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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"Stop leaving..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: Stop leaving and you will arrive...

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):


They can see their neighbors.
Roosters and dogs can be heard from there.
Still, they will age and die
Without visiting one another.


       As for being found, he would rather stress the importance of you finding your own bearing in the world ruled by Tao, the Way. No one can find that for you.

       Still, the quote is not unlikely as a free paraphrasing of something from Tao Te Ching.


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       The earliest occurrence of the exact quote I have found on the web is in a blog post from January 1, 2011, ascribing it to Lao Tzu without giving a source. On the Goodreads website, the quote got its first like a few months later, in June, 2011. The same year is also the first giving the quote in a book, ascribing it to Lao Tzu: Discover Your Hidden Memory & Find the Real You, by Menis Yousry (page 190).

       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:


Without traveling to foreign lands,
You can learn the way the world is made.
Without stepping on the stars,
You can see how they are arranged.
The farther you go in search of an answer,
The less you will understand.
Stop leaving,
And you will arrive.
Stop searching,
And you will see.
Stop running away,
And you will be found.


       That is obviously a version of chapter 47 in Tao Te Ching. Compare it to my version of that chapter:


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.

Therefore:
The sage knows without traveling,
Perceives without looking,
Completes without acting.


       Here is Arthur Waley's version of the chapter, from 1934 (page 200):


Without leaving his door
He knows everything under heaven.
Without looking out of his window
He knows all the ways of heaven.
For the further one travels
The less one knows.
Therefore the Sage arrives without going,
Sees all without looking,
Does nothing, yet achieves everything.


       The deviations of the Monterey Life version from mine and Waley's form a pattern. They take the Taoism out of the quote. Heaven is replaced by the stars, the sage is replaced by a generic "you," and the non-action so central in Lao Tzu's thoughts is replaced by the odd statement of stopping to run away in order to be found.

       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.

Stefan Stenudd
September 20, 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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