Friday, July 24, 2009

Tao Te Ching Online

I've added a new category to the right sidebar: Tao Te Ching Online. Right now, it contains approximately one dozen different translations/versions. If you know of a translation/version not listed there, please let me know by leaving a comment or email me.

There are two reasons why I believe it's important to read more than one rendition of this ancient text. For starters, translating Chinese into English is no walk in the park. The former is not based on an alphabet. There are no articles (a, the, etc.) and often there are no units of measure (one, six, a few, etc.). There is very little shared vocabulary. Most importantly, because of different world views, concepts are expressed so differently that it can be very difficult to find the precise English words that will express the depth and meaning of a specific idea or passage.

The second reason is that the Tao Te Ching (TTC) is, in essence, a book of poetry. The imagery used elicits different responses in different people. Consequently, even if you lined up 20 people who agreed on the exact wording of a verse, there's a better than average chance you will get 20 different explanations of what that verse means!

This second factor is what differentiates the TTC from, say, the Christian Bible. The latter contains a history and the various rules and mores of a specific society. The TTC, on the other hand, contains neither. Also, the former is believed by many to be divinely-inspired or written. The TTC is human-based and it's readily acknowledged that the text congealed over a period of at least several hundred years.

Most of the controversies of the Bible are related to which version is the most orthodox -- which version represent the precise meaning of its author[s]. There is no "orthodox" version of the TTC in philosophical Taoism simply because each person must experience the text for themselves and draw their own meaning from it.

This is the reason why I'm working to include so many different voices in my series on the TTC. I don't want readers to be overly influenced by one solitary voice. It is my sincere hope that the many voices featured will help each of you to find your own voice.

In the end, that's what matters.

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