Daodejing Chapter 52 breakdown: the mother of-all-under-heaven

Richard Brown
2 min readJan 28, 2024

Chapter 52 of the Daodejing calls on you to understand the relationship between the primal source, the Dao, and its manifestations, the myriad things. Only by adhering to the fundamental principles that govern the universe and natural world will you remain safe and serene.

Section 1
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.

The mother of all-under-heaven is the Dao or the origin of all things in the universe. Recognizing and understanding that the Dao is the primal source is the key to understanding the myriad things.

Once you see the full picture, returning to the fundamental principles or the original simplicity of the Dao is crucial. True wisdom and safety lie in staying close to the natural and essential state of being.

Section 2
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.

Restraining sensory distractions and desires is crucial for remaining safe from potential harm. The wider you open your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, the easier it is to become entangled with the complexities and temptations of the world. The more you get involved other people’s business, the greater the risk of getting caught up in turmoil and conflict.

Section 3
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
The constant.


Recognizing and appreciating the small, simple things in life keeps you connected to the flow of nature and the Dao. Remaining humble and true to the root or the constant enables you to maintain a state of clarity and balance that will enable you weather even the most dangerous of times.

Related Articles
Daodejing Chapter 16: knowing constancy
Daodejing Chapter 16 breakdown: returning to the root
Daodejing Chapter 52: use the light
Daodejing Chapter 56: primal union
Daodejing Chapter 56 breakdown: valued by all-under-heaven

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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.