Teachings of Lao Tzu: main ideas and provisions

Teachings of Lao Tzu: main ideas and provisions
Teachings of Lao Tzu: main ideas and provisions

The doctrine of Taoism in Russia became popular with the onset of the 1990s. Then, in post-perestroika times, many teachers began to come from China to the largest cities of the former Soviet Union, who conducted seminars on various systems of oriental gymnastics, breathing exercises, and meditation. Among the various practices were such as qigong, taijiquan, dao yin, which are inseparable from the ideas of Taoism and founded by its prominent followers.

A lot of literature was published at that time about Eastern worldviews, religions, ways of self-improvement and the like. At the same time, a thin paperback booklet of a small format was published, where the teachings of Lao Tzu were fully expounded - a philosophical doctrine or treatise that became the foundation and canon of Taoism. Since then, a lot of articles and comments by Russian authors have been written on this topic, many translations from Chinese and English have been published, but in our country, interest in Taoist ideas has not subsided to this day and flares up periodically with new intensity.

Father of Taoism

Traditionally, the patriarch of the doctrine in Chinese sources is Huang Di, also known as the Yellow Emperor, a mystical figure and hardly existed in reality. Huangdi is considered the forerunner of the emperors of the Celestial Empire and the ancestor of all Chinese. Many early inventions are attributed to him, such as the mortar and pestle, the boat and oars, the bow and arrow, the ax and other objects. Under his reign, hieroglyphic writing and the first calendar were created. He is credited as the author of treatises on medicine, diagnostics, acupuncture and acupuncture, herbal medicine and moxibustion. In addition to his medical writings, the Yellow Emperor's credits include the authorship of Yinfujing, a poetic work highly revered by followers of Taoism, as well as the ancient treatise Su Nu Ching on working with sexual energy, a practice that became the basis of Taoist alchemy.

Other founders of the doctrine

Lao Tzu is an ancient Chinese sage who presumably lived in the 6th century BC. In the Middle Ages, he was ranked among the Taoist pantheon of deities - the triad of the pure. Scientific and esoteric sources define Lao Tzu as the founder of Taoism, and his Tao Te Ching became the basis on which the teaching was further developed. The treatise is an outstanding monument of Chinese philosophy, it occupies a significant place in the ideology and culture of the country. The discussions of modern historians, philosophers and orientalists about the content of the treatise, the historicity of its author and the fact that the book belongs directly to Lao Tzu never stopped.

Lao Tzu, modern image

Another primary source belongs to the teaching - "Zhuangzi", a collection of short stories, parables, texts, which also became fundamental in Taoism. Zhuangzi, the author of the book, supposedly lived two centuries after Lao Tzu, and his identity is more specifically confirmed.

The story of Lao Tzu

There is one of the parables about the birth of the founder of Taoism. When Lao Tzu was born, he saw how imperfect this world was. Then the wise baby again climbed into the mother's womb, deciding not to be born at all, and stayed there for several decades. When his mother was finally relieved of her burden, Lao Tzu was born a gray-haired bearded old man. This legend points to the name of a Taoist philosopher, which can be translated as "wise old man" or "old baby".

The first and most complete description of the founder of Taoism was made in the 1st century BC. e. Sima Qian, Chinese hereditary historiographer, scholar and writer. He did this according to oral traditions and stories several centuries after the death of Lao Tzu. His teaching and life had by that time become a tradition, mostly legends. According to a Chinese historian, Lao Tzu's surname is Li, which is very common in China, and the philosopher's name is Er.

Birth of Lao Tzu

Sima Qian indicates that the Taoist sage served at the imperial court as a keeper of archives, in the modern sense, a librarian, an archivist. Such a position meant keeping manuscripts in proper order and preservation, classifying them, ordering texts, observing ceremonies and rituals, and,probably writing comments. All this points to the high level of education of Lao Tzu. According to the generally accepted version, the year of birth of the great Taoist is 604 BC. e.

Legend of spreading the teachings

It is not known where and when the sage died. According to legend, noticing that the archive he kept was falling into decay, and the state where he lived was degrading, Lao Tzu went to wander to the west. His ride on a buffalo was a frequent subject in traditional oriental painting. According to one version, when at some outpost blocking the way, the sage had to pay for the passage, he handed over to the head of the guard post a scroll with the text of his treatise instead of payment. Thus began the spread of the teachings of Lao Tzu, which later became known as the Dao Te Ching.

Lao Tzu Bridge

History of the treatise

The number of translations of the Tao Te Ching is probably second only to the Bible. The first European translation of the work into Latin was made in England in the 18th century. Since then, in the West alone, Lao Tzu's work in various languages ​​has been published at least 250 times. The Sanskrit version of the 7th century is considered the most famous; it served as the basis for many translations of the treatise into other languages.

The original text of the doctrine dates back to the 2nd century BC. This copy, written on silk, was found in the early 1970s during excavations in the Chinese district of Changsha. It has long been considered the only and most ancient. Prior to this discovery, many modern experts were of the opinion that the original ancient text of the Tao Te Ching did not exist, nor did its author.

Ancient text of a treatise on silk

Lao Tzu's teaching about Tao contains about 5000 hieroglyphs, the text is divided into 81 zhang, each of which can be conditionally called a short chapter, paragraph or verse, especially since they have a peculiar rhythm and harmony. Very few Chinese experts speak the ancient dialect in which the doctrine is written. Most of his hieroglyphs have several meanings, in addition, auxiliary and linking words are omitted in the text. All this significantly complicates the interpretation of each zhang. Since ancient times, there have been many commentaries on the Tao Te Ching, since the treatise is written in an allegorical form with some contradictions, many conventions and comparisons. And how else to describe the indescribable and convey the inexpressible?

Content of Doctrine

To summarize the teachings of Lao Tzu, three main lines of content should be distinguished:

  1. Description and meaning of the Tao.
  2. Te is the law of life, an emanation of Tao and at the same time the path that a person follows.
  3. Wu-wei - non-action, a kind of passivity, the main way of following de.

Tao is the source of all things and everything that exists, everything comes from it and returns to it, it covers everything and everyone, but it itself has no beginning and end, name, appearance and form, it is limitless and insignificant, inexpressible and inexpressibly, commands, but does not force. This is how this all-encompassing power is described in the Tao Te Ching:

The Dao is immortal, nameless.

The Tao is insignificant, rebellious, elusive.

To master - you need to know the name, shape or color.

But Taonegligible.

Tao is negligible, but if the great ones follow him –

thousands of small ones submitted and calmed down. (zhang 32)

Tao is everywhere - right and left.

Commands but does not force.

Owns but does not claim.

Never dares, that's why it's insignificant, pointless.

The living and the dead aspire to him, but Tao is lonely.

That's why I call it great.

Never shows greatness, because it is truly majestic. (zhang 34)

Tao gives birth to one.

From one will be born two, Three will be born from two.

Three is the cradle of a thousand thousand.

Out of a thousand thousands in each

fight yin and yang, qi pulses. (zhang 42)

Great Te - a way of existence, inscribed or prescribed by Tao for all things. This is order, cyclicality, infinity. By obeying Te, a person is directed to perfection, but it is up to him to decide whether to follow this path.

Law of life, great Te -

this is how Tao appears under the sky. (zhang 21)

Be fearless and humble, like a mountain stream, -

turn into a full-flowing stream, main stream of China.

So says the great Te, birth law.

Know the holiday, but live everyday life -

become an example for China.

So says the great Te, law of life.

Know glory, but love oblivion.

The great river does not remember itself, because her glory does not decrease.

So says the greatDae, the law of completeness. (zhang 28)

Wu-wei is a difficult term to understand. It is action in inaction and inaction in action. Do not look for reasons and desires for activity, do not place hopes, do not look for meaning and calculation. The concept of "Wu-wei" in Lao Tzu causes the most controversy and comments. According to one theory, this is the observance of the measure in everything.

Daoist temple of Mount Longu

The more effort, the less left, the further from the Tao.

Far from Dao -

far from the start

and close to the end. (zhang 30)

Philosophy of Being by Lao Tzu

The Zhangs of the treatise not only describe Tao, Te and “non-doing”, they are filled with reasoned arguments about the fact that everything in nature is based on these three whales, and why a person, ruler or state, following their principles, achieve harmony, peace and balance.

The wave will overwhelm the stone.

The incorporeal has no barriers.

Because I appreciate peace, learn without words, commit effortlessly. (zhang 43)

There are places where you can see similarities in the teachings of Confucius and Lao Tzu. Chapters built on contradictions seem like paradoxes, but each line is the deepest thought that carries the truth, you just need to think.

Kindness without limits is like indifference.

He who sows kindness resembles a reaper.

The pure truth bitters like a lie.

A real square has no corners.

The best pitcher is molded for a lifetime.

High music is unheard of.

The great image has no form.

The Tao is hidden, nameless.

But only Tao gives the way, light, perfection.

Full perfection looks like a flaw.

Unable to fix.

Extreme fullness is like complete emptiness.

Cannot run out.

Great directness works slowly.

Great mind clothed in innocence.

Great speech descends like delusion.

Step - win the cold.

Don't act - you will overcome the heat.

Peace creates harmony in the Middle Kingdom. (zhang 45)

Deep philosophical and at the same time incredibly poetic reasoning about the meaning of the earth and sky as eternal, constant, imperturbable, distant and close to human beings delights.

one of the pages of the Tao Te Ching

Earth and sky are perfect, because they are indifferent to people.

The wise is indifferent to people - live as you want.

Between heaven and earth -

blank bellows void:

the wider the span, the more durable the breath, the more emptiness will be born.

Close your mouth -

know the measure. (zhang 5)

Nature is laconic.

The windy morning will be replaced by a quiet afternoon.

It won't rain all day and night.

This is how the earth and sky are arranged.

Even earth and sky

cannot create durable, all the more human.(zhang 23)

Dissimilarity with Confucianism

Teachings of Confucius and Lao Tzu should be considered if notopposite, then, at least, heteropolar. Confucianism adheres to a rather rigid system of moral norms and political ideology, supported by ethical standards and traditions. The moral duties of a person, according to this doctrine, should be directed to the benefit of society and others. Righteousness is expressed in philanthropy, humanity, truthfulness, sanity, prudence and prudence. The main idea of ​​Confucianism is a certain set of qualities and such relationships between the ruler and subjects that will lead to order in the state. This is a completely opposite concept to the ideas of Tao Te Ching, where the main principles of life are non-doing, non-striving, non-interference, self-contemplation, no coercion. You have to be as malleable as water, indifferent as the sky, especially politically.

Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism

Thirty spokes sparkle in the wheel, strengthen the void inside.

Emptiness gives the wheel a boost.

You mold a jug, enclosing emptiness in clay, and the usefulness of the jug lies in emptiness.

Punch through doors and windows - their emptiness serves the house.

Emptiness is the measure of the useful. (zhang 11)

The difference in views on Tao and Te

The difference in views on Tao and Te

Tao in the understanding of Confucius is not emptiness and comprehensiveness, as in Lao Tzu, but a way, a rule and a way of achieving, truth and morality, a certain measure of morality. A Te is not the law of birth, life and fullness, an essential reflection of the Tao and the path to perfection, asdescribed in the Tao Te Ching, but some kind of good power, personifying humanity, honesty, morality, mercy, giving spiritual strength and dignity. Te acquires in the teachings of Confucius the meaning of the path of moral behavior and morality of the social order, which a righteous person must follow. These are the main differences between the ideas of Confucius and his followers and the teachings of Lao Tzu. The victories of Mark Crassus are an example of a feat in the name of society, they are fully consistent with the principles of Confucian ideology.

Tao gives birth, Te - encourages, gives form and meaning.

The Tao is revered.

Te - observe.

Because they don't require

observance and respectfulness.

Tao gives birth, Tae encourages, gives shape and meaning, grows, teaches, protects.

Creates - and breaks up, creates and does not seek rewards, governs without commanding -

that's what I call the great Te. (zhang 51)

Godian lists

During excavations in 1993 in the Chinese settlement of Godyan, another, more ancient text of the treatise was found. These three bundles of bamboo strips (71 pieces) with inscriptions were in the grave of an aristocrat buried around the end of the 4th-beginning of the 3rd century BC. It is certainly an older document than the one found on a piece of shabby silk in 1970. But what is surprising is that the text from Godian contains approximately 3000 characters less than the classical version.

Statue of Lao Tzu

When compared with a later treatise, one gets the impression that onbamboo planks are inscribed with the original unordered text, which was later supplemented by another author, and possibly more than one. Indeed, upon careful reading, one can notice that almost every zhang of the already known treatise is conventionally divided into two parts. In the first parts of 2-6 lines, one can feel a special style, a peculiar rhythm, harmony, laconism. In the second parts of zhang, the rhythm is clearly broken, but the style is different.

On this occasion, the French researcher Paul Lafargue suggested that the first parts are the original, more ancient ones, and the second ones are additions, comments, possibly compiled by someone after Lao Tzu. Or vice versa, the famous keeper of the archives, being only an official involved in the systematization and preservation of ancient manuscripts, could add his comments to the older wisdom, which was part of his duties. And in Godian, a copy of the primary teachings of the ancient mystic was discovered, which later became the basis for Taoism and the teachings of Lao Tzu. Whether scientists will give unambiguous answers to the question of who is the author of the texts on bamboo slats is not known. And what if the primary short sayings belong to the wisdom of the Yellow Emperor himself, and Lao Tzu only streamlined them and made his own clarifications? Apparently no one will ever know for sure.

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