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

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

Themes: Deception

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

Themes: Education

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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 2698 – 2598 BCE
(The Yellow Emperor)
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?”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
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 c. 179–122 BCE via Thomas Cleary
(Huainanzi)
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

Themes: Wu Wei Emptiness

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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 529 – 606 CE
(Jiànzhì Sēngcàn)

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 ? - 866 CE
(Línjì Yìxuán)
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 ? - 850 CE
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)

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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 1063 – 1135 CE via J.C. and Thomas Cleary
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
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 1091 – 1157 CE
(Shōgaku)

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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 1183 – 1260 CE
(Wumen Huikai)
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 1546 – 1623 CE
(Te-Ch’ing)

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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 1818 – 1883 CE via Shan Dao

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 1844 – 1924 CE
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)
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 1881 – 1955 CE via Bernard Wall
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
A Zen teacher minus the 'Zen' and minus the 'teacher.’

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 1936 CE –
(Deirdre Blomfield-Brown)
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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