“…He who shows himself is not conspicuous;
He who considers himself right is not illustrious;
He who brags will have no merit;
He who boasts will not endure…?
This passage is from Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, a guidebook of Chinese philosophy and tenets to live by. Lao Tzu lived in the 6th century BC and is believed to be a contemporary of Confucius. Tao Te Ching is comprised of 81 wisdom teaching, so it’s a short book to read.
I’m always amazed at how books written centuries ago still have relevance for us in our lives today. The Tao Te Ching reminded me of the books on eastern philosophy that I have read so far like The Book of Five Rings, Analects of Confucius, The Art of War and so on, which are loaded with ancient and timeless wisdom. This is not a book that you read through quickly, but instead one that you take time to savour and digest.
There are a myriad of lessons embedded in the teachings. For instance, opposites are a part of life:
“The difficult and the easy complement each other;
The long and short offset each other;
The high and low incline toward each other;
Before and after follow each other;
…Between yea and nay
How much difference is there?
Between good and evil
How great is the distance?”
If you are interested in strategy, you’ll find something to delight your palate, if leadership is your thing Tao Te Ching has something to serve. Politics and philosophy are also included on the menu. Whatever your interests, the book offers something to you.
The Tao Te Ching surprised me because one of the things that I have often found difficult to digest with some of the best books on Eastern philosophy, which were written centuries ago is the horrific war imagery included. So it was a welcome change to hear what Lao Tzu had to say about war.
“The gentleman gives precedence to the left when at home, but to the right when he goes to war. Arms are instruments of ill omen, not the instruments of the gentleman. When one is compelled to use them, it is best to do so without relish.”
I enjoy reading books on Eastern philosophy and you can often translate the harsh imagery by using them as metaphors for today’s reality. I recommend Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu because it’s a little book that makes you think. And it is the kind of book that the most successful read to become wiser.
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