Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 40
Returning

The Tao is counter-intuitive,
Unconventional, a paradox.
It goes back and back, returning to the root.
Its strength is weakness.
Everything comes from something
But something comes from nothing.

Commentary

“The receptive brings about sublime success… If the wise undertake something and try to lead, they go astray; but if they follow, they find guidance.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 c. 2852–2737 BCE via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 2
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

Themes: Success

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“They lived at a slower tempo and if they were aware of time, it was in the sense that its passage formed a hazy backdrop to their life. It was a measure, not a master.”

Imhotep 2650 – 2600 BCE
First Western architect, engineer and physician

Themes: Time

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“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

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

Themes: Dream

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“The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There's only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment.”

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

Themes: Here and Now

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“The time of long ago is just like the present. Actually there is no such thing as long ago and the present or the beginning and the end... Both life and death are dependent on something else and find their unity elsewhere.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

Themes: Time

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“Happy the man, and happy he alone, he who can call today his own: he who, secure within, can say, tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

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“Life is to be sought and discovered in every circumstance.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE

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“Regain your senses, call yourself back, and once again wake up. Now that you realize that only dreams were troubling you, view this 'reality' as you view your dreams.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE

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“Everything in the world comes from being, and being comes from nonbeing If you would reach perfect being, you have to go back to nonbeing.”

Wang Bi 王弼 226 – 534 CE

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“There is nothing true anywhere, the True is nowhere to be found… When the True is left to itself, there is nothing false in it for it is Mind itself.”

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

Themes: Truth

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“The past is already past—don’t try to regain it. The present does not stay, don’t try to touch it from moment to moment. The future is not come, don’t think about it beforehand.”

Layman Pang 龐居士 740 – 808 CE

Themes: Here and Now Time

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“Regard… your future as the effect of your present state of mind.”

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

Themes: Karma

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“To see truth, contemplate all phenomenon as a lie.”

Thaganapa 11th C. CE

Themes: Contemplation

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“Everything that occurs in the world, in every epoch, has something that corresponds to it in ancient times.”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from Discourses

Themes: History

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“People only know the work of working. They don’t know that the work of not working is the greatest work of all… If they knew that something came from nothing, they would no longer enslave themselves to things.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE
(Te-Ch’ing)

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“Are you sure that we are awake? It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from A Midsummer Night's Dream

Themes: Dream

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“Only the present has a right to exist because the past is only a memory and the future has no existence.

Thomas Hobbes 1588 – 1679 CE

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“There is no past we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternal now that builds and creates out of the past something new and better.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

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“In wild places where no one lives is the market where samsara is traded for nirvana.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། 1781 – 1851 CE via Matthieu Ricard
from Journey to Enlightenment

Themes: Travel

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“No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

Themes: Memory Lies

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“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

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

Themes: Here and Now

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“He who cannot lie, doth not know what truth is.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

Themes: Lies

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“One is fruitful only at the cost of being rich in contradictions.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Twilight of the Idols

Themes: Paradox

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“The present contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was already in the cause.”

Henri-Louis Bergson 1859 – 1941 CE
from Creative Evolution

Themes: Karma

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“My destination is no longer a place, rather a new way of seeing.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE
from Rembrance of Things Past

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“Nothing can doom man but the belief in doom, for this prevents the movement of return.”

Martin Buber מרטין בובר‎‎ 1878 – 1965 CE

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“I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Time

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“Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from Ulysses

Themes: Here and Now

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“yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Dream

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“Today is the oldest you've ever been, and the youngest you'll ever be again.”

Eleanor Roosevelt 1884 – 1962 CE

Themes: Longevity

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“If you want to live at every moment as it presents itself, you've got to die to every other moment.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

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“This chapter seems to be the summing up of Lao Tzu's teachings in a nutshell. Most basic of all is the statement of the principle of reversion... each ending becoming a new beginning. The life of things passes by like a rushing, galloping horse, changing at every turn, at every hour.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE
from Wisdom of Laotse

Themes: Impermanence

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“As long as you think, ‘I must attain something special,’ you are actually not doing anything. When you give up, when you no longer want something… then you do something.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

Themes: Desire

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“All phenomena are completely new and fresh, absolutely unique and entirely free from all concepts of past, present, and future.”

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

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“Goodness can be found sometimes in the middle of hell.”

Charles Bukowski 1920 – 1994 CE
from Women

Themes: Paradox

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“The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present - and I don't want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.”

Audrey Hepburn 1929 – 1993 CE

Themes: Here and Now

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“We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.”

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

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“The future will soon be a thing of the past.”

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

Themes: Time

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“Iinstead of seeing things as new, you see them as very ordinary and full of details… You yourself become a living teaching; you yourself become living dharma… the reference point takes the form of awareness… choiceless awareness.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

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“The past is fiction, the future a dream. We are living on the edge of a razor.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

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  1. Shan Dao
    The truth is counter-intuitive and, as Red Pine writes, “conventional wisdom” is an oxymoron.”