Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Tao Te Ching
Chapter 28
Turning Back

Recognize the masculine
But turn back to the feminine
And become the world’s riverbed
Always true and unswerving,
Becoming a new born child again.

Recognize the light
But turn back to the dark
And become a pattern to the world,
True and unerring power
Going back again to boundlessness.

Recognize the glory
But turn back to the modest
And become the world’s guide
To boundless energy and power
Going back again to the natural,
An uncarved block of wood,
Primal simplicity.

A block of wood can be made into tools
But tools cannot be made into a block of wood
The wise can easily be made into leaders
But leaders not so easily made wise.
The greatest carver does the least cutting.


“Return to the way. How could there be blame in this?”

Fu Xi 伏羲 1 via Richard Wilhelm
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

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

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Witter Bynner, #28
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Continuity

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“Trust in self interest, spread one’s awesomeness over the enemy... Victory can be known. It cannot be made… And so the superior military cuts down strategy. Its inferior cuts down alliances. Its inferior cuts down the military. The worst attacks walled cities.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE via Denma Translation Group
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist
from Art of War 孙子兵法

Themes: Victory Strategy

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“The wise person does not lose their child-like heart.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE
from Book of Mencius 孟子

Themes: Wisdom

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“Nowadays I see with my whole being not with my eyes. I sense the natural lines, and my knife slides through by itself… I stand there and let the joy of the work fill me.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Stephen Mitchell

from Zhuangzi

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“Purify your own hearts, and the world will become pure.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Didymos Thomas
from Gospel According to Thomas

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“Rest in the nature of alaya (‘simplicity and in clear and nondiscriminating mind’- CTR).”

Atisha ཨ་ཏི་ཤ་མར་མེ་མཛད་དཔལ་ཡེ་ཤེས་ 980 – 1054 CE via Chögyam Trungpa
(Atiśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna)
from Seven Points of Mind Training, Lojong བློ་སྦྱོངས་དོན་བདུན་མ;

Themes: Simplicity

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“To recognize the Way is hard. Once you recognize it, holding on to it is even harder.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE

Themes: Perseverance

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“Many would be wise if they did not think themselves wise.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs

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“Only the free-wheeling artist-explorer, non-academic, scientist-philosopher, mechanic, economist-poet who has never waited for patron-starting and accrediting of his co-ordinate capabilities holds the prime initiative today.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

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“If we can really understand the problem, the answer will come out of it, because the answer is not separate from the problem.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

Themes: Oneness

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“But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart… The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

Themes: Beauty

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“Artists are the Indians of the white world. They are called dreamers who live in the clouds… I tell you this is the real world, not the Green Frog Skin World. That’s only a bad dream, a streamlined, smog-filled nightmare.”

John Fire Lame Deer 1903 – 1976 CE via Richard Erdoes
from Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

Themes: Art Dream

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“When you do something, just to do it should be your purpose”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

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“A great government wouldn't chop and hack at human nature, trying to make leaders out of sow's ears.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE
from Lao Tzu - A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

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“the valley where power is contained leads back – to the forever new endless, straightforward way.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

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“When going back makes sense, you are going ahead.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

Themes: Progress

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“We cut our ground and have a frightening – terrifying – sudden glimpse of groundlessness… no one is standing on any ground, so communication can take place quite freely”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

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Comments (1)

  1. Shan Dao
    Shan Dao 6 years ago
    The lines, “A block of wood can be made into tools but tools cannot be made into a block of wood” isn’t a translation but a commentary by Wang Dao (1467-1532), Lao tzu-chu, Red Pine translation