Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
Search Quotes Search Sages Search Chapters

Chapter 33
Know Yourself

Those who know others are clever,
Those who know themselves are wise.
Those who conquer others are briefly powerful,
Those who conquer themselves are always strong.
Those who know they have enough are rich,
Ambition wanders blind.
Those who stay where they have found their true home flourish.
Our bodies disappear
But the eternal present goes on and on.

Commentary

“A seed that sprouts at the foot of its parent tree remains stunted until it is transplanted… Every human being, when the time comes, has to depart to seek his fulfillment in his own way.”

Themes: Progress

Comments: Click to comment

“Every man carries two bags about him, one in front and one behind, and both are full of faults. The bag in front contains his neighbors' faults, the one behind his own. Hence it is that men do not see their own faults, but never fail to see those of others.”

Aesop
620 – 546 BCE
Hero of the oppressed and downtrodden
from Aesop's Fables, the Aesopica

Themes: Projection

Comments: Click to comment

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

The Buddha गौतम बुद्ध
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
563 – 483 BCE
Awakened Truth

Themes: Teachers

Comments: Click to comment

“When in early antiquity Fu Xi ruled the world, he looked upward and contemplated the images in the heavens; he looked downward and contemplated the patterns on earth… He proceeded directly from himself and indirectly from objects. Thus he invented the eight trigrams”

Confucius 孔丘 via Richard Wilhelm
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
551 – 479 BCE
History's most influential "failure"
from Ta Chuan: The Great Treatise

Themes: Contemplation

Comments: Click to comment

“Knowing the other and knowing oneself,
In one hundred battles no danger.
Not knowing the other and knowing oneself, one victory for one loss.
Not knowing the other an not knowing oneself, in every battle certain defeat.”

Sun Tzu 孙武
(Sun Zi)
544 – 496 BCE
HIstory's supreme strategist

Comments: Click to comment

“know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves… The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Socrates
469 – 399 BCE
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization

Comments: Click to comment

“The ten thousand things are all within us.”

Mencius 孟子
(Mengzi)
372 – 289 BCE
from Book of Mencius 孟子

Comments: Click to comment

“If someone can conquer others, it is only by using force. If someone can conquer their own desires, no one in the world can compete with them. Hence we call them strong.”

Heshang Gong 河上公
(Ho-shang Kung or "Riverside Sage”)
202 – 157 BCE

Themes: Competition

Comments: Click to comment

“the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty.”

Jesus
3 BCE – 30 CE

Comments: Click to comment

“The person who knows not himself, is poor in Spirit, for he is his own poverty.”

Jesus
3 BCE – 30 CE
from Gospel According to Thomas

Themes: Know Yourself

Comments: Click to comment

“Search the Light within your souls, for there will you find the reality of all things.”

Jesus
3 BCE – 30 CE
from Gospel According to Thomas

Themes: Know Yourself

Comments: Click to comment

“Look within! The secret is inside you.”

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

Themes: Sacred World

Comments: Click to comment

“O fool, know yourself. It is not a matter of meditation, or concentration… the diversity of existence is but a form of thought.”

Saraha
8th century CE

Comments: Click to comment

“Attend to the nature of your mind.”

Catrapa ཙ་ཏྲ་པ། via Keith Dowman
("The Lucky Beggar")
750 – 850 CE
Mahasiddha #23
from Masters of Mahamudra

Themes: Know Yourself

Comments: Click to comment

“Perception means to distinguish. Wisdom means to remove obstructions. As long as our distinguishing mind is present, we can only know others, but not ourselves.”

Su Che 呂洞 via Red Pine
1039 – 1112 CE
from Tao-te-chen-ching-chu

Comments: Click to comment

“Amazed at the heights of mountains, the ocean’s wideness, the power of nature, and the distance of stars; ourselves we consider not.”

Petrarch
1304 – 1374 CE

Comments: Click to comment

“It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves.”

Teresa of Avila
1515 – 1582 CE
from Way of Perfection

Comments: Click to comment

“Let every foot have its own shoe.”

Montaigne
1533 – 1592 CE

Themes: Pluralism

Comments: Click to comment

“Know your strongest quality and cultivate it. Everyone would have excelled at something if they had known their strongest qualities but most do violence to themselves trying to be someone else.”

Balthasar Gracian via Shan Dao #34
1601 – 1658 CE
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Comments: Click to comment

“The more clearly you understand yourself and your emotions, the more you become a lover of what is.”

Baruch Spinoza
1632 – 1677 CE

Comments: Click to comment

“Good Sense is a thing all need, few have, and none think they lack.”

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

Comments: Click to comment

“Know thyself? If I knew myself, I'd run away.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Know Yourself

Comments: Click to comment

“Just trust yourself and you'll learn the art of living.”

William Blake
1757 – 1827 CE

Comments: Click to comment

“Life must not be a novel that is given to us, but one that is made by us.”

Novalis
1772 – 1831 CE

Comments: Click to comment

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803 – 1882 CE

Comments: Click to comment

“The refuge of radiant awareness is closer, more profound, easier, and more wondrous than we can imagine.”

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

Comments: Click to comment

“be yourself- not your idea of what you think somebody else's idea of yourself should be.”

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

Comments: Click to comment

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”

Frederick Douglass
1818 – 1895 CE
International symbol of social justice

Themes: True Self

Comments: Click to comment

“I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can't find anybody who can tell me what they want.”

Robert Louis Stevenson
1850 – 1894 CE

Comments: Click to comment

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.”

Elbert Hubbard
1856 – 1915 CE

Themes: Strategy

Comments: Click to comment

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

W.B. (William Butler) Yeats
1865 – 1939 CE

Themes: Warriors

Comments: Click to comment

“Without self knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave.”

G. I. Gurdjieff
1866 – 1949 CE

Comments: Click to comment

“We can be redeemed only to the extent to which we see ourselves.”

Martin Buber מרטין בובר‎‎
1878 – 1965 CE
from Ich und Du, I and Thou

Themes: Know Yourself

Comments: Click to comment

“The things that make me different are the things that make me.”

A.A. Milne
(Alan Alexander Milne)
1882 – 1956 CE
from Waiting At The Window

Comments: Click to comment

“Doubtless like all of us he was many men, turned on one or another of his selves as occasion required, and kept his real self a frightened secret from the world.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant
1885 – 1981 CE

Themes: True Self

Comments: Click to comment

“...most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution.”

Aldous Huxley
1894 – 1963 CE

Comments: Click to comment

“To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves.”

Aldous Huxley
1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Know Yourself

Comments: Click to comment

“It is much more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
1900 – 1944 CE

Themes: Wisdom

Comments: Click to comment

“When you are fooled by something else,the damage will not be so big. But when you are fooled by yourself, it is fatal.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
1904 – 1971 CE
from Crooked Cucumber: the Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki

Themes: Know Yourself

Comments: Click to comment

“By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
1906 – 1945 CE

Themes: Evil

Comments: Click to comment

“We eat reality sandwiches. But allegories are so much lettuce. Don't hide the madness.”

Allen Ginsberg
1926 – 1997 CE

Comments: Click to comment

“It's such a relief to realize that we don't have to be anything.”

Toni Packer
1927 – 2013 CE
from Light of Discovery

Comments: Click to comment

“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it's from Neptune.”

Noam Chomsky
1928 CE –
from Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda

Themes: Crazy Wisdom

Comments: Click to comment

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself.”

Audrey Hepburn
1929 – 1993 CE

Themes: True Self

Comments: Click to comment

“Lao Tzu is not saying that immortality or even longevity is desirable. The religion called Taoism has spent much imagination on ways to prolong life interminably or gain immortality… but the Lao Tzu who wrote this had no truck with such notions.”

Ursula Le Guin
1929 – 2018 CE

Themes: Taoism Longevity

Comments: Click to comment

“Spiritual practice is stepping out of the duality of me-ness and my-ness as opposed to otherness, of who is me and who is not me.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

Comments: Click to comment

“Trying to please everybody is impossible - if you did that, you'd end up in the middle with nobody liking you. You've just got to make the decision about what you think is your best, and do it.”

John Lennon
1940 – 1980 CE

Comments: Click to comment

“I'm so mean, I make medicine sick.”

Muhammad Ali
(Cassius Clay)
1942 – 2016 CE

Themes: Health

Comments: Click to comment

 

Comments (1)

Please log in or create an account to comment.

  1. Shan Dao
    The last line here, “Our bodies disappear but the eternal present goes on and on” has some interesting translations. Lau and Le Guin are similar: “He who lives out his days has lived long enough.” And To live until you die is to live long enough” but both seem not quite deep enough to catch Lao Tzu’s meaning. Red Pine seems to go a little further: “those who aren’t affected by death live long” and Gia-Fu Feng more so: “To die but not to perish is to be eternally present.” (This was the inspiration for our “the eternal present.”) Bynner has a similar take, “ Vitality cleaves to the marrow leaving death behind.”