Lao tzu and the Tao te Ching
The "Tao te Ching" - also called "The Tao," "The Dao," or the "Dao De Jing" was purportedly written by "Lao tzu" and is one of the most influential books in history. It's the source of many famous Chinese sayings such as:
- Those who know, do not speak; those who speak, do not know.
- Even a 1,000 mile journey starts with a single step.
Lao tzu, wrote the most translated work in all the literature of China, the "Tao-te Ching." The book is the earliest document in the history of Taoism ("the Way"), one of the major philosophical-religious traditions that, along with Confucianism, has shaped Chinese life and thought for more than 2,000 years. It is a viewpoint that emphasizes individuality, freedom, simplicity, mysticism and naturalness.
Lao tzu was disturbed with the growing crime and corruption in society, especially among the wealthy and in government, and so he headed out to the western border of his state looking for a place to live a simpler life. One that was closer to nature and without any problems. But before Lao tzu was allowed to leave the officials made him write down his philosophy. You see, Lao tzu was the keeper of the state capitals library, considered the wisest and most knowledgeable man in the land; he was a state asset.
"Live a simpler life, free yourselves, maintain your freedom, do the right thing, and live closer to nature. Doing these things would be wise, for there is an order to the universe (A Tao), and to fight this order leads only to disaster." These words have been kept in a book called the "Tao te Ching" the "Classic of the Way of Power," "Classic of the Way and Virtue" "Book of Virtues," "The Way of Life" or "The Way."
Lao tzu left and with him he carried his ideas, and the true meaning of what he had written.
Some say he never existed, some say he lived hundreds of years but the truth is probably simpler. Most likely Lao tzu being unappreciated, unknown and unprotected, while still on the road to his paradise, was soon robed for his goods, only to die shortly thereafter. And so began man's inevitable misunderstanding of Lao tzu and of what he was talking about.
A Confucius story about Lao tzu as an example:
A young Confucius had nervously walked up to the great scholar Lao tzu, the keeper
of the library in the capital city. The scholar Lao-tzu was the most respected thinker of his
day. Confucius spoke to Lao tzu about his duty to make the lives of the people better. Lao
tzu answered, "Just like mosquitoes will keep you awake all night, this talk about duty
to your fellow man drives me crazy. Don't worry about it! Just try to keep your world as simple
as possible. Remember — just like the wind blows whenever and wherever it wants to, good
times will come sometime, somewhere, so be natural — flow
with the wind."
What did Confucius have to say about Tao?
- "I know why the Tao is not practiced. The intelligent go beyond it and the dull do not reach it. I know why the Tao is not manifested. The 'good' go beyond it and the unworthy do not reach it. There is no one who does not eat or drink, but there are few who really have taste."
- "The human being manifests the Tao. The Tao doesn't manifest the human being."
Confucius also said:
- "I haven't ever refused to teach anyone who made at least token payment."
The Master Confucius
Remember that Lao tzu left because of growing crime and corruption. His philosophy is not meant to encourage acceptance of bad things being done to others or oneself. Nor to be simple minded. He emphasized that one should not victimize or exploit others, and while he spoke of the perfect man, it should be noted that he knew people are not perfect and that one should evaluate and respond according to the circumstances.
Lao tzu was a pragmatic (realistic) man who was attempting an escape from an unwholesome
and dangerous environment. He was seeking a peaceful refuge where he could live out the rest
of his lifetime. Be mindful that it was the authorities and not a guard at the gate that
insisted he write out his philosophy before he was allowed to leave. Much of the Tao te Ching
is his personal advice to the rich and the power-elite of that time. He was trying to talk
some sense into them.
Lao tzu had been troubled by the violence and corruption of his times. He thought that it was a mistake to try to change people. He believed that people were naturally good, that man did not need to be controlled, but needed to learn self control. That they needed the freedom to make mistakes, seek wisdom and find themselves.
Lao tzu believed that too much control was spoiling man. He saw that men were trying to live by man-made laws, customs and traditions. They couldn't do this, it did not work and people were becoming confused, neurotic and self destructive. He believed that if men followed the Way of Tao, if men would just get real, then they could lead good and prosperous lives.
Lao tzu wanted man to be closer to nature. He wanted them to get away from the rules made by governments, money power and religions. He knew that these institutions were selfish, corrupt and power hungry. He taught that people should live simpler and peaceful lives in freedom.
They would find that their plain food is really quite good, and that their simple clothes were more than fancy enough. If they would have their war horses become plow horses then their homes would become happy places. Life would neither be too good nor too bad which is what living an all-good life is really all about. Life is not about empowering the rich, government, or religion. It's about people living balanced lives in harmony with the universe.
Tao te Ching, Chapter 42:1
The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things. All things leave behind them the Obscurity (out of which they have come), and go forward to embrace the Brightness (into which they have emerged), while they are harmonized by the Breath of Vacancy.
"I embrace both Confucianism and Taoism."
I would ask you this. How much information processing capability does it require before something becomes conscious and aware of itself?
The very idea that phenomena just manifests without a guiding intelligence making it happen is just foolishness. That is the equivalent of believing that the Apollo Moon Landings where done by witches riding brooms and the calculations used to accomplish this were made using runes.
You speak of magic and manifestations that would require information gathering capabilities on a massive scale. You speak of manifesting something into reality that would require an unlimited information handling capability coupled with the capability to manipulate reality on an unlimited scale. When one speaks of magic and miracles one must know that nothing could ever happen without this guiding intelligence, who uses cause and effect, as the foundation of reality.
Those things called miracles and magic, happen just as any thinking man would hypothesize they happen. Everything is manifested by someone paying attention to every detail, right down to the positioning of every subatomic particle and that is for each increment of time. Reality is a manifestation of Infinite Intelligence, and this intellect is the only thing that's real.
This intelligence has a personality that is more than a little devious. Nothing is impossible to this consciousness. This being has placed tolerance limits that we must function within, and one should be ever mindful of this. People who forget this will often find their way into the most unpleasant of outcomes. These outcomes will, of course, be just perfect for them; flawless and without error. In these cases, the old adage about being careful what you wish for is about the best advice that you could ever possibly receive. Lao tzu referred to this undefeatable guiding force as the Tao.
"The Tao is not what He is, the Tao is what 'He' does." - Marcus, October 11, 2006
Marcus E. Lee
Go to: Tao te Ching Index