I’ve saved my favourite for last. Laozi, or as he is more commonly known, Lao Tzu, was a poet philosopher.
Reputedly the author of theTao Te Ching, he is also the founder of Taosim. As such, he was worshipped as a religious figure, with the nameTàishàng Lǎojūn, which means ‘Supreme Old Lord’. It is now believed, however, that theTao was ‘ a compilation of Taoist sayings by many hands’.
It is not known exactly when he lived; historians put him between the 6th and 4th century BC. Traditionally, it is believed that Laozi was a scholar who worked as the Keeper of the Archives for the royal court of Zhou. Some accounts say he was married. Others say he grew weary of the declining morality and increasing corruption, and ventured to the wild and unsettled west to live as a hermit. According to this story, he was recognised by the guard, Yinxi, at the western gate of the kingdom. The guard would not let him pass until he had agreed to record his wisdom for the good of the country. The text that Laozi wrote was the Tao Te Ching. Some say Yinxi became a disciple of Laozi and journeyed with him. There are those who believe Laozi travelled to India where he became the teacher of the prince Siddharta, who became the Buddha.
Laozi leaving for the west on a water buffalo
During the Han dynasty, as Taoism grew in strength and popularity, Laozi began to be worshipped as a god, and the first organised religious Taoist sect, the Way of the Celestial Master, was formed.
I love his sayings, and would happily list as many as I can find … but shall limit myself :)
‘He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.’
‘In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, do not try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.’
‘Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.’
‘Do the difficult things while they are easy, and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.’
‘When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.’
‘To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.’
‘When you are content to be simply yourself, and do not compare or compete, everybody will respect you.’
‘Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.’
‘Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Do not resist them for that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.’
‘At the centre of your being, you have the answer; you know who you are, and you know what you want.’
‘Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realise there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.’
‘Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.’
‘Silence is a source of great strength.’
‘If you realise that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.’
(Pictures taken at ingston Lacy House April 2010)