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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"The past has no power..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: The past has no power to stop you from being present now...

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that. And what is grievance? The baggage of old thought and emotion."






Being in the now instead of lingering on in the past is a Zen principle. There is that famous anecdote about the old monk carrying a young woman across a river. Later, another monk accompanying him complained about the behavior, not proper for a monk. The old monk replied: "You must be tired, carrying that girl all this way. I put her down as soon as we got to the other side of the river" (Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics, by R. H. Blyth, 1942, page 278).

       Living in the now may seem precious, but there are complications. The experience and understanding acquired through life would wash away if we decided to ignore our past. So would the vast fortune of memories that makes us know that we have lived.


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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.

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       If we are to take the principle of living only in the now literally, we might as well be dead. That is particularly true if we denounce "old thought and emotion." They surely contain reasons for grievance, but also for joy and realizations. We would be blank without them, making no progress ever.

       The quote examined here hardly survives scrutiny. Nor does it have anything to do with Lao Tzu. Like most Chinese thinkers of old he cherished the past, regarding it as a golden age. Chapter 15 of Tao Te Ching starts (my version):


Ancient masters of excellence had a subtle essence,
And a depth too profound to comprehend.


       Lao Tzu was sure to share the conviction that we can and should get wiser by age. His name is sort of honorary, with the literary meaning "old child," indicating someone who has made good use of his years since childhood. He would not propagate forgetting all that experience.

       Although Lao Tzu is often accredited with the quote, just a simple web search shows that so is another person: Eckhart Tolle, the popular author and speaker on spiritual subjects. He is the origin of the quote, writing the sentences in his book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose from 2005 (page 66). They are his own words, he was not quoting anyone.

       Tolle was inspired by, among others, Lao Tzu, mentioning him in the book and even quoting from Tao Te Ching (using the Feng and English version from 1972 without accrediting that source), which he called "one of the most profound spiritual books ever written" (page 14). But he seems to have drawn even more from Zen, probably also his thoughts in the quote discussed here.

Stefan Stenudd
September 21, 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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