Saturdao 22

Dao De Jing, verse 14a

16 translations.

1. James Legge:
We look at it, and we do not see it, and we name it 'the Equable.'
We listen to it, and we do not hear it, and we name it 'the Inaudible.'
We try to grasp it, and do not get hold of it, and we name it 'the Subtle.'
With these three qualities, it cannot be made the subject of description; and hence we blend them together and obtain The One.
Its upper part is not bright, and its lower part is not obscure.
Ceaseless in its action, it yet cannot be named, and then it again returns and becomes nothing.
2. Archie Bahm:
Since what is ultimate in Nature cannot be seen with one’s eyes, it is spoken of as invisible.
Since it cannot be heard with one’s ears, it is called inaudible.
Since it cannot be grasped in one’s hands, it is thought of as intangible.
But not even all three of these together can adequately describe it.
Nature did not originate in beginnings, and will not reach its goal in endings.
Rather it acts unceasingly, without either absolute beginnings or final endings.
If we cannot describe it intelligibly, this is because it is beyond our understanding.
3. Frank MacHovec:
Looked for it cannot be seen; it is invisible. Listened for it cannot be heard; it is inaudible. Reached for it cannot be touched; it is intangible. These three are beyond analysis; these three are one.
It rises, like the sun, but does not illuminate; it sets; like the sun, but does not darken. Without beginning, without end, infinite, indefinable.
4. D.C. Lau:
What cannot be seen is called evanescent;
What cannot be heard is called rarefied;
What cannot be touched is called minute.
These three cannot be fathomed
And so they are confused and looked upon as one.
Its upper part is not dazzling;
Its lower part is not obscure.
Dimly visible, it cannot be named
And returns to that which is without substance.
5. Gia-Fu Feng:
Look, it cannot be seen – it is beyond form.
Listen, it cannot be heard – it is beyond sound.
Grasp, it cannot be held – it is intangible.
These three are indefinable;
Therefore they are joined in one.
From above it is not bright;
From below it is not dark:
An unbroken thread beyond description.
It returns to nothingness.
6. Stan Rosenthal:
“Experiencing the Mystery”
The Dao is abstract, and therefore has no form,
it is neither bright in rising, nor dark in sinking,
cannot be grasped, and makes no sound.
7. Jacob Trapp:
“The Elusive, the One”
It appears to us,
Yet it is invisible;
Speaks to us,
Yet is inaudible;
Touches us,
Yet is intangible.
It is the Elusive, the One.
In endless continuity
it embraces both Being and non-Being.
8. Stephen Mitchell:
Look, and it can't be seen.
Listen, and it can't be heard.
Reach, and it can't be grasped.
Above, it isn't bright.
Below, it isn't dark.
Seamless, unnamable,
it returns to the realm of nothing.
9. Victor Mair:
We look for it but do not see it; we name it “subtle.”
We listen for it but do not hear it; we name it “rare.”
We grope for it but do not grasp it; we name it “serene.”
These three cannot be fully fathomed.
Therefore, they are bound together to make unity.
Of unity, its top is not distant, its bottom is not blurred.
Infinitely extended and unnameable,
It returns to nonentity.
10. Michael LaFargue:
“Look for It, you won’t see It: It is called ‘fleeting’.
Listen for It, you won’t hear It: It is called ‘thin’.
Grasp at It, you can’t get It: It is called ‘subtle’.”
These three lines are about something that evades scrutiny.
Yes, in it everything blends and becomes one.
Its top is not bright
Its underside is not dim.
Always unnameable, It turns back to nothingness.
11. Peter Merel:
Looked at but cannot be seen - it is beneath form;
Listened to but cannot be heard - it is beneath sound;
Held but cannot be touched - it is beneath feeling;
These depthless things evade definition,
And blend into a single mystery.
In its rising there is no light,
In its falling there is no darkness,
A continuous thread beyond description,
Lining what does not exist;
12. Ursula LeGuin:
“Celebrating Mystery”
Look at it: nothing to see.
Call it colorless.
Listen to it: nothing to hear.
Call it soundless.
Reach for it: nothing to hold.
Call it intangible.
Triply undifferentiated,
it merges into oneness,
not bright above,
nor dark below.
Never, oh! never
can it be named.
It reverts, it returns
to unbeing.
13. Wang Keping:
You look at it but can not see it;
It is called the imageless.
You listen to it but can not hear it;
It is called the soundless.
You touch it but can not find it;
It is called the formless.
These three cannot be further inquired into,
For they are the inseparable One.
The One is not bright when it is up,
And not dark when it is down.
Infinite and indistinct, it cannot be named,
Thus reverting to a state of non-thingness.
14. Ames and Hall:
Looking and yet not seeing it
We thus call it “elusive.”
Listening and yet not hearing it
We thus call it “inaudible.”
Groping and yet not getting it
We thus call it “intangible.”
Because in sight, sound, and touch it is beyond determination
We construe it as inseparably one.
As for this “one” --
Its surface is not dazzling
Nor is its underside dark.
Ever so tangled, it defies discrimination
And reverts again to indeterminacy.
15. Yasuhiko Genku Kimura:
Looked at but not seen, it is thus called the invisible,
Listened to but not heard, it is thus called the inaudible,
Reached for but not grasped, it is thus called the intangible:
These three are beyond the reach of sense and reason,
Yet in the moment of kosmic union,
They merge in spiritual awareness as the Universal One.
There is no above that is bright, nor below that is dark,
But only the infinite, forever indefinable, always reverting to nothingness.
16. Addiss and Lombardo:
Searching but not seeing, we call it dim.
Listening but not hearing, we call it faint.
Groping but not touching, we call it subtle.
These three cannot be fully grasped.
Therefore they become one.
Rising it is not bright; setting it is not dark.
It moves all things back to where there is nothing.
* * * * *
This living, this making a way, Way-making --
It is constant encounter with nothing at all.
Stare at a single spot until you can't see it anymore.
The eye moves half a degree, and there it is again.
So things appear waiting for you to see through them,
Then they appear again when the mind moves half a degree in any discriminating direction:
bright, dark, above, below, pleasant, unpleasant.
They appear again and wait to be seen through again.
See them and see through them at the same time?
(Like seeing both the duck and the rabbit simultaneously -- only more like seeing duck, rabbit, no-duck, and no-rabbit all at once)
Thus do you enchant the ordinary business of the day.
* * *
See: Saturdao Index