Chapter 52 Tao Te Ching Returning to Orgin

Chapter 52 Returning to the Origin

When we accept what LI HSI-CHAI says, “The Way is the mother of all creatures. All creatures are the children of the Way.”  We can see the relationship of mother and children in this verse.  Because we all have Tao we can know other creatures.  As we get to know more people and to live by the principles of the Tao we will be safe throughout our life.

The first verse of the Tao Te Ching also describes the beginning and the Tao which says the Tao is the mother

“The void manifested the beginning,
the beginning manifested the Tao,
and the Tao is the mother of the ten thousand things”


In verse 52 it is said that from the beginning there was Tao (mother).  With the Tao we can know all creatures (children) which is unity of all things

 “The world has a beginning
We regard it as the mother of the world
Having its mother
We can know her children
Knowing her children
Still holding on to the mother
Live without danger all through life”(1)


In this verse Mother refers to Tao and children refer to all creatures.  This is about unity of Tao and all creatures.  There cannot be one without the other.  We can know other people and by knowing them we know Tao.  Tao is in all creatures.  When we live in the Tao (holding on to the mother) we will be safe.

Close the mouth

We live in the Tao (holding on to the mother) when we close our mouths and just go with the flow. This does not mean we always close your mouth and say nothing we can speak up and be our true self.  Living in the Tao is living as your true self. This occurs when we are quiet and when we shut the doors to what other people think of us and then we can be our true self. When we are our true selves we will have an easy life.

We will be in danger when we open our mouths and let people know what we think. What others should think and door open our mouth just to impress others.

“Close the mouth
Shut the doors
Live without toil all through life.
Open the mouth
Meddle in the affairs
Live without salvation all through life”(1)

Living without toil is not living without working but it is having a life that is relatively free of problems, it is living in the flow of things.  In order to achieve this life without toil we close our mouths and shut the door of senses to how other people trying to define us.  Live without being our true self.

To be without salvation is to be beyond all hope of rescue. We will live without salvation all through life    if we open our mouths and do a lot of talking such as telling others how to live and saying unkind things.  We can upset other people to a point where they will not be there to rescue us when we need a life line.

Practice of Eternal Light

When we want clarity about something we need to know everything about it and that includes the small details. And some of those small details come from being mindful of our life. When we notice the small things of life we will be called clear sighted.  As an example is when we notice that someone comes in from the outside and they are wearing gloves, we will remarks it must be cold out, others may think we are clear sighted.

We are strong when we act with softness.  I think of people who speak softly but their words are strong. There are so many examples; Mandela, Gandhi, Lao Tzu and so many others in history.  Look around as see all the people you may know or know about that have a strong effect on things but these people do not display or use power.  This is another way to hold on to the mother.

The Derik Lin translation says “Utilize the light, Return to the clarity.  This is referring to Tao’s Light and clarity is enlightment.  Tao’s light is our own brilliance, intuitions and insight.  When we trust Tao’s light we will see thing that we may not have seen before or we may have an Ah-ha moment, this is clarity and enlightment.  This is also can be called a Taoist moment.

Most religions have practices that bring us closer to nirvana, heaven whatever term is used for the ultimate state of being.  Verse 52 tells us practice is holding on to Tao.  Most translations have a different way to say it.  Derik Lin just calls it “practice”.  I believe that this translation attempts to use only words in the original text which makes the translation difficult to understand.  Others aim to make the Tao Te Ching easier to understand by using modern language. In that process they add the translators understanding to what was written.   A good example of this is the Jonathan Star.

This is how I understand Derik Lln translation.

I have compared the Lin translation which was for accuracy to the translation by Jonathan Star who wanted to make the verse more understandable.  The essence of both versions is the same.

I am presenting below the Derick Lin and Jonathan Star translations side by side for us to compare them. I hope that you will find this comparison gives you understanding of the chapter.

Two Translations

I would also like to know which version you like the best so please leave a comment to let me know which version give you greater understanding.

Derik Lin                                                            Jonathan Star

“Seeing details is called clarity.                   “Seeing your own smallness is called insight
Holding on to the soft is called strength.      Honoring your own tenderness is called strength

Utilize the light.                                            The sun in all its glory reveals a passing world
Return to the clarity.                                    Only the inner light illuminates eternity
.                                                                   Only that light can guide us back home

Leaving no disasters for the self.                  Have faith Follow your own shining
This is called practicing.”                              Be aware of your own awareness                         . .                                                                     On the darkest nights you will not stumble
.                                                                    On the brightest days you will not blink
.                                                                     This is called “The Practice of Eternal Light”

To summarize to hold the mother and: cultivate the internal Tao by being mindful of all the small details for the sake of clarity, utilize your strengths to caress the small like a soft cloud .shine your light and brilliance on the confused and unclear so it will become clear as a mountain stream, and therefore you will have no disasters.

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