Holy Books


Derek, I have studied many holy books. Each one has to be understood as the product of its time. In many ways, the ancients understood the world very differently than we do. It is therefore necessary for us to reinterpret their words to fit modern thinking, especially if we wish to apply them to modern life. I would imagine the Tao Te Ching is no exception to the rule. Correct?


Actually, the Tao Te Ching is completely unlike the holy books you have studied. For starters, it does not claim to be a holy book. It is nothing more than a collection, filled with nuggets of wisdom that the ancient Chinese felt were very effective when applied to life. It is not written or inspired by deities, prophets, or saviors. Fundamentally, Lao Tzu was a human being, just like you and me. There is nothing supernatural about him, or how his book was written.

The second interesting thing about the Tao Te Ching is that there is no reinterpretation necessary. There is a great need to explain its teachings accurately, but there is no need to adjust, rephrase, or change any part of it. Everything it talks about, if understood clearly, can be applied to modern living with no alteration whatsoever.

How can this be for something written so long ago? It can, because when the ancients studied the Tao, what they focused on was universal patterns of life, existence, and human nature. Although many things have changed since their time, the basics of life, existence and human nature have not changed one iota. The sun rises today just as it did thousands of years ago; human beings love, hate, and interact with one another exactly as they did thousands of years ago. The patterns described in the Tao Te Ching are as evident today as they were back then, and in all likelihood they will continue to manifest as long as there are human beings.

This is why there is no obsolescence in the Tao Te Ching. What Lao Tzu wrote 2,500 years ago may as well be written today. Sometimes, as we read the book, it even seems as if Lao Tzu is addressing the latest newspaper headlines. This timeless, eternally constant quality is one of the things that makes the Tao Te Ching truly special.

Derek Lin
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