Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 48
Unlearning

Those who seek learning
Grow larger every day.
Those who follow the Tao
Daily shrink.
They lose and they lose
Until they arrive at not-doing.

Nothing to do
Means nothing not done,
Nothing to fuss over,
No gaining ideas.

Those busy interfering,
Making a big deal out of everything
With their ambition and grasping
Are not fit to rule,
To run things,
To be in charge of anything.

Commentary

“A man who halts at the beginning, so long as he has not yet abandoned truth, finds the right way… the beginning is the time of few mistakes… not yet influenced by obscuring interests and desires, one sees things intuitively as they really are.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 52
c. 2852–2737 BCE
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

Themes: Education

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“Words have influence only when they are pertinent and clearly related to definite circumstances… If words and conduct are not in accord and not consistent, they will have no effect.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 37, “The Family”​
c. 2852–2737 BCE
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

Themes: Deception

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“As surely as bandits hate their chief so do the people of a country resent whatever is over them… (the wise) knowing that a kingdom cannot be mounted get under it; knowing that the people cannot be led he keeps behind them.”

Huangdi 國語
(The Yellow Emperor)
2698 – 2598 BCE
Taoist patron saint, founder of Chinese civilization
from Internal Book of Medicine

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“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?”

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

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“Those who are wise cultivate the inner root and do not make a display of the outer twigs.”

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

Themes: Humility

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“Wisdom is not wisdom when it is derived from books alone.”

Horace
65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Books

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“Those who seek the Tao seek to return to emptiness and nothingness. When something is done, something is left out. When nothing is done, nothing is not done.”

Wang Bi 王弼
226 – 534 CE

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“The ten thousand questions are one question. If you cut through the one question, then the ten thousand questions disappear.”

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

Themes: Equality

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“In the primordially clear sky-like nature there is nothing whatsoever to abandon or attain.”

Saraha
8th century CE

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“Gain and loss, yes and no - throw them away in one go.”

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

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“Knowing that in truth not a single thing exists which can be attained is called sitting is a bodhimandala… a state in which no concepts arise.”

Huangbo Xiyun 黄檗希运
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)
? - 850 CE

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“Experience is neither deception nor truth. Reality is uncreated, indeterminate.”

Thaganapa
11th C. CE

Themes: Reality

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“Only if you can forget the words and embody the meaning will you (have)... the ability to kill people's false selves and conditioned perceptions”

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

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“In the interlaced net of principle and phenomena, true emptiness appears. Shining to obliterate the fundamental delusion.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺
(Shōgaku)
1091 – 1157 CE

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“Possessing much knowledge is like having a thousand foot fishing line with a hook, but the fish is always an inch beyond the hook.”

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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“Those who seek the Tao begin by using wisdom to eliminate desires… Once their desires are gone, they eliminate wisdom… Thus by doing nothing, the sage can do great things… those who would rule the world should know the value of not being busy.”

Deqing
(Te-Ch’ing)
1546 – 1623 CE

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“Expectation is the root of all heartache. ("Oft expectation fails, and most oft there
Where most it promises.")”

William Shakespeare
1564 – 1616 CE
from All's Well That Ends Well

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“He that desires to print a book, should much more desire, to be a book.”

John Donne
1572 – 1631 CE
from Songs and Sonnets

Themes: Books

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“Ask questions about everything and investigate everything; things will start to go well when you are no longer fooled by books.”

Kāngxī 康熙帝
1654 – 1722 CE
from Emperor of China, Self-Portrait of K'ang-hsi

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“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet
1694 – 1778 CE

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“He wished to please everybody; and, having little to give, he gave expectations.”

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

Themes: Illusion

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“I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
1712 – 1778 CE

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“For the more one reads the fewer are the traces left of what one has read; the mind is like a tablet that has been written over and over... If one reads straight ahead without pondering over it later, what has been read does not take root, but is for the most part lost.”

Arthur Schopenhauer
1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Contemplation

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“When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process… we gradually lose the capacity for thinking... This is the case with many learned persons: they have read themselves stupid.”

Arthur Schopenhauer
1788 – 1860 CE

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“Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to a mind when it has once seized on it like a lichen on a rock.”

Mary Shelley
1797 – 1851 CE
from Frankenstein

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“ideas that revolutionize society keep an even pace with external conditions as they change and become obsolete”

Karl Marx via Shan Dao
1818 – 1883 CE

Themes: Change

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“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

Henry Thomas Buckle
1821 – 1862 CE
from History of Civilization

Themes: Philosophy

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“If we knew everything, we could not endure existence a single hour.”

Anatole France
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)
1844 – 1924 CE
from The Garden of Epicurus

Themes: Suffering

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“I do not read a book; I hold a conversation with the author.”

Elbert Hubbard
1856 – 1915 CE

Themes: Books

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“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”

Albert Einstein
1879 – 1955 CE

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“the most unexpected is perhaps what we should most expect.”

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

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“All that produces longing in the heart deprives the heart of freedom.”

Inayat Khan
1882 – 1927 CE

Themes: Desire

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“Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you.”

Kahlil Gibran
1883 – 1931 CE

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“Man is so intelligent that he feels impelled to invent theories to account for what happens in the world. Unfortunately, he is not quite intelligent enough, in most cases, to find correct explanations. So that when he acts on his theories, he behaves very often like a lunatic.”

Aldous Huxley
1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Ignorance

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“Chuang Tzu is not concerned with words and formulas about reality, but with the direct existential grasp of reality in itself. Such a grasp is necessarily obscure and does not lend itself to abstract analysis.”

Thomas Merton
1915 – 1968 CE

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“The biggest enemy to learning is the talking teacher.”

John Holt
1923 – 1985 CE
from How Children Fail

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“But these are all thoughts, feelings, labels… what is the real thing? — this instant of not expecting anything!”

Toni Packer
1927 – 2013 CE

Themes: Sacred World

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“‘No … big … deal’… don’t make too big a deal because that leads to arrogance and pride, or a sense of specialness. On the other hand, making too big a deal about your difficulties takes you in the other direction; it takes you into poverty, self-denigration, and a low opinion of yourself.”

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

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“these twelve experiences that Naropa went through were a continuous unlearning process. To begin with, he had to unlearn, to undo the cultural façade. Then he had to undo the philosophical and emotional façade. Then he had to step out and become free altogether.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

Themes: Freedom Education

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“Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you.”

John Lennon
1940 – 1980 CE

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“Imagine feeling completely satisfied and content with your life just as it is.”

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

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