Saturday, July 15, 2017

Reading the Tao Te Ching

The way I read the Tao Te Ching these days is probably the way most people do. I open it at random and read a chapter. I'll usually read it a couple of times, then pick another chapter and do the same thing, and then maybe one more. I don't usually read more than three or four at one sitting.

At other times, I'll silently ask, which one?, and a number will pop in my mind, and I'll turn to that chapter and follow the same process.

Where the number comes from, I don't care. I don't worry about finding some deep meaning in the chapter, either. I just take it for whatever it is. At the same time, though, it's rare that I don't get something out of the experience.

I've learned to trust this.


Galen Pearl said...

That's a great way to approach it. It's not like a novel that you have to read from beginning to end. Each chapter has something to offer. There is a method of reading a sacred text called Lectio Divina. Do you know it? I have only encountered it in the context of the Bible, but it seems applicable to any wisdom teaching. It is not a Bible study analytic approach. Rather, one chooses a very short passage and then goes through several steps, described differently in different sources but basically including some variation of reading (including reading out loud), praying, contemplating, meditating, and sharing reflections if you are in a group.

Sometimes I read a chapter of the Tao Te Ching out loud in the Chinese. There is a rhythm and poetry in the language that is beautiful to me. Sometimes I don't even remember what each character means, but I just like the sound of it.

Anyway, your approach seems much more focused on experiencing the Tao Te Ching rather than analyzing it. That seems to me to be the best way to access the wisdom in this ancient teaching.

HK Stewart said...


Yes, I've encountered Lectio Divina before, although I don't consciously practice it. It comes from St. Benedict, if I understand correctly, and its four steps are lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio, but I can't remember off the top of my head what these terms mean exactly.

I'd love to be able to read the "Tao Te Ching" in its original Chinese, but I suspect that's too much to ask of my old-dog brain.

"Experiencing" versus "analyzing." I agree.

Glad to see you reading and writing.

H. K.