The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tsu -- Towards Taoism -- from
London, UK - 9 September 2006, 10:17 GMT - Amongst
the Great Spiritual Masters espousing the "Path of the Saints",
the name of Lao Tsu from China, often comes up. He is as much a legend
as their Holinesses: Socrates and Pythagoras from Greece, Jesus Christ
from Jerusalem, Rumi and Hafez from Persia, and Kabir and Kirpal from
ATCA: The Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance
is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to understand and
to address complex global challenges. ATCA conducts collective Socratic
dialogue on global opportunities and threats arising from climate chaos,
radical poverty, organised crime, extremism, informatics, nanotechnology,
robotics, genetics, artificial intelligence and financial systems. Present
membership of ATCA is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished
members: including several from the House of Lords, House of Commons,
EU Parliament, US Congress & Senate, G10's Senior Government officials
and over 1,500 CEOs from financial institutions, scientific corporates
and voluntary organisations as well as over 750 Professors from academic
centres of excellence worldwide.
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Re: The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tsu -- Towards Taoism -- from China
In the Spiritual Socratic Dialogue initiated on ATCA, we are now including
the seminal thoughts of Lao Tsu. Amongst the Great Spiritual Masters espousing
the "Path of the Saints", the name of Lao Tsu from China, often
comes up. He is as much a legend as their Holinesses: Socrates and Pythagoras
from Greece, Jesus Christ from Jerusalem, Rumi and Hafez from Persia, and
Kabir and Kirpal from India.
The spiritual philosophy of Taoism really begins with Lao Tsu (or 'Old Sage')
who lived in the 6th century BC. According to legend, Lao Tsu was the keeper
of the archives at the Imperial Court. When he was eighty years old he set
out for the western border of China, towards what is now Tibet, saddened and
disillusioned that men were unwilling to follow the path to natural goodness.
At the border (Hank Pass), a guard, Yin Xi, asked Lao Tsu to record his teachings
before he left. He then composed in 5,000 characters the Tao Te Ching (The
Way and Its Power).
Per the teachings of Lao Tsu, the central vehicle of achieving tranquillity
is the Tao, a term which has been translated as 'the way' or 'the path.' Te
in this context refers to virtue and Ching refers to laws. Thus the Tao Te
Ching can also be translated as The Laws of Virtue and their Way.
The Taoist philosophy can perhaps best be summed up in a quote from Chuang
Tsu: "To regard the fundamental as the essence, to regard things as
coarse, to regard accumulation as deficiency, and to dwell quietly alone with
the spiritual and the wise -- herein lie the techniques of the Tao of the
A few of the teachings of Lao Tsu presented below are drawn from an interpolation
of the translations of: Lin Yutang, Ch'u Ta-Kao, Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English,
Richard Wilhelm and Aleister Crowley. This amalgamation was done by Peter
Merel, to whom we are grateful.
The Tao that can be known is not Tao.
The substance of the World is only a name for Tao.
Tao is all that exists and may exist;
The World is only a map of what exists and may exist.
One experiences without Self to sense the World,
And experiences with Self to understand the World.
The two experiences are the same within Tao;
They are distinct only within the World.
Neither experience conveys Tao
Which is infinitely greater and more subtle than the World.
When Beauty is recognised in the World
Ugliness has been learned;
When Good is recognised in the World
Evil has been learned.
In this way:
Alive and dead are abstracted from growth;
Difficult and easy are abstracted from progress;
Far and near are abstracted from position;
Strong and weak are abstracted from control;
Song and speech are abstracted from harmony;
After and before are abstracted from sequence.
The sage controls without authority,
And teaches without words;
He lets all things rise and fall,
Nurtures, but does not interfere,
Gives without demanding,
And is content.
4. Properties of Tao
Tao is a depthless vessel;
Used by the Self, it is not filled by the World;
It cannot be cut, knotted, dimmed or stilled;
Its depths are hidden, ubiquitous and eternal;
I don't know where it came from;
It came before Nature.
Nature is not kind;
It treats all things impartially.
The Sage is not kind,
And treats all people impartially.
Nature is like a bellows
Empty, yet supplying all needs,
The more it moves, the more it yields;
The sage draws upon Tao in the same way
And can not be exhausted.
Nature is everlasting because it does not have a Self.
In this way the sage:
Serves his Self last and finds it served first;
Sees his body as accidental and finds it endures.
Because he does not serve his Self, he is content.
Stretch a bow to its limit and it is soon broken;
Temper a blade to its sharpest and it is soon blunted;
Amass the greatest treasure and it is soon stolen;
Claim credit and honour and you will soon fall;
Retire once your purpose is achieved - this is the way of Nature.
Embracing Tao, you become embraced.
Supple, breathing gently, you become reborn.
Clearing your vision, you become clear.
Nurturing your beloved, you become impartial.
Opening your heart, you become accepted.
Accepting the World, you embrace Tao.
Bearing and nurturing,
Creating but not owning,
Giving without demanding,
Controlling without authority,
This is love.
Too much colour blinds the eye
Too much tone deafens the ear
Too much taste dulls the palate
Too much play maddens the mind
Too much desire tears the heart.
The sage provides for the belly, not for the senses;
He lets go of sensation and accepts substance.
14. The Continuity of Tao
Looked at but cannot be seen - it is beyond form;
Listened to but cannot be heard - it is beyond sound;
Grasped at but cannot be touched - it is beyond reach;
These depthless things evade definition,
And blend into a single mystery.
In its rising there is no light,
In its falling there is no darkness,
A continuous thread beyond description,
Lining what can not exist,
Its form formless,
Its image nothing,
Its name mystery,
Meet it, it has no face,
Follow it, it has no back.
Understand the past, but attend the present;
In this way you know the continuity of Tao,
Which is its essence.
16. Transcending Nature
Empty the Self completely;
Embrace perfect peace.
The World will rise and move;
Watch it return to rest.
All the flourishing things
Will return to their source.
This return is peaceful;
It is the way of Nature,
An eternal decay and renewal.
Understanding this brings enlightenment,
Ignorance of this brings misery.
Who understands Nature's way becomes all-cherishing;
Being all-cherishing he becomes impartial;
Being impartial he becomes magnanimous;
Being magnanimous he becomes part of Nature;
Being part of Nature he becomes one with Tao;
Being one with Tao he becomes immortal:
Though his body will decay, Tao will not.
The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects;
The next best are loved and praised;
The next are feared;
The next despised:
They have no faith in their subjects,
So their subjects become unfaithful to them.
When the best rulers achieve their purpose
Their subjects claim the achievement as their own.
If we could discard wisdom and sagacity
Then people would profit a hundredfold;
If we could discard duty and justice
Then loving relationships would form;
If we could discard artifice and profit
Then corruption and theft would disappear -
Yet such remedies treat only symptoms
And so they are inadequate.
People need personal remedies:
Reveal your naked Self,
Embrace your original nature,
Bind your self-interest,
Control your desire.
25. Four Infinities
Before the World exists
There is mystery:
Ubiquitous and ever moving,
The mother of the World.
I do not know its name, so I call it Tao;
I do not know its limit, so I call it infinite.
Being infinite, it flows away forever
Flowing away forever, it returns to the Self.
The Self follows the way of the World;
The World follows the way of Nature;
Nature follows the way of Tao;
Tao is the way.
Tao is infinite,
Therefore Nature is infinite,
Therefore the World is infinite,
Therefore the Self is infinite.
There are four infinities,
And the Self is one of them.
28. Being the Female
Knowing the male, being the female,
Being the course through which flows the World,
One embraces unfailing Love
And is again as a newborn.
Knowing the light, being the dark,
Being the World,
One becomes unerring Love
And returns to Tao.
Knowing honour, being humble,
Being the valley of the World,
And one is as unshaped wood.
When wood is shaped it becomes tools.
Used by the sage, tools become powerful;
So a good carpenter wastes little.
Those who wish to change the World
According with their desire
The World is shaped by Tao;
It cannot be shaped by Self.
If one tries to shape it, one damages it;
If one tries to possess it, one loses it.
Sometimes things flourish,
And sometimes they do not.
Sometimes life is hard
And sometimes it is easy.
Sometimes people are strong
And sometimes they are weak.
Sometimes you get where you are going
And sometimes you fall by the way.
The sage is not extreme, extravagant, or complacent.
Who understands the World is learned;
Who understands the Self is enlightened.
Who conquers the World has strength;
Who conquers the Self has love.
Who is contented has riches;
Who is determined has purpose.
Who maintains his home will long endure
Who maintains his influence will live long after death.
34. Tao Favours No One
Infinite Tao flows everywhere, creating and destroying,
Implementing all the World, attending to the tiniest details,
Claiming nothing in return.
It nurtures all things,
Though it does not control them;
It has no intention,
So it seems inconsequential.
It is the substance of all things;
Though it does not control them;
It has no exception,
So it seems all-important.
Because it favours no finite thing,
It is infinite.
The loving do not act.
The kind act without self-interest;
The just act to serve self-interest;
The religious act to reproduce self-interest.
For when Tao is lost, there is love;
When love is lost, there is kindness;
When kindness is lost, there is justice;
And when justice is lost, there is religion.
Well established hierarchies are not easily uprooted;
Closely held beliefs are not easily released;
So religion enthralls generation after generation.
Religion is the end of love and honesty,
The beginning of confusion;
Faith is a colourful hope or fear,
The origin of folly.
The sage goes by knowledge, not by hope;
He dwells in the fruit, not the flower;
He accepts the former, and rejects the latter.
43. Overcoming the Impossible
The soft overcomes the hard;
The formless penetrates the impenetrable;
Therefore I value taking no action.
Teaching without words,
Work without action,
Are understood by no one.
50. Life and Death
Death enters life as man enters woman.
The limits of man:
Thirty years of growth;
Thirty years of decay;
Thirty years in-between;
So death and life reproduce themselves.
He who would prolong his life
Will not meet tigers or rhinoceri in the wilds,
Nor soldiers in battle
So the rhinoceros finds no place in him for its horn,
The tiger no place for its claw,
The soldier no place for a weapon;
So death finds no place to enter his life.
Tao bears us,
Love nurtures us,
Nature shapes us,
Circumstance completes us.
We worship Tao and honour love;
For worship of Tao and honour of love
Are performed by being alive.
Tao bears us,
Love nurtures, develops, cares for,
Shelters, comforts, and makes a home for us.
Making without controlling,
Giving without demanding,
Guiding without interfering,
Helping without profiting,
This is love.
Because the sage follows Tao his emotions do no harm;
It is not that they lose their power
But that they do not hurt others;
Because they do not hurt others
He does not hurt others:
Because his emotions do no harm,
All his relations with people are loving.
Tao is the source of all things,
The treasure of the saint,
And the refuge of the sinner.
Fine words win honour
And fine actions win respect,
But if a man sins, do not abandon him;
And if a man gains power, do not bribe him;
Just be calm and show accordance with Tao.
Why is Tao the treasure of the saint?
Because it absolves all sin.
Why is Tao the refuge of the sinner?
Because it is easily found when sought.
It is the most valuable gift.
63. Confront Difficulty
Attend to do-nothing;
Taste the flavourless,
Examine the small,
Multiply the few,
Return love for hate.
Deal with difficulty while it is yet easy;
Deal with the great while it is yet small;
The difficult develops naturally from the easy
And the great from the small;
So the sage, by dealing with the small
Achieves the great.
He who finds it easy to promise finds it hard to deliver;
He who takes things lightly makes things hard;
The sage confronts difficulty, and so has none.
78. Accept Responsibility
Nothing in the World is as yielding as water;
Nor can anything better overcome the hardened.
Just as the yielding overcomes the hardened,
The weak may overcome the strong;
Yet they do not.
The sage says:
"Who accepts responsibility for his people rules the country;
Who accepts responsibility for the World rules the World",
But his words are not understood.
We look forward to your further thoughts, observations and views. Thank you.
For and on behalf of DK Matai, Chairman, Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance
ATCA: The Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance
is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to understand and to
address complex global challenges. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue
on global opportunities and threats arising from climate chaos, radical poverty,
organised crime, extremism, informatics, nanotechnology, robotics, genetics,
artificial intelligence and financial systems. Present membership of ATCA
is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished members: including
several from the House of Lords, House of Commons, EU Parliament, US Congress
& Senate, G10's Senior Government officials and over 1,500 CEOs from financial
institutions, scientific corporates and voluntary organisations as well as
over 750 Professors from academic centres of excellence worldwide.
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