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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"There are many paths to enlightenment..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: There are many paths to enlightenment...

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"There are many paths to enlightenment. Be sure to take the one with a heart."






This fake Lao Tzu quote is so banal, I hesitate even to include it. Paths don't have hearts. It would make more sense to say "choose with your heart." And if so, shouldn't we choose paths with our hearts, whether they lead to enlightenment or not?

       Of course, enlightenment is a Buddhist concept, not Taoist. Within Zen, the Japanese word satori is usually translated enlightenment. It refers to a sudden experience of insight and clarity.

       Then there is the Enlightenment of European thought in the 18th century, but I bet that's not intended in the quote.


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       Lao Tzu said nothing about enlightenment or a sudden burst of understanding, like a moment of revelation. He spoke more about wisdom, something attained from contemplating over time and following Tao, the Way.

       Also the idea of following one's heart is alien to Lao Tzu and his time. The heart as an organ of compassion and emotions is a Western idea. The heart is more a symbol of the mind and will-power in the Far East.

       Yet another absurdity with the quote is the idea of many paths. Tao, the Way, can also be translated the Path - and Lao Tzu would revolt against the idea of more than one Tao, or that it would at all be possible to choose another one than the Tao he spoke about. To him, there was one Way, and the whole world without exception was ruled by it.

       This fake Lao Tzu quote is so off, and so conventional, its originator can be just about anyone. Not much thought was needed to come up with it. I'd even say that evidently not much thought was put into it.

       The quote has been around, falsely accredited to Lao Tzu, for longer than the Internet. I found it in Treasury of Spiritual Wisdom from 1996 by Andy Zubko (page 128), a book also mentioned in the chapter "Life and death are one thread." It contains several Lao Tzu quotes that must be deemed fake, with no mention of a source or reference to a chapter of Tao Te Ching. So, I don't know where he got this and some other questionable Lao Tzu quotes.

       It is quite likely that a lot of later occurrences of this quote stem from his book. For more about its Lao Tzu quotes, see the chapter "Life and death are one thread."

       There are similar expressions leading to other sources, but none of them to Lao Tzu. The book Spiritual Growth from 1989, by Sanaya Roman, states the following (page 12):


There are many paths to enlightenment. Choose the path that is most joyful to you and in alignment with your values.


       Another candidate as origin of the quote examined here is Deepak Chopra. The book Examining alternative medicine from 2001, by Paul C. Reisser, quotes from an "Ask Deepak" section of his website (page 195):


There are many paths to enlightenment ... listen to your heart and choose which one feels best for you.


       Reisser gave the date for this quote as May 23, 1998, but that section has since been removed from the website. It remains on Internet Archive, though, where the full quote reads: "There are many paths to enlightenment, which can include love of a fellow human being, love of a guru or love of the Divine. Listen to your heart and choose which one feels best for you."

       The Chopra wording is much nearer than Roman's to that of the quote examined here. But it is from 1998, when Zubko's book had already been around for two years. If Chopra had made the same statement in one of his many books, it would probably have come up in my Google Books and Internet Archive searches, but it did not.

       Andy Zubko's book remains the most probable first source to the quote, and he might have paraphrased a Buddhist saying.

Stefan Stenudd
April 2, 2017, revised September 10, 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 (paid link).

       More about the book here.



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