Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 63
Easy as Hard

Do what can’t be done by doing things,
Let action be effortless.
Make what can’t be made by making things,
Savor the tasteless.
Treat the small as large,
The few as many.
Repay wrongs with the Power of Goodness.

Work on problems before they become big,
Study the complicated while it’s still obvious.
The biggest challenge starts out easy,
The most renowned projects
Begin small and uncomplicated.

Since taking things too lightly creates big problems
And thinking things too easy makes them difficult,
The wise don’t make much ado about anything,
Don’t take to heart what they can throw over their shoulders,
Don’t believe or like lightly.
By never attempting great ventures,
They accomplish great goals.

Commentary

“Do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.”

Themes: Golden Rule

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“Do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.”

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

Themes: Golden Rule

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“How prone to doubt, how cautious are the wise!”

Homer 850 BCE - ?
Primogenitor of Western culture

Themes: Doubt

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“If you consider something easy, it is bound to become hard. If you consider something hard, it is bound to become easy.”

Duke Wen of Jin 晉文公; 697 – 628 BCE
(Jìn Wén Gōng, Chong'er)
Innovative political reformer

Themes: Contemplation

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“The Sage never has to grapple with big things yet he alone is capable of achieving them!”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via John Wu, chapter 63
(Lǎozǐ)
from Tao The Ching

Themes: Less is More

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“Don’t treat others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”

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

Themes: Golden Rule

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“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

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

Themes: Anger

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“Do not do to others what you don’t want done to yourself.”

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

Themes: Golden Rule

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“If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?”

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

Themes: Basic Goodness

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“Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make angry.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today

Themes: Anger

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“No man is hurt but by himself.”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE
(of Sinope)

Themes: Complaint

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“Anger resides in the lap of fools.”

Koheleth c. 330–180 BCE
from Ecclesiastes קֹהֶלֶת‎

Themes: Anger

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“On Golden Rule:
Repay wrongs with the Power of Goodness;
Love your brother and sister as your soul;
protect them as you do the pupils of your eyes.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Didymos Judas Thomas
from Gospel According to Thomas

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“What is hateful to you, don’t do to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.”

Rabbinic Sages 20 – 200 CE via Shabbat
from Talmud

Themes: Golden Rule

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“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

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

Themes: Consumerism

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“If the problem has a solution, worrying is pointless, in the end the problem will be solved. If the problem has no solution, there is no reason to worry, because it can't be solved.”

Jianzhi Sengcan 鑑智僧璨 529 – 606 CE
(Jiànzhì Sēngcàn)

Themes: Problems

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“Have wings that feared ever touched the sun?”

Rabia Basri رابعة العدوية القيسية‎‎ 714 – 801 CE
(Rābi‘a al-‘Adawīyya)

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“A mere glimpse… of pure light form destroys mental fiction like an elephant berserk.”

Lūipa ལཱུ་ཨི་པ། 8th century CE via Keith Dowman
(“The Fish-Gut Eater” )
Mahasiddha #1
from Masters of Mahamudra

Themes: Enlightenment

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“If rulers disdain something as easy, misfortune and trouble are sure to arise from it. If they do not pay attention to small matters, eventually they will overwhelm even the greatest virtue.”

Wang Zhen 809 – 859 CE via Ralph D. Sawyer
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

Themes: Less is More

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“If we repay wrongs with kindness, we put an end to revenge. If we repay wrongs with wrongs, revenge never ends.”

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

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“Don't bring things to a painful point.”

Atisha ཨ་ཏི་ཤ་མར་མེ་མཛད་དཔལ་ཡེ་ཤེས་ 980 – 1054 CE
(Atiśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna)

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“At first it was very hard. But once I learned how to use my mind, it became very easy. What the world considers hard, the sage considers easy. What the world considers easy, the sage considers hard.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE
(Te-Ch’ing)

Themes: Contemplation

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“Do not make much ado about nothing… Troublesome things should not be taken too seriously… It is preposterous to take to heart what should be thrown over your shoulders.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE

Themes: Mistakes

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“Love truth, but pardon error.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

Themes: Compassion

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“Who is wise? He that learns from everyone. Who is powerful? He that governs his passions. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Poor Richard's Almanack

Themes: Wisdom

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“What wisdom can you find greater than kindness.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE

Themes: Kindness

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“Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

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“Teachings... are given only for the purpose of realizing the nature of mind. Beyond this, the victorious ones don't teach anything.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། 1781 – 1851 CE via Erik Pema Kunsang
from Flight of the Garuda

Themes: Education

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“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE

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“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE

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“Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.”

George Sand 1804 – 1876 CE
(Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin)

Themes: Kindness

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“An arrow may fly through the air and leave no trace; but an ill thought leaves a trail like a serpent.”

Charles Mackay 1814 – 1889 CE
from Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Themes: No Trace Reason

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“Who shall be fairest? - who shall be rarest? Who shall be first in the songs that we sing? She who is kindest when fortune is blindest, Bearing through winter the blooms of the spring.”

Charles Mackay 1814 – 1889 CE

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“Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you.”

Bahá'u'lláh بهاء الله‎‎, 1817 – 1892 CE
("Glory of God")

Themes: Golden Rule

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“Worrying is like paying a debt you don't owe.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

Themes: One Taste

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“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

Themes: Kindness

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“But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

Themes: Projection

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“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE

Themes: Death and Dying

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“It's all very well to tell us to forgive our enemies; our enemies can never hurt us very much. But oh, what about forgiving our friends?”

Willa Cather 1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

Themes: Golden Rule

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“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Golden Rule

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“If one does not take the verses of the New Testament as being commandments, but as expressions of an extraordinary awareness of the secrets of our soul, then the wisest word ever spoken is: 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.’”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE

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“Learn what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE
from Steppenwolf

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“And yet the most valuable things are attained with the least effort. But one does not realize their importance. One would rather have something which is attained with a great effort.”

Inayat Khan 1882 – 1927 CE

Themes: Less is More

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“There is not anything one should not be ready to tolerate,and there is nobody whom one should not forgive.”

Inayat Khan 1882 – 1927 CE

Themes: Letting Go

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“It’s dark because you are trying too hard… Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them… throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Less is More Fear

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“In those days, I didn't understand anything. I should have judged her according to her actions, not her words. She perfumed my planet and lit up my life. I should never have run away! … But I was too young to know how to love her.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

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“And the little prince broke into a lovely peal of laughter, which irritated me very much. I like my misfortunes to be taken seriously.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

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“For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. If you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of each of your arms.”

Audrey Hepburn 1929 – 1993 CE

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“I don't want to be alone, I want to be left alone.”

Audrey Hepburn 1929 – 1993 CE

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“I defeat my enemies when I make them my friends.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

Themes: Golden Rule

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“Maybe the most important teaching is to lighten up and relax. It’s such a huge help in working with our crazy mixed-up minds to remember that what we’re doing is unlocking a softness that is in us and letting it spread. We’re letting it blur the sharp corners of self-criticism and complaint.”

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

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“That big-deal quality of our perception is known as a veil that prevents us from relating with reality properly… it makes us more numb.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Judith Lief, editor
from The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa

Themes: Obstacles

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“How can I go forward when I don't know which way I'm facing?”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Confusion

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“Worrying about the world is a dead end. When nuclear proliferation is solved, global warming pops up. When global warming is solved, overpopulation starts looming. then there’s always the burning out of the sun and the infinite expansion or contraction of the universe…”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

Themes: Problems

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“Commenting on Chuang Tzu’s story about the Marquis of Lu trying to help a seabird, Stephen Mitchell writes, 'The marquis…by acting out the Golden Rule, became the golden fool… Love your neighbor as yourself: leave him alone.'”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

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“Where there’s bluster, there’s duplicity.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Cloud Atlas

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  1. Shan Dao
    “Requite injuries with good deeds” is Arthur Waley’s translation, Le Guin’s is “Meet injury with the power of goodness.” We used a version of both here. Waley’s gets closest to the more common versions of “The Golden Rule.” “Don’t take to heart” came from Balthasar Gracian.