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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"Most of the world's religions..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: Most of the world's religions serve only to strengthen attachments to false concepts...

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"Most of the world's religions serve only to strengthen attachments to false concepts such as self and other, life and death, heaven and earth, and so on. Those who become entangled in these false ideas are prevented from perceiving the Integral Oneness."






What would Lao Tzu, who lived in China around 2,400 years ago, know about the world's religions? He was not even that interested in deities and such of his time and place. He mentioned one specific deity in Tao Te Ching, only in passing, while contemplating the origin of Tao (chapter 4, my version):


I do not know whose child it is.
It seems to precede the ancestor of all.


       This ancestor of all was Ti, supreme god in Chinese mythology, who was regarded as the creator. Still, Lao Tzu indicated that Tao was older, which means existing before the creation of the world. In other words, even the creator god had to obey the laws of Tao.


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       The only other mention of deities in Tao Te Ching is in chapter 39, where it lists what entities obtained unity with the One, which is Tao. Among them were the spirits, who became deities by it, and thereby avoided withering.

       The concept of religion is in itself of much later origin, getting its present meaning from the Renaissance and on, when other beliefs than the Christian one were increasingly explored. In ancient China, the term would have had little meaning, especially in plural.

       Moving on through the quote, Lao Tzu would definitely not agree that the concepts of heaven and earth were false. He mentioned them frequently in Tao Te Ching, as opposites making up the world. In chapter 5 he wrote:


Is not the space between Heaven and Earth like a bellows?
It is empty, but lacks nothing.
The more it moves, the more comes out of it.


       The "Integral Oneness" ending the quote examined here is a strange expression. It must refer to Tao, the Way, but does so in a more complicated manner than necessary or relevant. What does it even mean? I would assume that an integral one consists of more than one, and therefore is not only one. Lao Tzu sometimes called Tao "the One," for example in chapter 10:


Can you make your soul embrace the One
And not lose it?


       The quote examined here is not from Tao Te Ching, but from Hua Hu Ching: The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu from 1992 (paperback edition 1995), interpreted by Brian Browne Walker (chapter 16, page 19).

       Hua Hu Ching is a text falsely claimed to be by Lao Tzu, though composed hundreds of years later, which only exists in fragments discovered as late as 1900. For more about it, read the chapter Embrace all things.

       An earlier version than Walker's of Hua Hu Ching was written by Hua-Ching Ni, first published in 1979: The Complete Works of Lao Tzu: Tao Teh Ching and Hua Hu Ching. It is not based on the old fragments of the text, but on "education from my parents" (page 105). Walker readily confessed his dependence on it, but Ni's wording of the same quote is different (page 121):


Many people are pleased and satisfied with the various limited religious doctrines existing in the world today. They all hope to live in the kingdom of Heaven someday and sit sublimely at the side of their personal deity, but by entertaining such hopes and beliefs they only foster concepts of self and others, longevity and brevity, life and death, and so on without end. With such conceptual entanglements they cannot even listen to the truth, much less study, practice and embrace it or explain it to others. In this case, how can they ever uplift themselves to the subtle, central realm to be with the Universal One of One Universal Life?


       So, none of the quotes is based on an ancient text and can in no way be said to contain the words of Lao Tzu. Still, the quote has frequently been passed on as a saying of his, as things go. Lately, memes have played a significant part in this.

Stefan Stenudd
September 18, 2020.



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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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