The Tao is like a well:

Used but never used up.

It is like the eternal void:

Filled with infinite possibilities.

Within it, the sharp edges become smooth;

The twisted knots loosen;

The sun is softened by a cloud;

The dust settles into place.

It is hidden but always present.

I don’t know who gave birth to it

Its older than God.


In the first four Lao-tzu compares the Tao to a well of water. In Taoism water is an important teaching comparison on how to live. He describes what the Tao can offer us, by saying it can be used, but never used up. Just like water the Tao can not be constrained, it is the life-giving energy of all life. The Tao will give to you always, regardless if you believe in it or not. Unlike other religions it does not judge you on the basis of if you believe or not. It has no jealousy, no punishment it just is.

The next four lines reassure you the Tao will always take care of you, everything you need now is already here. What you need in the future will be given to you. It works with you and for you, it flows through you as you flow through it. When you have it in your thoughts, it changes your feelings, and finally your actions.

Life is a short existence considering the trillion of years which came before you, and will continue for countless years after you pass. The problems you are experiencing today will mean nothing 4o years from now, and will be forgotten 500 years from today. Looking at life in this way can guide you through the difficult times. Think and feel the Tao, and trust with its assistance sharp edges smooth out, the knots loosing, and with time the dust settles.

The final three verses, re-asures us even if we can’t see the Tao it is always present. Although the Tao is the origin of all things; Lao-tzu contemplates the idea that it had to come from somewhere. He realizes such knowledge is unknowable. I feel many people will have a problem with the last line. The statement that the Tao is older than God, is hard to swallow for the many who believe in monotheism.

Wisdom is knowing I am nothing,

love is knowing I am everything

And between the two my life moves

Nisargatta Moharaj


  1. Interesting post. I found it by doing one of my frequent searches for blogs discussing Taoism.

    The only part of your analysis that I would quibble with a tad is describing Tao as an “it”. The word “it” might well cause the casual reader to envision a thing, an entity.

    I think that most Taoists would say that the Way is a process, the indescribable current that flows throughout existence that makes life possible.

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