The Thoughts of Tao Te Ching

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The thoughts of Tao Te Ching (Philosophy)

The first thing that struck me about Tao Te Ching is Albert Einstein. I am a big fan of Einstein, perplexed by years of studying his scientific theories and thereafter forever being awed by his genius. As for Taoism, being of Chinese descent, growing up in the eastern world, I have constant exposure to the Taoist practices, culture, traditions, images and symbols. However, the irony is that I had never ventured further than just being a mere observer, a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

When I began to read Tao Te Ching, I am intrigued by the concept of Tao and its similarities to scientific theories, Einstein’s theories and thoughts, in particular. In Chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching, it tells me that the real Tao is not an entity and cannot be described in words or named. All that could be named are just illusions or mere manifestations as stated in chapter 1, “Naming is the origin of all particular things” and another line, “Caught in desire, you can see only the manifestations”. The “mystery” which is the “unnamable Tao” is reality as stated in this sentence, “The unnamable is the eternally real”. Then, it goes on to say that, “Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source”. I would interpret this as reality and illusion are both the same. Here, I draw similarity to Einstein’s quote “Reality is merely an illusion albeit a very persistent one”.

Chapter 2 reads to me as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It says that what is defined as beautiful is possible only when compared to what is ugly. Likewise, what is ugly is only definable compared to what is beautiful. It gives other examples of paradoxical unity. Often what we see is relative to another that opposes: good and bad; being and non-being; difficult and easy; long and short; high and low; before and after.

To me, it means that what we can see as real is defined by comparing to something that is opposite, without...