Most of the translations are similar in the first few lines:
The five colors blind the eye
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavors dull the taste. (Gia-Fu Feng)
Some versions, though, have a very different order to the lines:
The five colors cause one's eyes to go blind
Racing horses and hunting cause one's mind to go mad.
Goods that are hard to obtain pose an obstacle to one's travels.
The five flavors confuse one's palate.
The five tones cause one's ears to go deaf.
Therefore, in the government of the Sage:
He's for the belly and not for the eyes
Thus he rejects that and takes this.
There are also different approaches to the ending:
Therefore, Evolved Individuals
Regard the center and not the eye.
Hence they discard one and receive the other.
A much shorter way of saying this is in the Penguin Classics version:
Hence the sage is
For the belly
Not for the eye.
Therefore he discards the one and takes the other.
A very nice version, I think, is in the Brian Walker work:
Relinquish what is without.
Cultivate what is within.
Live for your center, not your senses.
What this stanza seems to talking about is controlling one's own desires. We see things we desire; we hear things we want to hear; we become so centered on our sensual satisfactions that we lose the path of Tao.
The best thing to do is not to concentrate on our senses and our desires. Instead, we should “cultivate what is within,” developing our own inner personal strengths. We discard the path of physical gratification and instead take the path of spiritual development.
To clear up my own comments, note that I use the term “spiritual” and not “religious.” To me, the term religion is too closely tied in to established ways of thought that dwell on issues of personal control, wealth, and power. Spirituality refers, instead, to developing our own spiritual path and not blindly accepting what someone else says we should follow.
Back to start of Spirituality section
My Index Page