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Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu- My Takeaways

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I have made it a goal to not only read more, but to also go beyond the medical and health & fitness genres. I am using the most recommended reading list for Tim Ferriss podcast guests as my starting point.

This book review on the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Translation and commentary by Jonathan Star) is out of the norm for me, but I think whatever your goals are even if they are health and weight loss you can get something from this review.

The Tao Te Ching is an ancient Chinese text containing spiritual teachings, folk wisdom, political instruction, cosmology, observations of nature, anti-Confucian doctrine, and mystical insights. While the Tao Te Ching ranks only behind the Bible as the most widely translated book in the world, it remains one of the least understood due to the sharp divergence with terms and expressions that have no exact counterpart in English.

I am by no means attempting to describe the entire text or the various interpretations that Jonathan Star provides. I am simply going to provide the lines of verses that spoke to me as I read in no particular order. A few of my own words are at the end of the post.

Putting value on status will cause people to compete
Hoarding treasure will turn them into thieves
Showing off possessions will disturb their daily lives
When action is pure and selfless everything settles into its own perfect place
The best way to live is to be like water
For water benefits all things and goes against none of them
It provides for all people and even cleanses those places a man is loath to go
Live in accordance with the nature of things:
Build your house on solid ground
Keep your mind still
When giving, be kind
When speaking, be truthful
When ruling, be just
When working, be one-pointed
When acting, remember -timing is everything
One who lives in accordance with nature does not go against the way of things
He moves in harmony with the present moment always knowing the truth of just what to do
Puff yourself with honor and pride and no one can save you from a fall
Wasting energy to obtain rare objects only impedes one’s growth
Become totally empty
Quiet the restlessness of the mind
Only then will you witness everything unfolding from emptiness
See all things flourish and dance in endless variation
And once again merge back into perfect emptiness – their true repose, Their true nature
Emerging, flourishing, dissolving back again, this is the eternal process of return
To know this process brings enlightenment
To miss this process brings disaster
If one doesn’t trust himself how can he trust anyone else?
If you need rules to be kind and just, if you act virtuous, this is a sure sign that virtue is absent
Thus we see the great hypocrisy
To the self-serving, nothing shines forth
To the self-promoting, nothing is distinguished
To the self-appointing, nothing bears fruit
To the self-righteous, nothing endures
Only a student who gives himself can receive the master’s gift
If you think otherwise, despite your knowledge, you have blundered
Allow your life to unfold naturally
Knowing that it is a vessel of perfection
Just as you breathe in and breathe out, sometime you’re ahead and other times behind, Sometimes you’re strong and other times weak, Sometimes you’re with people and other times alone
Things that gain a place by force will flourish for a time but then fade away
One who is bound to action, proud of victory, and delights in the misfortune of others will never gain a thing from this world
One who knows others is intelligent
One who knows himself is enlightened
One who conquers others is strong
One who conquers himself is all-powerful
One who approaches life with force surely gets something
One who remains content where he is surely gets everything
When there is silence one finds peace
When there is silence one finds the anchor of the universe within himself
To give without seeking reward
To help without thinking it is virtuous -therein lies great virtue
To keep account of your actions
To help with the hope of gaining merit – therein lies no virtue
The highest virtue is to act without a sense of self
The highest kindness is to give without condition
The highest justice is to see without preference
There is an old saying, the clear way seems clouded, the straight-way seems crooked, the sure way seems unsteady
Who knows what fate may bring – one day your loss may be your fortune, one day your fortune may be your loss
One’s own reputation -why the fuse?
One’s own wealth – why the concern?
I say, what you gain is more trouble than what you lose
Love is the fruit of sacrifice
Wealth is the fruit of generosity
Seeing your own smallness is called insight
Honoring your own tenderness is called strength
One who speaks does not know
One who knows does not speak
Take on difficulties while they are still easy
Do great things while they are still small
Beware of those who promise a quick and easy way for much ease brings many difficulties
Follow your path to the end
Accept difficulty as an opportunity
This is the sure way to end up with no difficulties at all
A still mind can easily hold the truth
The difficulties yet to come can easily be avoided
Begin your task before it becomes a burden
Put things in order before they get out of hand
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
People on the verge of success often lose patience and fail in their undertakings
Be steady from the beginning to the end and you won’t bring on failure
Those who have virtue do not look for faults
Those who look for faults have no virtue

I will reiterate that these few lines are by no means a complete text of the Tao Te Ching. They are just the phrases that spoke to me as I read with my personal experiences, triumphs and struggles in the current time frame. Likely if I re-read it again in five years I will discard some of these and find meaning in others. I am sure each and every one of you will also find your own satisfactions from reading it. Perhaps you will lean more to the spiritual or political  commentary?

As I try to improve myself in every way possible, part of that is learning and growing in areas that are usually not my expertise or comfort zone. The Tao Te Ching certainly fits that bill. If you decide to read this book I hope you enjoy it.