Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Tao Te Ching
Chapter 1
The Unnamed

A Path that can be explained
Isn’t a complete path.
Words that become names
Are only concepts, not real things.
The unnamed is the source of everything in heaven & on earth.
Not wanting anything to be different,
We see the inner essence.
Always wanting, we are blinded
And only see what we want.
Nameable and un-nameable;
The same source and nature but two words;
Deeper than any mystery,
Doorway to the essence of all true understanding.


“Life and Death are indeed changes of great moment but they cannot affect the sage's mind which he lets wander in the moral harmony of things. He does not notice the loss of particular objects.”

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

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“all these things are but the names which mortals have given, believing them, to be true”

Parmenides 540 – 450 BCE via John Burnett
Grandfather of Western philosophy
from On Nature

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“The one who thinks he does not know is profound, the one who thinks he knows is shallow.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Lin Yutang

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Moral Freedom

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“In these things there lies a deep meaning; yet when we would express it, words suddenly fail us.”

Tao Yuanming 365 – 427 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

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“When the pupil is ready to learn, a teacher will appear.”

Jianzhi Sengcan 鑑智僧璨 529 – 606 CE
(Jiànzhì Sēngcàn)
from Hsin Hsin Ming

Themes: Teachers

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“Form not separate from me, nor yet a part of me; the phenomenal appearance of empty space.”

Kaṅkāripa ཀངྐཱ་རི་པ། 1
(”The Lovelorn Widower”)
Mahasiddha #7

Themes: Emptiness

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“The whole world is tormented by words… Only as much as one is free from words does one really understand them.”

Saraha 1

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“In the village of nothingness
Gnarled trees prosper
Useless, nothing will harm them.”

Han Shan 1
(Cold Mountain)

Themes: Simplicity

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“The experience right before your eyes is no different from the Buddhas of all times but you do not believe it and continue looking somewhere else outside.”

Rinzai Gigen 臨済義玄 1 via Shan Dao
(Línjì Yìxuán)

Themes: Here and Now

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“Realization is like writing in water.”

Ḍeṅgipa ཌེངྒི་པ། 1
(“The Courtesan's Brahmin Slave”)
Mahasiddha #31

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“Reading should be an active search for the vital arteries, not a matter of understanding only the words, the literal meaning which only leads to being harmed by what we read.”

Lù Jiǔyuān 陸九淵 1139 – 1192 CE via Chan
(Lu Xiangshan)

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“The way to heaven is the same from all places.”

Thomas More 1478 – 1535 CE
from Utopia

Themes: Wu Wei

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“The highest goal that man can achieve is amazement.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE
from Theory of Colors

Themes: Inspiration

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“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE
from Faust, part II

Themes: Projection

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“The crow wished everything was black, the Owl, that everything was white.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE

Themes: Projection

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“Why chase after thoughts which are only superficial ripples of present awareness?”

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས། 1813 – 1899 CE via Judith Hanson
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
from Torch of Certainty

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“Dwell in possibility.”

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886 CE

Themes: Openness

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“It is possible that our millions of suns make up altogether but a spec in a minute insect in a world vast beyond our ability to imagine which is in some other world no more than a speck of dust.”

Anatole France 1844 – 1924 CE
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)
from The Garden of Epicurus

Themes: Reality True Self

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“The same thing which in Lao-Tzu…is the Tao… is Spinoza’s cosmotheism is God as the eternal substance.”

Paul Carus 1852 – 1919 CE
The Teachings of Lao Tzu

Themes: God

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“It is a lie that truth always belongs to the majority! When a truth is hoary with years it is a long way to becoming a lie.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE via Justin O'Brien
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from In Search of Lost Time

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“What was any art but a mold to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself- life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.”

Willa Cather 1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

from My Ántonia

Themes: Here and Now Art

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“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Curiosity

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“Every statement about the transcendental ought to be avoided because it is invariably a laughable presumption on the part of the human mind, unconscious of its limitations.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

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“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel is as good as dead.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE
from Ideas and Opinions

Themes: Science Magic Art

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“Shut your eyes and see.”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from Ulysses

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“Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE

Themes: Wisdom Science

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“We all derive from the same source… We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE

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“Regard life with passion to see its manifest forms, do away with passion to see the Secret of Life.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
from Wisdom of Laotse

Themes: Hope Desire

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“Only when you give up everything can you see a true teacher. Even the name of Buddhism is already a dirty spot on our practice. It is not teaching. The character and effort of our teachers is our teaching.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE
from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Themes: Buddhism

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“What is implied here is nothing less than the healing of the split between the two hemispheres of our brain which have become separated, alienated and at war with each other during the past few thousand years... This verse welcomes the disappearance of all boundaries among art, science, and religion as the walls and premises of every discipline dissolve into a higher consciousness”

Ralph Alan Dale 1920 – 2006 CE
Translator, author, visionary
from Tao Te Ching, a new translation and commentary

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“To really be with the raw stuff of this moment doesn't need identification or labeling.”

Toni Packer 1927 – 2013 CE
A Zen teacher minus the 'Zen' and minus the 'teacher.’
from Light of Discovery

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“The things we distinguish as real change while their names do not.”

Red Pine 1943 CE –
( Bill Porter)
Exceptional translator, cultural diplomat
from Lao-Tzu's Taoteching

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“If words are of any use at all, they are the words of the poet. For poetry has the ability to point us toward the truth, then stand aside.”

Red Pine 1943 CE – via Red Pine
( Bill Porter)
Exceptional translator, cultural diplomat
from Lao-Tzu's Taoteching

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“Naming, even in ridicule, gives what is named substance.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Themes: Illusion Lies

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“When we see the world through the lens of desire, reality becomes fractured into what we want and what we do not want.”

Yi-Ping Ong 1978 CE –
from Tao Te Ching - Introduction and Notes

Themes: Delusion Desire

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Comments (2)

  1. Shan Dao
    Shan Dao 6 years ago
    There are c. 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe, more than 27 for each person alive now (based on 7.3 billion population). And each galaxy has at least 100 billion suns. In our galaxy – the Milky Way, there are c. 400 billion suns or more than 50 suns for each person alive now. In the whole universe, that’s close to 3,000 suns per person. Some of these suns are more than 100x larger than ours. Traveling at the speed of light, it would take 13.2 billion years to get from here to the (as far as we know now) furthest away galaxy and yet as Anatole France says, “It is possible that our millions of suns make up altogether but a spec in a minute insect in a world vast beyond our ability to imagine which is in some other world no more than a speck of dust.”
  2. Shan Dao
    Shan Dao 6 years ago
    Another insight into our true place in the universe from the human perspective is this conclusion from historian Will Durant: “Civilization is always older than we think; and under whatever sod we tread are the bones of men and women who also worked and loved, wrote songs and made beautiful things, but whose names and very being have been lost in the careless flow of time.”
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