Lao Tse



Average: 4.1 (81 votes)
Fast Facts
laotse2.jpg
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Laozi, Lǎozǐ, Lao Tzu, Laotze, Lao Zi, Laozi
Function: 
Sage
Traditions: 
Taoism
Main Countries of Activity: 
China
Date of Birth: 
500 BC
Place of Birth: 
China
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
No
Other Related Gurus: 
Zhuangzi, Zhang Daoling, Zhang Jiao

Biography

Lao Tse is traditionally regarded as an older contemporary of Confucius. Modern thesis places him centuries later or questions if he ever existed as an individual.

Lao Tse is the author of the Daodejing (also written as: Tao Teh King / Tao Te Ching), although its authorship has been debated since the late nineteen century.

In common legends, he was conceived when his mother gazed upon a falling star. They state that he stayed in the womb and matured for sixty-two years, born when his mother leaned against a plum tree. He accordingly emerged a grown man with a full grey beard and long earlobes, which are a sign of wisdom and long life. In other tales, he lived in some thirteen incarnations since the days of the Fuxi, in his last incarnate as Laozi he lived to nine hundred and ninety years, and traveled to India to reveal the Tao.

According to popular traditional biographies, he worked as the Keeper of the Archives for the royal court of Chou. This reportedly allowed him broad access to the works of the Yellow Emperor and other classics of the time. The stories relate that Lao Tse never opened a formal school, but he nonetheless attracted a large number of students and loyal disciples. There are numerous variations of a story depicting Confucius consulting Lao Tse about rituals.

Many of the popular accounts say that Lao Tse married and had a son named Tsung, who became a celebrated soldier.

Lao Tse grew weary of the moral decay of city life and noted the kingdom's decline. He ventured west to live as a hermit in the unsettled frontier at the age of 160. At the western gate of the city, or kingdom, he was recognized by a guard. The guard asked the old master to produce a record of his wisdom as a condition for passing the gate. The result was the Tao Te Ching text. The guard was so touched by the work that he left with Lao Tse to never be seen again.

Some legends say that the Lao Tse was the teacher of the Buddha, or the Buddha himself

Teachings

Tao & Tao Te Ching

The prime text of Lao Tse is the Tao Te Ching. It is considered to be the most significant text in Chinese spirituality. As with most other ancient Chinese philosophers, Lao Tse often explains his ideas by way of paradox, analogy, appropriation of ancient sayings, repetition, symmetry, rhyme, and rhythm.

The Tao Te Ching, often called simply the Laozi after its author, emphasizes the Tao as the mother of all existence, Tao is the unmoved mover, the primordial state of Non-being, and the order of the Universe. Lao Tse further clarified the term Tao in his Qingjing Jing another recognized revelation in Taoism, as a term chosen to describe the abstract concept of the ontology and teleology.

Lao Tse encouraged a change in approach - a return to nature, rather than action. Technology may bring about a false sense of progress. The answer provided by Lao Tse is not the rejection of technology, but instead seeking the calm state of Wu Wei (literally "non-action"), free from desires. This relates to many statements by Lao Tse encouraging rulers to keep their people simple-minded.

Wu Wei

Wu Wei, literally "non-action", is a concept that helps explain Ziran (harmony with the Tao). Lao Tse used the term broadly with simplicity and humility as key virtues, often in contrast to selfish action. On a political level, it means avoiding such circumstances as war, harsh laws and heavy taxes. Some Taoists see a connection between Wu Wei and esoteric practices, such as the "sitting in oblivion" (emptying the mind of bodily awareness and thought) found in the Zhuangzi.

Taoism (Daoism)

Lao Tse is regarded as the founder of Taoism, the school of Tao, Daojia, Daomen. The religion prefix of ism was applied to this school of thought in the late nineteen century by western scholars when seen in context with other religions. The concept of jiao or religion, as in organized religion, is a foreign concept to classical Chinese history, for example Buddhism is commonly called Fokjia or Fokmen, Confucianism as Rujia. All three have become the psyche and the way of life for Chinese.

The principial aim of Taoism is to persuade all man to revert and rejoin with the Taiji and Wuji, to transcend the temporal nature of existence. It is the only school of thought that provides the tool to do so, by way of meditation in Xiuzhen and by living of virtuous lives in Xiushen.

Taoists do not see their beliefs as exclusive, in fact it is something to be shared by all humanity. As Taoist teaching is ultimately about self-enlightenment, it is considered as a process that comes from within.

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Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

The Inner Teachings of Taoism

by Chang Po-tuan

(Paperback)

Taoist inner alchemy is a collection of theories and practices for transforming the mind and refining the self. The Inner Teachings of Taoism includes a classic of Chinese alchemy known as Four Hundred Words on the Gold Elixir. Written in the eleventh century by a founder of the Complete Reality School, this text is accompanied by the lucid commentary of the nineteenth-century adept Lui I-ming.

Cover image

Tao Te Ching

by Lao-Tse

(Paperback)

A classic Chinese text dating from the 6th century BC, the “Tao Te Ching” or “Book of the Way” consists of 81 short poems that unfold the spiritual nature of Taoism, one of the ancient Chinese religions. In describing the universal life force implicit in all things, this work shows readers a path that teaches contentment and balance. The simple language of Lao Tzu’s manual on the art of living, essentially encourages being humble, temperate, and considerate in the face of life’s predicaments. The wisdom of being a part of the Tao leads to a serenity of spirit that improves all aspects of human life, from the demands of work and family, to the dealing with life’s joys and difficulties. An essential for the meditation of Taoists for thousands of years, the “Tao Te Ching” is as beneficial and informative as it is enduring. This edition is translated with commentary by James Legge and is printed on premium acid-free paper.

Cover image

Lao-Tse: Life and Work of the Forerunner in China

by Lao-tse

(Paperback)

In ancient China, a man called Lao-Tse followed a vision of truth that culminated in one of the most sublime religious texts known to humankind: the Tao Te Ching. Its simple profundity is recognized today in every corner of the world: \"The Tao which can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name which can be named is not the eternal name.\"

So it begins and moves gracefully through the various paradoxes of existence, harmonizing light and shadow. It is difficult for a modern reader to approach this text without wondering about the life and times of the man who wrote it.

Lao-Tse (or Lao-Tzu, as it is sometime spelled) was a name, and little more; the details of his life have been lost to history. Only the work survived...until now. Mystics of all times and places have taught that every event that has occurred is forever recorded in the annals of time. An associate of Abd-ru-shin, author of the spiritual classic In the Light of Truth: The Grail Message, has made a spiritual connection to that ageless record and here reports what it reveals about the life of the sage called Lao-Tse.

There is no indication of author in this, or any other book in Grail Foundation Press\' Forerunner Series. Those who made the connection were able to see truly, and to write down what they saw, but they do not consider themselves authors of the volumes. For this reason, the books appear with the simple notation, \"Received in the proximity of Abd-ru-shin through the special gift of one Called for the purpose.\"

The text follows chronologically through the life of Lao-Tse in a style that reveals the sage as simultaneously human and transcendent. Some of the most touching passages tell of Lao-Tse\'s childhood and the reactions he inspired in his often-confused parents: \"Li-Fu-Tai lived in the constant expectation of discovering his ancestor in his son. At the very least, this boy was bound to be completely different from all other sons of men. He watched the child constantly, but at the same time he suffered many a disappointment. [The boy] developed exactly like other healthy children. In time he learned to walk and talk, he fell into the water and reached a fire. When he got into some childhood mischief, the father was annoyed by his son\'s naughtiness. But his mother tempered the punishments and softened the rebukes...To her all the child\'s actions...seemed to spring from the same source; an immense thirst for knowledge...He asked few question, preferring to find his answers through experiencing.\"

There\'s an immediacy in this prose, as the author who does not claim authorship transports us back through time, to witness the emergence of one of the greatest sages ever to live. This book is inspiring and compelling--worth the reading for anyone who cares about humankind\'s spiritual legacy.

Cover image

Practical Taoism

(Paperback)

This extraordinary collection of teachings and commentaries illuminates the many profound mysteries of inner alchemy, one of the most important dimensions of the Taoist tradition. The science of inner alchemy consists of meditation practices that enable the individual to have a more intimate, energizing, and inspiring relationship with life. Although these techniques are described in the sourcebooks of ancient Taoism, they are often couched in cryptic symbolic language, making it difficult for today\'s seekers t put these teachings into practice. Some classical Taoist writers, however, did adopt a more explicit manner of expression. Practical Taoism is a collection of writings from these more accessible commentators on the traditional alchemical texts, compiled by a seventh-generation master of the Northern Branch of the Complete Reality School of Taoism known as the Preserver of Truth.

Recommended DVD & Video: 
Cover image

Chinese Religions: Chinese Taoism

(DVD)

Language: Chinese with English and Simplified Chinese subtitles. Taoism, a combination of many traditional Chinese beliefs and health preserving practices, is a native religion of China with Lao Tse as its founder. This DVD program is about the origin, evolvement of Taoism as well as its great impacts upon China s traditional literature, philosophy, medicine, chemistry and health preservation. Special efforts have been made to trace Taoism in modern Chinese people s everyday life. All Titles in the Chinese Religions Series: Chinese Religions: Chinese Taoism; Chinese Religions: China\'s Buddhism; Chinese Religions: China\'s Tibetan Buddhist; Chinese Religions: China\'s Islam; Chinese Religions: China\'s Christianity; Chinese Religions: China\'s Catholicism

Recommended Audio: 
Cover image

Taoism

by Ken Cohen

(Audio CD)

One of the West\'s few ordained Taoist priests introduces you to this ancient philosophy for effortless living on Taoism: Essential Teachings of the Way and Its Power. In easy-to-follow language, Ken Cohen reveals Lao Tzu\'s vast spiritual legacy, including: origins, philosophy, and religion; keys to ethical living, inner silence, and simplicity; Taoist meditations, prayers, and rituals, plus teachings on diet, poetry, feng shui, dream yoga; and much more.

Pro Opinions

Great Sage

dhani_w's picture

Lao Tse must be full of wisdom and love yet simple person.
Tao Te Ching inspired the world! Practical but still beautiful. Simple but very spiritual. Still actual since 2500 years ago!

The closest words can get to the truth

lilian's picture

Pure heritage.

The closest words can get to the truth.

Toltec Logic's picture

The lens of turth

Words are no better than the lens of understanding
through which they can be perceived.

Great perfect mirror
awakening is
not an idea
but a time when
the knowing essence
becomes manifest

Toltec Logic | Wed, 12/16/2009 - 16:57
mariposa's picture

Tao Te Ching

It took me some seconds to understand that you mean that given the limitation of words to depict truth, the words that best approximate truth is those of the Tao Te Ching.

I completely agree.

mariposa | Wed, 12/16/2009 - 23:35
Toltec Logic's picture

Eye of the beholder

The Tao means all things to all people
from christian to Crowley. The question
is whose interpretation would we lean to?
There are two time lines in westeren
thinking that best illustrate this division
and that would be the rift between Albert
and Leary.

Great perfect mirror
awakening is
not an idea
but a time when
the knowing essence
becomes manifest

Toltec Logic | Thu, 12/17/2009 - 14:25

tao

NIDHI PARKASH's picture

Tao is the state of non being which is said as the primordial one.chi is perhaps called power of all pervading nature and lao tse teaches to his people to go nature.in Chines language the Supreme G

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Tao Te Ching Illustrated by the thebigview.com977.79 KB
Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu - Stephen Mitchell Translation - 33P.pdf138.25 KB