This is the beginning of a series of articles that address one of history’s timeless classics, The Tao Te Ching. Roughly translated The Classic of The Way and its Power, or The book of The Way and Virtue, an interpretation of the book’s meaning is almost as difficult to grasp as its history is to tell. The Tao Te Ching was definitely written no earlier than the 6th century BCE and no later than the 4th century BCE.
Legend has it that the author, a man named Lao-Tzu which translates to Old Boy or Ancient Child, was named so because he was born with white hair. Lao-Tzu became a High Official in the Chinese government, but left his coveted position fed up and disgusted by the facade of government. It is said that he left riding west on a water buffalo never to be seen again. When he reached China’s western border he was stopped by a border guard who pleaded with him to write down his thoughts, lest Lao-Tzu’s wisdom be forever lost.
Lao-Tzu consented and posting up in a nearby inn he wrote down his teachings in only about 5000 words. These words are divided into 2 parts the first part dealing with Tao, the second concerning Te. These two parts are further divided into 81 chapters, each chapter being more like a poem than a chapter in a novel.
A clear, unified interpretation of the Tao Te Ching is not very likely as the book may be interpreted on a variety of levels. Two of its most obvious interpretations are as a guide to character development, developing sageliness, and as a guide to leadership, this is especially true for the later chapters. Some have taken the Tao Te Ching to be a guide to mysticism, some going so far as to use it as a guide in their attempt to obtain immortality.
Whatever the thoughts regarding this work, the words of Lao-Tzu have kept man pondering for 2000 years due to its simple, direct, and straight forward conveyance of very deep, profound, and elaborate concepts. As it has been said, “The greatest sophistication is simplicity.”
What follows in these articles are my personal thoughts and interpretations of every chapter in this ageless text.
On to Chapter 1 (To be Posted)