Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 6
The Source

The valley spirit of the morning light never dies.
The mysterious feminine, the primal mother;
The root and source of heaven and earth,
Elusive as gossamer yet inexhaustible and unfailing.

Commentary

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

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“How could what is real end? How could it have been created? For if it came into being, it would have had to come from nothing. But nothing is not. Therefore there is no birth or death.”

Parmenides via Shan Dao
540 – 450 BCE
Grandfather of Western philosophy
from On Nature

Themes: Death and Dying

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“They are free and do nothing, yet there is nothing they do not do… All thing have their outcomes, but only sages know how to keep to the root… they respond like echoes without wearing out.”

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

Themes: Skillful Means

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“That which is called the Christian religion existed among the ancients and never did not exist from the beginning of the human race”

Augustine ɔːɡəstiːn via Thomas Merton
(Saint Augustine, Saint Austin, Augustine of Hippo)
354 – 430 CE

Themes: Christianity

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“The innate purity that is the nature of mind… exists within, so do not look elsewhere.”

Virupa བི་རཱུ་པ། via Keith Dowman
(“Dakini Master”)
9th century CE
Mahasiddha #3
from Masters of Mahamudra

Themes: Travel Mind

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“When there is continuous awareness from mind-moment to mind-moment you will naturally meet the Source on all sides.”

Yuanwu Keqin 圜悟克勤
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
1063 – 1135 CE
from Zen Letters

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“The feminine, the valley, the spontaneity of spiritual transformation, this subtle and profound way to wonder is the most powerfully creative principle”

Zhu Xi 朱熹 via Wing-Tsit Chan, Shan Dao
(Zhū Xī)
1130 – 1200 CE

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“For us there can be no attachment to a particular manner of behavior in this life, nor has this ever been right, however successful we may have been.”

Meister Eckhart
(Eckhart von Hochheim)
1260 – 1328 CE

Themes: Success

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“Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.”

Teresa of Avila
1515 – 1582 CE
from Way of Perfection

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“Purposeful action leads to exhaustion. The Tao is empty and acts without purpose. Therefore it can’t be exhausted.”

Deqing
(Te-Ch’ing)
1546 – 1623 CE

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“The ‘valley spirit’… is named the Mysterious Female and the Doorway of the Mysterious Female is the base from which Heaven and Earth sprang. It is there within us all the while; draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry.”

Bankei 盤珪永琢
(Bankei Yōtaku)
1622 – 1693 CE

Themes: Magic

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“Through wood and dale the sacred river ran, then reached the caverns measureless to man”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1772 – 1834 CE
from Kubla Khan

Themes: Emptiness

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“Eternal truths survive the shock of empires, outlive the struggles of rival creeds, and witness the decay of successive religions.”

Henry Thomas Buckle
1821 – 1862 CE
from History of Civilization

Themes: Religion

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“At the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit. And that center is really everywhere. It is within each of us.”

Black Elk
(Heȟáka Sápa)
1863 – 1950 CE

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“when spirit began to degenerate into intellect, there set a reaction against it, … the dark, earth-born, feminine principle with its emotionality and instinctiveness reaching far back into the depths of time and into the roots of psychological continuity.”

Carl Jung
1875 – 1961 CE

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“there is a purpose above each purpose, and there is again a purpose under each purpose; and yet beyond and beneath all purposes there is no purpose.”

Inayat Khan
1882 – 1927 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

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“Emptiness is the garden where you can't see anything. It is the mother of all.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi via David Chadwick
1904 – 1971 CE

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“Because of the feminine principle… there is a lot of room, openness, groundlessness… no one is standing on any ground so communication can take place quite freely.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

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  1. Shan Dao
    Liezi, a Taoist master in the 4th C. BCE quotes this passage but attributes it to Huangdi (the Yellow Emperor 2698-2598 BCE) instead of to Lao Tzu. Du Daojian (1264-1306 CE) wrote that Lao Tzu frequently used passages like this from ancient texts. The translator, Arthur Waley writes that this doesn’t necessarily mean that Lao Tzu was quoting from Huangdi’s Book of the Yellow Ancestor but rather from a shared oral tradition. Those of us in the West who have a difficult time even imagining the antiquity of Lao Tzu’s time, may have an interesting time contemplating that many of these teachings were considered ancient already in the 6th Century BCE.