5 Lao Tzu Quotes for Men on a Mission
Lao Tzu or Laozi was a Chinese philosopher who lived in the 6th century BC with an influence so enduring he even preceded and influenced Confucius.
Highly regarded as a wise master who offered a fluent articulation of the Tao, he has long been a sage for men on a search for meaning, harmony and inner peace.
What is the Tao?
The Tao, anglicized as ‘The Way’, is an ancient Chinese philosophy which focuses on achieving harmony with the state of life itself, finding oneness in the order of how life manifests itself.
Despite this sounding complex and intellectual, it is really the opposite, with a heavy influence placed on simplicity, acceptance and spontaneous action articulated in the present moment.
Lao Tzu is a key figure in Taoism, having authored the Tao Te Ching, a classical Chinese text that has had a huge influence on Confucianism, Buddhism and a great many other spiritual traditions, east and west.
Below are 5 Lao Tzu quotes for men on a mission that reawaken this wisdom of old in our modern environment.
1: “The best fighter is never angry.”
The first thing to note here is that Lao Tzu, like all great spiritual teachers, does not deny the reality of violence.
While great teachers and prophets do advise us to seek peaceful resolutions, they do not deny the reality of war in our lives.
Henceforth, the first quote outlines the optimal approach to conflict, and that is equanimity.
Expressing anger means we can be controlled in verbal conflict and it means we may react too impulsively or aggressively in physical combat.
Further still, it may make us easy to read and neutralize.
While violence should always be avoided at all costs, in rare occasions we have to confront danger, and the ability to stay calm in such situations offers us the wisdom to mitigate a hostile situation with peace, and respond effectively if we have to utilize force.
Finally, verbal and physical conflict is unsettling by its nature. If we fear this and cannot stay calm, there is work we must do to achieve inner calmness in the face of danger.
Meditation, spiritual endeavours and martial arts are all great ways to grow in this area.
2: “A man with outward courage dares to die: a man with inner courage dares to live.”
Following on from the last quote, this one takes us a step further in polarizing courage.
We often view courage in conflict as the noblest, yet this is only true in extreme situations that call for immense bravery.
The bulk of our lives is not spent in such extreme environments such as wars and fights and if we bring a mentality for these situations into the day-to-day realm, we create disharmony and problems.
Hence, we must seek as men to push through the emotional and mental difficulties of our daily experiences, looking to bring peace and meaning to ours and others’ lives.
In doing this, we build the muscle of courage which helps us in acting in a stoic manner, bringing strength, discipline and freedom to our inner, and by extension outer worlds.
3: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Trying to live in a disciplined way is made all the more tough when we look to our great goal and don’t see ourselves getting any closer.
This is an illusion.
While the goal is very important, it doesn’t actually exist as a reality, all that exists is what’s happening now and that is the only place where you can act.
For example, if you were trying to quit an addictive behaviour and all you see is craving and temptation and that 90-day goal seems so far away, we must remember that all we have is now.
Once we grasp this, we can see that if we are engaging in life right now in a healthy manner, we are already doing what we think we cannot.
Further still, nobody ever achieves anything great in an afternoon.
If we tried to, we would fail and be overwhelmed by the magnitude of our mission, yet keeping everything in the boundaries of the day, doing whatever bitesize chunks we can in the 16 hours of wakefulness, we can achieve anything.
4: “Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”
In reading this quote, one can see the similarities with Buddhism.
By knowing others, we are in essence knowing the external, the human form, and in this pursuit, we gain insights into human nature, psychology and society.
However, when we look internally, we do not see these things.
What we see is emptiness, the pureness of the awake spirit inside, life itself emanating through our human form.
We see on this closer inspection that we are deeper than human interactions and psychology, that we are – in essence – spirit itself.
This is the beginning of true internal wisdom.
5: “Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”
This is one that is a relief to read, as we’re all far too invested in what others think about us.
With the prior quote in mind, one could say this is because we overly value external wisdom, failing to recognise our internal nature.
However, as someone who does lots of his work online, I have to stay true to my principles and values, and while I must be willing to adapt and evolve to criticism, I have learnt from painful experience that many out there carry baggage internally and just want to bait you.
Others still think very differently about the world, and while that, in essence, is a good thing, they do not wish to have a calm objective conversation about a situation.
This has created doubt and inner fear in me in the past, yet in pushing through one sees that this is a facet of life.
The lesson here is that if you care too much about the slings and arrows others throw you will never make progress.
You have to overcome the inner fear of what others think if you are truly to learn and grow.
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