Interested in learning more about Taoism and how it relates and differs from Buddhism, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching has been on my reading list for the past year. While the text’s true authorship and date of publication are debated, according to tradition The Tao Te Ching was written by Taoist sage Laozi (or Lao Tzu, “Old Master”) in China around 600 BC. There are numerous translations of The Tao Te Ching; I settled on Stephen Mitchell’s English translation which is available on Amazon, free online, or as an audio book download from iTunes.
Surprisingly short, I listened to the audio book version several times over the weekend and was struck by three verses that seem to ring true during the ongoing Iraq war, current U.S. economic crisis, and the role of the United States, China, Russia, and aspiring countries in the Middle East. Perhaps there is some 2,600 year old wisdom to draw on here?
From the Tao Te Ching: A New English Version by Lao Tzu and Stephen Mitchell.
When a country obtains great power,
it becomes like the sea:
all streams run downward into it.
The more powerful it grows,
the greater the need for humility.
Humility means trusting the Tao,
thus never needing to be defensive.
A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy
as the shadow that he himself casts.
If a nation is centered in the Tao,
if it nourishes its own people
and doesn’t meddle in the affairs of others,
it will be a light to all nations in the world.
The great Way is easy,
yet people prefer the side paths.
Be aware when things are out of balance.
Stay centered within the Tao.
When rich speculators prosper
While farmers lose their land;
when government officials spend money
on weapons instead of cures;
when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible
while the poor have nowhere to turn-
all this is robbery and chaos.
It is not in keeping with the Tao.
Whoever is planted in the Tao
will not be rooted up.
Whoever embraces the Tao
will not slip away.
Her name will be held in honor
from generation to generation.
Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine.
Let it be present in your family
and your family will flourish.
Let it be present in your country
and your country will be an example
to all countries in the world.
Let it be present in the universe
and the universe will sing.
How do I know this is true?
By looking inside myself.
Interested to know your thoughts.