Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 38
Fruit Over Flowers

The highest goodness,
Not revealing or clinging to goodness
Has true goodness.
Lesser goodness tries to hold onto it
And therefore loses it.
The highest goodness involves no effort
Or the thought of effort.
Lesser goodness does nothing
But always has an end in view.

The good the truly good do
Has no end in view.
The good the righteous do
Always has a goal.

When those who act
in conventional obedience to the law
Don’t get their way,
They angrily roll up their sleeves
And try to control, threatening and compelling.

When we lose the Way,
We seek the power of goodness.
When we lose this,
We look to kindness.
When we lose kindness,
We look for justice.
When we lose justice,
We look to opinion: conventional wisdom,
Ritual & obedience to the law.

Opinion is the beginning of ignorance.
Belief is the beginning of delusion
Thinking of our delusion as wisdom
Is the beginning of mental illness
In an individual and a sick society
In politics and culture.

For these reasons,
The wise choose this over that,
The fruit over the flower,
Substance over surface,
The sense over the words,
This over that.

Commentary

“Educate the children and it won't be necessary to punish the men.”

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

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“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

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

Themes: Belief

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“To insist on a spiritual practice that served you in the past is to carry the raft on your back after you have crossed the river.”

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

Themes: Letting Go

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“I have shown you the methods that lead to liberation but you should know that liberation depends only upon yourself.”

The Buddha गौतम बुद्ध via Matthieu Ricard
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
563 – 483 BCE
Awakened Truth
from Journey to Enlightenment

Themes: Skillful Means

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“Examine my words the way a goldsmith examines gold. Don't just take my word because it is my word.”

The Buddha गौतम बुद्ध via Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche ཛི་གར་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
563 – 483 BCE
Awakened Truth

Themes: Teachers

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“The wisest men follow their own direction.”

Euripides
480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today

Themes: Teachers

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“No trace of slavery ought to mix with studies… No study, pursued under compulsion, remains rooted in the memory.”

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

Themes: Education Slavery

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“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης
382 – 322 BCE

Themes: Doubt Reason

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“Not to understand is profound; to understand is shallow. Not to understand is to be on the inside; to understand is to be on the outside.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周
(Zhuangzi)
369 – 286 BCE

Themes: Openness

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“Drive your wagons on untrodden fields.”

Callimachus Καλλίμαχος
310 – 240 BCE

Themes: Creativity

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“The wise leave the road and find the Way; fools cling to the Way and lose the road.”

Liú Ān 劉安 via Thomas Cleary
(Huainanzi)
c. 179–122 BCE
from Huainanzi

Themes: Golden Chains

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“To survive peril and quell disorder cannot be done without wisdom. Were it a matter of following precedents, even fools have more than enough. Therefore, enlightened leaders do not enforce useless laws or listen to ineffectual words.”

Liú Ān 劉安 via Thomas Cleary
(Huainanzi)
c. 179–122 BCE
from Huainanzi

Themes: Leadership

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“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”

Seneca ˈsɛnɪkə
(Lucius Annaeus)
4 BCE – 65 CE

Themes: Skillful Means

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“If you live with a lame man, you will learn to limp.”

Plutarch
(Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus)
46 – 120 CE

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“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος
55 – 135 CE
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

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“It is only our opinions and principles that can render us unhappy, and it is only the ignorant person that finds fault with another.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος
55 – 135 CE
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Opinion

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“As long as you look for a Buddha somewhere else, you'll never see that your own mind is the Buddha.”

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨
(Daruma)
5th-6th C. CE

Themes: Teachers

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“To follow the path, look to the master, follow the master, walk with the master, see through the master, become the master.”

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

Themes: Teachers

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“unless students can forget the teacher, their vision will be obscured.”

Xuanzong 武隆基
(Hsuan-Tsung or Wu Longji)
685 – 756 CE

Themes: Forget Teachers

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“When shall I reveal this truth of emptiness to those who go to ruin through a belief in real existence?”

Shantideva ཞི་བ་ལྷ།།།
(Bhusuku, Śāntideva)
685 – 763 CE
from Bodhisattva Way of Life, Bodhicaryavatara

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“If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha.

Rinzai Gigen 臨済義玄 via Irmgard Schloegl
(Línjì Yìxuán)
? - 866 CE
from Zen Teachings of Rinzai (Record of Rinzai), Irmgard Schloegl translation 1976

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“Whatever the wise see becomes their teacher and their teachings.”

Catrapa ཙ་ཏྲ་པ། via Shan Dao
("The Lucky Beggar")
750 – 850 CE
Mahasiddha #23

Themes: Teachers

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“I have never experienced the perfect reality that I teach.”

Shantipa ཤཱནྟི་པ། via Keith Dowman
("The Academic")
late 10th to mid-11th century
Mahasiddha #12
from Masters of Enchantment

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“One cannot be considered a swimmer if he needs a bridge.”

Milarepa རྗེ་བཙུན་མི་ལ་རས་པ།
1052 – 1135 CE

Themes: Teachers

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“ten thousand sages are no more than footprints on the trail”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 via Dan Leighton
(Shōgaku)
1091 – 1157 CE
from Cultivating the Emplty Field

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“We cannot live in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a hope. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.”

Hildegard of Bingen
1098 – 1179 CE

Themes: Teachers Hope

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“No friend is better than your own wise heart [...] no one should be closer to you than your own consciousness.”

Genghis Khan via Jack Weatherford
1162 – 1227 CE

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“The wise can investigate things for themselves but fools chase after whatever is popular.”

Sakya Pandita ས་སྐྱ་པཎྜ་ཏ་ཀུན་དགའ་རྒྱལ་མཚན། via John T. Davenport
(Kunga Gyeltsen)
1182 – 1251 CE
from Ordinary Wisdom, Sakya Legshe (Jewel Treasury of Good Advice)

Themes: Moral Freedom

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“If you follow regulations, keeping the rules, you tie yourself without rope but if you act any which way without inhibition you're a heretical demon.”

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

Themes: Middle Way

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“any object you have in your mind, however good, will be a barrier between you and the inmost Truth.”

Meister Eckhart
(Eckhart von Hochheim)
1260 – 1328 CE

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“Truth is something so noble that if God could turn aside from it, I could keep the truth and let God go.”

Meister Eckhart
(Eckhart von Hochheim)
1260 – 1328 CE

Themes: Truth

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“I've burned my own house down, the torch is in my hand. Now I'll burn down the house of anyone who wants to follow me.”

Kabīr कबीर via Linda Hess and Shukdeo Singh.
1399 – 1448 CE
from Bijak of Kabir

Themes: Golden Chains

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“Whoever refers to authorities in disputing ideas works with his memory rather than with this reason.”

Leonardo da Vinci
1452 – 1519 CE

Themes: Memory

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“Don’t let yourself be frightened by your own thoughts.”

Teresa of Avila
1515 – 1582 CE
from Way of Perfection

Themes: Fear

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“I distrust my present thoughts hardly less than my past ones and my second or third thoughts hardly less than my first.”

Montaigne
1533 – 1592 CE

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“Nothing is so firmly believed as that which is least known.”

Montaigne
1533 – 1592 CE

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“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority.”

Giordano Bruno
1548 – 1600 CE

Themes: Conformity

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“Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.”

Francis Bacon
1561 – 1626 CE

Themes: Truth

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“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.”

Galileo
1564 – 1642 CE

Themes: Education

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“Be thine own palace, or the world's thy jail.”

John Donne
1572 – 1631 CE

Themes: Integrity

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“Every fool is fully convinced, and everyone fully convinced is a fool; the more erroneous his judgment, the more firmly he hold it.”

Balthasar Gracian
1601 – 1658 CE

Themes: Doubt

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“Men are mistaken in thinking themselves free; their opinion is made up of consciousness of their own actions, and ignorance of the causes by which they are determined.”

Baruch Spinoza
1632 – 1677 CE

Themes: Opinion

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“Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet
1694 – 1778 CE

Themes: Education

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“Dare to think for yourself.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet
1694 – 1778 CE

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“let him discover it. If ever you substitute authority for reason he will cease to reason; he will be a mere plaything of other people's thoughts.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
1712 – 1778 CE

Themes: Education

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“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Basic Goodness

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“Buddha is a conception of your mind, The Way isn’t anything that is made… If to reach the south you point your cart north, when can you ever hope to arrive?”

Ryokan 良寛大愚
(Ryōkan Taigu,“The Great Fool”)
1758 – 1758 CE

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“Even if all the Buddhas were to appear before me, I would have no doubts for them to clarify.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། via Matthieu Ricard
1781 – 1851 CE
from Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin

Themes: Enlightenment

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“there are very few who can think, but every man wants to have an opinion; and what remains but to take it ready-made from others, instead of forming opinions for himself?”

Arthur Schopenhauer
1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Opinion

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“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803 – 1882 CE

Themes: Opinion

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“I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”

Abraham Lincoln
1809 – 1865 CE

Themes: Integrity

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“Credulity is always greatest in times of calamity. Prophecies of all sorts are rife on such occasions, and are readily believed.”

Charles Mackay
1814 – 1889 CE
from Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Themes: Belief

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“There will never be a really free and enlightened state until the state comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived.”

Henry David Thoreau
1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

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“The arts and sciences, and a thousand appliances: the wind that blows is all that anybody knows.”

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

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“If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war.”

Leo Tolstoy
1828 – 1910 CE

Themes: War

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“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Mark Twain
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
1835 – 1910 CE

Themes: Education

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“In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.”

Mark Twain
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
1835 – 1910 CE

Themes: Religion Belief

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“If a million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.”

Anatole France
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)
1844 – 1924 CE

Themes: Conformity

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“He who obeys, does not listen to himself!”

Friedrich Nietzsche
1844 – 1900 CE

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“One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil.”

Friedrich Nietzsche
1844 – 1900 CE
from Thus Spoke Zarathustra

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“To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.”

Robert Louis Stevenson
1850 – 1894 CE

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“The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.”

Elbert Hubbard
1856 – 1915 CE

Themes: Teachers

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“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

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

Themes: Education

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“Conscious faith is freedom. Emotional faith is slavery. Mechanical faith is foolishness.”

G. I. Gurdjieff
1866 – 1949 CE

Themes: Belief Slavery

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“Without a gentle contempt for education no man's education is complete.”

G. K. Chesterton
1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Education

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“The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.”

Martin Buber מרטין בובר‎‎
1878 – 1965 CE

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“Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

Albert Einstein
1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Truth Teachers

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“There can be no rebirth without a dark night of the soul, a total annihilation of all that you believed in and thought that you were.”

Inayat Khan
1882 – 1927 CE

Themes: Problems

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“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”

Kahlil Gibran
1883 – 1931 CE

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“I am convinced that every effort must be made in childhood to teach the young to use their own minds. For one thing is sure: If they don't make up their minds, someone will do it for them.”

Eleanor Roosevelt
1884 – 1962 CE

Themes: Education

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“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant
1885 – 1981 CE

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“When liberty exceeds intelligence, it begets chaos, which begets dictatorship.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant
1885 – 1981 CE

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“For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice.”

T.S. Eliot
1888 – 1965 CE
from Four Quartets

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“The teachings of Buddha are eternal, but even then Buddha did not proclaim them to be infallible.”

B.R. Ambedkar
(Babasaheb)
1891 – 1956 CE

Themes: Buddhism

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“The really hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives.”

Aldous Huxley
1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Conformity

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“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.”

Eric Fromm
1900 – 1980 CE
from The Sane Society

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“We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”

Marshall McLuhan
1911 – 1980 CE

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“We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way.”

John Holt
1923 – 1985 CE
from How Children Fail

Themes: Skillful Means

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“Seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, challenge them, and unless a justification… dismantle to increase the scope of human freedom.”

Noam Chomsky
1928 CE –
from Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

Themes: Teachers Freedom

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“The word I render as ‘opinion’ can be read as ‘knowing too soon’: the mind obeying orders, judging before the evidence is in closed to fruitful perception and learning… Buddhists and Taoists agree in having a very low opinion of opinion.”

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

Themes: Opinion

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“If one can only see things according to one's own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind.

Robert Anton Wilson
1932 – 2007 CE

Themes: Belief

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“If one can only see things according to one's own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind.”

Robert Anton Wilson
1932 – 2007 CE

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“We are all capable of becoming fundamentalists because we get addicted to other people's wrongness.”

Pema Chödrön
(Deirdre Blomfield-Brown)
1936 CE –
First American Vajrayana nun

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“Avoid teams at all cost - there is no ‘I’ in team… but there is an ‘I’ in independence, individuality and integrity.”

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

Themes: Integrity

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“…you are without set ideas and patterns; you are not bound by any social, philosophical, or religious standards. You are free from that indoctrination; therefore you are able to see…”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

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“Whether it is a vacuum cleaner salesman or a guru, we find the same level of salesmanship.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

Themes: Teachers

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“The search for an external protector has met with no success.”

Chögyam Trungpa via Nalanda Translation Committee
1939 – 1987 CE
from Sadhana of Mahamudra

Themes: Conformity

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“The more I see, the less I know for sure.”

John Lennon
1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Wisdom

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“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

Bob Dylan
1941 CE –

Themes: Belief

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“Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters.”

Bob Dylan
1941 CE –

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“Please use your liberty to promote ours.”

Aung San Suu Kyi အောင်ဆန်းစုကြည်
1945 CE –

Themes: Freedom

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“Nobody’s easier to fool, than the person who is convinced that he is right.”

Haruki Murakami via Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel
1949 CE –
from 1Q84

Themes: Belief

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“At the point of total realization, you must abandon Buddhism. The spiritual path is a temporary solution, a placebo to be used until emptiness is understood.”

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

Themes: Buddhism

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“Normal is whatever you have come to take for granted.”

David Mitchell
1969 CE –

Themes: Ignorance

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