Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 21
Following Empty Heart

The foolish chase appearances
And forget the essence.
The wise follow the essence
And forget about everything else.
This brings the greatest Power of Goodness,
A goodness elusive and intangible
Yet projecting images and forms,
Thoughts and feelings.

From beginningless time,
This Goodness shines
Illuminating all of creation.
Existing yet not existing;
Dark and distant
It waxes and wanes,
Form as empty
Empty as form.

Without the Way,
Goodness would have no Power;
Without Goodness,
The Way would have no Form.
How do we know?
Through here-and-now
Empty-hearted this-ness.

Commentary

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

Lao Tzu 老子 via Witter Bynner
(Lǎozǐ)
604 BCE -
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

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“Everything changes and nothing remains still.”

Heraclitus Ἡράκλειτος
(of Ephesus, the "Weeping Philosopher")
535 – 475 BCE
A Greek Buddha
from On Nature (Fragments)

Themes: Change Change

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“Man is the measure of all things: of the things that are, that they are, of the things that are not, that they are not.”

Protagoras
490 – 420 BCE
“The wisest man alive”—Socrates

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“Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.”

Democritus Dēmókritos
460 – 370 BCE
Father of modern science and greatest of ancient philosophers

Themes: Opinion

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“when the mind is open and free of its own thoughts, life unfolds effortlessly and the whole world is filled with light”

Chuang Tzu 莊周
(Zhuangzi)
369 – 286 BCE

Themes: Openness

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“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Jesus
3 BCE – 30 CE

Themes: Basic Goodness

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“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

Marcus Aurelius
121 – 219 CE

Themes: Opinion

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“Only when we take emptiness as our virtue can our actions accord with the Tao.”

Wang Bi 王弼
226 – 534 CE

Themes: Emptiness

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“The true Tao exists and yet does not exist. It does not exist and it does not not exist… Outside of the Tao, there are no things. And outside of things, there is no Tao.”

Chéng Xuanying 成玄英
(Ch'eng Hsuan-ying)
631 – 655 CE

Themes: Paradox

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“The phenomenal appearance of empty space transcends pleasure into pure joy and happiness.”

Kaṅkāripa ཀངྐཱ་རི་པ།
(”The Lovelorn Widower”)
8th C. CE
Mahasiddha #7

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“The ignorant avoid experience but not thought; the wise avoid thought but not experience.”

Huangbo Xiyun 黄檗希运
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)
? - 850 CE

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“The world within worlds within it dissolved.”

Ajogi ཨ་ཛོ་གི་པ། via Keith Dowman
("The Rejected Wastrel")
9th Century CE
Mahasiddha #26
from Masters of Mahamudra

Themes: Emptiness

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“kill the louse of habit-forming thoughts, self-originated and self-destructive”

Tilopa
988 – 1069 CE

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“If you do not realize that all things are merely of the mind, endless apparitions will never cease.”

Milarepa རྗེ་བཙུན་མི་ལ་རས་པ།
1052 – 1135 CE

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“Realize that not a single thing exists and respond unencumbered to each spec of dust without becoming its partner.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺
(Shōgaku)
1091 – 1157 CE
from Cultivating the Emplty Field

Themes: Skillful Means

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“To discard the shallow and seek the profound is the way for courageous people.”

Nichiren Daishonin
1222 – 1282 CE

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“Men in general judge more from appearances than from reality. All men have eyes, but few see clearly.”

Machiavelli
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
1469 – 1527 CE
from The Prince

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“O how feeble is man's power, That if good fortune fall, Cannot add another hour, Nor a lost hour recall!”

John Donne
1572 – 1631 CE
from Songs and Sonnets

Themes: Power

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“Nothing is more fairly distributed than common sense: no one thinks he needs more of it than he already has.”

Descartes René Descartes
1596 – 1650 CE

Themes: Know Yourself

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“some make much of what matters little and little of much… Many never lose their common sense, because they have none to lose… The wise person thinks over everything, but with a difference, most profoundly where there is some profound difficulty.”

Balthasar Gracian
1601 – 1658 CE

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“Common sense is not so common.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet
1694 – 1778 CE

Themes: Reason

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“Our debates were… to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth without… desire of victory… all expressions of positiveness in opinions or direct contradiction were prohibited.”

Benjamin Franklin
1706 – 1790 CE
from Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Themes: Opinion Victory

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“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803 – 1882 CE

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“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”

Henry David Thoreau
1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

Themes: Integrity

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“Whenever someone brags about their common sense, you can be sure they have very little, either common or uncommon.”

Henry Thomas Buckle
1821 – 1862 CE
from History of Civilization

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“Loyalty to a petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”

Mark Twain
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
1835 – 1910 CE

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“the will to a system is a lack of integrity”

Friedrich Nietzsche
1844 – 1900 CE
from Twilight of the Idols

Themes: Integrity

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“'Sometimes,' said Pooh, 'the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.'”

A.A. Milne
(Alan Alexander Milne)
1882 – 1956 CE
from Winnie the Pooh

Themes: Less is More

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“There is nothing so shallow as sophistication; it judges everything from the surface, and thinks it is profound. All modern life has been misled by it.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant
1885 – 1981 CE

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“I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels.”

Pearl Buck
1892 – 1973 CE

Themes: Curiosity

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“The very perception of seeing what is false is the truth.

Krishnamurti
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)
1895 – 1986 CE

Themes: Truth

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“If other people do not understand our behavior—so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us… know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself—to his reason and his conscience.”

Eric Fromm
1900 – 1980 CE
from The Sane Society

Themes: Conformity

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“The thing that is important is the thing that is not seen.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
1900 – 1944 CE

Themes: Magic

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“If I give you an answer, you’ll think you understand.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
1904 – 1971 CE

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“Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart?”

Carlos Castaneda
1925 – 1998 CE
from Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge

Themes: Meaningfulness

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“How it is we have so much information, but know so little?”

Noam Chomsky
1928 CE –

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“Mysticism rises from and returns to the irreducible, unsayable reality of ‘this.’ ‘This’ is the Way. This is the way.”

Ursula Le Guin
1929 – 2018 CE

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“If we try to solve society’s problems without overcoming the confusion and aggression in our own state of mind, then our efforts will only contribute to the basic problems.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

Themes: Paradox

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