Lao Tse biography
Lao Tse (604 a.C -) Chinese thinker, creator of Taoism. His birth occurred in a small village in the present province of Honan, located in the southernmost region of China. His birth name was Erl Li. Then he was designated a scholar’s name: Lao Tzu, which means elder teacher. He was a contemporary of Buddha, Zoroaster, Mahavira, Pythagoras and several of the pre-Socratic philosophers.
He served as a high official in the court of Tchou and at the same time as a librarian in the same court. This work is very different from what we know today, so, he was entrusted with a priestly position and his mission was to consult archives, oracles, and sacred texts. As a result, he began to investigate the meaning of human existence, success, and decadence. From this inquiry, he became a sage of the time.
He left China to move to Tibet and when crossing the border, the customs officer Yen-Hi recognized the wise man and asked him to speak to him about truth and wisdom. From this dialogue that took a year, a gift for the customs officer arose: a precious book called Tao-Te-King, The path of reason and virtue, which contains scarce 5,000 words, these words were only necessary to teach man everything you need to know to be eternally happy. Once the book was delivered, Lao-Tse said goodbye with gratitude to the man and his family who welcomed him into their home. He continued on his way without knowing the direction he would take.
The Tao Te-King is the most translated literary work in Chinese and has had a huge influence on Eastern thought and culture. The book is an anthology that collects old teachings, besides this, it was the first time that Lao Tse consigned his thoughts to a paper, all his teachings were spread orally.
“The wise person does not ambition power and avoids opulence, luxury, and prodigality.” Lao Tse
In this brief treatise, Lao Tse posed an individual morality based on pursuing the path of nature, for Chinese philosophy, it is known as the Tao; consequently, he asked for virtues such as simplicity and naturalness, he condemned the greed for power and wealth and prohibited the exercise of violence. Lao Tse’s thought also contained a liberal and pacifist political tendency, recommending that the authorities intervene only when necessary in the life of the people and not overwhelm them with drastic taxes and regulations. In the Tao Te-King, it is described that to be a perfect man, holy and wise, man must have a humble, modest and unambitious behavior; it must be guided by the rule of not acting, not intervening, letting things follow their natural course because nature is perfect. From this writing would start with the passage of time the Taoist philosophy.
Lao Tzu has an encounter with Confucius around the year 521 a.C. Confucius was about thirty-four years old, and Lao Tzu about fifty. This meeting concluded in many disagreements because the thoughts of the two were totally distant. Lao Tzu did not bother to interfere in political issues unlike Confucius, who sought the formation of wise men and perfect men proposed to occupy a position of minister or adviser close to the sovereign. In contrast, the human ideal for Lao Tzu was nonintervention.
This dialogue was legendary and served as a mirror to reflect the rivalry that existed between the two schools in China; Confucianism, aimed at achieving the improvement and transformation of the world, through the strengthening of the state apparatus and forms of government, and the Tao, school of Lao Tzu, more directed to the essence of the world and to seek salvation outside of the ordinary experience in the world.
The influence of this Chinese thinker was very profound, after his death. His philosophy, although did not contain a religious character, was transformed into a religion called Taoism, later it received influences from other tendencies, giving rise at the beginning to a contemplative mystic based on inaction, dealing with the natural flow of the universe or the force behind it. natural order that keeps everything in balance and in perfect condition. His first teacher was a high priest called Master of Heaven.
“The precise words are not necessarily elegant. Nice words are not always trustworthy.” Lao Tse
The influence of the Tao can be seen in the popular rebellion of the “Yellow Turbans” which took place in East China in the second century and came to destabilize the imperial power. The leaders of the rebellion were the brothers Zhang Jue, Zhang Bao and Zhang Liang, natives of the province of Hebei, but who moved to Shandong, where they practiced as healers. All three were followers of Taoism, often attending for free to patients who could not pay for their services. They soon founded a Taoist sect that paid tribute to a divinity called Huang-Lao and that protected, among others, the principles of equal rights for all people and an equitable redistribution of land ownership.
In the long term, the purest influence of Lao Tzu’s thought began to be combined with other philosophical or religious currents in Asia, such as Confucianism and Buddhism. We see that the existence of Lao Tzu was so important to the Eastern thought that they became a main deity of the Taoist religion that they claim revealed sacred texts to mankind. About the death of this Chinese thinker is not known, it is said that he lived for 200 years.