Daodejing Chapter 52: use the light

Richard Brown
2 min readAug 6, 2023

All-under-heaven has a beginning,
The mother of all-under-heaven.
Once you know the mother,
You understand her children.
Once you know her children,
You return and hold fast
To the mother,
All your life,
You will be safe from harm.
Block the openings,
Close the gate.
All your life,
Your strength will not fail you.
Unblock the openings,
Interfere in affairs,
All your life,
You will not be safe.
To see the small
Is enlightenment.
To stay gentle
Is strength.
Use the light,
Return home to enlightenment,
Stay safe from harm.
This is to practice constancy.

「天下有始,以為天下母。既得其母,以知其子,既知其子,復守其母;沒身不殆。塞其兌,閉其門,終身不勤。開其兌,濟其事,終身不救。見小曰明,守柔曰強,用其光,復歸其明;無遺身殃,是謂習常。」

This is one of the more mystical passages in the Daodejing: the only way to achieve enlightenment is to block your eyes, ears, mouth, and nose and “use the light” to look inside yourself for wisdom and enlightenment. The more you search outside for knowledge and get caught up in human affairs, the more you risk losing the safety provided by the Dao.

Note

The first two lines of the fifth stanza also appear in Chapter 56: “Block the openings. Close the gate.”

I took this image at Longhu (Dragon Tiger) Mountain, a famous Daoist site about ten miles south of Yingtan in Jiangxi Province. A great place to visit!

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Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.