Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 52
Cultivating the Changeless

Everything has a common beginning,
The mother of all things.
By understanding the mother,
We understand the children.
And when we understand the children,
We naturally turn back to the mother
And as the body comes to its ending,
We remain with nothing to fear.

Block all the openings,
Close all the gates
And life will always be full.
Open everything up
Always distracted and busy
And you will live without help or hope.

Those who understand the insignificant have vision
Those who protect the weak have strength.
Those who use their outer sight
While trusting their insight
Live beyond death
Cultivating the changeless.


“When it is a man’s fate to undertake new beginnings, everything is still unformed, dark. Therefore he must hold back because any premature move might bring disaster.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 c. 2852–2737 BCE via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 3, "Difficuty at the Beginning"
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

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“I have shown you the path of liberation. Now liberation depends on you.”

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

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“With anything young and tender, the most important time is the beginning because that is the time when character is formed.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE

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“Chuang-tzu’s wife died. When Hui-tzu came to offer his condolences, he found him pounding on a tub and singing… Chuang-tzu said, ‘The same process that brought her to birth, in time brought her to death, as naturally as fall turns into winter and spring into summer... if I went around wailing and pounding my chest, it would show that I didn’t understand the first thing about reality.’”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

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“The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
from On Nature

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“The beginnings of fortune and calamity are subtle, so people are heedless of them. Only sages see the beginning and know the end.”

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

Themes: Continuity

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“Seeing what is great is not vision. Seeing what is small is vision. Protecting the strong is not strength. Protecting the weak is strength.”

Wang Bi 王弼 226 – 534 CE

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“Those who can see an event while it is still small and change their behavior accordingly we say have vision.”

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

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“Wisdom probes the ignorance and dispels the longtime darkness. Eye cataracts worn away, illusory flowers naturally fade. Spirit radiance simply shines; recurring falseness dissolves.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE

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“She is with everyone and in everyone, and so beautiful is her secret that no person can know the sweetness with which she sustains people, and spares them in inscrutable mercy.”

Hildegard of Bingen 1098 – 1179 CE

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“If people knew that all creatures are the Way, and children are the mother, they would find the source in everything they meet.”

Li Xizhai 12th century CE via Red Pine
(Li Hsi-Chai)
from Tao-te-chen-ching yi-chieh

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“There is no one who cannot teach someone something… Wise men appreciate everyone, for they see the good in each and know how hard it is to make anything good.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE

Themes: Teachers

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“Life is a constant process of dying.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

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“He who is too busy doing good finds no time to be good.”

Rabindranath Tagore 1861 – 1941 CE

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“Remember, all of man's happiness is in the little valleys. Tiny little ones. Small enough to call from one side to the other.”

Jean Giono 1895 – 1970 CE

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“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE via Korn
from One Straw Revolution

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“We're all water from different rivers,
That's why it's so easy to meet,
We're all water in this vast, vast ocean,
Someday we'll evaporate together.”

Yoko Ono 小野 洋子 1933 CE –
(“Ocean Child”)

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“Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior's world.”

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

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“Death could be said to be birth at the same time… The moment something ends, the next birth takes place naturally. So death is the re-creating of birth.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Six States of Bardo

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“the process of birth and death is continual, taking place all the time… in the West people make birth more important. You congratulate someone for having a child, and you have parties for birthdays. But there are no parties for dying.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

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  1. Shan Dao
    This title (and the last line), “Cultivating the changeless” come from the John Wu translation. Red pine translates as, “Holding on to the crescent,” Le Guin “Practice what’s forever,” Waley “Resorting to the always-so.”