Lao Zi and His Wisdom

Laozi and his wisdom

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Lao Zi, 6th century BC – China

Lao Tzu (The Old Master), also know as Lao Tse, Lao Tsu or Lao Zi, is a personality clouded by doubt and historical uncertainty, as far as facts about his life are concerned. Historians and scholars have been trying for centuries to create an accurate biography for Lao Tzu without much success, as two or three historical figures seem to identify with him.

He lived in the capital city and served as the keeper of the archives at the royal court. A man of great wisdom, he attracted many people, who gathered around him and considered him their teacher. But as he observed the moral decay of the city and the kingdom, he felt out of place and resolved to leave.

He journeyed westward, planning to cross the country’s far western border and there, in the frontier, in solitude, live out the rest of his life.

But when he reached the kingdom’s western gate, the guard recognized him. He entreated the wise man to set down a record of his teaching before departing the country for good.

Thus, according to legend, was born the Tao Te Ching (or Dao De Jing). The wise man of China was Laozi.

Lao Tzu only wrote one book, the famous Tao Te Ching on which Taoism was based. Tao means "The Way", Te means "Virtue" and Ching means "classic scripture". The book is a short, poetic text of 5000 Chinese characters, divided into 81 chapters, but has been a great source of inspiration for poets, artists philosophers and theologians all over the world through its numerous translations into most of the Western languages.

In the first part of the book the Tao Ching, the Tao is presented like Whatever Existed before time and space and the Nameless Creator of everything. Tao is the Source of Chi, the essential energy that keeps the creation in motion. Tao could be the "Word" as it is described in the beginning of the Gospel by John, which was the creator of everything.

In the second part the values are described as "feminine" or Yin, with properties of a quiet and passive nature and "male" or Yang with properties of energy and action. The symbol of Yin and Yang is very well known in the West as the omnipresent duality that exists in every aspect of life on Earth.

On the whole, the Tao is a quiet power and man should attune to its harmony. Tao Te Ching teaches man to live a life free from violence and all forms of aggression. People are also taught to adopt special eating habits and practise special breathing exercises so that they could maintain peace of mind and harmony with the Tao.

Out of this great work emerged the great philosophical and religious tradition known as Taoism (or Daoism), which have been such a powerful force in Eastern Asia for more than two millennia, and which have exerted their influence in the West for that last two centuries.

We know very little about Laozi. Some scholars question whether a man of that name existed at all (Laozi means old master or old masters). Some believe the works attributed to him were written by a collection of people over time. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the wisdom, and whoever wrote the Tao Te Ching possessed great wisdom indeed.

It’s hard to imagine what life was like in China in the 6th century BC, 2,600 years ago, when Laozi and his disciples lived. But the teachings could not be more relevant today. Laozi offers practical guidance as well as counsel for political rulers.

What is Laozi’s central teaching? Chinese Painting of mountains

The most important thing people can do in life, Laozi asserts in the Tao Te Ching and other works attributed to him, is to gain a state of silent awareness — to open the mind to its source:

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Some of the great quotes by Lao Zi

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. Lao Tzu

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

Silence is a source of great strength.

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.

When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you.

In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don't try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.

I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures

Treat those who are good with goodness, and also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained. Be honest to those who are honest, and be also honest to those who are not honest. Thus honesty is attained.

Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline; simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength.

If you keep feeling a point that has been sharpened, the point cannot long preserve its sharpness.

He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.

The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.

Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses.

Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

Laozi calls on us to “become totally empty,” to “quiet the restlessness of the mind.” Then we experience the “emptiness” that forms source and goal of all things. This “brings enlightenment” and “reveals the secrets of eternity.” Grounded in this experience, one attains a “vision of oneness,” leads a life of “universal love,” and achieves immortality. In contrast, “to miss this process brings disaster.” To this transcendental field of life Laozi gives the name Tao, or Dao. Dao is usually translated as the Way, or the Path. The term is often understood to mean “nature.” Clearly it refers to a very deep level of nature, because, as Laozi says, when you gain the Tao, you gain “all eternity.”

In all versions, Laozi now resides in the highest levels of the Daoist Pantheon. He is one of the “San Qing”- Three Pure Ones and continues to exert his influence on all beings to this day. The many altars and places of worship of “Tai Shang Lao Jun” (his respected immortal name) around China visually demonstrate how important the Dao De Jing is even after 2500 years. And, the legends regarding his teachings continue to evolve.

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