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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"If you want to become whole..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial...

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up."






I would be fine with this saying as one by Lao Tzu, were it not for that thing about dying to be reborn. He showed no belief in such a thing. That is Buddhism and Hinduism, not Taoism.

       Yet, this is from a version of Tao Te Ching - that of Stephen Mitchell from 1988. His very popular text is the origin of many odd Lao Tzu quotes floating around. Mitchell allowed himself a lot of paraphrasing, to say the least. In several instances he landed so far from the original that it can be difficult to figure out what part of Tao Te Ching he interpreted and what could make him deviate so far from it.


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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.

       More about the book here.


       The quote discussed here is Mitchell's version of the first lines of chapter 22. Of course, it says nothing about rebirth. Here is my version of the same lines:


Hulk to be whole.
Bend to be straight.
Empty to be filled.
Wear down to be renewed.
Reduce to gain.
Excess confuses.


       Here is Arthur Waley's wording from 1934 (page 171):


To remain whole, be twisted!
To become straight, let yourself be bent.
To become full, be hollow.
Be tattered, that you may be renewed.
Those that have little, may get more,
Those that have much, are but perplexed.

       Obviously, it is the thing about being renewed that Mitchell has taken very far, indeed. I have no idea why. Did he want to turn Lao Tzu into a Buddhist?

       For more about Stephen Mitchell and his version of Tao Te Ching, see the chapter A good traveler has no fixed plans.

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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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.

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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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