Tao Te Ching – A Timeless Message

The Tao

The way you can go
isn’t the real way.
The name you can say
isn’t the real name.

Heaven and earth
begin in the unnamed:
name’s the mother
of the ten thousand things.

So the unwanting soul
sees what’s hidden,
and the ever-wanting soul
sees only what it wants.

Two things, one origin
but different name,
Mystery of all mysteries!
The door to the hidden.

…..Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching
Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way
Ursula K. Le Guin
….. Ursula K. Le Guin website
….. Wikipedia

The Tao Te Ching was probably written about 2,500 years ago by a man called Lao Tzu, who may have lived at about the same time as Confucius. Nothing about it is certain except that it’s Chinese, any very old, and speaks to people everywhere as if it had been written yesterday.

The Tao Te Ching is partly prose, partly verse; but not as we define poetry now, not by rhyme and meter but as patterned intensity of language, the whole thing is poetry. I wanted to catch the poetry, its terse, strange beauty. Most translations have caught meanings in their net, but prosily, letting the beauty slip through. And in poetry, beauty is no ornament; it is meaning. It is the truth… I wanted a Book of the Way accessible to a present-day… perhaps un-male reader, not seeking esoteric secrets, but listening for a voice that speaks to the soul.

…..Ursula K. Le Guin

Early Philosophy Around The World

World Philosophies

Beginning of Philosophy

Philosophy’s birth, between the 8th and 3rd centuries BCE, is described by the German philosopher Karl Jaspers as the Axial Age (in the sense of a “pivotal age”). It was a period of gradual transition from understanding the world in terms of myth to the more rational understanding of the world we have today. Rational understanding didn’t supplant early folk beliefs and myths so much as grow out of their values and tenets.

Early Philosophy Around the World 

  • The early Upanishads – the foundational texts of Indian philosophy, of unknown authorship – were written between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE.
  • China’s first great philosopher, Confucius, was born in 551 BCE.
  • In Greece the first notable pre-Socratic philosopher, Thales of Miletus, was born around 624 BCE.
  • The Buddha’s traditional birth date places him in the 6th century BCE (although scholars now believe he probably wasn’t born until around 480 BCE, about the same time as Socrates).

Development of Distinct Cultures

These early philosophies have had a profound impact on the development of distinctive cultures across the world. Their values and tenants have shaped the different ways people worship, live and think about the big questions that concern us all.

How the World Thinks
How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy

Julian Baggini

Zen & Written Language


Origin of Zen

Zen Buddhism originated in Japan in the 12th century as an indigenous version of the Chan school, which originated in 7th century China. The founding myth of Zen is that the Buddha silently held up a flower, twirled it and winked. Zen is the only major religious or philosophical tradition that didn’t begin with an utterance of some kind.

Use of Language

In Zen, language adds to reality in that it creates an extra layer on top of it, and this in turn subtracts from reality by obscuring its fullness. One of the purposes of some paradoxical koans – such as “What color is the wind?” or “When you can do nothing, what can you do?” – is to draw our attention to the inadequacy of words and how apparently perfectly well-formed sentences can be meaningless.

Written Records 

Despite their disavowal of language, Zen teachers have left a lot of written words. Many see this paradox as an imperfect compromise, explaining that if nothing was ever written down, then the ways of guiding people would be lost. Thus the Zen school has resigned itself to publishing the records of the ancients, though this is not what they would have wanted.

How the World Thinks
How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy

Julian Baggini

How Does Philosophy Answer Life’s Questions?


What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is a tool by which people can work out how to live, how to endure misfortune, how to think about the world around them, and how to relate to others. Finding “the truth which is true for me” is the business of philosophy – it isn’t a luxury, an abstruse pursuit for those with time to sit in an ivory tower.

Asking Questions

Philosophy is essentially asking questions – the biggest imaginable. Over the 2500-year history of Western philosophy, philosophers have asked, and attempted to answer, questions such as:

  • What is reality?
  • Does God exist?
  • How can we know if something is true?
  • What is virtue?
  • Is something “right” or “wrong” for all people, places, and times?

Philosophical questions are not susceptible to a single, correct or “true” answer. Trying to answer such questions is beset with difficulties, not the least because philosophers don’t agree on what constitutes “truth”, what it means to “know” anything, or even the status of the words used to express the questions and answers.

Dialogue of Philosophy

In discussing philosophical questions, we are continuing the dialogue that began with the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (470-399 BC). Yet, as time passes, the world we live in changes and the parameters of the debate shift.

Although the world we live in today is very different from the one that Socrates knew, the questions we ask are very similar. We still seek to live a virtuous life, ask whether or not there is a God, and strive to know what is true about the world around us. However, advances in scientific knowledge, exposure to very different societies and cultures around the world, and shifting social structures have changed the direction of the debate.

Philosophy: How the World Works
Philosophy: From the Ancient Greeks to great thinkers of modern times (How The World Works Series)
Anne Rooney

Background on Anne Rooney