Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Shan Dao 山道

1933 CE –

Translator, entrepreneur, farmer, engineer, inventor, house-holder, and single father; Shan Dao grew up in a remote but culturally diverse village. Alienated from the materialism and militarism of his environment, he was drawn toward a spiritual path and at 4 years old began experiencing at first a mystical Christianity and later one more in harmony with Doestoevesky and Teilhard de Chardin. He practiced at first Rinzai and later Soto Zen, Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, and a Rimé Shambhala tradition which led to an immersion in the Tao Te Ching and the deep wisdom streams hidden but flowing in our many different religious cultures.

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Quotes by Shan Dao (73 quotes)

“The more we believe the words, the less we understand the sense”

Chapters: 65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

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“Thinking that our confusion is the understanding of knowledge creates mental illness.”

Chapters: 71. Sick of Sickness

Themes: Confusion

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“We’re only as weak as our greatest strength.”

Themes: Paradox

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“To know when to stop is to know enough.”

Chapters: 9. Know When to Stop

Themes: Less is More

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“If as Sun Tzu says, ‘Deception is the art of war,’ it follows that being genuine and authentic is the art of peace.”

Chapters: 57. Wu Wei

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“An enlightened end has no means.”

Chapters: 58. Goals Without Means

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“We worry about robots and AI becoming human while the real concern is people becoming robotic.”

Chapters: 80. A Golden Age

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“McLuhan’s comment that ‘every new technology requires a new war’ may help explain why we have so many new wars popping up all the time - not just wars with guns but cultural wars, race wars, gender wars, political meme wars, religious wars, social hierarchy wars, wars of philosophy…”

Chapters: 30. No War

Themes: Technology War

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“Getting caught up in a political drama is like getting addicted to a bad soap opera and missing work so you can watch.”

Chapters: 18. The Sick Society

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“Wanting approval and appreciation easily becomes a strong chain in the herd instinct dynamic, something noticeably diminished in the lives of history-changing innovators.”

Chapters: 19. All Methods Become Obstacles

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“Race, gender, ethnic, national, age, handicap, appearance-based prejudice are all ways of substituting something trivial and unworthy for real merit and ability. Prejudice means trying to preserve unearned privilege and advantage.”

Chapters: 32. Uncontrived Awareness

Themes: Delusion

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“Studying history is going on a journey and traveling into the past.”

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

Chapters: 47. Effortless Success

Themes: Travel History

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“First impressions - almost always based on the new person’s acting skills, are almost always far from truth.”

Chapters: 20. Unconventional Mind

Themes: Deception

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“We need more poetry in politics.

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“Opinions and beliefs can be helpful... as long as we don't believe them”

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

Chapters: 65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

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“Although almost all our attention goes toward the surface, the form of government; the deep importance and influence has much less to do with the description, the name - much more to with integrity of the people involved.”

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

Chapters: 58. Goals Without Means

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“Impatience knows no limits: as soon as we learn to walk we want to sign up for the Olympics.”

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

Themes: Patience

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“The same qualities that make someone attractive to the opposite sex and easy to start up a new relationship make it more difficult for that relationship to last.”

Themes: Sex Beauty

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“The further back in time, the more narrow and limited our perceptions of the world. It slowly expanded from family to clan to village to city to country. With the revolution of information technology, it now includes all the world and all the people in it. Unfortunately our conceptions of equality and justice haven’t expanded as quickly as this awareness. People becoming true citizens of the world is evolution’s main challenge for us today.”

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“Impatience knows no limits: as soon as we learn to walk we want to sign up for the Olympics.”

Themes: Patience

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“If we think of ‘teaching’ as imparting knowledge, knowledge and skill-sets are necessary but teaching stays on the level of only understanding the words. If by ‘teaching’ we mean, transmitting the true sense of the words, words aren’t even necessary. Realized wisdom communicates with every gesture and expression.”

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“The future of business? – A faster and faster transition from the mechanical, rote, and unskilled to the innovative, educated and personal as technology, computers, and robots assume bigger and bigger roles.”

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“Did slavery in the world end because of people’s sense of injustice or only because it stopped being economically profitable? As technology evolves, unskilled labor becomes both less necessary and less valuable. As physical slavery organically ended in the world, mental slavery, true-believership, and wage slavery are rapidly ending now.”

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“Reading quotes and words of wisdom from ancient and modern sages is like taking vitamins, a kind of psychological preventative medicine.”

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“The illusion of comfort - belief that kicking back, relaxing without challenge will somehow make us happy. Actually, the very opposite is true for both individuals and countries.”

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“The masculine principle proves best at innovation, action, beginning new things; the feminine principle best at maintaining and nurturing the newly created. Genghis Khan was a genius at creating a new world culture of religious, ethnic, and gender equality but his sons could not maintain it, modern civilization was saved by his daughters.”

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“'Selling our souls to the devil' is just a dramatic way of saying 'trading our time for money.'”

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“The path to true happiness is the same whoever, whenever, or wherever you are.”

Chapters: 4. The Father of All Things

Themes: Happiness Health

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“Smart people learn from their mistakes. Smarter people learn from other people’s mistakes. The smartest people learn from smart people’s mistakes. And the smartest people are the smartest people because they have learned from the most mistakes.”

Themes: Mistakes

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“What’s important isn’t which opinions and beliefs someone has but how they hold them: as a rigid dogma or tentatively, realizing that new evidence at any moment could change them.”

Themes: Opinion Belief

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“To 'make America great again' would mean individuals seeing through all the materialistic, consumerism lies and re-finding real meaningfulness and inspiration in their lives; it doesn’t have anything to do with all of our 'Homer Simpsons' regaining the prestige and respect they’ve lost through their laziness, arrogance, and egomania.”

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“The secret to success is thinking things through before acting. The cause of failure is thinking things through before acting. Holding this dichotomy is the beginning of ’skillful means.’”

Themes: Skillful Means

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“Sectarianism is the problem; pluralism is the answer.”

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“Why we believe something is much more important than what we believe.”

Themes: Belief

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“Government needs to be the size of the problems it’s facing. If small problems, a small government; if no problems, no government; if large problems, a large government is needed. Our problems today - climate change, terrorism, the unprecedented gap between rich and poor; adapting to a radically changing world, etc. - are gigantic and global. Therefore we need a large government. Only a unified, global government will be able to successfully face this scale of global problems. Once faced and solved, we can go back to less and less government.”

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“Desire, any sort of gaining idea only distorts and diminishes the natural progression of wisdom into enlightened society.”

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“The more information we take in, the less we have. The less contemplation, the more new writes over the old, the more mindless and meaningless our lives become.”

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“Fake news isn’t the problem. There has always been and probably always will be fake news. The problem is only people believing it which seems to be an increasing trend in our digital age.”

Themes: Deception Belief

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“Almost everyone struggles for fame, praise, respect; few realize the price in suffering they have to pay for these.”

Themes: Fame Anonymity

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“One of humanity’s most persistent and damaging illusions is that happiness and suffering are caused by external factors.”

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“How can we ‘plan ahead’ when the the speed of change makes it almost completely impossible to have any clear idea about what the future will look like? The only reliable strategy may consist in developing mindful awareness, the ability to think for ourselves, and ripen innate wisdom.”

Themes: Change Strategy

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“Civilization progresses in a leap-frog kind of way. One country advances technology and attains dominance and power and then less advanced countries use that technology to leap-frog ahead of the the once dominant one. One example is cell phones letting ‘developing countries’ skip the infrastructure phase of land-line telephone poles and wires and move technologically ahead of countries hampered by their need to maintain the old systems while at the same time trying to bring in the new. The same dynamic plays out in psychological realms of self-image, meaningfulness, and cultural identification.”

Themes: Civilization

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“One of the most important things in life may be learning to think for ourselves rather than just following a group-mind, status quo belief system. A gauge of how much we truly do this is the extent we share opinions with large groups,”

Themes: True Self

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“Life is like a relay race. We receive a baton from those who have gone before and pass it on to those who come after us—either diminished or increased.”

Themes: Progress

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“Civilization progresses in a leap-frog kind of way. One country advances technology and attains dominance and power and then less advanced countries use that technology to leap-frog ahead of the the once dominant one. One example is cell phones letting ‘developing countries’ skip the infrastructure phase of land-line telephone poles and wires and move technologically ahead of countries hampered by their need to maintain the old systems while at the same time trying to bring in the new. The same dynamic plays out in psychological realms of self-image, meaningfulness, and cultural identification.”

Themes: Civilization

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“When we write down our thoughts, they become solid which makes them less creative but more secure as a foundation for thinking further and deeper. The same principle may apply to culture and civilization—the philosophies and wisdom of the past makes a strong foundation but also a ‘golden chain’ that prevents creativity and evolution. Like a tall building with a firm and strong base but an open and ever-changing top.”

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“In MacKay’s classic, The Madness of Crowds he points out that historically people more easily believe extreme views (tulip mania, the Crusades, the witch trials) when the society is experiencing abrupt and frequent change. Extreme views tend to be more clear and simple than the truth which is more messy, paradoxical, and multi-layered. So when populations struggle to deal with too much change, latching on to a foolish but strong and clear message becomes much more tempting.”

Themes: Change Delusion

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“Losing consciousness in digital dreams
Ignoring life caught up in schemes
Time to come on back home
And start being alone.”

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“If a book is truly worth reading, it’s not a promiscuous, one-night stand. It becomes a life-long companion, the lifeblood of our insight, understanding, and wisdom. We re-read it from the different perspectives of youth, career-seeking, marriage and family, old age and the process of dying. We continually translate it into the ever-changing scope of our cultures, politics and psychology.”

Themes: Books

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“Religious, political, and social labels are like clothing, like a shirt. It’s what people see, but not who we are.”

Themes: True Self

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“The more people believe something, the less likely it’s true but the more likely people will believe it’s true.”

Themes: Truth

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“We live in an historical river of wisdom but often only dwell on the banks. When in the river itself, our role is helping shape the channel to the modern times and issues.”

Themes: Continuity

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“Oh, how short-sighted you who dismiss the philosophy or sage
Because of one small disagreement.
Don’t you know that every whole is flawed
And also full of truth?
Much more suspect
Believing all of anything is true.”

Themes: Complaint Truth

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“The gap between thinking about something and experiencing it is often so great that it’s impossible to see any connection. And yet, we believe so much in what we think.”

Themes: Belief

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“Philosophy means participating in age-old conversations going back to the beginnings of history and extending into the inconceivable future. And like any good conversation, it requires a balance between listening and talking. If we talk too much, we quickly go beyond our understanding and fall into foolishness. If we listen too much, we become imprisoned by words without insight.”

Themes: Philosophy

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“When people are young and 'in love,' they have strong biological bonds, genes and hormones creating attraction and a kind of genetic glue. When older though and into or past their main reproductive years, that gene-hormone-glue dissolves and continuing the relationship requires a re-negotiation, a more rational foundation, a more conscious choice.”

Themes: Marriage

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“The false god of finishing... how many times do we force ourselves to do something we really don't want to do because of a compulsion to finish?”

Themes: Perseverance

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“In many if not most cases, the more success, the less integrity. The cost of most success is our integrity.”

Themes: Success Integrity

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“The idea of ‘retirement’ is a scam deluding people into sacrificing the meaningfulness of their careers for the illusion of pleasure, of unconstrained leisure. The result of a propaganda campaign during the age of industrialization and rapid population growth to deal with unemployment, governments wanted to minimize the discontent of jobless youth by tricking older people into obscurity, pointless dependence, and abandoning one of our most basic sources of happiness—meaningful and productive work.”

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“We find ourselves constantly assailed by forces trying to manipulate and control us. Internally they manifest as vestigial emotions and instincts based on prehistoric human conditions. Externally, they often arise from political and economic interests with goals diametrically opposed to our own self interests and values.”

Themes: Control Slavery

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“If you ever start feeling nostalgic about ancient times, take your glasses off and imagine what it would be like without teeth.”

Themes: History

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“‘Progress’ is a process best described by the phrase ‘two steps forward, one step back.’ When we’re in the ‘one step back’ phase, it’s extremely hard to see the bigger picture that we’ve actually made one step forward. This tends to give historians a much more optimistic view of life and civilization.”

Themes: Progress

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“Travelers on the path of our life experience; the wisdom, books, teachings, and quotations from the past become our shoes, bicycles, cars, trains, and planes taking us toward our true selves, awakened awareness, enlightenment.”

Themes: Travel

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“Drunk on freedom, trapped by desire, intoxicated with sex, and wandering in confusion; we stumble into the future.”

Themes: Suffering

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“It’s not the tradition that someone follows that makes them wise; but instead, the ability to see and go beyond that same tradition.”

Themes: Creativity

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“A trophy wife polishing her veneer continues a hopeless path toward obsolescence.”

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“It’s not hard to believe that Eleanor would have been a better president than FDR, Pat better than Richard, Rosalyn better than Jimmy, Nancy better than Ronald, Hillary better than Bill, Michele better than Barack… having such close-up views on the political and decision-making process without the starry-eyed hero-worship so quickly dissipated by marriage, gives First Ladies—like all marriage partners—very personal and rare insights into what not to do.”

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“Insights become proverbs, proverbs become slogans, slogans become truisms, truisms become clichés, clichés become words, words become dogmas, and dogmas become prisons.”

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“The reality of American democracy became government by the people but not as much for the people. Traditional Chinese democracy manifested as government for the people but not by the people.”

Themes: Democracy

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“Muhammad was a manic-depressive who managed to transform his psychological problems into one of the world’s most influential traditions. His early life in Medina could be described as a depressive phase when he immersed in contemplative, almost mystical reflection and encouraged respect, openness, and tolerance; his time after escaping to Mecca as the manic counterpart when he set the political stage for warfare, conquering, and intolerance.”

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“The best way to ‘complain’ is not to say something, but to change something.”

Themes: Complaint

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“Disappointment, poverty, suffering, and despair create a fertile planting mix for religious and political extremism. The more desperation people find themselves in, the more welcoming they become to promises of salvation. The more degraded the conditions we find ourselves here on earth, the more appeal we have for visions of heavenly perfection. Perhaps having the most vivid and pleasurable description of heavenly bliss described by a political or religious dogma; the more attractive to poverty-stricken, despairing populations. This could explain the rapid growth and power of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages, of Islamic extremism in today’s world.”

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“Thomas Jefferson owned 5 Latin versions of De Rerum Natura as well as English, French and Italian translations. He said it was his favorite book and its main ideas infiltrated The Declaration of Independence—most notably that government should serve 'the pursuit of Happiness.' ”

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