Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 34
An Unmoored Boat

Awareness floats and drifts
Like an unmoored boat
Making no distinction between
Going this way and going that way.

Everything lives in its grace
And it denies nothing to anyone
Making no claims,
Having no desires.
Because it lacks the dualistic twist,
It’s considered insignificant
Though it gives birth to all things
Like the wind creating movement,
Water creating waves.

Because the wise never try to be great
They accomplish great things.


“People were so consumed by their fears and ambitions, their desires. They were so busy planning and plotting their lives that they failed to live them.”

2650 – 2600 BCE
First Western architect, engineer and physician

Themes: Ambition Fear

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“The wind is blowing, adore the wind.”

(of Samos)
570 – 495 BCE
"The most influential philosopher of all time"
from Golden Verses of Pythagoras Χρύσεα

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“The Rearing Serpent sports in the mists,
This Flying Dragon rides on the clouds.
But when the clouds are gone and the mists have cleared,
They are no different from earthworms.”

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

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“Those who are skilled toil, and those who are clever worry. Meanwhile, those who do not possess such abilities seek nothing and yet eat their fill. They drift through life like unmoored boats.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周
369 – 286 BCE

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“The Tao drifts everywhere. It can go left or right. It can go up or down. Wherever we turn, it’s there for us to use.”

Wang Bi 王弼
226 – 534 CE

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“In the landscape of spring, there is neither better nor worse. The flowering branches grow naturally, some long, some short.”

Jianzhi Sengcan 鑑智僧璨
(Jiànzhì Sēngcàn)
529 – 606 CE

Themes: Appreciation

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“No direction is better or worse, East just as good as West. Those who know the meaning of this are free to go where they want.”

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

Themes: Travel

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“How miraculous and wondrous, hauling water and carrying firewood!”

Layman Pang 龐居士
740 – 808 CE

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“Everyday life is the path.”

Nansen, Nanquan Puyuan 南泉普願
749 – 835 CE

Themes: Less is More

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“A monk asked Joshu, ‘Please guide me with your teachings, master.’ Joshu asked, Have you eaten your porridge?’ and the monk replied, ‘Yes, I have eaten.’ Josh then said, ‘Then go wash your bowl.’”

Joshu, Zhàozhōu Cōngshěn 趙州從諗
778 – 897 CE

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“The heat of a candle flame can’t compete with the heat of the sun… When you grasp this, then all things will be your teacher.”

Yuanwu Keqin 圜悟克勤 via Thomas Cleary
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
1063 – 1135 CE
from Zen Letters

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“Enlightenment is not far away.”

Gampopa སྒམ་པོ་པ། via Herbert Guenther
(Sönam Rinchen, Dakpo Rinpoche)
1079 – 1153 CE
from Jewel Ornament of Liberation

Themes: Enlightenment

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“Chop wood, carry water.”

Mumon Ekai 無門慧開
(Wumen Huikai)
1183 – 1260 CE
from The Gateless Gate, 無門関, 無門關

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“He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses joy as it flies by
Will live in eternity's sunrise.”

William Blake
1757 – 1827 CE

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“Time is your boat not your home.
God is not remote from us. He is at the point of my pen, my (pick) shovel, my paint brush, my (sewing) needle - and my heart and thoughts.”

Teilhard de Chardin via Bernard Wall
1881 – 1955 CE
from Divine Milieu

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“To overcome every obstacle to unite our beings without loss of individual personality, there is a single force which nothing can replace and nothing destroy, a force which urges us forward and draws us upwards…”

Teilhard de Chardin via Bernard Wall
1881 – 1955 CE
from Phenomenon of Man

Themes: Obstacles

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“In the particular is contained the universal.”

James Joyce
1882 – 1941 CE

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“All that happens means something; nothing you do is ever insignificant.”

Aldous Huxley
1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Sacred World

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“Each existence depends on something else. Strictly speaking, there are just many names for one existence… We have nowhere to escape… That is why we emphasize everyday life rather than some particular state of mind. We should find the reality in each moment, and in each phenomenon.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
1904 – 1971 CE

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“Everything is naturally perfect just as it is, completely pure and undefiled. All phenomena naturally appear in their uniquely correct modes and situation, forming ever-changing patterns full of meaning and significance, like participants in a great dance… The everyday practice is just ordinary life itself.”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ།
1910 – 1991 CE
"Mind" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from Maha Ati

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“Chuang Tzu is mysterious because it is so simple that it can get along without being a way at all… Chuang Tzu would have agreed with St. John of the Cross, that you enter upon this kind of way when you leave all ways and, in some sense, get lost.”

Thomas Merton
1915 – 1968 CE

Themes: Simplicity

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“No matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.”

Audrey Hepburn
1929 – 1993 CE

Themes: True Self

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“we do not have to depend on feedback and we can relate with life as directly and straightforwardly as possible… Working with energy in a tantric sense is a decentralized process… energy is openness and all-pervasive… constantly expanding.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

Themes: Openness

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“The answer is blowing in the wind.”

Bob Dylan
1941 CE –

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“‘All you have to do is wait,’ I explained. ‘Sit tight and wait for the right moment, not try to change anything by force, just watch the drift of things… If you do that, you just naturally know what to do. But everyone’s always too busy. They’re too talented, their schedules are too full, they’re too interested in themselves…”

Haruki Murakami
1949 CE –

Themes: Change

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  1. Shan Dao
    “Unmoored boat” is a quote from Chuang Tzu, not a direct translation from Lao Tzu.