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Tao Te Ching/Darkness within Darkness

Meditation and Reading taken from Tao Te Ching: A New Translation, by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English

All other text is by Cynthia Stewart

For a historical introduction to this sacred text, see Leader Resource 1: Historical background -
Today's Themes

The Tao is a paradox wrapped in a mystery that unfolds only to the one who puts aside the need to see it unfold.  The Tao, the original way of harmony throughout the cosmos, gave rise to the myriad things that exist (the ten thousand things) – the initial unity gave birth to the multiplicity and still underlies it.

We are called in today’s meditation to recognize that our words cannot hold the mystery, any more than our desires can ever bring us to peace and harmony. It is in letting go of our words and desires and all the other ways we force things into categories that we enter into harmony.

The reading takes us more deeply into this theme, telling us that life and death are part of the harmony of existence, and that to fight either is useless. Rather, we should contemplate the movement of the Tao in stillness, allowing it to carry us to profound acceptance of the ebb and flow of life and death.

Call To Worship

Rush and hurry, stop at these doors.
Peace and stillness, enter in.
Care and concern drive away harmony.
Acceptance and tranquility take us to the Source.

We gather in diversity to find our unity,
In words to find our silence,
In movement to find our rest.
We gather, and the gathering is good.


The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.

            Tao, Chapter 1
            (Feng and English translation)


Empty yourself of everything.
Let the mind rest at peace.
The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish and then return to the source.
Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.
The way of nature is unchanging.
Knowing constancy is insight.
Not knowing constancy leads to disaster.
Knowing constancy, the mind is open.
With an open mind, you will be openhearted.
Being openhearted, you will act royally.
Being royal, you will attain the divine.
Being divine, you will be at one with the Tao.
Being at one with the Tao is eternal.
And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away.

            Tao, Chapter 16
            (Feng and English translation)


Go out in the midst of the ten thousand things, but remember the unity that is their source, and yours. May tranquility guide your steps until they return to this place.