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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"If a person seems wicked..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: If a person seems wicked, do not cast him away...

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"If a person seems wicked,
do not cast him away.
Awaken him with your words,
elevate him with your deeds,
repay his injury with your kindness.
Do not cast him away;
cast away his wickedness."






I might be overly sensitive, but the word wicked strikes me as misplaced in the translation of a philosophical Chinese text from around 2,400 years ago. But the general message in this quote is something Lao Tzu would not deny. Those who are bad should not be condemned and abandoned - they should be converted.

       He wrote in chapter 27 of Tao Te Ching that "the sage takes care of all people, forsaking none" and later in the chapter (my version):


So, a good person is the bad person's teacher.
A bad person is the good person's task.


The quote examined here seems like it could be an elaboration of these lines from chapter 27, but it is not. It originates in the book Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao from 2007, by Wayne W. Dyer (page 294), where it is expressly stated in the header to be from chapter 62.


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       That is confusing, since the chapter in question contains little similar to the quote. Here is the corresponding part of the chapter in my version:


Fine words are traded.
Noble deeds gain respect.
But people who are not good,
Why abandon them?


       Bernhard Karlgren in 1975 wrote, for some reason omitting the question mark (page 11):


With fine words one can buy honours, with fine actions one can surpass others. The bad ones among men, why need they be rejected.


       Now, in the preface to his book (page xv), Dyer gladly confessed to his dependence on Jonathan Star's Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition from 2001 for his versions of many Tao Te Ching chapters, also specifically chapter 62. He was not just being polite. The same part of chapter 62 reads almost exactly the same in Star's version (page 75). The only difference is that Star wrote "requite" instead of "repay."

       Still, Star's version is just as far off from scholarly translations of the lines. It is strange in his case, because later in his book, he gives a word by word translation of the Chinese text, hardly supporting his own interpretation.

       Jonathan Star's version of Tao Te Ching is also discussed in the chapter Hold your male side with your female side. For more about Wayne W. Dyer and his interpretations of Tao Te Ching, see the chapter Every human being's essential nature.

Stefan Stenudd
September 16, 2020.



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