In the twenty-third year of the reign of Zhao, Lao Tsu realized that the war would end up destroying the place where he lived. As he had spent years meditating on the meaning of life, he was quite aware that at certain moments one has to be practical. He decided to make the simplest decision: move home.
He gathered his few possessions and set out for Han Keou. At the gates of the city he came upon a guard.
– Where can such an important wise man be going? – asked the guard.
– Far from the war.
– You can’t leave just like that. I would very much like to know what you learned in so many years of meditation. I will only let you leave the city if you share with me what you know.
Lao Tsu wrote several pages there and handed the only copy to the man. Then he went on his journey and nobody ever heard of him again.
Lao Tsu’s text was copied and recopied, crossed centuries and millennia and has reached our times. It is called “Tao Te King” translated in nearly every language.
Here are some extracts:
He who knows others is wise.
He who knows himself is illuminated.
He who defeats others is strong.
He who defeats himself is powerful.
He who knows happiness is rich.
He who keeps his path is wilful.
Be humble and you will become whole.
Bend and you will become straight.
Empty yourself and you will become full.
Wear yourself out and you will become new.
The wise man does not show off, and so he shines.
He does not make himself known, and so he is noticed.
He does not praise himself, and so he has merit.
And because he does not compete,
none in the world can compete with him.