Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 54
Planting Well

Well planted is not easily uprooted,
Well taken care of is not easily taken away
And will be honored from generation to generation.

Cultivated in yourself, goodness becomes real.
Cultivated in your family it grows,
Cultivated in your village it multiplies,
Cultivated in your country it flourishes,
Cultivated in the world it brings goodness everywhere.

We understand others through understanding ourselves,
Other families through understanding our own family,
Other communities through understanding our own community,
Other countries through understanding our own country.

How do we know this is true?
By seeing into our own experience.

Commentary

“A seed that sprouts at the foot of its parent tree remains stunted until it is transplanted… Every human being, when the time comes, has to depart to seek his fulfillment in his own way.”

Vyasa व्यास
c. 3000 BCE
Hindu immortals, Vishnu avatar, 5th incarnation of Brahma
from Mahābhārata महाभारतम्

Themes: Progress

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“The family is society in embryo; it is the native soil… so that within a small circle a basis of moral practice is created, and this is later widened to include human relationships in general.”

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

Themes: Family

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“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”

Confucius 孔丘
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
551 – 479 BCE
History's most influential "failure"

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“Trust in self interest, spread one’s awesomeness over the enemy... Victory can be known. It cannot be made… And so the superior military cuts down strategy. Its inferior cuts down alliances. Its inferior cuts down the military. The worst attacks walled cities.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 via Denma Translation Group
(Sun Zi)
544 – 496 BCE
HIstory's supreme strategist
from Art of War 孙子兵法

Themes: Victory Strategy

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“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

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

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“The reality of the Tao lies in concern for the self. Concern for the state is irrelevant, and concern for the world is cowshit. From this standpoint, the emperor’s work is the sage’s hobby and is not what develops the self or nourishes life.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周
(Zhuangzi)
369 – 286 BCE

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“We cultivate the Tao in the world by letting things change without giving orders Lao-tzu asks how we know that those who cultivate the Tao prosper and those who ignore the Tao perish. We know by comparing those who don’t cultivate the Tao with those who do.”

Heshang Gong 河上公
(Ho-shang Kung or "Riverside Sage”)
202 – 157 BCE

Themes: Integrity

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“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

Anonymous via anonymous Greek proverb​
-800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

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“Why so quick to remove a speck from your eye, when If it's your mind, you put off the cure till next year?”

Horace
65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Complaint

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“It is called, ‘consummation of incomparable enlightenment.’ attained by freedom from separate personal selfhood and by cultivating all kinds of goodness… though there is no goodness; such is merely a name.”

Nagarjuna नागर्जुन
c. 150-250 CE

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“When someone uses laws to restrict the world, might to compel it, knowledge to silence it, and majesty to impress it, there are always those who don’t follow. When someone rules by means of the Tao, the world follows without thinking.”

Cao Daochong 道寵
(​Daochong or Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung)
fl. 960 - 1268
from Lao-tzu-chu, Red Pine Translation

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“First improve yourself, then reach out to others and to later generations bequeath the noble, pure, and kindly Tao. Thus blessings reach your descendants, virtue grows, beauty lasts, and worship never ends.”

Cao Daochong 道寵
(​Daochong or Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung)
fl. 960 - 1268
from Lao-tzu-chu, Red Pine Translation

Themes: Integrity

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“When the stains from old habits are exhausted the original light appears, blazing through your skull, not admitting any other matters. Vast and spacious, like sky and water merging during autumn, like snow and moon having the same color, this field is without boundary, beyond direction, magnificently one entity without edge or seam.”

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

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“Humankind is called to co-create. With nature’s help, humankind can set into creation all that is necessary and life-sustaining.”

Hildegard of Bingen
1098 – 1179 CE

Themes: Evolution

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“Just as a circle embraces all that is within it, so does the God-head embrace all. No one has the power to divide this circle, to surpass it, or to limit it.”

Hildegard of Bingen
1098 – 1179 CE

Themes: Oneness

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“We are all meant to be mothers of God...for God is always needing to be born.”

Meister Eckhart
(Eckhart von Hochheim)
1260 – 1328 CE

Themes: God

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“And who understands? Not me, because if I did I would forgive it all.”

John Donne
1572 – 1631 CE
from Songs and Sonnets

Themes: Mistakes

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“All good activity in life depends on discretion, the highest virtue — that natural tendency toward the most rational and sure actions.”

Balthasar Gracian via Shan Dao, #96
1601 – 1658 CE
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Progress

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“Things are done quickly enough if done well. If just quickly done, they can be quickly undone.”

Balthasar Gracian
1601 – 1658 CE

Themes: Patience

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“I never doubted… that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter. These I esteem’d the essentials of every religion.”

Benjamin Franklin
1706 – 1790 CE
from Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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“Philosophy is really homesickness: the urge to be at home everywhere.”

Novalis
1772 – 1831 CE

Themes: Philosophy

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“Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman - a rope over an abyss. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.”

Friedrich Nietzsche
1844 – 1900 CE

Themes: Evolution

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“Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love.”

Rabindranath Tagore
1861 – 1941 CE

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“There can never be peace between nations until there is first known that true peace which... is within the souls of men.”

Black Elk
(Heȟáka Sápa)
1863 – 1950 CE

Themes: Peace

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“The greatest untold story is the evolution of God.”

G. I. Gurdjieff
1866 – 1949 CE

Themes: God Evolution

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“The consciousness of each of us is evolution looking at itself and reflecting upon itself. With that very simple view… a new light – inexhaustibly harmonious – bursts upon the world, radiating from ourselves.”

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

Themes: Evolution

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“The truth is that we all are one, that all of us together create god, that god is not man's ancestor, but his descendant.”

Nikos Kazantzakis
1883 – 1957 CE
from Last Temptation of Christ

Themes: God Oneness

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“All women are not Helen but have Helen in their hearts.”

William Carlos Williams
1883 – 1963 CE

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“Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”

Kahlil Gibran
1883 – 1931 CE

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“Beauty is merciless. You do not look at it, it looks at you and does not forgive.”

Nikos Kazantzakis
1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

Themes: Beauty Beauty

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“God is a verb.”

Buckminster Fuller
1895 – 1983 CE

Themes: God

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“Instead of only criticizing your culture, you should devote your mind and body to practicing this simple way. Then society and culture will grow out of you.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
1904 – 1971 CE

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“My ultimate dream is to sow seeds in the desert. To revegetate the deserts is to sow seed in people's hearts.”

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

Themes: Dream

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“We always plant our feet carefully because we know the faces of future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground.”

Oren Lyons
1930 CE –

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“If you do not start at home, you have no hope of helping the world… the first step is learning to rule your household, your immediate world…. If you do so, then the next step will come naturally. If you don't, then your contribution to this world will only be further chaos.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

Themes: Family

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  1. Shan Dao
    Some scholars think this chapter was added later by someone with a more Confucian point of view. Le Guin points out how it feels much more conventional and predictable than normal for Lao Tzu and Red Pine how it mirrors the basic Confucian teachings in the Great Learning. The Gibbs/Cheng commentary describes is as “too forceful” and “discordant with the teachings of Lao Tzu.” In our view, it may just be demonstrating the breadth and interrelatedeness of wisdom.