Written or compiled—its authorship is still debated, it might have been written by Lao Tzu, or it might have been compiled by other scholars from Lao Tzu’s teachings—around 400 BC, “The Book of The Way” is one of the most important texts that the ancient have left us. Its lessons are universal and still relevant. It’s a short book that we should all read at least once and perhaps keep it on your nightstand, close to your other religious and spiritual books.
Across its 81 shorts sections (not more than a page long each) and written mostly in aphorisms, one finds rules for power, health, ordinary life, and spirituality.
This is a book to read and re-read, and re-read.
Notes & Highlights
Opposites (on teaching detachment)
- They produce but do not hoard; They act, but expect no praise; They build, but do not dwell therein.
Value virtue over wealth, and the people’s hearts will be at rest.
Wise rulers do not accumulate treasures, but seek to quiet the hearts of their people.
The wise humble themselves—and because of their humility, they are worthy of praise Ego Is The Enemy
They put others first, and so become great.
They are not focused on outcomes or achievements; therefore they always succeed.
Matter is necessary to give form, but the value of reality lies in its immateriality.
Moderation Is the Highest Form of Greatness.
Overeating and starvation are both harmful to the body.
To glimpse the secret of the Tao, you must keep still and quiet your mind.
If a ruler lacks faith, so will the people.
When great rulers lead, the people are hardly aware of their existence.
Relatives are unfriendly, yet we talk of familial love and respect.
Common people have plenty; scholars are never satisfied.
Common people are useful; scholars are useless.
Peace is meant to be our natural state
The Mother of All
The Tao has no mother, but is the mother of all
Good hikers need no maps;
Good speakers need no scripts;
Good counters need no abacus;
Good guards need no locks.
Those who know both their strengths and their limits become models worth following.
The wise respect the roles of all, and seek moderation in all things.
Persuasion is better than compulsion.
Rulers have nothing to gain through force of arms.
Overindulgence creates waste.
Hoarding invites loss.
Those who know when to stop are free to go on.
The more you wander, the less you know.
Life is going forth; death is returning home.
A model for others
A tree that is well-planted is not easily uprooted.
A treasure that is well-guarded is not easily taken away.
If you pass on the Tao to your children, your family’s virtue will endure.
The virtuous are like innocent children—poisonous insects will not sting them, wild beasts will not seize them, birds of prey will not attack them.
As creatures grow and mature, they begin to decay. This is the opposite of the Tao—the Tao remains ever you.
Those who talk do not know; those who know do not talk.
The wise shut their mouths and watch their actions
The government is best administered with virtue; the army is best directed with strategy; the people are best ruled by giving them freedom.
The more restrictions are enacted, the poorer the people become. The more soldiers patrol the streets, the more disorderly the city becomes.
The more laws and orders are issued, the more thieves and robbers abound.
One should do great things as one fries small fish—simply, boldly, without fear.
Respond to hatred with kindness.
Attend to the end
To succeed, be as attentive at the end of an enterprise as at the beginning.
Bring out the best
Bring out the best in yourself, and you will bring out the best in others.
Know your weakness
When well-matched armies come to conflict, the one that is aware of its own weakness conquers.
To know that there are some things you cannot know is wisdom.
Courage and Caution
Reckless courage leads to death.
Cautious courage leads to life.
These two things, courage and caution, must be balanced.
Oppressive measures never achieve their intended results.
Gentle and flexible belong to life.
Scholars are seldom the wisest people; the wise are seldom scholars.