Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 3
Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

Less fame, less fighting,
Less praise, less competition,
Less treasure, less theft,
Less desire, less delusion –
Therefore the wise leader begins by
Opening minds, emptying desires;
Weakening ambition, strengthening resolve,
Preventing external interference.
They do not-doing
And all goes well.

Commentary

“Small appetite makes poverty equivalent to wealth.”

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

Themes: Poverty Wealth

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“We cannot enjoy full happiness, untroubled by suffering unless we realize the nature of things.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
Western Buddha
from On Nature

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“Everything natural is easily procured, and only the useless is costly.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
Western Buddha
from On Nature

Themes: Simplicity Wealth

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“Freedom of thought means having no thought in the midst of thought.”

Huineng 惠能 638 – 713 CE
(Huìnéng, Enō)
The Sutra of Hui Neng

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“The purpose of all dharma is contained in one point.”

Atisha ཨ་ཏི་ཤ་མར་མེ་མཛད་དཔལ་ཡེ་ཤེས་ 980 – 1054 CE
(Atiśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna)

Themes: Religion

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“Like and dislike are the mind’s disease, certain to drown you in samsara’s sea.”

Niguma 11th C. CE

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“Bestowing honors embarrasses those who don’t receive them…Prizing treasures pains those who don’t possess them… Displaying attractions distresses those who don’t enjoy them to the point where they cause trouble.”

Su Che 呂洞 1039 – 1112 CE via Red Pine
(Su Zhe)
Great writer of the Tang and Sung dynasties
from Tao-te-chen-ching-chu

Themes: Karma

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“Never compete. Every competition damages your reputation… people of goodwill are always at peace and those of good reputation are of goodwill.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #114
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Competition

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“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Poor Richard's Almanack

Themes: Less is More

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“Man was made for Joy and Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE

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“He prayeth best, who loveth best all things both great and small”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 – 1834 CE
from Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Themes: Appreciation

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“The nature of realization is the absence of hope and fear.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། 1781 – 1851 CE via Erik Pema Kunsang
from Flight of the Garuda

Themes: Fear Hope

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“All suffering comes from desiring happiness for oneself.”

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

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“Social progress may be measured precisely by the social position of the fair sex”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE

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“Inebriate of air – am I – and Debauchee of Dew.”

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886 CE

Themes: Sacred World

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“The strongest natures retain the type, the weaker ones help to advance it.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Human All Too Human - A Book for Free Spirits

Themes: Freedom

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“The word ‘kuh’ might be translated ‘backbone,’ but in the original it reads ‘bones.’ To make a man strong-boned means to render him steady in character.”

Paul Carus 1852 – 1919 CE
The Teachings of Lao Tzu

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“Any man who is attached to things of this world is one who lives in ignorance and is being consumed by the snakes of his own passions.”

Black Elk 1863 – 1950 CE
(Heȟáka Sápa)

Themes: Desire

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“A sound leader's aim is to open people's hearts.”

Witter Bynner 1881 – 1968 CE
(Emanuel Morgan)
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

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“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE

Themes: Hope Less is More

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“That which, in the language of religion, is called ‘this world’ is the universe of reduced awareness, expressed, and, as it were, petrified by language.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

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“Throughout life, we are taught to compare ourselves with another; yet when I compare myself with another I am destroying myself.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

Themes: Competition

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“This chapter is a bait for realists.”

Arthur Waley 1899 – 1969 CE
from The Way and its Power

Themes: Reality

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“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.”

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE

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“According to the Taoist view, honor leads to greed, discrimination, and strife… they frown on the idea of personal honor.”

Wing-tsit Chan 陳榮捷 1901 – 1994 CE
from Way of Lao Tzu

Themes: Anonymity

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“When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

Themes: Non-Thought

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“a good student is careful not to forget what he studied until after the test is taken”

John Holt 1923 – 1985 CE
from Teach Your Own

Themes: Forget

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“When self-concern is quiet… heaven and earth are open.”

Toni Packer 1927 – 2013 CE
A Zen teacher minus the 'Zen' and minus the 'teacher.’

Themes: Egolessness

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“doing not doing… not a statement susceptible to logical interpretation, or even to syntactical translation into English; but it’s a concept that transforms thought radically, that changes minds.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

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“All (Buddhist) teachings are basically related with a way of subjugating our ego, shedding our ego.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa

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“Either you look and see beyond language – as first perception – or you see the world through the filter of your thoughts.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

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“The Tao that cannot be named is the intelligence of the universe: whatever is happening right now... the don't-know mind”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

Themes: Non-Thought

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“Siddhartha’s path does not ultimately lead to happiness… it’s a release from the the straitjacket of delusion… a direct route to freedom from suffering and confusion.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche རྫོང་གསར་ འཇམ་དབྱངས་ མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་ རིན་པོ་ཆེ། 1961 CE –
(Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche)
"Activity" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from What Makes You Not a Buddhist

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  1. Shan Dao
    Red Pine leaves out the line we translate as “They do not doing,” calls it “superfluous here,” and points out its absence in the Kwotien text (but included in the Fuyi and Tunhuang translated as “they act by not acting.”)
    We followed more closely Le Guin’s, “When you do not doing” who described this phrase as a concept “not susceptible to logical interpretation or syntactical translation into english” but one that “transforms thought radically” and that this entire book is “both an explanation and demonstration of it.” Banner goes perhaps furthest from a literal translation but has one that might be most appropriate in this particular context: “Without being forced, without strain or constraint”