Lao-Tzu (also spelled Laozi; Lao-tze) was a philosopher and poet of ancient China. He is best known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of philosophical Taoism, but he is also revered as a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions.
He believed that human life is constantly influenced by outside forces. He believed ‘simplicity’ to be the key to truth and freedom. He encouraged his followers to observe, and seek to understand the laws of nature; to develop intuition and build up personal power; to use that power to lead life with love, and without force.
Lao 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 ancient Chinese text is the world’s most translated classic next to the Bible.
Some of Lao Tzu’s famous sayings include:
“When goodness is lost, it is replaced by morality.”
“The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness.”
Only those who are not ambitious for achievements in life,
Are truly capable of appreciating life.
“The best people are like water, which benefits all things and does not compete with them. It stays in lowly places that others reject. This is why it is so similar to the Way.”
“When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad.”
“Try to change it and you will ruin it. Try to hold it and you will lose it.”
“The more that laws and regulations are given prominence, the more thieves and robbers there will be.”
”He who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know.”
”Discard conventional doctrines and be relieved from anxieties.”
”Less spoken, words speak for themselves naturally.”
”A journey of a thousand miles started with a first step.”
To attain knowledge, add things every day.
To attain wisdom, remove things every day.
”By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning.”
”He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.”
”The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.”
Ones who reach do not stand,
Ones who stride do not pace,
Ones self-seeing are not enlightened,
Ones self-possessed are not established.
Ones self-asserted are without accomplishments,
Ones self-esteemed are without respect.
Good traveling leaves no tracks;
Good speech is without reproach;
Good strategies need no plotting.
The good people are the teachers of the bad;
The bad people are resources for the good.
A time to gust; a time to gape,
A time to vigor; a time to vice,
A time to carry; a time to ride.
Accomplish and refrain glorification,
Accomplish and restrain aggression,
Accomplish and relinquish pride,
Accomplish and take no credit,
Accomplish and refuse domination.
Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.
A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is.
Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.
That about to wither, must have bloomed;
That about to falter, must have dominated;
That about to be abandoned, must have been promoted;
That about to be taken away, must have been given to.
Truthful words are not pleasant,
Pleasant words are not trustworthy;
Those who are good do not dispute,
Those who are disputatious are not good;
Those who know are not learned,
Those who are learned do not know.
The Sage does not store up things,
The more he does for people, the more he has;
The more he gives, the more he gains.
People are born gentle and fragile,
They die stiff and tough.
The myriad things, plants and trees, are born tender and crisp,
They die dried and withered.
Therefore those who are stiff and tough are followers of death,
Those who are gentle and fragile are followers of life.
Contest not and master winning,
Speak not and master oration,
Summon not and it comes naturally,
Be honest and master intrigue.
Words make legends,
Feats make heroes.
There is no greater fault than underestimating one’s opponent,
To underestimate one’s opponent is to lose one’s reservation.
Great gladiators are not violent,
Great warriors are not enraged,
Great champions remain uncontested,
Great leaders act with humility.
I have three precious things, that I hold onto and cherish.
The first is called mercy,
The second is called prudence,
The third is not daring to be on top of the world.
Lakes and oceans can be the master of all streams,
Because they are good at staying low,
Therefore they can be master of all streams.
Hence one who desires to be honoured,
Must speak humbly of one’s self;
One who desires to lead, must keep one’s self behind.
Hence the master is on top yet the people does not feel the weight.
Use intelligence to govern a nation, and be the traitor of a nation;
Not use intelligence to govern a nation, and be the blessing of a nation.
Understand these two, and set them as standards.
Act on it before it materializes,
Manage it before it becomes chaotic.
A strapping tree is grown from a tiny sprout;
A sky-scraping tower is built from a modest mound,
A far-reaching journey is begun from a small step.
Those who act upon will fail,
Those who hold on will lose.
The master acts not, therefore fails not;
Holds not on, therefore loses not.
Act without act,
Work without work,
Taste without taste.
Light minded promises draws few believers,
The more simplifications, the more complicated it will become,
Hence the master addresses the complexity.
Therefore may continually avoid complications.
The biggest mistake for a big nation is being obsessed with domination,
The critical mistake for a small nation is being obsessed with dominance.
Greatness is achieved only when the desires from both are fulfilled,
Therefore the superior best stay low.
When the governance is idly,
The people is mellow;
When the governance is vigilant.
Be righteous in governance,
Be unpredictable on the battlefield,
Be unoccupied to master the universe.
Understanding harmony is being eternal,
Understanding eternity is being enlightened,
Promoting life is being gracious,
Channelling your energies internally is being strong.
Behold one’s self to see self,
Behold one’s family to see family,
Behold one’s community to see community,
Behold one’s nation to see nationality,
Behold the universe to see the universe.
Battling between life and death:
Three of ten believe they will live,
Three of ten believe they will die,
There are also three of ten who believe that being born,
Is the beginning of the journey towards death.
Those kind, be kind to them,
Those unkind, be kind to them also.
Virtuous is being kind.
Those faithful, have faith in them,
Those unfaithful, have faith in them also.
Virtuous is having faith.
There is no greater sin than seduction,
No greater fault than discontentment,
No greater guilt than yearning.
Therefore know what is enough,
and you will always have enough.
Fame and honour, which is more associable?
Health and wealth, which is more vital?
Success and failure, which is more harmful?
Those enlightened by the Dao seem confused,
Those progressing towards the Dao seem to fall behind,
Those who discredit the Dao seem honourable,
Those Virtuous seem desolate,
Those honest seem humiliated,
Those with noble Virtue seem lacking,
Those building on Virtue seem fraudulent,
Those of principled character seem to waver,
Great squareness is without turning corners,
Great instruments are deliberately constructed,
Great vocalists seldom raise their voices,
Great icons are shapeless.
The Dao is a master of provisioning and empowerment.
A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, “We did this ourselves.
“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.”
“At the center of your being
you have the answer;
you know who you are
and you know what you want.”
“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”
The mark of a moderate man
is freedom from his own ideas.
Tolerant like the sky,
all-pervading like sunlight,
firm like a mountain,
supple like a tree in the wind,
he has no destination in view
and makes use of anything
life happens to bring his way.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.
The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others, the happier he is.
The more he gives to others, the wealthier he is.
The Tao nourishes by not forcing.
By not dominating, the Master leads.
Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.
Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.
It is better to leave a vessel unfilled, than to attempt to
carry it when it is full. If you keep feeling a point that has been
sharpened, the point cannot long preserve its sharpness.
When gold and jade fill the hall, their possessor cannot keep them
safe. When wealth and honours lead to arrogancy, this brings its evil
on itself. When the work is done, and one’s name is becoming
distinguished, to withdraw into obscurity is the way of Heaven.
Ordinary men look bright and intelligent, while I alone seem to be
benighted. They look full of discrimination, while I alone am dull
and confused. I seem to be carried about as on the sea, drifting as
if I had nowhere to rest. All men have their spheres of action, while
I alone seem dull and incapable, like a rude borderer. (Thus) I alone
am different from other men, but I value the nursing-mother (the Tao).
It’s good to be/live on the ground,
to deepen a heart,
to love people while associating with them.
to keep one’s word while talking,
to be peace while governing,
to do what one is capable of,
to act at a fit time.
Because of the non-fighting-over,
there will be no problem.
The beautiful colours make people’s eyes blind,
The appealing music makes people’s ears deaf,
The delicious flavours make people’s mouth numb,
To indulge in hunting makes people’s heart wild,
To pursue rare treasures makes people’s behavior improper.
So, as the sage attends to the inner world, not the outer world,
Throw away the latter and adopt the former.
Fractured, one asserts unity,
Crooked, one acts straight,
Depressed, one appears fulfilled,
Exhausted, one exhibit freshness,
Ignorant, one expresses intelligence,
Excessive, one becomes delusive,
Hence, the master maintains integrity,
And sets an example for the people.