The first time I picked up LaoZi’s DaoDeJing 道德經, I could not truly understand one single sentence. I found this interesting, as I already had a solid foundation in classical Chinese literature. The very first sentence, 道 可 道 非 常 道 DaoKeDaoFeiChangDao, which literally translates as “The Dao that can be the Dao is not the constant Dao” initially felt like a maze to me. I used my knowledge of classical Chinese to interpret the meaning as “The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao.” Still, I felt slightly puzzled.
After some years of a dedicated inner cultivation practice, I picked up the book again and I found that could understand it a little bit more than before. When reading the first sentence again, I decoded a different interpretation: “The Dao, discussed in any language, loses its original meaning.” In other words, we cannot truly understand the Dao simply through words alone. The way to access the Dao is through direct bodily experience. In order to gain experiential knowledge, you must be seriously committed to your inner cultivation practice…