is trying to convey. The Tao is no different in this aspect seeing as on analysis of the first lines, they in other words mean that the ‘way’ which can be described is not a true representation of it; and the name given to it does not do justice to what it really is. This is a very strange way to introduce the subject matter, however it brings into focus the main element of this text, that being the fact that to understand we must rid ourselves of the common definitions we have given to things whilst accepting the things we cannot see, however believing in their existence. The original text was written roughly 2,500 years ago in Chinese so when you connect the dots it is interesting to wonder whether this indefinite beginning has to do with the cultural influence or orientation of that time. However simultaneously during this time of anarchy and imperialism there were many different cultural and religious sects forming in China. This provides the modern day reader with one of the main obstacles from fully comprehending the text seeing as it cannot be approached from a mere linguistic point of view, as to do this a comparison between various translations would be necessary.
Having said this, to overlook the one link in all of the translations would be impossible. That being the image of equilibrium it tries to obtain by putting forward two almost totally opposing concepts and within them making the reader to ponder on it for a while and sieve out the rightful meaning. Which makes it almost like mathematical formula that just has to be applied, this is present in the translation of the Tao Te Ching by Stephen Mitchell and Stanley Lombardo also in the translation done by Thomas Cleary and C. Lau.
A clear example of this sense of equilibrium is in the second chapter as is talks about the necessity of the presence of both extremes so that one can appreciate both, invariably proving that the...