Lao-tzu, which means "Old Philosopher", is the name given to the founder of Taoism, a religion or philosophy in China. Lao-tzu was born with the name Li Er, in 604 BC. Though he may have been keeper of the royal archives at Loyang, few details are known of his life. Lao-tzu was ‘a hidden wise man’, reluctant to found a school and gather a following.
According to legend, Lao-tzu simply decided to leave society. He would have vanished without trace had not the customs official on the western border asked him to write a book before he retired from the world. So the sage wrote about the proper way to live in the book Tao Te Ching, the most widely translated Chinese work of all time and the classic book of Taoism. Scholars disagree whether Lao-tzu was a real person or a pen name for the writers of Tao Te Ching, which is often called "the Lao-tzu." After writing the book, he went on his western journey. No one knows where he died.
A general history of China from the first century B.C. describes Lao-tzu as an older contemporary and teacher of Confucius. Compared to Confucius, who focuses on right relations in human society, Lao-tzu takes a more mystical approach to tuning into the natural order of things as a way of achieving personal and social harmony.
Many great words of wisdom, used often in today's vernacular, have come from this ancient Chinese man and his book. Here are some highlights in quotes:
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.
Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretch her fingers to touch the heavens.
An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox.
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 content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
Because of a great love, one is courageous.
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.
Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
From caring comes courage.
From wonder into wonder existence opens.
Great acts are made up of small deeds.
He who conquers others is strong; He who conquers himself is mighty.
He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.
He who does not trust enough, Will not be trusted.
He who is contented is rich.
He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.
He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.
He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.
Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Non-being is the greatest joy.
How could man rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men?
I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.
If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence.
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.
In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.
It is better to do one's own duty, however defective it may be, than to follow the duty of another, however well one may perform it. He who does his duty as his own nature reveals it, never sins.
Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.
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.
Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses.
Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.
Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
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.
People in their handlings of affairs often fail when they are about to succeed. If one remains as careful at the end as he was at the beginning, there will be no failure.
Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.
Silence is a source of great strength.
The higher the sun ariseth, the less shadow doth he cast; even so the greater is the goodness, the less doth it covet praise; yet cannot avoid its rewards in honours.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.
The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world.
The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.
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 behind them.
To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; Not to realize that you do not understand is a defect.
To see things in the seed, that is genius.
To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.
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.
Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.
When a nation is filled with strife, then do patriots flourish.
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
When the best leader's work is done the people say, "We did it ourselves."
When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you.
Without stirring abroad, One can know the whole world; Without looking out of the window One can see the way of heaven. The further one goes The less one knows.