The Way Of Life

“The way to do is to be.”


From 600 B.C. comes the wisdom we know as the text The Way Of Life from Lao-Tzu, described by legend in Witter Bynner’s translation, 1944:

“Immaculately conceived to a shooting star, carried in his mother’s womb for sixty-two years and born, it is said, white-haired, in 604 B.C., he became in due time the keeper of imperial archives at Loyang, and ancient capital in what is now the Chinese province of Honan.

“Speaking wisdom which attracted followers, he had refused to the end of his life to set it down: considering the way of life and the ways of the world, he had decided that a great deal was done and said in the world which might better be spared. He knew that a man can be a doer without being an actor….Aware of the dangers inherent in dogma, he was reluctant to leave a set record of his own spoken belief, lest it become to followers an outer and formal rather than an inner and natural faith, an outside authority rather than intuition. He laid down no rigid laws for behaviour: men’s conduct should depend on their instinct and conscience.

“The end of the life legend is that, sadden by men’s tragic perversity, their indisposition to accept ‘the way of life,’ to use life with natural goodness, with serene and integral respect, Lao-Tzu rode away alone on a water buffalo into the desert beyond the boundary of civilization, the great wall of his period.”

According to the legend, a warden at the gate persuaded the sage to record his principles of living, which is the five thousand words, eighty-one sayings, we now know as The Way Of Life.

One of the wonderful things about The Way Of Life is you can dip into it at any point. The sayings, most in verse, seem deeper and more important than all the modern self-help books put together, most of which owe a debt to the thinking of Lao-Tzu writing before the time of Christ.

If you don’t own a copy of The Way Of Life, I strongly encourage you do. In it you will find powerful, wise words, that wake you from the modern pre-occupations of materialism, sleepwalking through a life full of fear, loss of identity, disconnection from family, and chronic personal stress. There are two selections from The Way of Life that I’ve taken from Lao-Tzu to share with you for your week. Lao-Tzu resisted writing these down for his entire life. Living now, thousands of years later, I’m glad he did, because it shows us again what’s real, in us, and for us, as human beings.


People through finding something beautiful
Think something else unbeautiful,
Through finding one man fit
Judge another unfit.
Life and death, though stemming from each other,
Seems to conflict as stages of change,
Difficult and easy as phases of achievement,
Long and short as measures of contrast,
High and low as degrees of relation;
But, since the varying of tones gives music to a voice
And what is is the was of what shall be,
The sanest man
Sets up no deed,
Lays down no law,
Takes everything that happens as it comes,
As something to animate, not to appropriate,
To earn, not to own,
To accept naturally without self-importance:
If you never assume importance
You never lose it.


Yield and you need not break:
Bent you can straighten,
Emptied you can hold,
Torn you can mend;
And as want can reward you
So wealth can bewilder.
Aware of this, a wise man has the simple return
Which other men seek:
Without inflaming himself
He is kindled,
Without explaining himself
Is explained,
Without taking credit
Is accredited,
Laying no claim
Is acclaimed
And, because he does not compete,
Finds peaceful competence.
How true is the old saying,
‘Yield and you need not break’!
How completely it comes home!

Be kind to yourself today and remember who you are. Have a wonderful week.

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