9. Remarks on Interpretations

(excerpts from Dynamic Tao and Its Manifestation)

We have identified the internal dynamics of Tao and they may be applied to the interpretation of the Tao Te Ching.

The Tao philosophy is shown to be free of the usual negative speculations. Tao appears to be very dynamic and coherent. We have been able to resolve many ambiguities and contradictions that have plagued our views of Tao. Not only can we coherently interpret these troubling verses, we may also discover new and more enlightening interpretations of many less obvious verses. A few examples will be discussed here.

9.1  The state of the Verses

When we analyze each chapter, it is important to identify the context of each chapter in terms of the state it is describing, so we can orient our minds with the proper frame of reference in order to recognize the message correctly. With improper orientation, we will encounter paradoxes and contradictions.

9.2 Repeated Texts

Our second example is the interpretation of repeated texts in the chapters. There are many speculations about the repeated texts in the TTC. Some considered it careless insertions by commentators, and some used it as evidence that the TTC had multiple authors. Many attempted to eliminate the repetitions. There are a few groups of verses repeated verbatim in more than one chapter. These have been puzzling throughout history.

We shall show why these verses are repeated and how we can interpret them coherently.

1.3 Wu-Yu Pair

The complementary pairs of Yu and Wu are commonly used to describe the intrinsic symmetry in Tao. This pair may be yin and yang, high and low, hard and easy, etc. In a few of the chapters, this symmetry becomes important. When such symmetry is not observed, the verses become ambiguous and hard to interpret.

There are other symmetry pairs in the Tao Te Ching that have not been widely recognized. For example, Chapter 60 has been difficult to interpret, because we do not recognize the Wu-Yu symmetry.

9.4 Act-with-Yo 有以為 and act-with-Wu 無以為

Now we come to a very interesting discovery of the relationship among Wu, Yu, and Te. This relationship turns out to be very fundamental in building a coherent Tao philosophy. When we understand the following examples, we will appreciate fully the importance of the Yu state in Tao philosophy.

We have thus recovered an important meaning of acting with Yu as “to rely on the manifestations of Tao (as Yu) to act properly.” From this, we may see the main view of Laotzu is that a leader should be able to perform Wu-actions, i.e., to act with Wu 無以為。The common people may not be able to act with Wu-actions so they should follow the guidance of the Yu state, i.e., to act with Yu.