Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Lao Tzu 老子

(Lǎozǐ)

604 BCE -

The poems translated here say more about Lao Tzu than could any commentary on his life. A huge influence on all of Chinese culture, much of Chinese literature and almost all of Chinese art, Lao Tzu’s teachings also extend to every aspect of life including politics to such an extent that he was claimed as an ancestor by the emperors of the Tang dynasty. Some call Zen “Taoism in Buddhist clothing” and these teachings continue to inspire people in all of the non-thought lineages. As Ursula Le Guin comments, “Of all the deep springs, this is the purest water.”

Eras

Sources

A New Translation Based on the Recently Discovered Ma-wang-tui Texts

Complete Works of Lao Tzu

Essential Tao

Illustrated Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu - A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Lao-Tze’s Tao-Te-King

Lao-Tzu: “My words are very easy to understand.”

Lao-Tzu’s TaoTeChing

Tao of Spirit

Tao Te Ching

Tao Te Ching

Tao Te Ching

Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Tao Te Ching - Introduction and Notes

Tao Te Ching – Psychedelic Prayers

Tao Te Ching — The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words

Tao Te Ching, Annotated and Explained

Tao The Ching

The Way and its Power

Way of Lao Tzu

Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Unlisted Sources

Quotes by Lao Tzu (106 quotes)

“The vanity of success only brings to harvest a crop of calamities.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“When you succeed, be one with success. When you fail, be one with failure.

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Chapters: 23. Nothing and Not

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“Without leaving home you can understand all that goes on in the world.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Travel

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“The farther you go, the less you know.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Travel Technology

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“When leaders work for personal reward, honesty fails and deception rules.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“To look too hard for life is to find death.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Death and Dying

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“When the powerful make too much of life, the people make light of death.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Death and Dying

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“Mindful of death and appreciating where they are,
They have no need for long journeys.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Travel

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“When the rich spend taxes on making themselves richer, the people starve.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Chapters: 75. Greed

Themes: Greed

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“When the people don’t have enough, why should the rich have too much?”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Greed

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“Only a leader not focused on personal gain, can wisely govern.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“When leaders are convinced by concepts, corruption, confusion, and conflict reign. When instead they remain unconvinced and open, blessings and goodness spread.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“Always wanting, we are blinded and only see what we want.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Greed Desire

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“When seduced by an image of beauty, we create ugliness.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Beauty

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“When impressed by an image of goodness, we create badness. If this becomes good, that becomes bad.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Basic Goodness

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“The wise… teach without saying anything… create without claiming… work without taking credit… accomplish without attachment.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“They do not-doing and all goes well.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“Less fame, less fighting, less praise, less competition”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Fame Competition

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“Less treasure, less theft, less desire, less delusion”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“Filled with infinite possibilities and one with the dust, the Tao unites the world into one whole like a deep pool that never dries up.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Oneness

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“Without stillness, the earth would crumble.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“They have advanced technology but they aren’t mesmerized by their tools, hypnotized by their computers, enslaved by their inventions.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“Aggression destroys our greatest treasure.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“When we recognize belief as sickness, healing begins.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Belief

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“The wise appear simple and ordinary on the outside while holding a precious treasure concealed within.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“The foolish understand the words, the wise understand the sense.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“Not wanting anything to be different, we see the inner essence.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“Therefore the wise teach without saying anything.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“One with the dust, it unites the world into one whole.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Humility

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“The more words, the less truth.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“The mysterious feminine, the root and source of heaven and earth, inexhaustible and unfailing”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“Without an empty mind, people are useless.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“Chasing fame, fortune, pleasure and power only drives us crazy.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“Repay wrongs with the Power of Goodness; requite injuries with good deeds.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Golden Rule

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“Believing in a separate self creates great suffering. How can there be suffering without a self?”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Egolessness

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“Only those not seduced and controlled by something external will remain unmanipulated, uncorrupted by power.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“Hold fast to the perpetual, momentary flickering of mind.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Here and Now

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“Continuity beyond the realm of things, unthinkable thought beyond imagination.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Continuity Reason

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“Use stillness to let what is troubled settle and grow clear”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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Focused on uncontrived awareness, not seduced by hope and fear, grasping and fixation; they are not swayed by a desire for change.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Hope Change Desire

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“The body comes to its ending but nothing dies.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Death and Dying

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“Returning to the root brings a peace that recognizes no difference between self and other.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Peace Egolessness

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“The more dysfunctional the family, the more autocratic and subservient.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Family

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“The more dysfunctional the family, the more autocratic and subservient.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Family

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“Our bodies disappear but the eternal present goes on and on.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Longevity

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“Stop believing in wise words and reason; you will become your own sage.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“When you stop trying to be kind and just, you will discover basic goodness.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Basic Goodness

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“The more harmful the religion, the more dogmatic extremists.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Religion Belief

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“Forget even these rules - you will discover ordinary mind.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Ordinary Mind

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“Because they don't nurture an independent self, the wise put themselves in the background and find fulfillment.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Anonymity

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“What arises lasts forever because letting go makes it stay.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Letting Go

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“Words that become names are only concepts, not real things.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“The Sage never has to grapple with big things yet he alone is capable of achieving them!”

from Tao The Ching

Chapters: 63. Easy as Hard

Themes: Less is More

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“[The Tao] unites the world into one whole.”

from Tao The Ching

Chapters: 4. The Father of All Things

Themes: Oneness

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“The highest form of goodness is like water... In making a move, know how to choose he right moment.”

from Tao The Ching

Chapters: 8. Like Water

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“The way to do is to be.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

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“What is is the was of what shall be.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Time Here and Now

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“Take everything that happens as it comes, as something to animate, not to appropriate”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 2. The Wordless Teachings

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“He who feels punctured must once have been a bubble.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 36. The Small, Dark Light

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“If you can stay in the lead of men without their knowing, you are at the core of life.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Leadership

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“If you can stay in the lead of men without their knowing, you are at the core of life.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 10. The Power of Goodness

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“When a person is in turmoil, how can they find peace except by staying patient until the stream clears?”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Patience

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“How can a man's life keep its course if will not let it flow?”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 15. Inscrutability

Themes: Letting Go

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“They feel no wear, they feel no tear, they need no mending, no repair.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

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“Be utterly humble and you shall hold to the foundation of peace.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Humility

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“To accept destiny is to face life with open eyes; not to accept destiny is to face death blindfolded.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 16. Returning to the Root, Meditation

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“When people lose sight of how to live, they create codes of virtue that give rise to great hypocrisy.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 18. The Sick Society

Themes: Virtue

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“The wise can easily be made into leaders but leaders not so easily made wise.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“Tampering makes thing worse because life is sacred just as it it.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“The nature of weapons is to turn against their holder... Great conquerors are really great criminals.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: War

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“What goes against the Tao comes to an early end.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Longevity

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“Because the wise never try to be great, they accomplish great things.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Ambition

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“Awareness floats and drifts... making no distinction between going his way and going that way.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“If people know when to stop, danger dissolves.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Less is More

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“fear a constricted life, fear wasting your time with a meaningless career”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Livelihood

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“Take care of and appreciate but don't puff up and exaggerate; let go of that and choose this.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Appreciation

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“The Way of Heaven doesn't compete but easily wins.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Competition

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“When people appreciate and love life, they naturally love and take care of things.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Meaningfulness

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“Rid of legalized profiteering, people would have no thieves to fear.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 19. All Methods Become Obstacles

Themes: Crime

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“Rid of conventionalized duty and honor, people find their families dear.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 19. All Methods Become Obstacles

Themes: Family

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“Set people free as deep in their hearts they would like to be.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Freedom

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“I—pig-headed, awkward, different from the rest—am only a glorious infant nursing at the breast.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 20. Unconventional Mind

Themes: Crazy Wisdom

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“The surest test if a man be sane is if he accepts life whole, as it is.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Appreciation

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“The surest test if a man be sane is if he accepts life whole, as it is.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 21. Following Empty Heart

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“As want can reward you, wealth can bewilder.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 22. Heaven's Door

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“Without taking credit, a wise man is accredited; laying no claim, he is acclaimed.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 22. Heaven's Door

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“A good man, before he can help a bad man, finds in himself the matter with the bad man.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Projection

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“Nature does not have to insist... why should man?”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Letting Go

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“Standing tiptoe we lose balance... pride has never brought a person greatness.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

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“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”

Themes: Music

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“The highest and humblest, wombs of the world, continuously, endlessly, give birth.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 28. Turning Back

Themes: Continuity

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“Those who would take over the world never succeed... The wise never over-reach, over-spend, or over-rate.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Chapters: 29. Not Doing

Themes: Power Humility

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“Recognize the masculine but turn back to the feminine and become the world’s riverbed.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

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“Because he lays claim to no credit, the credit cannot be taken away from him.”

Chapters: 2. The Wordless Teachings

Themes: Fame

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“Let life ripen and then fall, force is not the way at all”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Aggression

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“Shut out from sight the things of desire so that the people's hearts shall not be disturbed.”

from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Desire

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“The whole of my teaching is simply making people recognize that what they mistake for conditions of health are really conditions of disease, that their virtues are really vices, that what they prize is really worthless.”

from The Way and its Power

Chapters: 71. Sick of Sickness

Themes: Health Virtue

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“Do nothing through acting.
Do everything through being.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Wu Wei

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“The true and worst but most often unpunished criminals wearing wealth fill their mansions with splendor when granaries are empty and farms are poor and wild. They never hunger, never thirst; yet eat and drink until they burst.”

Themes: Crime Socialism

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“Only pursue an offender to show him the way.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Punishment

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“Better a foot behind than an inch too far ahead.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Less is More

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“Those with outer courage dare to die, those with inner courage dare to live.”

from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Integrity

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“Can you float through the universe of your body engulfed in the slippery union of male and female, slide together in molecular embrace and become two cells merging?”

from Tao Te Ching – Psychedelic Prayers

Themes: Sex

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“When the hour of the great man has struck, he rises to leadership; but before his time has come, he is hampered in all that he attempts.”

Themes: Leadership

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“Empty your mind of all thoughts... Immersed in the wonder of the Tao, you can deal with whatever life brings you, and when death comes, you are ready.”

Themes: Meditation

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“Compassion wins every battle and outlasts every attack.”

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Quotes about Lao Tzu (7 quotes)

“Lao Tzu is the example of a man with superior insight who has seen and experienced worth and worthlessness, and who at the end of his life desires to return to his own being, into the unknowable meaning. The archetype of the old man who has seen enough is eternally true.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

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“The differences between Confucius and Lao Tzu are no more significant than the preference for wheat in North China and rice in the South.”

Li Hungfu 1574 – 1574 CE
from Lao-tzu-chieh

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“Birds have wings to fly, fish fins to swim, wild beats feet to run and for feet there are traps, for fins nets, for wings arrows. But who know how dragons surmount wind and cloud into heaves? Today I have seen Lao Tzu and he is a dragon.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE via Witter Bynner, Shan Dao
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

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“While Lao Tzu spoke in aphorisms, Chuang Tzu wrote long, discursive philosophical essays. While Lao Tzu was all intuition, Chuang Tzu was all intellect. Lao Tzu smiled; Chuang Tzu laughed. Lao Tzu taught; Chuang Tzu scoffed. Lao Tzu spoke to the heart; Chuang Tzu spoke to the mind. Lao Tzu was like Whitman; Chuang Tzu was like Thoreau. Lao Tzu was like Rousseau; Chuang Tzu was like Voltaire.

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE
from Wisdom of Laotse

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“I know how birds can fly, fishes swim, and animals run. But the runner may be snared, the swimmer hooked, and the flyer shot by the arrow. But there is the dragon—I cannot tell how he mounts on the wind through the clouds, and rises to heaven. Today I have seen Lao Tzu, and can compare him only to the dragon.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE via Legge
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"
from Life and Teachings of Confucius

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“Political leaders are never leaders. For leaders we have to look to the Awakeners! Lao Tse, Buddha, Socrates, Jesus, Milarepa, Gurdjiev, Krishnamurti.”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE
from My Bike & Other Friends (1977)

Themes: Leadership

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“Confucius stresses social responsibility, Lao Tzu praises spontaneity and naturalness… Confucius roams within society, Lao Tzu wanders beyond.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE
from World's Religions

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