Anything written about the TAO must be in the form of an apology, since to claim to introduce the TAO is to contradict Taoist teachings as expressed in the first line of the first poem:

The TAO that can be spoken of is not the TAO itself.....

poem 56:
One who is aware does not talk
One who talks is not aware.

poem 41:
Understand TAO as if you do not understand it
Enter into TAO as if you were leaving it.

poem 48:
To learn, one accumulates day by day,
To study TAO, one reduces day by day.

This reduction refers to abandoning the intellectualization about the differences between good and evil, mind and body until one is free from all intellectualism and ones inner self identifies with the higher reality (TAO). This inner experience is a mystic experience and is nameless and formless and can only be expressed in poetic images. Even worse than attempting to introduce TAO, I have attempted to improve on an excellent translation of the TAO TE CHING by Chang Chung-Yuan by using other translations of the TAO TE CHING.

I can offer no justification for any of this presumption other than the alterations are of my own personal preference and choice. I am neither a sinologist nor a Chinese scholar nor do I have any academic training in philosophy or literature, Chinese or Western. Like others I have been moved by the wisdom contained in the writings left by Lao Tsu (or someone else with the same name) about 2,500 years ago. His teachings are contained in the form of eighty-one poems. It is through this poetry that one can understand the TAO, and not by an intellectual conquest no matter how heroic. It is with poetry in mind that I have made some alterations to the translation by Chang Chung-Yuan. Also some of the wording has been simplified or changed in keeping with modern English usage. My hope is that the poetry and wisdom of the TAO TE CHING remains unchanged.

Note: Chang Chung-Yuan was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He died in 1988, aged 84.

Aside: This was originally compiled in 1986 while I was residing at Purakanui, a collection of seaside batches, 15 km from Dunedin, NZ.  

James Kalmakoff