Issue nº 51

How one of the most important books in the world was written |  Ithaca, or the long way back

How one of the most important books in the world was written

     In the twenty-third year of the reign of Zhao, Lao Tsu realized that the war would end up destroying the place where he lived. As he had spent years meditating on the meaning of life, he was quite aware that at certain moments one has to be practical. He decided to make the simplest decision: move home.

     He gathered his few possessions and set out for Han Keou. At the gates of the city he came upon a guard.

     - Where can such an important wise be going? - asked the guard.

     - Far from the war.

     - You can't leave just like that. I would very much like to know what you learned in so many years of meditation. I will only let you leave the city if you share with me what you know.

     When he was free of the guard, Lao Tsu wrote a small book there and then and handed the only copy to the man. Then he went on his journey and never heard of him again.

     Lao Tsu's text was copied and recopied, crossed centuries and millennia and has reached our times. It is called "Tao Te King" and is available in Portuguese from several publishing houses. The book is a must.

     Here are some extracts:

He who knows others is wise.
He who knows himself is illuminated.
He who defeats others is strong.
He who defeats himself is powerful.
He who knows happiness is rich.
He who keeps his path is wilful.

Be humble and you will become whole.
Bend and you will become straight.
Empty yourself and you will become full.
Wear yourself out and you will become new.

The wise man does not show off, and so he shines.
He does not make himself known, and so he is noticed.
He does not praise himself, and so he has merit.
And because he does not compete,
none in the world can compete with him.

     A Japanese legend tells of a certain monk who was so enraptured by the beauty of the Chinese book "Tao Te King" that he decided to raise money to have those verses translated and published into his language. It took him ten years to raise enough funds.

     However, a pest swept through the country and the monk decided to use the money to relieve the suffering of the sick. But as soon as the situation became normal, once more he started to gather the amount necessary to publish the Tao.

     Another ten years passed by, and when at last he was ready to print the book a seaquake left hundreds of people homeless.

     Once more the monk spent all the money on rebuilding the houses of those who had lost everything. Another ten years passed by, he gathered the money again and finally the people of Japan were able to read the "Tao Te King."

     The wise men say that this monk actually made three editions of the Tao: two are invisible and one is in print. He kept his faith in his objective without ever failing to care for his neighbour.

Issue nº51