Tao Te Ching

The phrase Tao Te Ching can be translated as the recognized Excellence in Integrity and the manner of conduct. As an ancient classic, Tao Te Ching is an oral composition that dates back to the 6th century BC. Its written account can be traced back to the 3rd century BC when it was exclusively aimed at the Chinese audience. Nevertheless, the work has been translated into several languages ever since, making Tao Te Ching a global piece of literature. Various translations are ordered differently depending on the source as well as the setting of translation. For instance, the work of Legge J has been ordered and numbered differently for those of other translators like Brians, P et al. This is because Legge’s work has been translated from the earliest manuscript of Tao Te Ching, the Ma-Wang-Tui manuscript (Brians et al 63-65).

Although Tao Te Ching has been widely attributed to the efforts of Lao Tzu, some critics express doubts as to whether such an individual really existed. Efforts to trace his biography have been fruitless. Moreover, it has been discovered that Lao Tzu was, actually, a title, and not an individual’s name. The bare translation of Lao Tzu is “Old Master”, a term that is not attributable to anyone in particular. A significant number of scholars have been speculating that Lao Tzu could have been a general term referring to a bunch of authors who merged their wisdom in an endeavor to form an oral account. For this reason, the transcribing that took place in the 3rd century BC attributed the work to Lao Tzu without elaborating who/what Lao Tzu really meant. Nevertheless, Tao Te Ching is widely believed to be an oral composition which lasted for three centuries, i.e. between 650 BC to 350BC (Brians et al 63-65).

In Reading about the World (Volume 2), philosophy and religion evolve as two schools of Taoism. In fact, it has been established that a number of principles associated to Taoism have been passed through into Buddhism, especially in central Asia. For this reason, there are unique comparisons between Indian Hinduism and Taoism. Nevertheless, exploration is still ongoing in an endeavor to establish which among Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism came first. The goal is to discover whether Taoism came as a result of Hinduism and Buddhism influence, or the two arose from Taoism. Indeed, a close analysis reveals that all the three faiths seek to find the right way with the desire to follow the right path. The influence of Taoism is noticeable in the Korean Christianity. The reason behind this is that, despite the spread of Christianity and other beliefs, the behavior of Koreans is underpinned in their culture.


Reading about the World and other texts are collections of over 1500 commentaries regarding Tao Te Ching. These commentaries are considered to be wisdom writings that have been written in the style of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs in the Bible. Basically, they are naturalistic as well as minimalist. They are regarded as explanations that are heavily reliant upon paradox as they contradict common sense. Most importantly, they are focused on leadership during the age of the wise. As a matter of fact, this age is considered to have been the period that a wise ruler with a yogi’s heart reigned.

Tao Te Ching is composed in a beautiful and poetic style where the content is based on nature and in a form that is effective in teaching its readers the intended life lessons. Such an approach is compelling, especially to the individual who is interested in nature. This is because the composition is designed in a manner that facilitates wisdom through observation of the natural world. The strategy is satisfying, gratifying, and fulfilling. Tao Te Ching appeals because of its transcendentalism, a philosophy that has outgrown Unitarianism. The work facilitates the learning about nature in a manner that seeks to establish the meaning of life through observation (Laozi 35). Through Tao Te Ching, an individual is presented with some form of moral direction which appears to him/her as a natural code of ethics. It enables one to uncover mystical naturalism without necessitating the search for spirituality.

James Bridges’ Lessons from Tao Te Ching, is composed of samples that are presented in a simple yet powerful way that reminds an individual of the importance of starting small. A person is reminded that his/her effort will increase bit by bit and in the end result into something great. One example talks of layers of terraces explicating how they start with a basketful of soil before attaining immense magnitude. Bridges points out that despite being equipped with such knowledge, individuals do not stop being seriously thoughtful about this situation. He discourages the idea of being speedy arguing that as individuals race towards their goals, the neglect the importance of slowing down in an endeavor to observe and appreciate the calmness of nature.

In Dr. Zoran Mimica’s Tao, Law, and Poetry in Tao Te Ching, the topic revolves around the Law of Tao. The law being explicated in this case is the equivalent of what the Europeans considered as their Fundamental law or the Law of Nature. The law, though unwritten, is considered eternal, and a significant number of individuals believe that it is, actually, scripted in their hearts. Mimica equates Tao Te Ching to the law that barred a Greek woman named Antigen from complying with King Creon’s commands. The king had ordered that her brother Polyneices be burnt as he did not deserve any burial rights. Polyneices had died fighting another of Antigen’s brother named Eteocles during a civil war that had engulfed their country. The kind considered Eteocles a hero, terming Polyneices a betrayer of the Greek state. However, Antigen was convinced that her brother deserved to be buried with all burial rights, and despite the king’s directives, she was convinced to execute her plans. Lao Tzu present’s a view that universal law is constituted by non-interference or non-action, and this is considered a necessity as it facilitates deeper reasoning.

Tao Te Ching indicates that positive actions are, at times, invocations of negativity. Surprisingly, this concept features dominantly in the Indian’s Law of Karma. The opening verse of Tao Te Ching explicates that eternal DAO is barely expressible. This scenario results from a variety of reasons. These reasons include achievement without action, teaching in absence of conversation, and generating without the necessity to possess anything. DAO, or knowledge, flows unceasingly without overflowing its effectiveness. In fact, the origin of knowledge is difficult to ascertain. The eighty-one verses in Tao Te Ching facilitate the formulation of eighty-one comments that, in effect, represent instructions to the rulers. These instructions are quite similar to Il Principe. Il Principe is a literary composition by Machiavelli that averts teaching rulers the importance of being canny with an aim of taking advantage of the citizens. In fact, Tao Te Ching explicate that unobtrusive governments fosters a culture of uprightness and honesty amongst the people. It proceeds by arguing that strict and sharp-witted governments raise a culture of unreliability amongst the citizenry.

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Tao Te Ching has also been recognized as poetry of metaphysical and mystical degree. For example, at one instance, the poet argues that, at times, clear DAO (Knowledge) may appear grim. Likewise a smooth piece of knowledge may tend to be rough, in the same way that life appears to be like a valley. In verse 41, Tao Te Ching records that the greatest of quadrants do not have corners, and as such, great images are formless. In Tao Te Ching, a number of verses indicate resemblance to the Christians’ fate. One such verse is that which downplays the importance of having immense possessions, especially when such possessions do not advance the good of humanity. Verse 81 of Tao Te Ching indicates that the knowledge that a righteous man possesses remains effective even without quarrelling.

Various studies have indicated that there exists links between Tao Te Ching and the Plato’s theory. This is because the ideas of Plato have correspondence with Tao. The philosophy of Tao Te Ching, lays emphasis impersonal teachings and scriptures in a manner that is quite similar to the philosophy Confucius as well as Buddhism. In contrast, the person in Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism is God. Tao Te Ching explicates the absence of dualism among good and evil in Taoism. As such, the belief is dissimilar to Christianity where there exists antimony between the Devil and God.

In the west, individuals are confused as there exists a variety of Tao Te Ching translations that, at times, makes the work imply different aspects in life. At times, translations do not achieve their effectiveness as terms like “law” have a variety of meanings with regard to the context. Additionally, it is not always easy to explain the teachings of Lao Tzu as, in some instances, instruments of formal logic are ineffective. For example, Chapter forty of Tao Te Ching is composed of five lines. The lines, despite the beauty, are extremely difficult to comprehend as one has to disregard several laws in an attempt to grasp the external laws expressed by Tao.

The lesson presented by the verses in chapter 41resonates with the beliefs and values that inflexible armies do not concur, just in the same way that an inflexible tree fails to snap. In this regard, our lives should be flexible. An individual should be able to bend and assume a shape that would enable the boulders to roll him/her down. People should endeavor to reduce the rigidity like the one demonstrated by mighty pines or oak trees. Flexibility enables people to remain alive as when confronted, they are able to crouch and concede. Chapter 43 reminds readers of the erosion capability of running water. According to the chapter, water facilitates the shaping of mountain peaks and ridges.


Chapter 43 explicates how water, with its softness, manages to wear down portions of hard substances like rocks. Such thoughts are meant to emphasize the reward of persistence. Tao Te Ching tells of how persistence and endurance wears down challenges in the same manner that water erodes hard rocks. It may appear as if Tao Te Ching is meant to influence persons into appreciating nature thereby making them to be extra observant as they draw lessons from it. In essence, Tao Te Ching, is a composition that enables individuals to reason metaphorically and focus on the natural world during their quest for insight and wisdom (Lao 45). The quest enables people to devise plans on how perfect their lives.

Tao Te Ching is a formal composition that addresses the themes of living life with integrity as well as being an exceptional ruler. However, the role of integrity and that of leadership are intertwined. The implication is that the authors of Tao Te Ching, considered authenticity and integrity as vital constituents of proper leadership. For these reason, the writers had to address several subjects that they believed would enable a person to maintain his/her integrity.

The verses in chapter twelve make sense in Unitarian framework. For instance, they imply that a leader is not supposed to be egocentric. To retain his following, a leader is expected to voice the desires and concerns of his people. This is because effective coexistence is facilitated by empowering the people. Such regards for others can be seen as the foundations of democracy, all expressed in a few verses in Tao Te Ching. Tao Te Ching advocates for a policy of non-interference. This is evident in the verses that encourage non-action which can be interpreted as handling one’s affairs in a non-interfering manner (Laozi et al 13-16). As such, Taoism has been founded on awareness and passivity. This helps repay instances of resentment with absolute integrity, a teaching that bear similarity to the Golden Rule. In essence, we should treat others in the same manner that we would want them to do to us.

The wisdom in Tao Te Ching encourages people to tackle difficult tasks through attempting the easiest portions first. Tao Te Ching provides insight in situations where a person feels overwhelmed by life. On beginning with the easiest portions first, an individual is able to extrapolate and expand on the issue until he/she is able to reach a conclusion. This reduces fatigue which would in effect demoralize an individual to a level of quitting his endeavors (Legge). The knowledge emphasizes that those who accomplish great steps commence with minute details. Nevertheless, an individual is encouraged to maintain his objective as he focuses on the details. He/she is required to view the details as tactical steps that are aimed at achieving a strategic goal. The tactical steps lessen the load that one has to carry in his/her mission.