Lau Tzu (Old Master) lived and walked the pathways of China during the 6th century BC. Although that is not his actual name, the country folk gave him that title due to the wisdom and enlightenment displayed in his life.
Legend has it that Lau Tzu was from the village of Qu Ren, and was the keeper of the Imperial archives at the ancient Chinese capital of Louyang. He served the Zhou Dynasty court of China.
Saddened by the evil of men, Lau Tzu set off into the desert on a water buffalo leaving civilization behind. When he arrived at the final gate at the great wall protecting the kingdom, the gatekeeper persuaded him to record the principles of his philosophy for posterity. The result was the eighty-one sayings of the Tao-Te Ching (aka Dao De Jing). This ancient Chinese text is the world’s most translated classic next to the Bible.
The book consists of 81 short chapters; the first 37 for the Book of the Way (the Tao), while then next 44 form the Book of Te (virtue). It is a mixture of spirituality, a view of the universe, some philosophy and advice on governing the country, along with practical counsel on how to live day to day.
His life and writings are the basis of Taoism which has grown into one of the great religions of the world – now with over 225 million adherents.
The three Jewels of Taoism are compassion, moderation and humility.
Its philosophy and practice focuses on nature, the relationship between man/woman and the universe, health, longevity, and wu wei (action through inaction).
Lau Tzu’s vision of the absolute and proper conduct in the relative fields of life, are outlined in his book the Tao-Te Ching. Here are some excerpts:
The Tao as the absolute:
A being there is, inconceivable and complete.
It existed before heaven and earth, so silent, so formless, alone it persists.
It is unchanging; all pervading it is, without danger.
One can call it the Mother of the Universe
I know not its name, I call it Tao
So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to (the idea of) …
The Tao, considered as unchanging, has no name.
All-pervading is the Great Tao! It may be found on the left hand and on the right.
The Tao in its regular course does nothing (for the sake of doing it), and so there is nothing which it does not do.
The Tao is hidden, and has no name; but it is the Tao which is skilful at imparting (to all things what they need) and making them complete.
We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends.
We turn clay to make a vessel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.
We pierce doors and windows to make a house;
And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends.
Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not.
Simplicity without a name, free from all external aim, with no desire, at rest and still, all things go right as of their will.
On governance …
Governing a great state is like cooking small fish.
The great state only wishes to unite men together and nourish them; a small state only wishes to be received by, and to serve, the other. Each gets what it desires, but the great state must learn to abase itself.
Practical advice for daily living …
For regulating the human (in our constitution) and rendering the (proper) service to the heavenly, there is nothing like moderation.
Curb your tongue and your senses, and you are beyond trouble. Let them loose and you are beyond help.
Man, born tender and yielding, stiffens and hardens in death.
All living growth is pliant until death makes it rigid.
So those people who have hardened are kin of death.
The people who stay gentle are kin of life. . .
How can a person’s life keep its course
If you will not let it flow?
Those who flow as life flows know
They need no other effort:
They feel no wear, they feel no tear,
They need no mending, no repair.
Nature does not have to insist.
Can blow only half a morning,
Rain for only half a day.
And what are these winds and rains but natural:
If nature does not have to insist,
Why should you?
Let life open like a flower and then fall.
Force is not the way at all . . .
Those who would take over the world
And shape it to their will
Never, I notice, succeed. . .
The best general does not plunge headlong
Nor is the best soldier a fellow hot to fight.
The greatest victor wins without a battle.
On how to wage war …
A good general, daring to advance, dares also to halt. He will never press his triumph beyond need. What he must do he does but not for glory, what he must do he does but not for show, what he must do he does but not for self. He does it because it has to be done.
He who in (Tao’s) wars has skill
Assumes no martial port;
He who fights with most good will
To rage makes no resort.
He who vanquishes yet still
Keeps from his foes apart;
He whose hests men most fulfil
Yet humbly plies his art.
Thus we say, ‘He ne’er contends,
And therein is his might.’
Thus we say, ‘Men’s wills he bends,
That they with him unite.’
Thus we say, ‘Like Heaven’s his ends,
No sage of old more bright.’
Quotes from the works of Lau Tzu:
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.
At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.
Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.
Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
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.
From caring comes courage.
Great acts are made up of small deeds.
He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.
He who is contented is rich.
He who talks more is sooner exhausted.
I do not concern myself with gods and spirits either good or evil nor do I serve any.
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence.
Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.
Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses.
Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.
Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.
One can not reflect in streaming water. Only those who know internal peace can give it to others.
One who is too insistent on his own views, finds few to agree with him.
Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
The words of truth are always paradoxical.
To know yet to think that one does not know is best; Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty.
To lead people, walk beside them… As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate… When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!’
To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; Not to realize that you do not understand is a defect.
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
Lau Tzu is a shining example of humanity.
You are also unique in that the attributes that have come together to form your life personality have not been seen by the universe until now. Everyone is one-of-a-kind.
As more individuals become enlightened, the world stage will take a decidedly upward turn. Enlightenment is as a second birth in that gaining the experience of Self Realization promotes life to the cosmic level. By stepping out of the small self, into the large SELF, life opens to bliss consciousness and the ocean of joy.
Meditate every day (morning and evening) to accelerate your spiritual evolution and impact the world with your enlightened values.