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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"If you do not change direction..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."






Accrediting this quote to Lao Tzu is insulting to his intellect. It is pure nonsense in a presumptuous form. If you don't change direction, where else would you end up but where you are heading?

       Actually, the quote makes a mistake in tenses. Even if you change direction, you end up where you are heading, but not where you were heading before changing direction.

       So, double nonsense.


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90 of the most spread false Lao Tzu quotes, why they are false and where they are really from. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

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       Lao Tzu was not much for travel. His main objection to it was that you find no higher truth elsewhere than right where you are. If it's not there, it is nowhere. In chapter 47 he stated (my version):


Without stepping out the door,
You can know the world.
Without looking through the window,
You can see Heaven's Way.
The longer you travel, the less you know.


       And in chapter 80, where he described his ideal society, people should not be inclined to travel:


Although they have boats and carriages,
There's no occasion to use them.


       So, for Lao Tzu it was not about taking a trip where you allow yourself to end up just about anywhere. It was about being at peace where you are and remaining there.

       The oldest book I have found with this exact quote is The Dragon Doesn't Live Here Anymore: Loving Fully, Living Freely, by Alan Cohen, from 1981 (page 355). Already there, Lao Tzu is accredited with it - without any source, to no surprise. Cohen is a successful writer of so-called inspirational books.

       Among his many books is one called The Tao Made Easy from 2018. There, the excerpts from Tao Te Ching he used are from the Gia-fu Feng and Jane English version in the 2011 edition. The quote discussed here, though, is not to be found in their book.

       The same quote, just replacing "may" with "will," is found in several books, most of them calling it a Chinese proverb. None of them is older than that of Cohen. So, they may have gotten it from his book, and paraphrased it.

Stefan Stenudd
September 16, 2020.



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The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. The great Taoist philosophy classic by Lao Tzu translated, and each of the 81 chapters extensively commented. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

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Tao Quotes - the Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Quotes

The Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. 389 quotes from the foremost Taoist classic, divided into 51 prominent topics. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.


Fake Lao Tzu Quotes - Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. 90 of the most spread false Lao Tzu quotes, why they are false and where they are really from. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.



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