Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Henry David Thoreau

1817 – 1862 CE

Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi

Dedicated abolitionist, "America's first yogi," champion of nature and the natural, “father of environmentalism;” Thoreau brought a little Lao Tzu into 19th Century America. Instead of following in the pattern of his piers leading a life of “quiet desperation,” Thoreau followed much more in the Tao Te Ching’s style of Wu Wei. His non-violent approach to opposing slavery and the Mexican-American War inspired future leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Although one of America's most famous writers, during his lifetime his most famous book, Walden didn’t sell enough copies to pay for the paper it was printed on.

Eras

Sources

On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Walden or Life in the Woods

Unlisted Sources

Essays and Other Writings

Journal, 1839

Journal, 1850

Journal, 1857

Journal, 1860

Journals

Slavery in Massachusetts, 1854

Quotes by Henry David Thoreau (63 quotes)

“… men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon polished into the soil for compost… they are employed laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 29. Not Doing

Themes: Greed Business

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“A love of nature keeps no factories busy.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 72. Helpful Fear

Themes: Livelihood

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“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 46. Enough
67. Three Treasures

Themes: Wealth Letting Go

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“As for doing good, that is one of the professions which are full… There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted… If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 67. Three Treasures

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“As with out colleges, so with a hundred ‘modern improvements’; there is an illusion about them. Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 80. A Golden Age

Themes: Materialism

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“be yourself- not your idea of what you think somebody else's idea of yourself should be.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 33. Know Yourself

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“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new… The head monkey in Paris puts on a traveler’s cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

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“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 21. Following Empty Heart

Themes: Integrity

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“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 9. Know When to Stop

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“I am convinced that if all men were to live as simply as I then did, thieving and robbery would be unknown These take place only in communities where some have got more than is sufficient while others have not enough.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 19. All Methods Become Obstacles

Themes: Less is More

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“I have never yet met a man who was quite awake… with an infinite expectation of the dawn… the day is a perpetual morning… I went to the woods… to see if I could learn what it had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 35. The Power of Goodness

Themes: Meaningfulness

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“I have traveled a great deal in Concord.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 47. Effortless Success

Themes: Travel

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“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 44. Fame and Fortune

Themes: Simplicity

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“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 42. Children of the Way

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“if I repent of anything,it is very likely to be my good behavior… Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 18. The Sick Society

Themes: Moral Freedom

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“if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams… In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 47. Effortless Success

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“It is never too late to give up your prejudices.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 71. Sick of Sickness

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“It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves… how worn and dusty, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity!”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 20. Unconventional Mind

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“It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 14. Finding and Following the Formless Form

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“Men have become the tools of their tools… have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 80. A Golden Age

Themes: Technology

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“My greatest skill in life has been to want but little.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 53. Shameless Thieves

Themes: Skillful Means

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“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 23. Nothing and Not

Themes: Success

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“That government is best which governs not at all;' and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Chapters: 75. Greed

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“That government is best which governs not at all.”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Chapters: 17. True Leaders

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“that seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it… and thus have forged their own golden or silver fetters.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 44. Fame and Fortune

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“The arts and sciences, and a thousand appliances: the wind that blows is all that anybody knows.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 38. Fruit Over Flowers

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“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 37. Nameless Simplicity

Themes: Money Business

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“The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawn to which we are awake is there more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 68. Joining Heaven & Earth

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“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation… the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity… he has no time to be anything but a machine.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 72. Helpful Fear

Themes: Integrity

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“The universe is wider than our views of it.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 71. Sick of Sickness

Themes: Openness

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“we are in danger of forgetting the language which all things and events speak without metaphor… No method nor discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert.”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Chapters: 70. Inscrutable

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“Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 2. The Wordless Teachings

Themes: Success

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“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Chapters: 40. Returning

Themes: Here and Now

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“most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders… rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God ”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Chapters: 18. The Sick Society

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“There will never be a really free and enlightened state until the state comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived.”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Chapters: 38. Fruit Over Flowers

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“It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Themes: Law and Order

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“Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Chapters: 30. No War

Themes: Government

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“For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever.”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Themes: Less is More

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“Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

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“I know that some will have hard thoughts of me when they hear their Christ named beside my Buddha, yet I am sure that I am willing they should love their Christ more than my Buddha, for the love is the main thing.”

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“I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon and I grew in those seasons like corn in the night... I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation”

Themes: Contemplation

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“To be awake is to be alive… millions are awake enough for physical labor, but only one in hundreds of millions is awake enough for a poetic or divine life.”

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“In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, … in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial… I lay down the book and go to my well for water, and lo! there I meet the servant of the Bramin, priest of Brahma and Vishnu and Indra… The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Themes: Water Hinduism

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“What recommends commerce to me is its enterprise and bravery. It does not clasp its hands and pray to Jupiter.”

Themes: Capitalism

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“In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita... in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial.”

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“Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Themes: Consumerism

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“A government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice... Can there not be a government in which majorities to not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Themes: Democracy

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“The American has dwindled into an Odd Fellow—one who may be known by the development of his organ of gregariousness, and a manifest lack of intellect and cheerful self-reliance.”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

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“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Themes: Punishment

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“I do not see why the schoolmaster should be taxed to support the priest, and not the priest the schoolmaster.”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

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“Talk about slavery! It exists wherever men are bought and sold, wherever a man allows himself to be made a mere thing or tool, and surrenders his inalienable right of reason and conscience.”

from Journal, 1860

Themes: Reason Slavery

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“Blessed are they who never read a newspaper, for they shall see Nature and through her, God.”

from Essays and Other Writings

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“The law will never make me free; it is men who have to to make the law free.”

from Slavery in Massachusetts, 1854

Themes: Freedom

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“All this worldly wisdom was once the unamiable heresy of some wise man.”

from Journal, 1839

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“Things do not change; we change.”

from Journal, 1850

Themes: Change

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“How rarely I meet with a man who an be free, even in thought! We all live according to rule. Some men are bed-ridden; all world-ridden.”

from Journal, 1857

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“The rich man is always sold to the institution which makes him rich. Absolutely speaking, the more money, the less virtue”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

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“There is nothing—not even crime—more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business.”

Themes: Capitalism

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“Time is but the stream I go fishing in.”

Themes: Time

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“Sometimes I ceased to live and began to be.”

from Walden or Life in the Woods

Themes: Wu Wei

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“Nothing must be postponed... live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this... Take any other course, and life will be a succession of regrets.”

from Journals

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“That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.”

Themes: Entertainment

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“All men recognize the right of revolution; the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now.”

from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Themes: Revolution

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