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Tao Te Ching: "Doorway of the Mysterious Female ... is there within us all the while"

"The reader will notice in the many passages where Lao-tzu describes the Master, I have used the pronoun 'she' at least as often as 'he.' The Chinese language doesn't make this kind of distinction; in English we have to choose. But since we are all, potentially, the Master (since the Master is, essentially, us) I felt it would be untrue to present a male archetype, as other versions have, ironically, done. Ironically, because of all the great world religions the teaching of Lao-tzu is by far the most female."- Stephen Mitchell


The Feminine Tao
Introduction

The "Tao Te Ching" (pronounced Dao De Jing), literally, "The Book of the Way and its Virtue," is one of the major source texts in Chinese Taoism. It was probably compiled in the 6th-5th c. B.C.E., as a collection of teachings, for the most part passed down from a much older, oral tradition. The name of its faithfully nameless author, Lao-tzu (pronounced "Laozi"), means simply "old master." According to Ellen M. Chen's translation, "of all the ancient classics still extant, the Tao Te Ching alone draws its inspiration from the female principle." Its profound inclusion of the feminine divine is in fact essential to its core teaching. As Karyn Lai points out in an introduction to the TTC's environmental philosophy: its basic tenor "Is that a more complete life for all forms of existence can be achieved only through a full appreciation of the connectedness of all beings."

This spirit of diversity as a wellspring of spirituality, may be aided and abetted, in any study of the Tao Te Ching, by utilizing as many different translations as is comfortable. Allowing these translations to inform each other is a good way to catch on to the various spiritual implications and unworded images, suggested but not spelled out in the ancient Chinese text.

In her essay, "Daode Jing in Practice," Eva Wong comments: "In the Daoist tradition, study and practice are inseparable: to study is to practice and to practice is to study. Understanding a text can help us practice its teachings; practicing its teachings can help us understand its meanings."

The Feminine Tao
www.earlywomenmasters.net/tao/index.html


Lao Tzi
The Tao of Laozi (Lao Tzi)
Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 43 No. 1, Winter 2003

'Tao' is a Chinese word meaning 'way', 'way of Heaven', 'Path' or 'road' or 'method'. It indicates a line or principle of conduct. There is no proper English term for 'Tao'. It means the 'Eternal Being'.

The Founder of Taoism was Lao-Tze. Lao-Tze was born in 604 B.C. in the village of Chu-Jhren, in Li country, belonging to the Ku province of the State Chu. He was born under the plum tree (in Chinese 'Li'). He adopted it as his surname. The hair of the head was white when he was born. Hence he was called Lao-Tze (old boy) or philosopher, one who is child-like even when old.

He was popularly called Lao-Tze. His name was Er (ear). He was called Tan after his death. 'Tan' means 'long lobe'. He had peculiar long ears. His appellation was 'Po Yang' or"count of positive principle." He was a keeper or recorder of the secret Archives in the Royal court of Chore. He was a State Historian.

Lao-Tze says: Tao is one. It was in the beginning. It will remain for ever. It is impersonal, eternal, immutable, omnipresent, bodiless, immaterial. It cannot be perceived by the senses. It is nameless. It is indescribable.

It is the first cause from which all substances take their origin and all phenomena flow. The great Tao is all-pervading. All things depend on it for life. It is The Mother of all phenomena, of heaven and earth. It existed before the Personal God. It is the father of God. It is the producer of God. It is the originator of heaven and earth. It is The Mother of all things.

You will find that there is an aroma of Indian Vedantic philosophy in the teachings of Lao-Tze.

Tao is everywhere. It is in the ant. It is in the grass. It is in the earthen-ware vessel. It is in excrement. It is in the highest place but is not high. It is in the, lowest place, but is not low. It is in ancient times, but itself is not ancient. It is in old age but itself is not old. It is everywhere, but appears to be nowhere.

Tao is the sanctuary where all things find refuge. It is the good man's priceless treasure. It is the guardian and saviour of him who is not good. (Sri Swami Sivananda)

Laozi believed that females are The Mothers of all things and all human beings. In accordance with Dao, which generates everything, females are those that produce all things. Without females or mothers, there is nothing else in the world.

The mystery of the valley is immortal;
It is known as the Subtle Female.
The gateway of the Subtle Female
Is the source of the Heaven and Earth.
(Chapter 6)

In another chapter, Laozi observed:

The beginning of the world
May be regarded as The Mother of the world.
To apprehend The Mother,
Know the offspring.
To know the offspring
Is to remain close to The Mother,
And free from harm throughout life.
(Chapter 52)

As per Daoist humanism, females, instead of males, are usually highly regarded in his writing:

Know the male
Hold to the female;
Become the world's stream.
By being the world's stream
The Permanent De (or humanism) will never leave.
This is returning to Infancy.
(Chapter 28)

From this perspective, it is easy to see that femininity and mothering were highly valued by Laozi. Simply speaking, nothing in the world is as important as women and mothers. If many philosophical and religious ideas tend to maintain male superiority or dominance, directly or indirectly (e.g., Confucianism; Hinduism; Christianity, including Mormonism; Islam; Chauvinism; or Freudianism), Daoism differs because females play a more important role in humanism than males. This point may not have been well understood in modern feminist research (see Laughlin & Wong, 1999). Perhaps philosophically or religiously, Laozi could be seen as one of the first proponents of feminism in human history.

Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 43 No. 1,
Winter 2003 64-85


"The reader will notice in the many passages where Lao-tzu describes the Master, I have used the pronoun 'she' at least as often as 'he.' The Chinese language doesn't make this kind of distinction; in English we have to choose. But since we are all, potentially, the Master (since the Master is, essentially, us) I felt it would be untrue to present a male archetype, as other versions have, ironically, done. Ironically, because of all the great world religions the teaching of Lao-tzu is by far the most female."

From the introduction to the translation
by Stephen Mitchell




Tao Valley Spirit
Gu Shen Bu Si,
Shi Wei Xuan Pin.
Xuan Pin Zhi Men,
Shi Wei Tian Di Gen.
Mian Mian Ruo Cun,
Yong Zhi Bu Qin.


"The Valley Spirit never dies.
It is named the Mysterious Female.
And the Doorway of the Mysterious Female
is the base from which Heaven and Earth sprang.
It is there within us all the while;
Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry."

Tao Te Ching 6
(World Scripture, International Religious Foundation, Paragon House Publishing, 1995 p. 95.)


The Spirit in the Void never dies.
It is called The Mother-Deep.
The opening of The Mother-Deep is called the Root of Heaven and Earth. (*)
Ceaselessly, ceaselessly,
It nourishes and preserves:
Inexhaustible, without effort.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Shrine of Wisdom (1924)

(*) SHRINE OF WISDOM says:
"The Mother is Tao 'conceived as having a name,' therefore She is the Root of Yang and Yin. Between the highest Heaven and the nethermost Earth is the fathomless Void where the forms of existence emerge from the opening of The Mother-Deep."


"The Valley Spirit never dies
It is named the Mysterious Female.
And the doorway of the Mysterious Female
Is the base from which Heaven and Earth sprang.
It is there within us all the while.
Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry."

Tao Te Ching, Chapter VI,
Translated by Arthur Waley


The valley spirit never dies.
It is the unknown first mother,
whose gate is the root
from which grew heaven and earth.
It is dimly seen, yet always present.
Draw from it all you wish;
it will never run dry.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Tolbert McCarroll


The spirit of the valley never dies;
This is called the dark female.
The entry into the dark female
Is called the root of heaven and earth.
Tenuous, it seems as if it were there,
Yet use will never exhaust it.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translation by D. C. Lau & Sarah Allan (Ma Wang Tui Manuscripts)


The Spirit of the Valley dies not,
it is called Mother-substance of the Deep.
The Door of Mother-substance of the Deep
is called the Root of Heaven and Earth.
Continuously, continuously,
It nourishes and preserves.
Use it,
Thy strength shall not fail.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translation by Isabella Mears (1922)


"The valley spirit never dies
Call it the mystery, the woman.
The mystery,
the Door of the Woman,
is the root
of earth and heaven.
Forever this endures, forever.
And all its uses are easy."

Chapter 6, Tao Te Ching
Translated by Ursula K. Le Guin


"The Tao is called the Great Mother
empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite worlds.
It is always present within you.
You can use it any way you want."

Translated by Stephen Mitchell, Chapter 6


"The life-force of the valley never dies—
This is called the dark female.
The gateway of the dark female—
This is called the root of the world.
Wispy and delicate, it only seems to be there,
Yet its productivity is bottomless."

Dao De Jing, #6,
Translated by Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall


"The spirit of emptiness is immortal.
It is called the Great Mother
because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.
It is like a vapor,
barely seen but always present.
Use it effortlessly."

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 6,
Translated by J. H. McDonald


The valley spirit never dies
Call it the mystery, the woman.
The mystery,
the Door of the Woman,
is the root
of earth and heaven.
Forever this endures, forever.
And all its uses are easy.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Ursula K. Le Guin


The valley spirit never dies;
It is the woman, primal mother.
Her gateway is the root of heaven and Earth.
It is like a veil barely seen.
Use it; it will never fail.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English


The spirit of the valley never dies.
It is called the mystical female.
The door of the mystical female is the root of heaven and earth.
It seems to be continuously within us.
Use it, and it will never fail.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Beck


The valley spirit is not dead;
They say it is the mystic female.
Her gateway is, they further say,
The base of heaven and earth.
Constantly, and so forever,
Use her without labour.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Blackney


The breath of life moves through a deathless valley
Of mysterious motherhood
Which conceives and bears the universal seed,
The seeming of a world never to end,
Breath for men to draw from as they will:
And the more they take of it, the more remains.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Bynner


The spirit of emptiness is immortal.
It is called the Great Mother
because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.
It is like a vapour, barely seen but always present.
Use it effortlessly.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Byrn


The spirit of the valley never dies.
It is called the subtle and profound female.
The gate of the subtle and profound female
Is the root of Heaven and Earth.
It is continuous, and seems to be always existing.
Use it and you will never wear it out.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Chan

The valley spirit not dying
is called the mysterious female.
The opening of the mysterious female
is called the root of heaven and earth.
Continuous, on the brink of existence,
to put in into practice, don't try to force it.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Cleary


The De is the immortal energy of the Dao,
its feminine aspect.
Its operation
is of pure Joy and Love, and fails never.
Heaven and Earth issued from her Gate;
this Gate is the root of their World-Sycamore.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Crowley


The Valley energy never dies.
This is called 'fathomless female'
The channel of the fathomless female:
This is called the basis of the cosmos.
Silken! It's as if it abides.
Handle it gently.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Hansen


"The Valley Spirit is undying."
This is mysterious Femininity.
The Abode of mysterious Femininity:
This is the Root of Heaven and Earth.
It seems to endure on and on.
One who uses It never wears out.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by LaFargue

The valley spirit dies not, aye the same;
The female mystery thus do we name.
Its gate, from which at first they issued forth,
Is called the root from which grew heaven and earth.
Long and unbroken does its power remain,
Used gently, and without the touch of pain.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Legge


The valley spirit has no death
It is appropriately called the all-embracing female
The gateway of The all-embracing female
Is appropriately called the root of heavens and earth.
Continuous, soft, it looks like it exists —
It is infrequently used.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Lindauer


The Spirit of the Valley never dies.
It is called the Mystic Female.
The Door of the Mystic Female
Is the root of Heaven and Earth.
Continuously, continuously, It seems to remain.
Draw upon it And it serves you with ease.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Lin Yutan


The spirit of emptiness is eternal.
It is called"The Mysterious Woman."
Her womb is called"The Source of Heaven and Earth."
Dimly seen, yet eternally present
It is always there for you to use.
It's easy!

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Mabry


The valley spirit never dies.
It's named the mystic woman.
And the gate of the profound woman
is the root that heaven and earth sprang from.
It's there within us all the while;
draw upon it as you will, you can never wear it out.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by McDonald


The Tao is called the Great Mother:
empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds.
The Tao is called the Great Mother:
empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds.
It is always present within you.
You can use it any way you want.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Mitchell


The valley spirit never dies. It is called"The mysterious female."
The opening of the mysterious female Is called"The root of Heaven and Earth."
The valley spirit never dies. It is called"The mysterious female."
The opening of the mysterious female
Is called"The root of Heaven and Earth."
Continuous, seeming to remain. Use it without exertion.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Muller


Valley and the Spirit never die.' They form what is called the Mystic Mother,.
From whose gate comes the origin of heaven and earth.
'The Valley and the Spirit never die.' They form what is called the Mystic Mother,
From whose gate comes the origin of heaven and earth.
This (the origin) seems ever to endure.
In use it can never be exhausted.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Ta-Kao


The heart of Tao is immortal, the mysterious fertile mother of us all,
of heaven and earth,
of every thing and not-thing.
Invisible yet ever present,
you can use it forever without using it up.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Walker


The expansive transcendent power which resides in the median space, the virtue of the Principle, does not die.
It is always the same and acts the same, without diminution or cessation.
This virtue is the mysterious mother of all beings.
The doorway of this mysterious mother is the root of heaven and earth, the Principle.
Sprouting forth, she does not expend herself; acting, she does not tire herself.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Wieger


The Spirit of the Fountain dies not.
It is called the Mysterious Feminine.
The doorway of the Mysterious Feminine
Is called Root of Heaven-and-Earth.
Lingering like gossamer, it has only a hint of existence;
And yet when you draw upon it, it is inexhaustible.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Wu


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