Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 36
The Small, Dark Light

Every rapid collapse
Was once a bubble.
Those who feel unarmed
Once carried weapons.
Every failure in weakness
Was once puffed up with pseudo strength.
Those who feel belittled
Were once arrogant.
Those who feel deprived
Once had unearned privilege.

The wise hide their light,
Never advance unless under cover,
Never disclose the source of pain or joy.
The soft and weak prevail
Over the hard and strong.

Commentary

“He who feels punctured must once have been a bubble.”

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

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“A man is never as big as when he is on his knees to help a child.”

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

Themes: Compassion

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“A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker. A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.”

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

Themes: Less is More

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“Dogs and philosophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards.”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE
(of Sinope)

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“The sage is the world’s greatest weapon but not one that is known to the world.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE
(Zhuangzi)

Themes: Wisdom Anonymity

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“If anyone wants to be first, that person will be the last of all and everyone’s servant.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE

Themes: Aggression

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“To perceive shortening in lengthening, weakening in strengthening, toppling in raising, taking in giving, how could anyone do this if not through the deepest insight? This is the hidden light.”

Lu Huiqing 1031 – 1111 CE

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“Once things reach their limit, they go the other way… Thus to hide the light means the weak conquer the strong… Deep water is the best place for a fish. But once it is exposed to the air, a fish is completely helpless.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE
(Te-Ch’ing)

Themes: Water Humility

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“I wish my horse had the speed of your tongue.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from Much Ado About Nothing

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“Never complain. To complain always brings discredit... and to disclose one insult just creates an excuse for another.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs and Shan Dao chapter #129
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Complaint

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“Butterflies are but flowers that blew away one sunny day when Nature was feeling at her most inventive and fertile.”

George Sand 1804 – 1876 CE
(Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin)

Themes: Butterfly

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“A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me.”

Frederick Douglass 1818 – 1895 CE
International symbol of social justice

Themes: Integrity

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“How little a thing can make us happy when we feel that we have earned it.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 CE

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“It isn't that they can't see the solution. It is that they can't see the problem.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Problems

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“It is not he who has spoken a hundred words aloud who has won; it is he who has perhaps spoken only one word.”

Inayat Khan 1882 – 1927 CE

Themes: Less is More

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“Everything in life is speaking in spite of its apparent silence.”

Inayat Khan 1882 – 1927 CE

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“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

Themes: Butterfly

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“Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

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“"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to blossom."”

Anais Nin 1903 – 1977 CE

Themes: Inspiration

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“From all living beings something flows into him all the time, and something flows from him.”

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

Themes: Pluralism

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“Meditation could be said to be the Art of Simplicity: simply sitting, simply breathing and simply being.”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ། 1910 – 1991 CE via Matthieu Ricard
"Mind" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from Journey to Enlightenment

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“One thing about which fish know exactly nothing is water.”

Marshall McLuhan 1911 – 1980 CE via Jerome Agel
from War and Peace in the Global Village

Themes: Water

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“No anarchist can be a pessimist… natural stuff is better than anything that can be made out of it.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

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“We need the courage to change our values to the regeneration of our families, the life that surrounds us.”

Oren Lyons 1930 CE –

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“The caterpillar does all the work, and the butterfly gets all the glory.”

George Carlin 1937 – 2008 CE
One of the most influential social commentators of his time

Themes: Butterfly

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“Arrogant people are so involved with themselves and they are competing so much with others that they won’t even look. When you are fully gentle, without arrogance and without aggression, you see the brilliance of the universe.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

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“I know I had no understanding of anything. Something had just gone haywire in the country and they were applauding the song. And I couldn't understand why they were clapping, or why I wrote the song. I couldn't understand anything. For me, it was just insane.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

Themes: Fame

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“The first will be last and the last will be first; the times they are a changin’.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

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“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

Muhammad Ali 1942 – 2016 CE
(Cassius Clay)

Themes: Less is More

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“‘If you listen carefully, you can hear these things. If you look carefully, you’ll see what you’re after.’
‘Words of wisdom?’
‘No, just words — a way of life in words.’”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Alfred Birnbaum
from Dance, Dance, Dance

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“When we look in the mirror, the one thing we don’t want to see is an ordinary human being.”

Dzigar Kongtrül Rinpoche ཛི་གར་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ། 1964 CE –

Themes: Ordinary Mind

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  1. Shan Dao
    “Never advance unless under cover” and “Never disclose the source of pain or joy” are both from Balthasar Gracian, The Art of Worldly Wisdom