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Quotes of Lao Tzu

Updated on October 25, 2014

Who Is Lao Tzu?

Lao Tzu was not his original name, but an honorific given to the philosopher, meaning "Old Master." Lao Tzu is ascribed with the writing of the "Tao-Te Ching," (tao-means, the way of all life. Te-means, the fit use of life by people. Ching-means, text or classic). Even if Lao Tzu is considered to be the father of Taoism , It's hard to pin down a life history of this sage (570-490 BC). There are several legends about him. Several people believe that he never lived at all, whereas historians can point to numerous possible historical identities for him. Lao Tzu sought after his philosophy to stay behind a natural way to live life with goodness, tranquility and respect. Lao Tzu laid down no solid code of behavior. He believed a person's conduct should be governed by intuition and conscience. His teaching persisted on retirement from this world by keeping a low synopsis and practicing non-doing and emptiness as modus vivendi. Quotes of Lao Tzu are an electrifying character even today - typically because his wisdom which is both incomprehensible and penetrating. Read his quotes below.

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Lao Tzu
Lao Tzu

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The Old Master » Lao Tzu

According to popular traditional biographies, he worked as the Keeper of the Archives for the royal court of Zhou. Many of the accepted accounts say that Lao Tzu was wedded and had a son named Zong, who became an eminent soldier.

Lao Tzu's conception is one of the most noteworthy theses in Chinese theory or story of the beginning and development of the universe, the solar system, or the earth-moon system. As with most other olden Chinese philosophers, Laozi often clarifies his thoughts by way of inconsistency, analogy, appropriation of ancient sayings, repetition, symmetry, rhyme, and rhythm.

Much later, Lao Tzu alleged that the kingdom's affairs were putrid, so he thought it was the time to leave. He was travelling West on a buffalo and reached the Han Gu Pass. The keeper of the pass grasped that Lao Tzu was leaving once for all, so he persuaded Lao Tzu write out some of his wisdom so that it could be conserved once he was gone. Lao Tzu climbed down from his buffalo and straight away wrote his thoughts. The outcome was the eighty-one sayings of the "Tao-Te Ching." This very old Chinese text is the world's most interpreted classic next to the Bible. Lao Tzu then left and was never heard of again.

Lao Tzu » Quotes: I

  1. I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.

  2. If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence.

  3. Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

  4. All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.

  5. At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.

  6. He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.

  7. He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.

  8. He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.

  9. Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish - too much handling will spoil it.

  10. Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Non-being is the greatest joy.

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The Book Tao The Ching
The Book Tao The Ching

Tao The Ching »


Tao The Ching (The Classic of Tao and The) was written by Lao Tzu which explains the Way and all related to It - the "Undoing" and "Wu" theory, among others. The Tao The Ching was written in China approximately 2,500 years ago at about the same time when Buddha illustrated the Dharma in India and Pythagoras taught in Greece.

We know of Lao-tzu as a public person who afterward chose to move away in isolation. Not enough is known about his life apart from the fact he apparently wrote a book named Tao The Ching, which is measured to be the basis of Taoism.

This book consists of 81 short chapters among which 37 form the first part, (the Book of the tao), and the next 44 form the second part, (the Book of The). The Taoist philosophy is, according to the researcher, to become one with tao, inwardly attaining the universal rule of the return to origins.

However, for this principle the contender has to achieve the emptiness (wu ) and simplicity (p'u), and to carry out the undoing.Taoism teaches that there is one complete truth at the root of all things. The Tao The Ching is almost certainly the most powerful Chinese book of all times. Its 81 chapters have been converted into English more times than any other Chinese document.

To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.

Lao Tzu » Quotes: II

  1. Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

  2. Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.

  3. Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

  4. The Inside-Out approach tells us to start with the man in the mirror. Self-mastery is the basis for success, for yourself as well as with others.

  5. If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.

  6. When the best leader's work is done the people say, "We did it ourselves."

  7. A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.

  8. Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses.

  9. People in their handlings of affairs often fail when they are about to succeed. If one remains as careful at the end as he was at the beginning, there will be no failure.

  10. When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you.

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Lao Tzu Sculpture
Lao Tzu Sculpture

Teachings of Lao Tzu

Photo courtesy: flickr . Under creative commons license

There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.

There is no greater guilt than discontentment.

And there is no greater disaster than greed.

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Ancient version of the Taijitu by Lai Zhi-De
Ancient version of the Taijitu by Lai Zhi-De

There is a thing inherent and natural, which existed before heaven and earth. Motionless and fathomless, It stands alone and never changes; It pervades everywhere and never becomes exhausted. It may be regarded as the Mother of the Universe. I do not know its name. If I am forced to give it a name, I call it Tao, and I name it as supreme.

Image & Message Credit: Wikiquotes under creative commons license

Lao Tzu » Quotes: III

  1. Don't think you can attain total awareness and whole enlightenment without proper discipline and practice. This is egomania. Appropriate rituals channel your emotions and life energy toward the light. Without the discipline to practice them, you will tumble constantly backward into darkness.

  2. Fame or integrity: which is more important? Money or happiness: which is more valuable? Success or failure: which is more destructive? If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

  3. Men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail

  4. When superior people hear of the Way, they carry it out with diligence. When middling people hear of the Way, it sometimes seems to be there, sometimes not. When lesser people hear of the Way, they ridicule it greatly. If they didn't laugh at it, it wouldn't be the Way.

  5. The Way of Heaven does not complete, and yet it skillfully achieves victory. It does not speak, and yet it skillfully responds to things. It comes to you without your invitation.

  6. "Watch your thoughts; they become words."

    "Watch your words; they become actions."

    "Watch your actions; they become habits."

    "Watch your habits; they become character."

    "Watch your character; it becomes your destiny."

  7. If the Great Way perishes there will morality and duty. When cleverness and knowledge arise great lies will flourish. When relatives fall out with one another there will be filial duty and love. When states are in confusion there will be faithful servants.

  8. People in their handlings of affairs often fail when they are about to succeed. If one remains as careful at the end as he was at the beginning, there will be no failure.

  9. The career of a sage is of two kinds: He is either honored by all in the world, Like a flower waving its head, Or else he disappears into the silent forest.

  10. The people are hungry: It is because those in authority eat up too much in taxes.

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Our True Nature » Lao Tzu and Taoism

Lao Tzu Biography » Vid

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    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 3 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Such wisdom! Thank you for this great culmination of Lao Tzu's wisdom. Very profound, indeed. The world would be more at peace to follow these concepts ~ better yet, to live them .

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      TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

      I love to read from the Tao The Ching. Wonderful book.

    • BinendraWije LM profile image

      BinendraWije LM 4 years ago

      I can't believe that even reading this is calming.Very zen,very enlightening.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I loved this when I was here a few months ago and returning to meditate on this wisdom.

    • Ahdilarum profile image

      Ahdilarum 5 years ago

      Best quotes from Lao Tzu is "One having character in him does not go around trying to develop it".

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      Lao Tzu is still endless source of inspiration. His 'soft' approach is very refreshing in our aggressive world.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What a wonderfully generous serving of wisdom by Lao Tzu, truly a master. I've taken my time and meditated on my pathway through, thank you....beautiful presented with honor.

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      FashionMommy 5 years ago

      It is always nice to learn about Lao Tzu and read more about his wonderful, wise sayings.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Lao Tzu was a great saint philosopher, he is among the people who leaves a chain of thoughts that is more understood and admired from people of later generations. It was a pleasure reading the quotes, there is so much learning in them.

    • ColorPetGifts profile image

      ColorPetGifts 6 years ago

      what a gorgeous presentation on Lao Tzu, many thanks :)

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      A very wise soul, I really enjoy his quotes and it is nice to learn more about him.

    • juditpaton profile image

      Iudit Gherghiteanu 6 years ago from Ozun

      Lao Tzu, ( i remember as Lao Tzi) is in my family as a personal guru, or how i should define, we did quote his words sometimes instead of fighting on some idea. Thank you reminding me about him, lately seems we forgot to do this.