Biography of Messiahs and Prophets Lao-Tzu Part 3

About the famous religious figure Lao-Tzu, history and biography of the Chinese leader.


LAO-TZU (c. 604-531 B.C.)

Li Erh remembered how, months before, a young man had visited him in the Royal Library. The young man was 34, his name K'ung Fu-tzu (Confucius). This young man was a teacher and had come to Loyang, the capital of Honan Province, to win the favor of dignitaries. He had spoken to Li Erh of his hopes. Confucius would later return to his disciples and say: "I know that birds fly with wings, that fish swim with fins, that animals have feet to run with. And I know that for each of these there is a device fit for its capture: traps for those with feet, nets for those with fins, arrows for those with wings. But who understands the way of a dragon, how it mounts wind and cloud to climb to heaven? This day I have seen Li Erh. This day I have seen a dragon."

When Yin Hsi, the gatekeeper, arose at day-break, he looked for his aged guest. Finding only the curious scroll, he ran outside and scanned the road to the northwest beyond the limits of the kingdom. He held the scroll tightly now in his hand, straining to see the distant traveler. In the morning mist, earth, and heaven seemed to merge. In the distance something moving glittered in the risen sun, and for a moment--just a moment--it seemed a dragon rose into the sky.

After centuries had passed, some questioned the precise identity of Lao-tzu, "the old master," or said he had never lived. Some doubted that the Tao Te Ching was the vision of a single mind. Still others invented tales about its author, alleging that he had been conceived by a virgin who saw a shooting star and then carried him in her womb for decades before giving birth to him as a white-haired old man. Some, who called themselves Taoists, built upon Lao-tzu's memory an edifice of ritual and magic, exorcism and alchemy. Yet despite the mist and mystification that was to surround the name Lao-tzu, the old philosopher was to stand second only to Confucius in his influence upon ancient Chinese thought.

He can speak across the centuries to us as well. In our insensitive and harried pursuit of material progress, we have despoiled nature and impoverished our lives. In gratifying our senses, we have lost our source. Lao-tzu reminds us of the tao and its power and humbly beckons us to listen so that once again we may find our way.

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