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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"When I let go of what I am..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: When I let go of what I am...

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."




The Book

Tao Te Ching — The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Te Ching

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 (paid link).

       More about the book here.



This quote is weird not only in the eyes of Lao Tzu, but in those of just about every ancient thinker. They would all agree that I have to be what I am — that's the path worth taking. What I might be is just an illusion, making the mind fool itself.

       It makes sense in our modern zeitgeist, where everyone from a young age wants to be famous and spectacular. Like in the American credo: you can be anything you want to be. Good luck with that.

       Lao Tzu, in particular, would sneer at such ambitions. Modesty was his ideal. Returning to the natural way was his recipe. Not chasing some gilded dream that would disappoint even more if it were reached.


Fake Lao Tzu Quotes — Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Now it's a book, too!

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 (paid link).

       More about the book here.


       The trick, every sage of the past would tell you, is to be who you are. In short: this quote is plain nonsense.

       On some websites, there is another sentence added to the quote:


When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.


       That has an anti-materialistic ring to it, which Lao Tzu and Jesus alike would appreciate. But they might prefer to reverse it to something like: you should not have what you don't need.

       Both quotes are from a wildly tendentious version of Tao Te Ching by John Heider: The Tao of Leadership from 1985. It seems to have no intention of being true to the original.

       The two quotes (page 43) are very loosely based on the first lines of chapter 22 of Tao Te Ching — so loosely that it is hard to comprehend how Heider got to this interpretation.

       Here is my version of the start of chapter 22:


Hulk to be whole.
Bend to be straight.
Empty to be filled.
Wear down to be renewed.
Reduce to gain.
Excess confuses.


       And here is D. C. Lau's from 1963 (page 79):


Bowed down then preserved;
Bent then straight;
Hollow then full;
Worn then new;
A little then benefited;
A lot then perplexed.


       So, it's not about changing one's personality, but one's actions.

       For more about John Heider and his Tao Te Ching version, see the chapter Silence is a source.

Stefan Stenudd
April 2, 2017, revised September 10, 2020.



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My Taoism Books:


Tao Te Ching — The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Te Ching

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 (paid link).

       More about the book here.


Tao Quotes — the Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Quotes

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 (paid link).

       More about the book here.


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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