Looking for Taoist sayings from the Tao Te Ching? Do you want to better understand Lau Tzu’s philosophies?
The Tao Te Ching is the primary Taoist text written by Lau Tzu, the founder of Taoism. This article contains five inspirational sayings from the Tao Te Ching with interpretations and explanations of their meanings.
Keep reading for Taoist sayings and explanations.
Taoist Sayings by Lau Tzu
The Tao Te Ching is one of the foundational texts of Taoism, written between the 4th and 6th centuries. The Tao Te Ching was originally written by the ancient Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu. The piece is written as poetry and, as such, even Taoist scholars have different perspectives on what the language represents.
The explanations of the Taoist sayings in this article are based off the Stephen Mitchell translation of Lau Tzu’s work.
“Those who know do not speak.
Those who speak do not know.”
Talk less. This will help you to remain objective, patient, and receptive to the energies around you as well as the Tao itself. When people talk too much, they’re trying to prove their knowledge instead of embracing the wisdom of the Tao.
“A leader is best
When people barely know he exists
Of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, “We did this ourselves.”
The strongest leader is one who doesn’t have to constantly make their presence known. They’re able to guide others without manipulating emotions. For example, a strong leader wouldn’t have to utilize propaganda to get their constituents to follow them.
“When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.”
When we label or define our surroundings, we create conflict, attributing particular qualities based on our personal biases. This manipulates our view of reality in the process. For example, if you define modesty as “good,” then you’ll inherently paint anything you view as indecent as “evil.”
“Trying to understand is like straining through muddy water. Have the patience to wait! Be still and allow the mud to settle.”
A final element of embracing non-action is being patient and allowing the Tao to guide your behavior. You can’t seek out the “right time” to act as this will inherently put your personal desires into your decisions.
Instead, you must wait for the moment to come to you, thus allowing you to interact with the world based on how it actually is instead of how you want it to be. If you’re searching for fulfillment in earthly desires, you’ll never be truly patient and observant because you’ll try to force things to happen before the universe is ready.
“When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.”
Earthly pleasures and “success” may provide distraction through enjoyment, but the Tao, though seemingly mundane, provides true fulfillment. If you want everything to be given to you, you must first give up everything. Your earthly possessions and personal perspectives will keep you from accepting the gifts given to you by the universe.
———End of Preview———
Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching" at Shortform .
Here's what you'll find in our full Tao Te Ching summary :
- What the natural order of the universe is
- How the "Great Mother" offers energy to all beings
- How you can achieve harmonious living