Newborn and Sage Tao Te Ching Chapter 55

The Newborn And Taoist Sage
Tao Te Ching Chapter 55

We all are aware an infant child is so innocent and free of all the worries of life except for food and physical comfort. Lao Tzu compares a newborn child to being in the Tao. In this chapter he goes from the newborn child in the Tao to old thing not in the Tao.


“Those who hold an abundance of virtue
Are similar to newborn infants” (1)

A person who embraces the Tao has an abundance of virtue (being pure and innocent) like a newborn baby. The newborn accepts things as they are in the present moment. The baby or a person embracing the Tao is in the Heavenly Tao when they are in the present, one with the universe and expressing their true self. We can stay in the heavenly Tao until we open the shutters to the outside world and open our mouths

No Harm

“Poisonous insects do not sting them
Wild beasts do not claw them
Birds of prey do not attack them (1)

 Poisonous insects may sting, but people can sting with their words. People use words to claw at others to tear them down. There are those who prey on people. The newborn infant and one who embodies the Tao will not be stung, will be not be scratched by the claws of another or be preyed upon. A baby and the ones in the Tao live in harmony with others therefore there is no motive for others to sting, claw or attack the baby and the one living in the Tao.


“Their bones are weak, tendons are soft
But their grasp is firm
They do not know of sexual union but can manifest arousal” (1)

A baby or a person living in abundance of the Tao may appear to be physically weak but they have a firm grip on who they are. The grasp of a baby when holding your little finger is firm. The baby does not want to let go. The person in the Tao is firm in their beliefs and their virtue. The arousal of the baby is a sign of its vitality and energy. Those who have an abundance of Tao are filled with vitality and energy.

The Taoist scholar SU CH’E says, “Once we have a mind, we have a body. And once we have a body, we have enemies. If we did not have a mind, we would not have enemies and could not be harmed. The reason a newborn child isn’t harmed is because it has no mind.”


Due to the optimum of essence
They can cry the whole day and yet not be hoarse

Knowing harmony is said to be constancy
Knowing constancy is said to be clarity

The character for optimum also means upmost, at its height, zenith, or full. And a character for the word essence can also be life-force, vigor, or vitality. I will say that those who embrace the Tao are at the height of their life. Some translations say “ because they are in harmony with themselves”. For me their translations which makes sense because if we are in harmony with ourself then we are at the top of our vitality. It is also true that in the Tao Te Ching the ultimate goal seems to be harmony. Dennis Waller in his translation he put it this way.

“He can cry all day without becoming hoarse as he is in harmony with himself.”

The Tao Te ching teaches when we are in harmony it is like being in the Tao. We say that a person who embraces the Tao or a baby know themselves. When we know the harmony we know the eternal or constancy. When we are in that place of the eternal and know the eternal then we obtain enlightenment or clarity.

A full life – this is your blessing
A gentle heart – this is your strength
Things in harmony with the Tao remain
Things that are forced, grow for a while
but then wither away
This is not in keeping with Tao
Whatever is not in keeping with Tao comes to an early end (2)

For the last stanza of this verse I have decided to use the Jonathans Starr translation. My experience is that when I am getting along with someone in harmony then the relationship will last a long time. In romance and marriage being in harmony with our partner we will have a long relationship. However when we start forcing things we may get our way for a while but then the relationship will end.

When we act in a non-Taoist fashion like meddling in the affairs of others act like we are different or they are different apply force to create our outcome. Or any other action that not create harmony we find relationships and friendship deteriorate,

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