Chapter 4 Discussion – Tao Te Ching Today Ep 0007

Posted by on March 21, 2012

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Today, we enter in to the reading and discussion of Chapter 4 of the Tao Te Ching. Let’s roll…

[The Tao Te Ching is a classic Chinese text written by one of the wisest man in history. It is one of the most translated texts in the world and it holds many secrets of living a blissful life. Very few men know all the secrets of Lao Tzu, western Master Sean Webb is one of them]
[Welcome to Tao Te Ching Today. Take a deep breath. Calm yourself. And open your mind. Here now is our guide and host of Tao Te Ching Today, Sean Webb.]

Welcome to Tao Te Ching Today where we talk about the reality of Tao Te Ching from Lao Tzu’s eyes. I’m your host Sean Webb. Today we’re moving in to chapter 4 reading and the discussion. I’m gonna be reading out of Robert G Hendricks translation:

The Way is empty;
Yet when you use it, you never need to fill it again.
Like an abyss! It seems to be the ancestor of the ten thousand things.

If files down sharp edges;
Unties the tangles;
Softens the glare;
And settles the dust.

Submerged! It seems perhaps to exist.
We don’t know whose child it is;
It seems to have even preceded the Lord.

And so in chapter 4 we move right back in to, after a practical discussion in chapter 3, we move right back in to another analogy that points out the ambiguousness of the truth of the universe. The thing that makes everything is as it is, the Tao, the existence of the mechanism of everything and so in that we can’t put words to explain it, we can’t put boundaries around it, we can’t circle it, we can’t point to it, we can’t explain it. This is another example of an analogy that shows the essence of what Lao Tzu wants to talk to us about but at the same time in admitting there are no words that explain it. The way is empty and this is sometimes equated to a bowl.

“The bowl is empty yet when you use it, you never need to fill it again”, so it’s, at the same time there’s nothing there but there is stuff there that when you use it, there’s an infinite supply. So this is one of those paradoxes. This is one of those “it is nothing, it is everything” statements to bring the mystical aura of the Tao to life when you’re trying to explain it.

“Like an abyss! It seems to be the ancestor of the ten thousand things.” And so in its infinite nothingness, it seems to be the creator if everything (the ten thousand things being everything in creation as another analogy).

If files down sharp edges; unties the tangles; softens the glare; and settles the dust. Meaning, the things that might put a pin prick in your day, the things that might be of concern to you. It makes them seem… less so. Files down to sharp edges that you might need to worry about in cutting yourself. Unties the tangles in your ropes, softens the glare of the sun or of the water as you fish and it settles the dust from the wagons, the carts, the “whatever”, that’s going on in the streets or in the wind. It makes those things seem less intrusive, less of a pain.

“Submerged, it seems perhaps to exist”. Yet again another analogy to state, we can’t really put a finger on it. We can’t really point to it, we can’t put a boundary around it, and we can’t put a definition on it. “We don’t know whose child it Is” so we don’t know if it was intended, who invented it, if it is an invention of something or someone.

“It seems even who have preceded the Lord”. It seems to have been here before any perception of God could come in to existence. That’s pretty profound statements so, the question in man’s mind is; ‘was it created by god or did it create god? Or was it created by the universe or did the universe create it or did it come as a part of the universe’? It’s a very profound question without bringing religion, or specific religions in to the discussion. It is a question of we can’t define it, we can’t put a circle around it, we can’t put words around it but it seems so infinite, so vast in its emptiness that it seems to have created everything… possibly even the creator.

Pretty profound thoughts but again, chapter 4 is simply an analogy to bring us into a position of one where we understand that we can’t simply just talk about it and understand it. We can’t simply just point to it and look at it. We can’t simply just define it and discuss it… Tao is something deeper, something more profound, something that is so all encompassing you couldn’t possibly have a discussion about it, which is what the irony of the Tao Te Ching brings forth in words as a discussion of Tao, of the reality of the universe, of enlightenment. First thing it says is… we can’t talk about it. “We’re gonna talk about it but you can’t talk about it.” The first rule of fight club…

So, anyway, next week we’ll move in to how we can utilize this lesson in our everyday lives and in the meantime, if you’d like to pick up a copy of the Tao Te Ching, you can do so from the link in our website. You can get free audio book copy of the Tao Te Ching, if you like, from by going to and if you go there and support them, they support us. I’ve been an audible member for four years, love them, have multiple audiobooks that I listen to every month and I can do so while I’m walking around the track or working out in the gym. It is incredible. So check out the link at and the will take you directly to our special offer page at audible and that will get you free audiobooks, no risk, 30-day trial.

So until next week, I hope things are well for you and you can always decide to, be well.

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