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“The Thoughts from the Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu

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  • Pages: 6
  • Word count: 1381
  • Category: Taoism

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Critical Analysis of The Thoughts from the Tao Te Ching ” The Thoughts from the Tao Te Ching,” by Lao Tzu addresses the early beginning of the religion of Taoism and how it can be applied to rulers. The age of the book is uncertain, but it is believed to have been written around 551-479 BC (19). This particular excerpt is just one of the chapters from the two part eighty-one short chapter book. This chapter was written as a handbook of sorts for rulers to follow both mentally and physically. The main focus of the chapter is to be “at one” with the Tao, and to follow the three main teachings, simplicity, patience and compassion (Lao Tzu). Throughout the whole piece each one of his poetic verses can reference back to at least one of the three teachings. The whole chapter is divided into poetic verse filled with symbolism and thought. Lao Tzu presents his ideas in such a manner that the reader can sincerely believe his thoughts and ideas and is persuaded to think of them as valid.

Lao Tzu believes that a ruler/master should be concerned with individual’s lives, and not use much governmental force. He believes that a master should be extremely wise, and with such wisdom would come the willingness to let the world flow freely and uninterrupted. The next focus of his chapter is on the three teachings, the first being simplicity. Simplicity must be applied in the thoughts that materialism and wealth are meaningless, and they will only serve to remove the master and his people from becoming enlightened. It is believed that if the master and others reject worldly pleasures that they will return to their original source of being. Patience is the second of the teachings. The beliefs are that is you are compassionate towards yourself and others then you will be at one with all things in the world. One must learn to point out their own flaws and be loving towards their enemies, which also may posses different flaws. The third teaching is Patience. Lao Tzu feels that a person must have patience with themselves, friends, and enemies alike. One must also be willing to let the world go uninterrupted and let the natural world take its coarse.

The structure of Lao Tzu’s writing was essential is tying back to the main ideas in the chapter. The use of poetic verse, I feel, was very wise. The form of writing makes it very direct and appears to be very simplistic in structure. His words although, the may seem simple to the eye, to the mind they are very complex in thoughts and beliefs. The words may be short in length, but they are very long in meaning. One small verse such as, ” Practice not doing, and everything will fall into place (22),” can carry much meaning. With just one simple sentence Lao Tzu can imply a great deal of ideas to the reader, such as not to interfere with things, and to let the world go on naturally and free of interruption, and the list could go on and on. The point is that no matter how small the words or the sentence may be, if precisely written it can have an unlimited amount of meaning to its readers.

Aside from the structure of the writing the ideas were also very well organized and well stated. Throughout the whole piece every one of the verses can be referenced back to at least one of the three main teachings. By constantly referring back to the key teachings Lao Tzu strongly emphasizes the need for the rulers to apply them throughout all aspects of their lives. One such verse that represents this well is, “If you want to be a great leader, you must learn to follow the Tao.

Stop trying to control.

Let go of fixed plans and concepts, and the world will govern itself ( 27).” That particular passage does a wonderful job of showing how anyone of the verses seeks to reinforces the main ideas in the piece. The previous verse implied that to be a ruler one must follow the Tao, which is to live simply. He must also be patient and let fixed plans go, just let the natural flow of life happen. By the ruler listening to the verse and applying it he in turn is following the three main teachings of the Tao.

Personally, I feel that following these teachings would be a tremendously hard task. I cannot even comprehend living according to those standards. I would have to give up so many of the things that I have become so accustomed to in life, such as my car, television, my computer, and so many more materialistic things that I have in my life. I would also have to let go a some many beliefs that I have held throughout my life, such as the idea of going to college so that I can obtain a high paying job. In Taoism the idea of wealth is something that is to be forgotten, and I know that I certainty would have a hard time letting go of that belief. Personally I don’t feel that I could ever really in a sense agree to these ideals of living at one with the Tao, although I certainty do not disregard the ideas as falsehood which could never be done. I admire those who have the strong will, compassion, patience and simplicity to live by Lao Tzu’s standards.

While reading the chapter there are a couple of key strengths and weaknesses that stood out to me. One of the strengths that I noticed was the ability of Lao Tzu to enable the readers to apply themselves in order to fully understand the meaning of the piece. He keeps his words to the bare minimum, yet presents simple metaphors that the readers can relate and apply to their everyday lives. Many people in the world try to lead the simplest lives possible and be at one with nature, one such example could be the members of Green Peace who strive to let the natural world go without human intervention.

The major weakness of the pieces that really stood out to me was the interpretation of the words by Stephen Mitchell. The added words from the 20th century take away from the original text and I feel that he should not have thrown in his own words to make it more understandable. The particular verse that shows this flaw is the following, ” When a country is in harmony with the Tao, The factories make trucks and tractors.

When a country goes counter to the Tao, Warheads are stockpiled outside the cities (26).” I feel that this particular interpretation of words strays away from the original sense of time and meaning of the piece. I know that to me as a reader, it caused some confusion to the actual time period in which this chapter was written. The words that Stephan Mitchell uses were words from the 20th century and not the actual time period in which the piece was written. After reading the verse I had to sit back and think for a minute and remember that this was not the original text and that it was translated by someone thousands of years after the original piece was written. I definitely feel that Stephan Mitchell did not serve the readers any justice to alter the original is such a manner to interpret in words that originated after the piece was written.

Overall, I feel that ” The Thoughts from the Tao Te Ching,” was a very compelling and spiritually moving piece. Lao Tzu did an extremely good job in relaying his information to the readers and strengthening those ideas with the metaphors and poetic verse. I know that after reading Lao Tzu’s writing I sat back and thought about how my life and my relationships would change if I was to live by his teaching. Although the piece may have been written more than half a millennia ago in a very troubled society, it is still very much relevant and can be applied to almost all aspects of life today.

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