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Conservation or Forgetfulness? Wu Xi - A Sustainable Tradition. Teapot Heads Agree: Yi Xing's the Thing. Eight Must-See Dao Temples. Dao Art. The Great Tao. Jul 20, Tao Te Ching. Lao Tzu. 3. If you overesteem great men, people become powerless. If you overvalue possessions, people begin to steal. THE GREAT TAO. LIEUT.-COMMDR. A. S. ELWELL-SUTTON, R.N. (retd.), B.A., F.R.G.S.. AN understanding of the Chinese mind, and Chinese Art and.

Nor does it preclude the existence of a cataclysmically painful but too-little known type whom we can call the hardest person in the world to break up with. A… chapter 3. Self-Knowledge Learning to Be More Selfish From a young age, we are taught that one of the greatest risks to our integrity and flourishing is our own selfishness.

We must — wherever possible — learn to think… chapter 1. Relationships Desire and Intimacy One of the frequent and painful paradoxes of romantic life is that the more we get to know and love someone, the harder it can be to summon up any sincere… chapter 5. Sociability Leaning in to Vulnerability For many of us, whenever we feel substantially scared, sad, anxious or lonely, the last thing we would ever think of doing is to share our distress; a confession threatens to… chapter 3.

Self-Knowledge A More Spontaneous Life One explanation for the low-level sadness that often dogs our spirits is a lack of a seldom mentioned but essential ingredient in a good life: spontaneity.

Without necessarily being entirely aware… chapter 3. Self-Knowledge Learning to Listen to One's Own Boredom One of the most striking characteristics of small children is their militant aversion to boredom.

With ruthless determination, they embark on one occupation after another, shifting whenever an even marginally more… chapter 1. Relationships The Stranger You Live With There is no more common response, after we have been living alongside a partner for a few years, than a feeling of intense though normally very privately-held boredom. Nevertheless, I suspect there are many scholars who desire your unlimited access to the books for themselves.

Surely they wish to oust you in order to take over your position? The position may seem prestigious, but in fact it can be dangerous as well. Many people would use unscrupulous means, even violence, to take the position for themselves. Serving the king can also be dangerous —he has been known to execute his own advisors because they made some careless mistake. W hat is your secret? I use the Tao. Anyone can do the same thing—avoid danger and enjoy peace—through diligent cultivation of the Tao.

The Great Tao

W ith the clouds of war hanging over the land, I see no reason to remain. I hear about the impending war and think about going away myself, but I am tied to my property and career. That which you desire tends to bind you; relinquishing or reducing the desire tends to free you.

I will also include advice I have given King Wu over the years, for it too is based on the Tao. The scope may change but the Tao remains constant no matter who you are. Royalty or commoner— it makes no difference to the Tao. He leveraged his prodigious memory and understanding to create one concise chapter after another. Each chapter was a highly refined distillation of a major principle, a notable book, or a discussion with the king. Finally, it was done. Lao Tzu gave Y in Xi the manuscript.

Y in Xi could not believe it. He felt as if Lao Tzu had squeezed all the treasures in the royal vault into a diamond and handed it over to him.

Lao Tzu said his farewell, mounted the ox and continued on his way. How can I thank you for this gift? W ill I ever see you again? In that respect it is no different from other books. Remember: you can make it come alive by putting what it says into actual practice.

W hen you do so, you will see me … in the Tao. Neither one of them realized that the gift was destined to become a spiritual cornerstone, not just for the Chinese but for all humankind. Neither one realized that one of the most significant events in human history had just taken place.

This typical day at the Hangu Pass … turned out to be not so typical after all. T he Origin of the T ao This story of Lao Tzu at the pass is both memorable and useful for clearing up a number of points about the Tao and Taoism. Perhaps the most common misconception encountered by Westerners is that Lao Tzu himself was the founder of Taoism—which he was not.

By the time Lao Tzu walked the Earth 2, years ago, the concept of the Tao had already been an integral part of Chinese culture for thousands of years.

As the story puts it, Lao Tzu was looking to get away, not found a movement; by writing the Tao Te Ching, he was simply honoring a request to pass on the learning and knowledge of those who had preceded him.

They were among the earliest rulers of China who lived more than 4, years ago —at least 2, years before Lao Tzu. Huang Ti has always been closely associated with the early form of Taoism, and Fu Hsi was the originator of the yin-and-yang concept.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Lao Tzu did not intend to write an expression of original ideas. Instead, he summarized existing ideas and teachings to create an overview of prevailing concepts.

Although this library had an impressive collection, it still did not possess every notable book known to the ancients at that time—after all, King Wu was not the emperor of China, but only one of many lords vying for that title. In time, other sages of ancient China understood what Lao Tzu was trying to accomplish, and over the next seven centuries they added to his work wherever they noticed gaps. This gave rise to the historically verifiable fact that multiple early versions of the Tao Te Ching existed.

Each was a work in progress as the sages who came after Lao Tzu changed a few words and shifted the order of the chapters. This process continued until about 1, years ago, when noted scholar Wang Bi consolidated the myriad editing changes and finalized the compilation. Students of the Tao follow principles rather than particular individuals.

The message is the central thing; the messenger is merely the conduit. Thus, the issue of historicity does not in the least diminish the importance of the Tao Te Ching or the power of its teachings. Lao Tzu had created something so accessible that subsequent philosophers built on it and developed what we now know as Philosophical Taoism, characterized by its secular observation of the natural laws governing existence. At the same time, spiritual seekers built on it in a different way to create Religious Taoism, marked by doctrines, rituals, and a pantheon of deities.

Lao Tzu can be properly credited as the one who started these two parallel threads that became mainstays of Chinese culture. At the same time, the original form of Taoism that inspired him should also be recognized as the true source. The incredibly ancient history of the Tao means that we can use the Tao Te Ching as a gateway to the distant past. Through Lao Tzu, we are extending our reach all the way to antiquity and connecting with the essence of the Chinese spirit since time immemorial.

Interfaith Approach One reason Taoism has such durability is, paradoxically, because of its flexible and inclusive nature. Upon hearing it for the first time, many people assume the word T ao to be a specialized term specific to Taoism. In Chinese culture, however, it has always been a generic term applicable to every aspect of life, including every conceivable religion, because every belief system has its own particular way.

The ancient Chinese sages who originated the term were perhaps the first practitioners of the interfaith approach to spirituality. Following their lead, Chinese people throughout history have applied the term to every school of thought and every discipline, including martial arts. The original conception of Tao was simply the observation that reality has a certain way about it. These are labels pointing to the same thing, and Tao is simply the most generalized label imaginable, applicable to both perspectives.

Despite this, Chinese people regarded Buddhist teachings as simply another way to express the Tao, thus setting the stage for Religious Taoism and Buddhism to interact and influence one another. By the time the Indian monk Bodhidharma visited China several hundred years later, it was only natural that a fusion of Indian and Chinese thought would give rise to Zen Buddhism. This inclusive and unifying aspect of the Tao is something that is still not well understood in the West, and can lead to confusion about the similarities and differences between Taoism and Buddhism.

It can also lead to an idea expressed by some Western authors that Taoism is opposed to another prominent Chinese tradition, Confucianism, which—contrasted to Taoism—is a philosophical framework on the interrelated functions of the individual and society, almost entirely devoid of spiritual commentary.

W hile this confrontational model may be easy to grasp from a perspective that sees life in terms of battling forces, it is definitely not how the ancient sages viewed the Tao. To them, the Tao was a paradigm that encompassed everything.

Although Religious Taoism did compete against Confucianism for the official designation as the philosophical basis of the empire, Chinese people throughout the centuries have been very comfortable subscribing to both camps, seeing them as complementary to one another, each useful in its own way.

In the West, the Tao has veered away from its generic roots and taken on an aura of exotic mystique. Those of us who cling to this misconception may be surprised to encounter Asians who casually speak of the Tao of Jesus or the Tao of science.

On the other hand, if we connect with the original meaning, we will see that the Tao is truly for everyone, regardless of religious orientation—or lack thereof. Furthermore, understanding the Tao helps remove us from a frame of mind that demands strict dualistic, either-or categories.

Similarly, everyone has a particular way—a uniquely individual outlook on life—and there is nothing we can do to affirm or deny it. Your Tao has always been and will always be a part of you. In this all-inclusive sense, every one of us is already on a path of some sort, so we are all travelers on the Tao. Those of us who become aware of this and actively seek further understanding by studying the ancient Chinese sages are part of a more specialized group.

We are not necessarily Taoists in the religious sense, but we cultivate the Tao in our lives, so the term T ao cultivator can be an appropriate designation. Membership in this group requires nothing more than an active interest in the Tao; by picking up this book you have already made yourself part of this time-honored tradition. One characteristic of Tao cultivators is the understanding that the Tao does not have to be personified.

It is the Ultimate Principle, not a supernatural being with human traits. Therefore, using a flame—a manifestation of energy— to represent it is better than using a painting or a sculpture of some human likeness.

This is why the Mu Light is on the cover of this book. Mu is a reference to the nurturing nature of the Tao; Light represents divinity. W hen lit, the Mu Light casts its shadows through the inscription, symbolizing the way reality reflects the patterns of the Great Tao.

Ultimate Purpose The ultimate purpose of the Tao Te Ching is to provide us with wisdom and insights that we can apply to life. The true Tao must be lived. At the cosmic level, the Tao of the macrocosm is represented by the laws of physics. They describe the universe and its manifestations, such as light, electricity, gravity, and so on. These things exist and have real effects no matter what we think of them. At the personal level, the Tao of the microcosm is no less descriptive and useful.

Its principles describe the human sphere and its manifestations, such as love, hate, peace, violence, and so on. These principles are just as real as the laws of physics; they function just as predictably and inexorably regardless of our opinions.

If we can understand interpersonal forces among people as clearly as we understand interplanetary forces among heavenly bodies, then we, too, can glide through life as effortlessly and precisely as spacecraft flying through the solar system. In the West, study of the Tao has led to mixed results. The result is that many who study the Tao end up with a form of relativism—thinking that because the Tao includes everything, whatever they do is already part of the Tao.

Thus the Tao becomes the justification for any actions, positive or negative, as well as the all-purpose excuse for any results, or the lack thereof. This was never the original intent of the Tao Te Ching. W hile everything in existence is indeed the Tao, our path through existence is also the Tao. We can see it clearly by following the thought process of the sages. Think of existence as a forest. W hen we are in the forest, we have the ability to go forth in any direction. It is the nature of the forest to offer all directions and all possibilities.

This is the w ay of the forest—in other words, the T ao of existence. We can wander in the forest aimlessly for as long as we wish, but at a certain point some of us will be ready to choose a destination and go there.

This destination may represent enlightenment, salvation, true happiness, or other spiritual goals. Let us think of the destination as a mountain that we, walking in the forest, can glimpse through the tree branches from time to time.

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There are paths in the forest that will take us to the mountain. These paths are easy to traverse and are marked by those who went before us. Inexperienced travelers may not be able to recognize the markings, but the Tao Te Ching is a map that can help us. W hen we follow the map, we move in a particular direction with a particular purpose.

The progress we make is our w ay through the forest—in other words, our T ao through existence. Thus, the Tao indeed encompasses all, just as we have the freedom to pick any direction in the forest and start walking.

At the same time, our Tao must also be highly specific, just as we must choose one path out of many in the forest with care and foresight, if we wish to get somewhere and achieve our purpose in life, whatever that purpose may be.

To miss either attribute would be to fail the mission. Let us keep the forest and the mountain in mind as we digest each chapter. W here are you in life? W here are you going?

These are some of the most important questions we can ask ourselves. The more we understand what Lao Tzu says, the more clearly we will be able to see the markings that direct us to the proven path.

We will then be able to formulate better answers and take steps in the direction that will lead us to our goal. W hat will happen when we reach the summit? We will look around and take in the magnificent, panoramic view. From the vantage point at the top, we will be able to see other mountains in the hazy distance. We may rest for a bit; we may spend a moment in celebration. Then, we will start out for the next destination, savoring every breath of fresh air and every sight of natural beauty.

As Lao Tzu remarks in chapter 64, the journey of a thousand miles begins beneath your feet. As you embark on this journey, I wish you happy trails. The College Board expected a few hundred schools to express interest. W hat they found was substantially more: 2,, or about ten times the level of interest they expected.

As East and West continue to draw together, the language barrier will diminish. The more this process continues, the more people will be able to assess Tao Te Ching translations for themselves, and demand ever higher levels of quality and fidelity to the original Chinese.

I believe this is inevitable, and I want this book to be the one that withstands the test of time. No matter how rigorous the standard, this translation you hold in your hands will meet and surpass it.

My Approach W hen I began translating the Tao Te Ching, I quickly realized that I needed a plan to avoid potential pitfalls and ensure as much accuracy and authenticity as possible. None of the commercially available translations withstood scrutiny. If I wished to produce a different result, I should try an approach not previously taken. Over time, I settled on the following four methods: 1. Start from scratch and create an entirely original work. I could not use existing translations as references because they were not sufficiently accurate.

Any similarity between this translation and others would be purely coincidental. Overcome the English-Chinese language barrier by bringing native fluency of both languages to the project. This alone would address many issues, since nearly all Tao Te Ching translators possess unbalanced levels of language proficiency.

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Reference Chinese commentaries. The unbroken tradition of Tao Te Ching teachings began two thousand years ago and has continued to the present time.

Although no living person can claim to possess native fluency in ancient Chinese, the commentaries give us the next best thing. They are like a window to the past. Consult the ultimate experts on the Tao.

The tao of jurisprudence

I was fortunate in having access to Taoist masters from the I-Kuan Tao lineage. Their knowledge of the Tao comes from lifelong study as well as practical application. I drew upon their knowledge to make my presentation of the Tao as authentic as possible; I also followed their example in putting the Tao to the test, to verify its truth through actual usage.

As I followed this plan, I continued to compare my work in progress with existing translations and noticed an additional problem common to them all: a tendency to blur the line between translation and interpretation.

Existing translations tended to present interpretations as translations. Much of this was due to format. Most editions included few or no annotations or explanations, so the translator perhaps felt compelled to explain the original within the translation itself.

This is why the volume you now hold in your hands is so revolutionary. Its format allows for an extremely faithful rendition of the original that adds nothing and subtracts nothing, while providing explanations on the opposite page, clearly marked as such. W ith this format, I can preserve the original and still clarify its meaning, and you will never have to wonder whether some particular words come from Lao Tzu or from me.

The difference between the two will be unmistakable, so you can judge the interpretation for yourself. Pronunciation and Romanization One of the first specific challenges I had to address in creating a new translation concerned how to spell words in English to reflect their pronunciation in Chinese. For example, although T ao is traditionally spelled with the letter t, it is meant to be pronounced with the d sound, like Dow in Dow Jones.

There are other terms in the study of the Tao that do not sound like the way they look. This is the result of romanization—the transliteration of Chinese characters using English letters—and it can be confusing. The first Chinese romanization system was Wade-Giles, created about a hundred years ago. The earliest Western scholars who studied Chinese had neither prior work to guide them nor significant assistance from native speakers.

Their system required specialized knowledge to use correctly, but that knowledge remained trapped in academic obscurity and never made it out to the mainstream. Confusion about this system is so pervasive that, even today, many who claim expertise about the Tao continue to mispronounce or misspell Chinese words. Even the Chinese themselves get confused, despite knowing how their own language sounds. They have, in effect, adopted W estern mistakes as their own.

In an attempt to address this issue, Chinese scholars have created a new standard to replace Wade-Giles: the Pinyin system.

This new standard resolves the problems highlighted above but introduces new ones. It is also likely that problems will worsen as people liberally mix the two systems without really understanding either one.

In this book, I deal with this confusing situation by using the following three guidelines: 1. If a term romanized with Wade-Giles is already well known, it will remain unchanged, to conform with the common, established usage.

If a term is not well known, it will be romanized with the Pinyin system to conform to the new standard established by mainland China for the future. W herever either system produces confusing results, pronunciation assistance will be provided parenthetically. Holistic Understanding Another challenge I faced in creating the most accurate translation possible has to do with the Chinese language itself, which has evolved a lot over the centuries.

Many ancient characters are no longer in modern usage, and some characters have taken on new meanings. The syntax has also changed so that native speakers of modern Chinese can find the ancient form quite baffling.

All of this can lead to misunderstanding. The best way to avoid this misunderstanding is to approach the Tao Te Ching as a whole and use the entire book to help us understand individual chapters.

One example to illustrate this comes from line 3 of chapter 1. Another school of thought is that there should be a pause after w u, thus making it a noun instead of an adjective. The concept of punctuation marks is unknown in ancient Chinese, so there may or may not be a pause after w u.

If we cannot tell one way or the other, does that mean both interpretations are equally valid? Not necessarily.

We can distinguish between the two by checking other chapters of the Tao Te Ching. On the other hand, if other chapters show ming being used in the same way as the new interpretation, then that would give credence to the new interpretation. Chapters 32, 37, and 41 all feature the use of w u ming. This is a powerful endorsement of the classical interpretation. Chapter 14 demonstrates that when Lao Tzu uses ming in the way suggested by the new interpretation, he adds the character yue to remove the ambiguity.By the time Lao Tzu walked the Earth 2, years ago, the concept of the Tao had already been an integral part of Chinese culture for thousands of years.

It is not real. And that your nose played games with the scent of the boiling coffee. So people who do not live in the present, have absolutely no use for making plans.

In the West, the Tao has veered away from its generic roots and taken on an aura of exotic mystique. This destination may represent enlightenment, salvation, true happiness, or other spiritual goals. The events in the story took place during the decline of the Zhou Dynasty. Neither one of them realized that the gift was destined to become a spiritual cornerstone, not just for the Chinese but for all humankind.

Lao Tzu said his farewell, mounted the ox and continued on his way.

ETSUKO from Lake Charles
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