THE FEMININE TAO 
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE
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Tao Te Ching (Daodejing) (Intro) : 32 Nature Mystic Chapters :
gender-inclusive translations, calligraphy, commentary, seal scripts :

01, 04, 06, 07, 08    09, 10, 11, 15, 21, 22, 23    26, 28, 29, 32, 35,
40, 43, 45, 47    48, 49, 51, 52, 56, 63, 67    70, 73, 77, 79
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Hymning the Tao Te Ching
(Literal 81 Chapter Chinese-English Study Version)
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Hyperlinked Bibliography: Women Authors on the Tao Te Ching
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Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by Ellen M. Chen (1989)

The features of the vast Te
Follows entirely from the Tao.

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT 21a
(1) All-embracing (2) Te (Virtue)
(3) the same's (4) countenance
(5) only (6) Tao (7) yes, this (8) follows [from]

Tao as a thing
is entirely elusive, evasive.
Evasive and illusive,
In it there is image. [*]
Illusive and Evasive,
In it there is thinghood.
Dark and dim
In it there is life seed.
Its life seed being very genuine
In it there is growth power.

As it is today, so it was in the days of old.
Its name goes not away.
So that we may survey the origins of
the many.      
How do I know that the origins of
the many are such?      
Because of this.[**]

---
[*] ELLEN M. CHEN says:
"In this chapter hsiang [image] stands for the bare
beginning of things that are to be. Tao as the empty
womb is no longer empty; it contains the images or
archetypal forms of all beings."

---
[**] DOGEN (13th c.) KOBUTSU-SHIN says
"Once a monk asked the National Teacher:
'What is the mind of ancient buddhas?"
The master replied:
'Walls, partitions, tiles, pebbles.'
The question means:
'this is thusness and that is thusness.'"
---


Chinese Character for Te, Virtue, Power
TE / POWER / VIRTUE
(德 = Te)
Pictograph = Steps + Directness of Heart =
"The greatest power is the gift
of following the Way alone."

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by Ursula K. Le Guin (1998)

The greatest power is the gift
of following the Way alone.

How the Way does things
is hard to grasp, elusive.
Elusive, yes, hard to grasp,
yet there are thoughts in it.
Hard to grasp, yes elusive,
yet there are things in it.
Hard to make out, yes, and obscure,
yet there is spirit in it,
veritable spirit.
There is certainty in it.
From long, long ago till now
it has kept its name.
So it saw
the beginning of everything.

How do I know
anything about the beginning?
By this. [*]

---
[*] TS'AO TAO-CH'UNG [Cao Daochong 道德經 Taoist Nun]
says: "'That' refers to external things.
'This' refers to one's inner reality."

Chinese Character for Cong, Follow
FOLLOW / OBEY
(track, in accord with (從 = Cong)
Pictograph = Follow + Step by Step
"A virtuous person comes into being
only according to the Tao."

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by Chao-Hsiu Chen (2004)

A virtuous person comes into being only according to the Tao.

Tao is something which is obscure and indistinct.
Indistinct and obscure —
yet there is an appearance.
Obscure and indistinct —
yet there is a substance.

Vague and dim —
yet there is an essence within it.
This essence is genuine.
There is truth within it.
Since ancient times until now, its name never forsaken,
it stands there to guard all the good deeds.

How do I know all the good deeds are guarded by this Tao?
I know.

---

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by Stephen Mitchell (1988)

The master keeps her mind
always at one with the Tao;
that is what gives her her radiance. [*]

The Tao is ungraspable. [**]
How can her mind be at one with it?
Because she doesn't cling to ideas.

The Tao is dark and unfathomable.
How can it make her radiant?
Because she lets it.

Since before time and space were,
the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.

---
[*] OTAGAKI RENGETSU [Buddhist nun] says:
"Bodies bent and shaky, but mountain folk always
keep their minds as polished as their sickles."
---
[**] AUDREY YOSHIKO SEO [Enso, Zen Circles] says:
"A Zen phrase seems fitting alongside an enso.
However, the inscriptions often provide concrete
imagery with which to associate the enso, and as
one Zen phrase suggests, this is unnecessary:
'True emptiness is without form, mistakenly
we create something to grasp.'"

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by John Chalmers (1868)

Virtue in its grandest aspect
is neither more nor less than following Tao.

Tao is a thing indefinite, impalpable.
Impalpable! Indefinite!
and therein are forms. [*]
Indefinite! Impalpable!
and therein are things.
Profound! Dark!
and therein is essence.
This essence is most true,
and therein is faith.

From of old until now
it has never lost its name.
It passes into all things that have beginning.
How know I the manner of the beginning
    of all things?
I know it by this. [**]

---
[*] JOHN CHALMERS (1868) comments:
"We have here something like the Platonic doctrine
of eternal ideas."
---
[**] ZEN MASTER DOGEN'S KAJO says:
"In the domain of buddha ancestors, drinking tea and eating rice is everyday activity. This having tea and rice has been transmitted over many years and is present right now. Thus the buddha ancestor's vital activity of having tea and rice comes to us."

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by J. H. McDonald (1996)

The greatest virtue you can have
comes from following only the Tao;
which takes a form that is intangible and evasive.

Even though the Tao is intangible and evasive,
we are able to know it exists.
Intangible and evasive, yet it has a manifestation.
Secluded and dark, yet there is a vitality within it.
Its vitality is very genuine.
Within it we can find order.

Since the beginning of time, the Tao has always existed.
It is beyond existing and not existing.
How do I know where creation comes from?
I look inside myself and see it. [*]

---
[Like Tao and Te] CATHERINE OF SIENA says:
[*] "The Soul is in God and God is in the Soul,
just as the fish is in the sea and the sea
is in the fish."

Chinese Character for Now, Jin
NOW / CURRENTLY (今= Jin)
Pictograph = Union + mark suggesting contact
"From ancient times until now
the signs have never ceased..."

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by Frank J. MacHovec (1962)

The Teh follows Tao.

Tao is like a dream: invisible; intangible; obscure.
It is invisible yet there is form to it. It is intangible yet there is a feel to it.
It is obscure yet there is method to it.
The method is true and so there are signs of it.

From ancient times until now
the signs have never ceased by which we can see the beginning.
How can I know the nature of the beginning? By these signs!

---

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by Livia Kohn (1993)

Forgiveness of great virtue
Flows from the Way alone.
The Tao may appear as a being.
Yet is just vague, only obscure.

Obscure it is! It is vague!
In its midst, some appearance.
Vague it is! It is obscure!
In its midst, some being.

Serene it is! It is profound!
In its midst, some essence.

True this essence, nothing but so true!
In its midst, some trust!

From the old to today
Its name never vanished,
To open the beginnings of all.

How do I know what those beginnings are?
From this alone.

---

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
James Legge (1891)

The grandest forms of active force
From Tao come, their only source.
Who can of Tao the nature tell?
Our sight it flies, our touch as well.
Eluding sight, eluding touch,
The forms of things all in it crouch;
Eluding touch, eluding sight,
There are their semblances, all right.
Profound it is, dark and obscure;
Things' essences all there endure.
Those essences the truth enfold
Of what, when seen, shall then be told.
Now it is so; 'twas so of old.

Its name — what passes not away;
So, in their beautiful array,
Things form and never know decay.

How know I that it is so with all the beauties of existing things? By this (nature of the Tao).

---

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by Isabella Mears (1916 / 1922)

The complete manifestation of things visible
      proceeds only from Life.

In its nature Life is always coming into activity,
      yet in itself it eludes our sight and touch.

Eluding sight! eluding touch!
Within it are hid the plans of created things.
Eluding touch! eluding sight!
Within it are hid all created beings.

It is profound! It is obscure!
Within it is hid pure Spirit.
It is pure Spirit, enfolding Truth!
Within it is hid an infallible witness.

From of Old until Now
Its Name remains unchanged.
Through its Doorway comes the Universe
      into existence.

How do I know that
      the Universe is coming to full perfection
      through Life?
The witness is in Life itself.

---

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translation by Walter Gorn Old (1904)

The greatest virtue is in simply following Tao,
the intangible, inscrutable.

Inscrutable, intangible, and yet containing forms.

Intangible, inscrutable, and yet containing things.

Profound and obscure, but having an essence,
a veritable essence in which is consistence.

From eternity until now its nature has remained unchanged.

It inheres in all things from their beginnings.

How do I know of the origin of things?

I know by Tao.

---

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translation by Dwight Goddard (1919)

All the innumerable forms of teh
correspond to the norm of Tao,
but the nature of the Tao's activity
is infinitely abstract and illusive.

Illusive and obscure, indeed,
but at its heart [*]
are forms and types.
Vague and illusive, indeed,
but at its heart
is all being.
Unfathomable and obscure, indeed,
but at its heart
is all spirit, and spirit is reality.
At its heart is truth.

From of old its expression is unceasing,
it has been present at all beginnings.
How do I know that its nature is thus?
By this same Tao.

---
[*] Commentary by HENRI BOREL:
So much has been said about human life; and
scholars have created such an endless labyrinth
of theories! And yet in its inmost kernel it is as
plain as Nature. All things are equal in simplicity,
and nothing is really in confusion, however much
it may seem as though it were so. Everything
moves surely and inevitably as the sea.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by Kari Hohne (2009)

In every movement
one of great virtue follows Tao and Tao alone.

Tao is elusive and intangible.

Intangible and elusive, yet within it is an image.
Elusive and intangible, yet within it is a form.
Deep and obscure, yet within it is an essence.
The essence is very real, and therein,
      is something that can be tested.

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT 21fg
(1) its (2) essence (3) exceedingly (4) genuine
(5) its (6) midst (7) is / has (8) trustworthiness

From the ancient times till now
its manifestations have never ceased.

It is that by which we may see the beginning
      of all things.
How do I know what is at the beginnings
      of all things?

Because of this.

---

Chinese Character for Absent-Minded - Hu
ABSENT-MINDED / VAGUE (惚 = Hu)
Pictograph = Heart/Mind Neglecting
"Tao in itself is vague, impalpable."

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by Lionel Giles (1905)

The mightiest manifestations of active force
flow solely from Tao.

Tao in itself is vague, impalpable, —
how impalpable, how vague!
Yet within it there is Form.
How vague, how impalpable!
Yet within it there is Substance.
How profound, how obscure!
Yet within it there is a Vital Principle.


(1) Tao (2) the same (3) acts as (4) something
(5) uniquely (6) sudden insight (7) uniquely (8) absent-minded

(9) absent-minded (10) indeed (11) sudden insight (12) indeed
(13) at the (14) center (15) there are (16) images

(17) sudden insight (18) indeed (19) absent-minded (20) indeed
(21) at the (22) center (23) there are (24) forms

(25) deeply profound (26) indeed (27) obscure (28) indeed
(29) at the (30) center (31) there is (32) exquisite essence

 

This principle is the Quintessence of Reality,
and out of it comes Truth.

From of old until now, its name has never passed away.
It watches over the beginning of all things.
How do I know this about the beginning of things?
Through Tao.

---

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by P. J. Maclagan (1898-99)

The manifestation of vast virtue (Teh)
Flows only from Tao.
Tao in itself,
Is vague and chaotic.
Chaotic it is and vague, within it are shapes:
Vague it is and chaotic, within it are things:
Profound it is and dark, within it is essence:
This essence is absolutely genuine, within it is truth —
From ancient times till now, its name has never ceased.
It presides over all beginnings.
How do I know that all beginnings are so?
By this.

---

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by C. Spurgeon Medhurst (1905)

The comprehensiveness of supreme energy is its conformity to the Tao.

The Tao considered as an entity is impalpable, indefinite.
Indefinite, impalpable, within are conceptions.
Impalpable, indefinite, within are shapes.
Profound, obscure, within there is essence.
This essence being supremely real, within is sincerity.

From the beginning until now it has not changed,
and thus it has watched all the essentials.
How do I know it has been thus with all principles?
By what has just been said.

---

Daodejing / Tao Te Ching / Chapter Twenty-One in Seal Script
(Zhuanshu 篆文, with Wang Pi / Wang Bi Version)
Seal script for Daodejing / Tao Te Ching Chapter 21
Chapter 21 Seal Script & Interlinear English
TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT 21a
(1) All-embracing (2) Te (Virtue)
(3) the same's (4) countenance
(5) only (6) Tao (7) yes, this (8) follows [from]


(1) Tao (2) the same (3) acts as (4) something
(5) uniquely (6) sudden insight (7) uniquely (8) absent-minded

(9) absent-minded (10) indeed (11) sudden insight (12) indeed
(13) at the (14) center (15) there are (16) images

(17) sudden insight (18) indeed (19) absent-minded (20) indeed
(21) at the (22) center (23) there are (24) forms

(25) deeply profound (26) indeed (27) obscure (28) indeed
(29) at the (30) center (31) there is (32) exquisite essence

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT 21fg
(1) its (2) essence (3) exceedingly (4) genuine
(5) its (6) midst (7) is / has (8) trustworthiness

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT 21hijk
(1) from (2) of old (3) until (4) now
(5) its (6) name (7) never (8) changed
(9) therefore (10) we examine (11) all things (12) in the present
(13) ourselves (14) how (15) thus (16) do we know (17) all things (18)
read (19) the same (20) like so (21) at all
(22) thusly (23) by this / what is

 
Tao Te Ching: Chapter 21
translated by Richard Gotshalk

The manifestations of her great power follow from Way alone.
Way is a thing utterly unapparent, utterly unsubstantial.
Utterly unsubstantial, utterly unapparent, yet at her heart are appearances;
utterly unapparent, utterly unsubstantial, yet at her heart are substantial things.

An abyss she is and dark, yet at her heart are vital forces;
dark she is, an abyss, yet at her heart are reliable powers.

From of old till now, the vital forces of these (apparent and substantial beings)
have been genuine in the extreme; and that destiny of theirs has never departed
whereby they are to accord with the source-that-supports-all.

---

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