'Have little thought of self and as few desires as possible'
Whether or not Lao Tzu was a historical figure is uncertain, but the wisdom gathered under his name in the fourth century BC is central to the understanding and practice of Taoism. One of the three great religions of China, Taoism is based upon a concept of the Tao, or Way, as the universal power through which all life flows. The Tao Te Ching offers a practical model by which both the individual and society can embody this belief, encouraging modesty and self-restraint as the true path to a harmonious and balanced existence.
Translated with an Introduction by D. C. Lau
Lao Tzu's classic Chinese text from the sixth century BCE has much to teach us today. Lao Tzu meditates on breath, enjoining the reader to practice breathing like a baby; reflects on hsu, or emptiness; juxtaposes heaven and earth; and soberly reminds readers of their mortality. People should "cling to no treasures," but rather devote themselves to a pure disinterestedness, becoming most truly themselves when they achieve selflessness. Hamill has rendered the Tao Te Ching afresh; his translation from the Chinese is achingly poetic. To wit, this lovely meditation: "It's best to be like water, nurturing the ten thousand things without competing, flowing into places people scorn." And yet Hamill does not seek to drain the text of its mystery. The Tao-literally, "the way"-resists being nailed down or put in a box and mastered. Hamill's poetry is complemented by Kazuaki Tanahashi's dramatic calligraphy, with 18 original representations of words or characters. Though unlikely to displace Stephen Mitchell's popular rendering of the Tao, this volume will delight spiritual seekers and devotees of Taoism, while also making a lovely gift.