Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 59
The Gardening of Spirit

In looking after yourself
And caring for others,
Nothing surpasses the gardening of spirit.

Gathered early, this power doubles
And prevents any reckless use of mind.
It brings freedom from our own ideas
And the knowing of what to accept, what to reject.
It overcomes all obstacles,
Reaches invisible heights,
And has no limits.

Firmly planted and deeply rooted in the Tao,
It shows the way to a deep life with eternal vision.

Commentary

“Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life.”

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

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“The way we care for Heaven is by guarding our mind and nourishing our nature.”

Mencius 孟子
(Mengzi)
372 – 289 BCE
from Book of Mencius 孟子

Themes: Health

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“Most people use their mind recklessly… The wise use their mind calmly. Calmness means carefulness and carefulness means a gardening of spirit, an art born of an understanding of the Tao.”

Hán Fēi 韓非
280 – 233 BCE

Themes: Art

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“Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig... there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος
55 – 135 CE
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Patience

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“Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life.”

Marcus Aurelius
121 – 219 CE

Themes: Inspiration

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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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“Outside, we govern others. Inside, we care for Heaven. In both, nothing surpasses the gardening of spirit… Only if we are still does virtue have a place to collect.”

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

Themes: Virtue Integrity

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“If we are to achieve things never before accomplished we must employ methods never before attempted.”

Francis Bacon
1561 – 1626 CE

Themes: Skillful Means

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“The more you struggle to live, the less you live. Give up the notion that you must be sure of what you are doing. Instead, surrender to what is real within you, for that alone is sure... you are above everything distressing.”

Baruch Spinoza
1632 – 1677 CE

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“I’m a slow walker but I never walk back.”

Abraham Lincoln
1809 – 1865 CE

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“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Albert Einstein
1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Problems

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“Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things...as to do ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value.”

Teilhard de Chardin via Bernard Wall
1881 – 1955 CE
from Divine Milieu

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“Try to give to others as much of the teachings as possible. Then you might be of some benefit and not waste your life. ”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ། via Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche ཛི་གར་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་
1910 – 1991 CE
"Mind" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo

Themes: Meaningfulness

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“But what is wisdom? Where can it be found? Here we come to the crux of the matter: it can be read about in numerous publications but it can be found only inside oneself.”

E. F. Schumacher
1911 – 1977 CE
from Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered

Themes: Wisdom

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“The simple hearth of the small farm is the true center of our universe.”

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

Themes: Simplicity

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“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.”

Carlos Castaneda
1925 – 1998 CE

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“All things are bound together, all things connect. Whatever befalls the earth befalls also the children of the earth.”

Oren Lyons
1930 CE –

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“a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.”

Wendell Berry
1934 CE –

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“It’s not a question of what you should be or what you should not be doing. It’s a question of what you are.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

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“I'm not really a career person; I'm a gardener, basically.”

John Lennon
1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Agriculture

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“What if cultivating your own garden were the best way to help the world? What if your little backyard could, with the proper care, grow enough vegetable and fruits to feed a million people? What if your gardening inspired a thousand of your neighbors to do the same?”

Stephen Mitchell
1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

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“Every obstacle is really an opportunity in disguise.”

Paulo Lugari via Alan Weisman
1944 CE –

Themes: Obstacles

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“Every thought, every word, and every action that adds to the positive and the wholesome is a contribution to peace.”

Aung San Suu Kyi အောင်ဆန်းစုကြည်
1945 CE –

Themes: Peace

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“There was nothing Suzuki Roshi liked more than working in his garden.”

David Chadwick
1945 CE –
Close student of Suzuki Roshi
from Crooked Cucumber: the Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki

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Comments (2)

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  1. Shan Dao
    Wang Bi says that in this poem, “Economy means farming” and Ursula Le Guin translates this as “gathering spirit.” We’ve put these two translations together into, “The gardening of spirit.”
  2. Shan Dao
    In the last line that we translate as, “the way to a deep life with eternal vision,” Le Guin translates as “Live long by looking long,” Cleary and Feng say “Eternal vision,” and Red Pine, “the Way of a long and lasting life.”