The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (or Laozi) is an ancient work of Chinese philosophy which sets the foundation for Taoism—the consolidation of concepts and practices that compose the “way” or “path” of living.
The Tao teaches the readers how to approach life and to live with wisdom and grace. It is an agreeable philosophy to nearly any man who wishes to better himself.
Understanding the Tao
The Tao is not something you can perceive, yet it is in everything you see and touch. It is an infinite supply, never ceasing, always present.
The Great Tao flows everywhere, to the left and to the right, all things depend on it to exist, and it does not abandon them. To its accomplishments it lays no claims. It loves and nourished all things, but does not lord it over them.”
Ancient Chinese Wisdom
The Tao Te Ching provides wisdom to its readers, but goes deeper than providing fortune cookie-esque platitudes.
The book focuses a great deal on virtue, and provides much advice on the subject:
So the guiding way of nature is to help and not arm; the guiding way for people is to act beneficially and to be contentious.”
All in the world think themselves great, but the great are not concerned. Indeed, only by not being concerned can they be great. If they cared about being great, they’d eventually become petty.”
Lao-Tzu also extensively talks about the way of the warrior, and ways to enhance leadership:
A warrior is unaffected by victory; the compassionate one will prevail.”
No calamity is greater than ignoring enemies. Ignore enemies and you are close to losing what you value.”
And some other choice wisdom:
Those who agree too easily are inevitably little trusted. Those who make things too easy are sure to have a lot of hardship. Therefore wise leaders end up without difficulty by considering things hard.”
Seeing the basic, embrace simplicity; reduce selfishness and minimize cravings.”
Those who identify with efficacy are also rewarded by guidance, while those who identify with losing are also lost to guidance.”
So the reason wise people are able to achieve greatness is that they don’t consider it big; that enables them to accomplish a lot.”
A Short Read But a Long Study
At only 7000 words the Tao Te Ching can be read easily in one sitting. I broke it up into several, but I intend to read again in the future, only reading a short passage a day. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to read the passage several times to fully digest it.
To really get the most out of the book, it will require intense study. Read it once all the way through, slowly and reflecting throughout, then come back to it and read it passage by passage with intense focus.
I’ve recently been experimenting with reading a powerful, inspirational book for 5-10 minutes each morning; the Tao Te Ching is a perfect fit for that and it’s something you may want to try.
This book is widely available, the only downside of that being that there are numerous translations. You can even read several different versions and find which one best fits you. Aim for a literal translation where possible, as the author will avoid inserting their bias throughout.