Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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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.

Commentary

“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 via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
551 – 479 BCE
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 via John Burnett
540 – 450 BCE
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 via Lin Yutang
(Zhuangzi)
369 – 286 BCE

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
(Jiànzhì Sēngcàn)
529 – 606 CE
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།
(”The Lovelorn Widower”)
8th C. CE
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
8th century CE

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

Han Shan
(Cold Mountain)
c. 730-850 CE
from

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 via Shan Dao
(Línjì Yìxuán)
? - 866 CE

Themes: Here and Now

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“Realization is like writing in water.”

Ḍeṅgipa ཌེངྒི་པ།
(“The Courtesan's Brahmin Slave”)
9th Century CE
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 via Chan
(Lu Xiangshan)
1139 – 1192 CE

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

Thomas More
1478 – 1535 CE
from Utopia

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

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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། via Judith Hanson
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
1813 – 1899 CE
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
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)
1844 – 1924 CE
from The Garden of Epicurus

Themes: True Self Reality

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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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“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: Art Here and Now

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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

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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: Art Science Magic

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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: Science Wisdom

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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 via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
1895 – 1976 CE
from Wisdom of Laotse

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

Toni Packer
1927 – 2013 CE
from Light of Discovery

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

Red Pine or Bill Porter
1943 CE –
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 or Bill Porter via Red Pine
1943 CE –
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: Lies Illusion

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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: Desire Delusion

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Comments (2)

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  1. Shan Dao
    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
    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.”