Born in the Chinese province of Henan, Lao Tzu lived from c. 604-c.531 BCE. He was a philosopher attributed with the writing of the Tao-Te-Ching and the reputed founder of Taoism. ("Tao" meaning the way of all life, "Te" meaning the fit use of life by all men, and "Ching" meaning text.) Lao Tzu was not his real name but rather an honorary title given to him by his followers meaning "Old Master".
Lao Tzu believed that human life is constantly influenced by outer forces; not unlike everything else in the universe. He knew that simplicity was key to all truth and freedom. He always encouraged those who followed him to observe and to seek to understand the laws of nature. Lao Tzu believed that one should develop intuition and build up personal power, which would then be used to lead life with love sans force.
As he often contemplated the natural world, Lao Tzu felt that it was man and his doings that created an affliction on the otherwise flawless order of things. Thus he counseled his followers to turn away from the silliness of human pursuits and to return to their natural wellspring.
Lao Tzu taught that straining and striving are not only useless but also counterproductive. One should venture to do nothing in the sense of discerning and following the natural forces; to follow and shape the natural flow of events. All this is known as the Taoist doctrine of wu-wei. It can be understood as a way of mastering circumstances by understanding their nature and then shaping ones actions to comply.
The Taoist philosophy followed an interesting circle. On one hand, that Taoists rejected the regulation of life and society and preached instead to turn away from it to a solitary meditation of nature. On the other hand, they believed that by doing this one could ultimately have power enough to harness the whole universe. That by doing "nothing" one could accomplish "everything".
In this way Lao Tzu's philosophy reached out to political rulers...
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