How one of the most important books in the world came to be written

By Paulo Coelho

In the twenty-third year of the reign of Zhao, Lao Tzu realized that the war would ultimately destroy the place where he lived. Since he had spent years meditating on the essence of life, he knew that there are times when one has to be practical. He made the simplest possible decision: to move.

He took his few belongings and set off for Han Keou. As he was leaving the city, he met a gatekeeper.

‘Where is an eminent sage like you going?’ asked the gatekeeper.

‘Somewhere far from the war.’

‘You can’t just leave like that. I would like to know what you have learned after all these years of meditation. I will only let you leave, if you share what you know with me.’

Simply in order to get rid of the man, Lao Tzu wrote a slender volume right there and then, and gave that one copy to the gatekeeper. Then he went on his way, and was never heard of again.

Further copies of Lao Tzu’s book were made, it crossed centuries, it crossed millennia, and reached our time. It is called Tao te ching and is, quite simply, essential reading. Here are a few examples from its pages:

He who knows others is wise.

He who knows himself is enlightened.

He who conquers others is strong.

He who conquers himself is powerful.

He who knows joy is rich.

He who keeps to his path has will.

Be humble and you will remain whole.

Bow down and you will remain erect.

Empty yourself and you will remain full.

Wear yourself out and you will remain new.

The wise man does not show himself, and that is why he shines.

He does not attract attention to himself, and that is why he is noticed.

He does not praise himself, and that is why he has merit.

And because he is not competing, no one in the world can compete with him.

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  1. Petr says:

    I just wan to say-there is no “maybe”…you do it or not…it’s that simple ;)

  2. El Dormido says:

    I found that, as I meditated, while the silence brought me closer to essence, it was not until
    I opened my eyes and took the next step to turn my hand to the next task that my spirituality had any meaning.

  3. Agnieszka says:

    Hello Matthew!

    “We are already what we truly hope to be.”

    – that’s so nice, so full of… hope.
    Thank you.


  4. Agnieszka says:


    Maybe…we should do both.
    Balance, is what we need, don’t you think?


  5. Karen says:

    It’s sad that he had to leave due to bad people. To hell with them. May they all be justly served.

  6. Matthew says:

    We are already what we truly hope to be.
    The direction of a man is what determines effects of his being upon others.

    Matt Bushell.

    Agnieszka: Hello!

  7. aditya says:

    strange are HIS ways !!!


    maybe we should all learn to laugh a little more or rather smile, maybe we should add an element of fun in all efforts are self development, maybe we should begin by accepting ourselves as we are, accept HIS forgiveness for all the sins of the past, become light, warrior of light

  8. agnieszka says:


    He must have been a very wise man, and so are You, Paulo.

    Thank You for sharing it with us.

    We all should remember that every day.

    If we would, maybe we wouldn’t make so many mistakes in life.
    Maybe we would think before saying something out loud.
    Maybe…we would be more humble.
    Maybe we would…

    Well,… we still…can.
    Can’t we?