The Tao Te Ching

by Lao Tzu | Harper Perennial © 1992 · 144 pages

The Tao te Ching. It's the core text of Taoism and one of the top old school classics of all time. In this Note, we'll take a look at everything from making use of solitude to the fact that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step (heard that before, eh?!). We'll also learn to let go of our attachment to future results and gracefully roll with the ebbs and flows of life.

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”

~ Lao Tzu from Tao te Ching

The Tao te Ching: A classic of spiritual literature and the central text of Taoism.

Although the text’s authorship and date of composition continues to be debated, tradition holds that it was written by the great master, Lao Tzu, in the 6th century BCE (roughly the same time Buddha was rockin’ Nepal/India, Confucius was getting his wisdom on in another part of China and not too long before Socrates was getting his toga + hemlock on in Athens).

There are a lot of translations out there. I went with Stephen Mitchell’s simple pocket version for this Note because a) it’s a great intro if you’re new to Lao Tzu/Taoism; and, b) I love the fact that Mitchell is married to Byron Katie and that they co-wrote Loving What Is (see Notes) and A Thousand Names for Joy together! (How cool is that?!? :)

Mitchell is a remarkable guy in his own right. According to Wikipedia, he’s done translations in German, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and Danish as well as interpretative versions of works in Chinese, Sanskrit and ancient Babylonian. Um, wow.

As you can imagine, the Tao te Ching is brimming with wisdom and Big Ideas. I’ve picked a handful of my favorites for discussion and hope you enjoy! :)

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About the author


Lao Tzu

ancient Chinese philosopher and poet