Lao Tse


b. 604 BC
Lao-Tse is considered the first
philosopher of the Taoist school. The
Te-Tao Ching, attributed to Lao-Tse, is
one of the most sacred texts of
Taoism. His writings teach the
philosophy of the Tao, or the Way ,
which is reality that naturally exists
prior to and gives rise to all other
things such as the physical universe
and all things in it. Te , which means
virtue , is the life energy in things and
a sense of morality which constitutes
the Way. The Tao can be found by
experiencing the oneness in all things
– fulfilling life as one with nature and
as one with the inner self. The
speaking of Lao-Tse’s wisdom is what
attracts people to follow him and
make him the teacher of Taoism.
Back to “Early China” Chronology
Eighty percent of Lao-Tse’s teachings
are devoted to man’s function and his
role in society by means of virtue. He
finds courage, generosity, and
leadership to be three virtues involved
in all ethical systems. However, he
wants the truly virtuous man to
spontaneously do good out of what
he genuinely feels without being
aware and concerned of other
people’s approval. He believes people
should “act without acting” by
spontaneously saying and doing what
is genuinely felt rather than putting
on a show for others. This is to avoid
hypocrisy, the result of people acting
in ways they think others will approve
of and value.
From the Taoist point of view,
Confucian virtues of humanity,
righteousness, knowledge, and
wisdom are seen as bridges to
hypocrisy. This is because these
virtues make distinctions between
right and wrong, a concept which is
absent and unnecessary in Taoism. In
further comparison with the teachings
of Confucius, Lao-Tse emphasizes
peace of mind and tranquility of the
spirit, whereas Confucius emphasizes
moral perfection and social
adjustment. In addition, Lao-Tse
nourishes a person’s nature, while
Confucius fully develops it. Therefore,
Confucius hopes for his followers to
become one with heaven, and Lao-Tse
opens himself to become one with
the nature of the universe. However,
both teachers share a common
interest to avoid extremes and to live
by the Golden Rule.
Moreover, Lao-Tse stresses how
important it is to be one with nature
because it provides positive character.
He regards genuineness, sincerity,
and spontaneity to be “natural”
characteristics which people are born
with and possess. Yet, he claims these
qualities are destroyed through
education and cultural influences. In
addition, he explains how a person is
able to dismiss all authority except for
the authority of self and a personal
God. In this case, God is understood
to be everything in nature. Thus,
people who know and respect the
authority of their inner nature know
where they belong.
Consequently, Lao-Tse longs for life to
take place in a small, united
community where deceit, selfishness,
and evil are non-existent in order to
pursue a life of single and simple
community. He glorifies simplicity by
encouraging people to live without
desires, knowledge, competition, and
things of the senses. Therefore, he
also teaches how to live the simple
life, the one which is free from
cunning and cleverness and not
devoted to the pursuit of profit. As a
result, Lao-Tse opens himself up to
the universe and demonstrates how to
live a life full of the beauty of nature,
which allows people to follow in his
path and take his teachings to heart.
Allen, George, Tao Te Ching (London,
England; Ruskin House, 1959)
Chan, Wing-Tsit, The Way of Lao Tzu
(New York; The Bobbs Merrill
Company, 1963)
Day, John, The Way of Life (New
York; The John Day Company, 1944)
Lao-Tse, Te-Tao Ching (New York;
Random House, Inc., 1989)
Murray, John, The Sayings of Lao-
Tzu , (London, England; Hazell Watson
and Viney Ltd., 1905)

chinese philosophy

Author: renjiveda

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