A Poem From the Tao Te Ching

tao te chingThe Tao Te Ching has long been a favorite book of mine. I first got a copy of it in my early twenties and have always had a translation close. It is a book of mystic poetry which serves me well. I love reading it but don’t always get it, and often “get it” in a different way than I did previously.

When I first started teaching yoga I would read poems from it on a regular basis. For whatever reason that habit fell to the wayside for many years but it has returned of late.

The translation that I have been reading from is by Stephen Mitchell who has translated a number of the more important books of my life in a way that allowed me to understand them. The big three are the Tao Te Ching, Letters to a Young Poet, and The Bhagavad Gita. And I am planning on diving into his Iliad and Odyssey soon.

I have read the poem below in the last few classes and it is one that I am particularly fond of.


The Tao Te Ching by Lau-tzu

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Poem 27

A good traveller has no fixed plans

and is not intent upon arriving.

A good artist lets his intuition

lead him wherever it wants.

A good scientist has freed himself of concepts

and keeps his mind open to what is.


Thus the Master is available to all people

and doesn’t reject anyone.

He is ready to use all situations

and doesn’t waste anything.

This is called embodying the light.


What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?

What is a bad man but a good man’s job?

If you don’t understand this, you will get lost,

however intelligent you are.

It is the great secret.

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