'Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment' - Lao Tzu

Olivia Thompson Olivia Thompson Sep 30, 2021 · 4 mins read
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Lao Tzu was a Chinese philosopher and writer who lived in the 6th century BCE. He is best known for his work, the Tao Te Ching, which is a collection of sayings and teachings about the Tao, or the Way. One of his most famous quotes is, “Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”

This quote speaks to two concepts: wisdom and enlightenment. Wisdom is the ability to understand the world around us and to make good judgments based on that understanding. It involves seeing beyond the surface-level appearances of things and discerning their underlying nature. Enlightenment, on the other hand, is a deeper level of understanding that comes from knowing one’s own true nature. It is a state of being where one is in harmony with the universe and everything in it.

Knowing others is an important part of wisdom because it helps us to better understand the world around us. We are social creatures by nature, and our interactions with others form a large part of our lives. By paying attention to the actions and words of others, we can gain insights into their motivations, desires, and fears. This knowledge can help us to navigate social situations and form deeper connections with the people around us.

But knowing others is not enough on its own. True wisdom also involves knowing oneself. This means having a deep understanding of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and motivations. It involves being honest with oneself about one’s strengths and weaknesses, and having the humility to acknowledge when we are wrong. When we know ourselves in this way, we can make better decisions and live more authentic lives.

Enlightenment, however, takes this concept to a deeper level. Instead of simply knowing oneself intellectually, enlightenment involves a spiritual awakening that comes from a deep connection to the universe. It is a state of being where one sees everything clearly for what it is, without any attachment to one’s own desires or preconceptions. In this state, one is free from suffering and able to live in harmony with the world around them.

In conclusion, Lao Tzu’s quote, “Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment,” speaks to the importance of both social understanding and self-awareness. While wisdom involves understanding the world around us through our interactions with others, enlightenment involves a deeper spiritual understanding that comes from knowing oneself at a fundamental level. Together, these concepts can help us live more fulfilling lives and find harmony with the universe.

Who is “Lao Tzu”?

Lao Tzu was a Chinese philosopher and writer who is believed to have lived in the 6th century BCE. He is the founder of Taoism, a philosophical and religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the natural world and acting in accordance with the principles of the Tao, or Way. Lao Tzu’s teachings and writings, including the Tao Te Ching, have had a lasting impact on Chinese culture and philosophy, as well as on spirituality and mindfulness practices around the world.

Are there any books about “Lao Tzu”?

Yes, there are numerous books about Lao Tzu. Some of the most popular ones are:

  1. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu: This is the classic Taoist text written by Lao Tzu himself.

  2. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff: This book combines the teachings of Taoism with the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

  3. The Tao of Leadership by John Heider: This book applies the principles of Taoism to the modern business world.

  4. Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching by Jane English: This translation of the Tao Te Ching features beautiful illustrations and commentary.

  5. Lao Tzu and the Taoist Vision by Livia Kohn: This is a comprehensive guide to Lao Tzu’s life and teachings.

  6. The Taoist Classics: The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary (Volumes 1-4): This series includes translations of key Taoist texts, including the Tao Te Ching and the Chuang Tzu.

  7. The Way and Its Power: Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and Its Place in Chinese Thought by Arthur Waley: This book provides historical context for the Tao Te Ching and analyzes its influence on Chinese culture.

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Olivia Thompson
Written by Olivia Thompson
Making a difference, one step at a time.