Lao Tzu and the Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching

The Problem of the Word

“The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name”

Paradoxically, all religions seem to be aware of this having been formed around the teachings of a prophet who became enlightened and comprehended the nature of existence and called it God, yet were unable to pass on these teachings without using the questionable and wholly misinterpreted Word.

Lao Tzu wisdomThe Word of God is not actually the word of god is it? It’s been translated, tampered with and passed down through Chinese whispers until the whole thing has become entirely inaccurate. Us humans are faced with this conundrum yet we continue to try.

As Jesus so rightly said, he was ‘a’ son of God rather than ‘the’ son of god… Makes your stomach flip doesn’t it, to think how a whole religion can be pivoted on one simple pronoun?

What then, do we use to reach those moments of enlightenment if not the word? Or is it simply the way in which we use it?

Rather than stipulating a list of rules, perhaps the best way to trigger or trip up the mind and land it swimming in the beautiful abyss of the Now is to use parable, meditative sentences that simplify language, or simply not speak at all.

“When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises
When it knows good as good, evil arises”

Contradiction is the Essence of Life

“Yield and remain whole
Bend and remain straight
Be low and become filled
Be worn out and become renewed
Have little and receive
Have much and be confused”

The Tao as Lao Tzu lays out is as much to do with emptiness as it is to do with opposites. The Tao seems to sit at the heart of all opposites; where the gap between breaths waits, where exhaustion comes and one gives up, only then will come relief and aid… perhaps even joy.

Traveling and staying humble and unassuming will keep us close to the clear brutality of life, only then to discover that it’s incredibly kind and nurturing. Ego and the word want to freeze things, to put them on hold and stamp them all over with rules.

Nature, the Tao and the Divine (perhaps all one and the same) seem to if nothing else be understood through impermanence. God is an ever present trickster, lovingly antagonizing us through the motions like a cat playing with a stunned mouse.

It seems harsh yet the journey only appears cruel because we forget our roots. We are both the cat and the mouse, the carpet beneath them and the air in between them too. There is no distinction.

It’s because of this that we can manifest whatever we want from life once the boundaries of the mind are dissolved.

“Those who follow virtue are with virtue
Those who follow loss are with loss”

We Are One

“Those that attained oneness since ancient times
The sky attained oneness and thus clarity
The earth attained oneness and thus tranquility
The gods attained oneness and thus divinity
The valley attained oneness and thus abundance
The myriad things attained oneness and thus life
The rulers attained oneness and became the standard for the world
These all emerged from oneness”


The Bodhisattva understands that it’s simply their intention and healing vibration that can help others when they’re suffering. Jesus and the phrase ‘he dies for our sins’ has frequently baffled me until I realized that, Christianity aside, Jesus was a Bodhisattva.

He cleansed a whole people and period through forgiving those who were torturing him. What an achievement! There are degrees of enlightenment, but the highest truly does seems to be giving and compassion for others.

The effect the Bodhisattva has is to build a world for others to enjoy and build upon in turn. ‘The sky attained oneness and thus clarity’… in our span of history, clearly merely a glimmer of the bigger picture, the ancients have shaped it for us.

On a rudimentary level you could list the ways in which religion has harmed us. But as the Tzu states in the previous wisdom; without one we would have no other.

Perhaps the benefits of prophets, individuals and supposed nobodies are largely unseen yet thoroughly and profusely there, helping us explore every nook and cranny of existence.

However, one thing the Tao asserts is –

Do not wish to be shiny like jade
Be dull like rocks”

Have Compassion for All

“The Tao is the wonder of all things
The treasure of the kind person
The protection of the unkind person”


The unkind person is not someone to be feared unless you see them in yourself – they are to be loved and cherished. Not because they teach you something, but because they are suffering and need protection. The wonder of all things is the worship and appreciation of both sides of the coin.

The bullies have been bullied, the unjust and power-hungry are not some face-less hounds, hungry vampires trying to trick and consume you. They are human too, and to see them as anything else is to forget our own humanity.

“The Tao is the wonder of all things”

Small is Mighty

“Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water
Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong
This is because nothing can replace it”

The greatest belief we can probably hope to hold throughout our lives, is the belief that, though we are pretty insignificant and should never be fooled into getting too big for our boots, the ‘softer’ we are (softer, kinder, more yielding and fluid), the more influence we may have in the long run.

People often get so caught up in trying to make a difference, they forget that a lifetimes work starts with the smallest kindnesses in daily life. Not even kindnesses, but doing the right thing and staying true to that inner voice that sees all and knows when we go against ourselves or turn a blind eye.

When you open your eyes are thousands of opportunities to make a difference throughout our days. To ignore them is the real crime.

“Sages do not accumulate
The more they assist others, the more they possess
The more they give to others, the more they gain”

Image Source

Lao Tzu

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