Book review: Tao Te Ching

Ancient wisdom speaks to modern times through the dusty annals of long forgotten words of wisdom. Few, however, have been able to adequately bring back one of Asia’s timeless and most insightful classics: the Tao Te Ching (Dow Day Jay-ing, or Jing).

A book wholly remarkable, since its first creation by Lao Tzu 2500 years ago, The Way And Its Virtue has been re-written perhaps more than any other book in history. Why the special attention? Because the Tao Te Ching is arguably the purest voice alive today that attempts to describe what many consider to be the Ultimate.

Taoism is one of the three most popular Chinese philosophies, the other two being Buddhism, adapted from the Indian culture, and Confucianism, the primary source of Chinese protocol. But neither live up to the ethical values and whimsical nature described by true Taoists.

Taoism is about people attuning themselves to the nature around them, as well as within them. This creates harmony, which leads to peace and happiness for all. The Tao Te Ching is a surviving collection of poetic sayings, gathered from both Taoist masters and simple country folk, detailing how conquest is overrated and how defense is more important than offense. The language is paradoxical, which frustrates many readers, and sometimes the book contradicts its own edicts, furthering the distrust of its supposed brilliance.

The truth of the Ultimate, the Tao, however, is simple. It is not something anyone is supposed to seek or grasp. The truth that Taoism gives is the usefulness of things as they are, whether perceived as negative or positive. It celebrates the joy of the simple-minded and honest without strain, which serves as the message the book delivers. Considering the current state of affairs, there could not be a better time for such words.

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