Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TWOsday ~ Tao Te Ching and Te-Tao Ching

On TWOsdays, I plan to share TWO things, which will most probably always be books.  But the two things could possibly be two ideas or two of anything.  Today, it's TWO books.

Te-Tao Ching: A New Translation Based on the Recently Discovered Ma-wang-tui Texts ~ by Lao Tzu, translated by Robert G. Henricks, 1989
Lao-tzu's Te-Tao Ching has been treasured for thousands of years for its poetic statement of life's most profound and elusive truths.  This new translation, based on the 1973 discovery of two copies of the manuscript more than five centuries older than any others known, corrects many defects of the later versions.  In his extensive commentary, Professor Henricks reevaluates traditional interpretations.
The Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary ~ by Ellen M. Chen, 1989
This incisive, illuminating translation of the Tao Te Ching treats these sacred writings as religious philosophy having as their central message the value of peace.  Refreshing and challenging, this is a landmark work for all those investigating Eastern religion and philosophy.
A couple of years ago, I bought myself five books for my birthday, and three of them were different translations of the Tao Te Ching.  When I needed to refer to one of the poems (chapters) of the Tao Te Ching the other day, I couldn't find a copy, even though I own 12 or 13 or 14 versions.  They must still be in boxes, not yet out on my bookshelves.  So today I bought these two (above), which are not among the translations I already have.  I'm excited to have them, and this evening I have already been reading the commentaries and notes by these translators.

Oh, some of you are wondering why I'd want ONE copy of this book, much less more than a dozen — plus two more today?  Okay, that's fair.  First, I taught religions of the world at Chattanooga State as an adjunct for about a decade.  (Adjunct means I taught one or two classes a semester while holding another job.  In other words, I wasn't a full-time professor.)  Second, I've been interested all my life in why people are drawn to life's numinous aspects.  (Synonyms of "numinous" are "spiritual, religious, divine, holy, sacred, mysterious, otherworldly, unearthly, transcendent.")  As I read or browsed through the sacred texts of various religions, I became fascinated by the thoughts of Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching.  Third, although I love Stephen Mitchell's translation, my favorite (so far) is probably Ursula K. Le Guin's take on this classic.  With these two new-to-me translations, I can continue to explore ancient Chinese thought about "the Tao" — which simply means "the Way."

(Umm, no, I can't tell you why one of these reverses Tao Te Ching and makes it Te-Tao Ching.  I'll have to read the book to find out.)