Legends vary, but Lao Tzu's birth is guessed to be between 600 and 300 B.C.E. Lao Tzu is attributed with the writing of the "Tao-Te Ching," (tao-meaning the way of all life, te-meaning the fit use of life by men, and ching-meaning text or classic). Lao Tzu was not his real name, but an honorific given the sage, meaning "Old Master."
Lao Tzu's wise council attracted followers, but he refused to set his ideas down in writing. He believed that written words might solidify into formal dogma. Lao Tzu wanted his philosophy to remain a natural way to live life with goodness, serenity and respect. Lao Tzu laid down no rigid code of behavior. He believed a person's conduct should be governed by instinct and conscience.
Lao Tzu believed that human life, like everything else in the universe, is constantly influenced by outside forces. He believed "simplicity" to be the key to truth and freedom. Lao Tzu encouraged his followers to observe, and seek to understand the laws of nature; to develop intuition and build up personal power; and to use that power to lead life with love, rather than with force.
The Three Teachings of China
The Teachings of Lao Tzu
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How can this help me?
Taoism is not easy to understand. In fact, the more you try to understand, the more confusing it can get. The first step is in understanding that Taoism is not really a religion - there are no gods, dieties, rituals, altars, or ceremonies. (Some forms of Taoism include these aspects, but not the form we are covering.) Taoism is a way of thinking and living in harmony with nature. It stresses simplicity in one's life - something we all need. You don't have to read the Tao Te Ching every day to be a Taoist. You don't have to live in hut in the middle of nowhere. You don't even have to know that Taoism exists to have this state of mind. Take a look at how Taoism can be a part of your life in the following sections.
Relationships | Daily Life | Your Body | Your Mind