The Tao Te Ching Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The Tao Te Ching is a collection of 81 short, poignant chapters full of advice on living in harmony with “the Tao,” translated as “the Way,” an ancient Chinese interpretation of the spiritual force underpinning all life, first written around 400 BC but relevant to this day.

Read in: 4 minutes

Favorite quote from the author:

The Tao Te Ching Summary

Video Summary

YouTube video

The great master Lao Tzu’s teachings have stood the test of time. He invented Taoism in 6th century BCE which has been passed on to generations. The Tao Te Ching contains his core lessons, and it has been translated into many languages across the globe.

Taoism philosophy is based on three pillars: simplicity, patience, and compassion. Lao Tzu said that these three principles are our greatest treasures. He further explained that by being simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of being. Through patience with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. And by being compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.

Here are three lessons from Taoism that will help you live a better life:

  1. Fully accept whatever the current moment brings. Give yourself fully to reality.
  2. Admit your own faults and mistakes, because ultimately, they might be your greatest source of strength.
  3. Always compete in a spirit of play to stay in harmony with the Tao.

Let’s dig into these lessons and learn from the master philosopher – Lao Tzu.

The Tao Te Ching Summary

If you want to save this summary for later, download the free PDF and read it whenever you want.

Download PDF

Lesson 1: Hold nothing back and surrender yourself to what is.

The Master surrenders himself to the moment. He knows the difference between what’s in his control and what’s not in his control. He knows that death is the final outcome, so he does not fear it. Instead, he surrenders to it and prepares himself for it because he knows it may arrive at any time. He doesn’t hold on to anything because he knows nothing will last forever.

The master does what he can do best today and goes to sleep holding nothing back. He knows that he may not wake up tomorrow. And if he does, he rejoices and owns the only thing he can truly own: the present moment. As a moment passes by, he lets it go and comes back to the new moment life has offered him. What matters most to him is how easily he can give himself up to whatever the moment brings while letting go of whatever he’s too tight to.

The old wisdom applies today as much as it was true in the past or it will be in the future. The more you resist to what is, the more you suffer. The illusions in your mind make it hard for you to surrender. True wisdom is being ready to give up anything you may be holding on and accepting the present as it is.

Lesson 2: Seek to know your faults by observing yourself and how you judge others.

When the master makes a mistake, he realizes it. Having realized it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He doesn’t get offended by the ones who point out his faults. Instead, he treats them as his generous teachers. He catches himself when he’s not giving his best, and then he fixes it. He treats every faulty realization as an opportunity to increase self-awareness and become better, not an excuse to feel down.

The master thinks of his enemies as shadows he himself cast. He observes how he judges others. If he gets triggered by someone’s behavior, he recognizes it as a trait he hasn’t embodied fully himself. If he had embodied it, he may observe it, but he won’t get annoyed by it. So he reminds himself of his own faults and corrects them when he sees it in others.

Accepting your own fault is one of the toughest things to do because it hurts your ego. But remember, what hurts your ego may be good for your soul. Whether it is through self-observation or through observing other’s faults, find your own shortcomings to raise your consciousness and improve yourself.

Lesson 3: The purpose of competition is to playfully create and improve.

The master doesn’t wish his opponents to have a bad day on the day of competition. He wants everyone to bring their best to the table so that they can raise the level of the game, have a good match and bring out the spirit of play. He sees competition not as an ego-driven event, but as an opportunity to play and improve his skills. At the end of the competition, he wants everyone to leave better than before regardless of the outcome.

The master does what’s best for the communal good and listens to the will of his community. He considers his self-interest as one vote, not as the only vote to drive his actions. He doesn’t want to be at the top for power, fame or wealth. He uses power, fame or wealth when he has them to be the creator of a better world, which has been his primary goal all along.

As a sportsperson, leader or entrepreneur, your mission is to thrive as a human and to bring out the best in the world. You can do it by performing better, leading others towards a cause, providing inspiration, creating a product, or serving your society. Wealth, fame and power are your tools to do so, not the end goals to aim for.

The Tao Te Ching Review

The Tao Te Ching is a classic spiritual book from the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. He is the main figure of Taoism and this book is the central text of Taoism. The more I read this book, the more it surprises me how such an ancient book’s principles are universal across all cultures and timelines.

Audio Summary

Listen to the audio of this summary with a free account*:

Who would I recommend The Tao Te Ching Summary summary to?

The 51-year-old man who’s looking to read classic spiritual literature, the 26-year-old woman who wants to bring more happiness and wisdom in her life, and anyone interested in Lao Tzu or his Taoism philosophy.

Last Updated on January 25, 2023

Rate this book!
This book has an average rating of 4.7 based on 38 votes.

Prakhar Verma

When we started out as digital coaches on (now Better Humans), little did I know that Prakhar and I would still be working together a decade later. Originally from India, he now lives in Bali and holds a Master's Degree in Game Development from Abertay University in Scotland. Prakhar is the founder of Design Epic Life, where he helps people grow into the best versions of themselves with his coaching and awesome writing, such as his book, Soul Scribbles.* He's published 5 book summaries with us, and he regularly reviews various tools and learning apps for us.