Tao Te Ching Summary
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Tao Te Ching (Dao De Ching) by Lao Tse (Lao Tzu) Summary by Chapters & Quotes

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times

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Introduction

Do you wish you were better at dealing with the obstacles and frustrations of life? Do you long to find that healthy balance between productive work and self-care for your well-being? Help may be at hand from the ancient Chinese teachings in the Tao Te Ching.

Promising to teach us how to use integrity, here we have 81 chapters of claimed wisdom on navigating life. To fully understand the main takeaways from the Tao Te Ching, we need to read with an open mind. The book has been translated into many languages, but the original text is hard to translate word by word. It has been highly influential and could teach us a lot about living well.

Key lessons we can take from Tao Te Ching include how to respond constructively to our faults and mistakes, how to cope with obstacles in our way, and how to use competition with others as an opportunity for fruitful interactions that benefit everyone involved. 

Lao Tzu promises to teach us the art of living well, sharing his ideal of how a ‘master’ of life should think and behave. He uses the term ‘master’ in its masculine form, but the teachings apply to everyone, male or female. 

Here are the most significant takeaways from Tao Te Ching. Tag us on social media and let us know which ones you agree or disagree with.

The History of Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, most noted for writing the Tao Te Ching. Lao Tzu founded Taoism, a life philosophy that advocates humility and religious piety. Despite his role in Chinese beliefs, Lao Tzu remains a vague historical being. There is very limited information on his existence.

Lao Tzu was given the name Laozi, meaning the wise one or ‘old, venerable master’. The wisdom is well represented in his work, the Tao Te Ching. Written over two thousand years ago, it is a guide that remains relevant for all of us in our journeys of self-discovery. 

Lao introduced simple concepts as the greatest treasures in life.

StoryShot #1: We Can Apply the Principles of Simplicity, Patience, and Compassion in Our Lives

Life can be complicated, but simplicity, patience, and compassion allow us to reset our distracted minds. Simplicity, patience, and compassion encourage us to do the following:

  • Be patient with others and the environment
  • Be compassionate to ourselves
  • Feel empowered to maneuver all life hurdles with ease

StoryShot #2: The Concept of Tao Is Our Guide

‘Tao’ translates as the channel, path, or way and also represents a system of morality. Tao represents both the source of all things and their ideal state. Lao Tzu claims that because we have free will, we can easily deviate from this natural way of being, but we can also return to that state of harmony again. A master insists on the virtue and power of attunement with the Tao and strives to live in line with nature.

“The Tao produces (all things) and nourishes them; it produces

them and does not claim them as its own; it does all and yet

does not boast of it; it presides over all, and yet does not control

them. This is what is called ‘The mysterious quality

of the Tao.”

– Lao Tzu

The master also puts effort into realizing what is best for him. However, the master stops when he has done enough and lets nature take control. It is imperative for every master to know their limits and not overreach themselves. Our efforts and achievements should not boost our egos, but help us live with wholesome humility. 

StoryShot #3: Jing, Qi, and Shen Should Be in Balance

Jing, Qi, and Shen are the main treasures the master should own. A balance in the three treasures brings physical and spiritual harmony. This harmony and balance also contribute to well-being. 

Jing 

“Jing” translates to a set of guidelines or the essence. We can only harmonize with others and nature through a deep connection with ourselves. Jing also protects our bodies from external factors and regulates internal growth and development. 

Essence is the core of our growth, development, and reproduction. Jing is inside us when we are born and has remained in our bodies ever since. To stay healthy, we must not let the Jing deplete. 

Refrain from all that is against nature to maintain the Jing. If the Jing dies, we die. We should aim to attain our best selves but not overexert ourselves. Key principles that help us align with Tao and maintain Jing include being humble, taking care of others, avoiding violence, being responsible with power, and accepting that change is inevitable.  

Male professional in an office reflecting on his career goals - a self-awareness journey from Tao Te Ching.
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The Tao Te Ching encourages you to put in an effort to show up every day and chase your dreams.

Qi 

‘Qi’ or ‘Chi’ is the vital energy of our bodies. It is the air we breathe and the energy that keeps us alive. Not all Qi is good and constructive, but mindful living eliminates the bad Qi and amplifies the good. 

Qi is also the life force surrounding us and both our internal and external environments alter it. When Qi gathers, a body is formed, and when Qi disperses, the body dies. 

Balanced, free-flowing Qi promotes health and well-being. Stagnant, imbalanced Qi brings poor health and well-being, harming us and our environment. 

“All things spring up and there is not one which declines to show

itself; they grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership;

they go through their processes, and there is no expectation (of a

reward for the results). The work is accomplished, and there is

no resting in it as an achievement.”

– Lao Tzu

Shen

‘Shen’ is our spirit. The spirit is born when a drop of Shen unites with Jing and Qi. To become a master, we should each guard our Shen by maintaining authenticity and aligning with Tao.

Avoid information systems that focus too much on naming things and instances. Naming deprives things and instances of their natural state. This is because a name artificially discriminates between things and contains them within space and time. It can therefore make them feel more distant and different from ourselves than they truly are. 

“Once the whole is divided, the parts need names.

There are already enough names.

One must know when to stop.

Knowing when to stop averts trouble.”

– Lao Tzu

As a pure spirit, Shen enables us to maintain high levels of self-consciousness. Self-consciousness helps us to stay connected with the universe. Cultivation of the Shen also sets us apart from the rest of the universe.

We can only nurture our Shen by being rich in Qi and Jing. A healthy Shen promotes the blossoming of the Qi and Jing.

Mastering Jing, Qi, and Shen strengthens our vitality. This keeps us well aligned with nature and assured of good well-being.

StoryShot #4: We Should Own All Our Faults And Mistakes

When a master makes a mistake, he looks within, then realizes, admits, and corrects the mistake. He does not get upset when someone else points out the mistake. Instead, the master treats the individual as a generous teacher. We should therefore aspire to these same constructive responses when we make mistakes.

Each fault we recognize in ourselves or our behavior is a great learning opportunity, if we do not dwell on our past. Consider your enemies to be your shadow and observe how they judge others. Do not let someone else’s behavior trigger you into an impulsive and angry response. Instead, recognize that behavior as a manifestation of their character and lead by example to help them change it.

Observing other people helps us keep ourselves in check. Through observation, we can evaluate our poor traits and work to eliminate them. Accepting faults might bruise your ego, but you can be wise enough to get over it. 

“He who knows other men is discerning; he who knows himself is

intelligent. He who overcomes others is strong; he who

overcomes himself, is mighty. He who is satisfied with his lot is rich;

he who goes on acting with energy has a (firm) will.”

– Lao Tzu

Accepting faults and mistakes might take a toll on us, but we should focus on raising our consciousness and being a better version of ourselves.

Rating

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