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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"The snow goose..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white...

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself."






This quote is easy enough to understand. It is about nature already providing us with all we need, similar to what Jesus said about the lilies in Matthew 6:28-29 (King James Version):


And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.


       But Lao Tzu never mentioned the snow goose in Tao Te Ching. He did not even mention either snow or geese. So, how this maxim got connected to Lao Tzu is bewildering.


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       He would also reject the idea of being yourself, wondering how being anything else could be at all possible. He did, however, recommend modesty in all, even for the high and mighty. In chapter 39 he stated (my version):


The noble must make humility his root.
The high must make the low its base.


       He ended the chapter with this advice:


So, do not strive for the shine of jade,
But clatter like stone.


       The oldest book in which I have found the complete quote examined here is The Mystic Path to Cosmic Power from 1967, by Vernon Howard. He accredited it to Tao, by which he might have meant Lao Tzu or Chuang Tzu (page 113), who were both mentioned on the previous page. His vague reference implies that he was paraphrasing, in spite of using quotes.

       The next book to contain the quote is A Guide for the Advanced Soul from 1984, by Susan Hayward, where it is accredited to Lao Tzu (the book lacks pagination). And then You'll See It when You Believe It from 1989, by Wayne W. Dyer, also claiming it to be from Lao Tzu (page 155). Other books have followed, with the same accreditation. None gives any reference to a Tao Te Ching version, or even what chapter it would be from.

       There is, though, a similar saying in the book of Chuang Tzu, which reads in James Legge's Texts of Taoism, volume 1, from 1891 (page 357):


The snow-goose does not bathe every day to make itself white, nor the crow blacken itself every day to make itself black.


       That is from the 14th book of Chuang Tzu, called "The Revolution of Heaven." The 14th book belongs to the group called the "Outer Chapters," which are considered not to be Chuang Tzu's own words. The text claims that the quote was from Lao Tzu's mouth, which should be doubted even more.

       In any case, this Chuang Tzu quote must be the origin of the quote examined here. It does not say you should just be yourself, but something that could very well be interpreted that way. The Chuang Tzu text continues:


The natural simplicity of their black and white does not afford any ground for controversy; and the fame and praise which men like to contemplate do not make them greater than they naturally are.


       Although wordier, I still prefer the Chuang Tzu version. Anyway, neither version of the quote is from Tao Te Ching, and was most likely never uttered by Lao Tzu.

Stefan Stenudd
September 21, 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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