Who Was Laozi?
Laozi is regarded as the founder of Taoist philosophy and the author of one of the most important texts in the history of philosophy, the Tao Te Ching. As a matter of fact, we do no know whether Laozi was a real historical figure or whether under that name we actually comprehend a list of different authors who contributed to the development of Taosim. If Laozi was a historical figure, he probably lived during the sixth century A.D. (some argue instead that he lived during the fourth or the fifth century). Leaving such important historical details on a side, we may recognize that the Tao Te Ching puts forward one of the most organic philosophical visions in the history of human culture. The book integrates metaphysical views along with ethical and political ones and, also for this reason, it is still cherished as crucial in Chinese culture as well as in several other quarters.
"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."
"Since before time and space were, the Tao is. It is beyond is and is not. How do I know this is true? I look inside myself and see."
"There is a thing inherent and natural, which existed before heaven and earth. Motionless and fathomless, it stands alone and never changes; it pervades everywhere and never becomes exhausted. It may be regarded as the Mother of the Universe. I do not know its name. If I am forced to give it a name, I call it Tao, and I name it as supreme."
"Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power."
"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."
"To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day."
"He who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know."
"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."
"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."
"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."
Further Online Sources
- The entry on Laozi at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- The entry on Taoism at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- The entry on Laozi at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- The entry on Laozi at the Britannica Online Encyclopedia .
- An online translation of the Tao Te Ching.
- Another online translation of the Tao Te Ching.