Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Fake Lao Tzu Quote
This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:
"Stop leaving and you will arrive. Stop searching and you will see. Stop running away and you will be found."
These sentences are not at all far from what Lao Tzu stated in Tao Te Ching. Well, they are not spot on, either. As for leaving and arriving, Lao Tzu would rather say that you already are where you should be, so there is nowhere to arrive. His ideal for human life is expressed in chapter 80 (my version):
Still, the quote is not unlikely as a free paraphrasing of something from Tao Te Ching.
But already by the end of 2004, the quote was used in a newspaper astrology column by Rob Breszny, as a guide to Gemini for the following year. On December 30 the column was published in Eugene Weekly, and the following day in The Austin Chronicle. Breszny also ascribed it to Lao Tzu.
There is one even earlier appearance of the quote in print: the magazine Monterey Life from 1987. In it, the quote is presented as what "a Chinese philosopher once wrote," giving additional lines before the quote discussed here. The complete quote reads:
This indicates a version aimed at making the Lao Tzu text applicable to anyone, without having to contemplate Taoist ideas. But Monterey Life is not guilty of that tendentious deviation. Their fault, particularly embarrassing in journalism, was neglecting to mention the source. Their complete quote of the chapter helped me find it.
This is from a version of Tao Te Ching by Benjamin Hoff: The Way to Life: At the Heart of the Tao Te Ching from 1981. Hoff reached world fame next year by publishing the big bestseller The Tao of Pooh, where he made the world of A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh explain the thoughts of Lao Tzu. In 1993 he also published The Te of Piglet, completing his writing on Taoism.
His handling of Pooh and Piglet can indeed be questioned, and even more so that of Lao Tzu. Hoff allowed himself a lot of freedom when interpreting Tao Te Ching, often even more than the example of chapter 47 indicates. It seems he mainly tried to make both Lao Tzu's text and the books by A. A. Milne his own.
On the other hand, the international success of The Tao of Pooh made Lao Tzu and Taoism familiar to a wider audience than ever before. Without it, the exponentially rising popular interest in the words of Lao Tzu since the 1980's would probably not have taken place, at least not with that speed and magnitude.
Another quote from Benjamin Hoff's version of Tao Te Ching is discussed in the chapter When you find the way.
September 20, 2020.
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