Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Fake Lao Tzu Quote
"If you want to awaken all of humanity..."
This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:
"If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation."
One of the memes with this quote depicts what seems to be a Buddhist monk, which makes sense since the message of the fake Lao Tzu quote relates to Buddhist ideas. Buddhism was not introduced in China until hundreds of years after the time of Lao Tzu.
Awakening oneself and the suffering in the world are familiar concepts in Buddhism, but not in the Taoism of Lao Tzu. Self-transformation is a modern concept with connections to Buddhist as well as other schools of thought. It is close to the self-realization ideas of contemporary society. I'm not sure that even Buddha would have ascribed to it just like that, and surely not Lao Tzu.
Nor would Lao Tzu talk about what is dark and negative within a person, as if a shadow possessed the mind. He spoke about actions, not personality, and insisted that all people should be able to learn to follow Tao, the Way — not for what it did to their minds, but for what it would do to their lives and to the world around them.
Unfortunately, this version of the book, by Brian Browne Walker, repeats the false claim. But the Hua Hu Ching was written many centuries after Lao Tzu, and it contains ideas at least as far from those of Lao Tzu as the ones mentioned above.
Actually, Walker's rendition of Hua Hu Ching is also very far from the original of that book, which exists only in fragments. He has used a version equally far from the original, if not to say fictional, by Hua-Ching Ni from 1979. Walker's version deviates considerably from that book, as well. For example, chapter 75 is to Walker a poetic one-page rendition, but in Ni's book it is several pages of prose (pages 217-220).
The false Lao Tzu quote is also widely spread in the shorter form of just the last sentence:
April 2, 2017, revised September 9, 2020.
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About meI'm a Swedish author and aikido instructor. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism and other East Asian traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.