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Om Namah Shivaya

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Sep 30, 2013

READER: 'Tao Te Ching' by Lao Tzu

After many years, I started reading Tao Te Ching (the translation by R B Blakney) again and realize again that the real great books always gives deeper insight, every time you read it. The book “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu is the most translated book in the world after Bible and reading these books, actually can transport one to the ancient times and align with the thought processes that started thousands of years back and still survive the test of living mankind’s journey across time. To understand the early history of human lives and its meaning, the old books are far better than the archeological remains. Just like the Veda’s for Hindus, perhaps to know more about those ancient civilization, books like “Tao Te Ching” gives a better perspective and insight.
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It’s not known who composed the chapters of Tao Te Ching, because though authorship of many other kind of writing is lost by accident, but mysticism is often given anonymously, by principle. All that can be guessed about the authorship of these poems is that the main threads of their argument originated among recluse in remote valleys before Confucius time and that the result too form late in the 3rd Century B.C. Where there is no author, however, it is necessary to invent one; and by the time the Tao Te Ching had been put in form, legend had supplied Lao Tzu and Ssu-ma Ch’ien incorporated the legend in his notable Historical Records (Chap 63).

It presents Lao Tzu correctly enough as one who has given up civilized living and is impatient with Confucian ideas. Lao Tzu practiced the Way and its virtue. He learned to do his work in self effacement and anonymity. For a long time he lived in Chou, and then he saw that it was breaking up, he left. At the frontier, the official Yin His said: ‘Since, sir, you are retiring, I urge you to write me a book.’ “So Lao Tzu wrote a book in two parts, explaining the Way and its virtue in something over 5000 words. Then he went away. No one knows where he died.

From 3rd century A.D. on, the subsequent story of Taoism is mainly concerned with the rivalry of Buddhism. The two religions were much alike, except that Buddhism barred sexual practices, and its priests, for the most part were celibate. Buddhism was, possibly more popular among the” hundred Clans,” that is, the people; Taoism succeeded somewhat better among the ruling classes. It suffered at least a partial eclipse under the Mongols, who favored Buddhism.

The Tao Te Ching through the centuries has never been without admiring readers among the Chinese, although  its reading public has been small compared to Confucian books.

Now before I share some interesting thoughts from the book Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, let me give you the meaning of the key word “Tao” here, as translated by R B Blakney.

TAO: A Road, A Path, the way by which people travel, the way of nature and finally the ultimate Reality. To the Chinese mystics, it came not only to refer to the way the whole world of nature operates but to signify the riginal undifferentiated Reality from which the universe is evolved.

"The Way that can be told of is not an unvarying way;
The names that can be named are not unvarying names.
It was from the Nameless that Heaven and Earth sprang;
The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand creatures, each after its kind."

These famous first lines of the Tao Te Ching state that the Tao is ineffable, i.e., the Tao is nameless, goes beyond distinctions, and transcends language. However this first verse does not occur in the earliest known version from the Guodian Chu Slips and there is speculation that it may have been added by later commentators. In Laozi's Qingjing Jing (verse 1-8) he clarified the term Tao was nominated as he was trying to describe a state of existence before it happened and before time or space. Way or path happened to be the side meaning of Tao, ineffability would be just poetic. This is the Chinese creation myth from the primordial Tao.

Now here are some of the thoughts from the book that made a deep impression ….
Image Curtsy Wikipedia
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Those who are bound by desire / See only the outward container.


The Way is a void / Used but never filled:

Wealth, power and pride / Bequeath their own doom.

I suffer most because / Of me and selfishness.

If you trust people less than enough / Some of them never trust you.

Your boasting will mean you have failed;

A good knot is tied without rope and can not be loosed.

For the world is a sacred vessel / Not made to be altered by man.

A block of wood untooled, though small, / May still excel the world.

It is wisdom to know others; / It is enlightenment to know one’s self.

The Way is always still, at rest, / And yet does everything that’s done.

“When going looks like coming back, / The clearest road is mighty dark.

So a loss sometimes benefits one / Or a benefit proves to be loss.

The softest of stuff in the world / Penetrates quickly the hardest;

No calamity is worse / Than to be discontented.

The further you go, / The less you will know

By letting go, it all gets done; / The world is won by those who let it go!

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Shashi
नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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