Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 64
Ordinary Mind

It’s easy to guide a peaceful situation,
Easy to stop trouble before it starts,
Easy to break something when still fragile,
Easy to get rid of something when still small,
Easy to get clear before things get complicated and confused.

As a giant tree grows from a small seed,
And a tall building rises from a shovelful of earth,
Our 10,000 mile journeys begin with one step.
But rushing into action fails,
And grasping makes things slip away.

The wise therefore let things take their course and nothing goes wrong,
Don’t hold on and nothing is lost.
Instead of ruining things when on the verge of success,
They mind the end as the beginning,
The journey as the goal.

The wise only want not to want
And care nothing for hard won treasures.
They study what no one else studies
And turn back to the places
Others have gone on from.
They go along with things as they are
Without presuming to act.

Commentary

“What you are is what you have been. What you'll be is what you do now.”

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

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“When a wise man points at the moon the imbecile examines the finger.”

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

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“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

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

Themes: Less is More

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“To generous souls every task is noble.”

Euripides
480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today

Themes: Appreciation

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“The wise don’t fill their lessons with words or their shelves with books. The world may pass them by, but rulers turn to them when they want to learn what no one else learns.”

Hán Fēi 韓非
280 – 233 BCE

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“Others learn how to govern the world. Sages learn how to govern themselves and how to uphold the truth of the Way.”

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

Themes: Government

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“Right and wrong are situational. In the appropriate situation, nothing is wrong. Without the appropriate situation, nothing is right.”

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

Themes: Moral Freedom

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“A picture is a poem without words.”

Horace
65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Poetry

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“He has half the deed done who has made a beginning.”

Horace
65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Skillful Means

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“Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger.”

Huineng 惠能
(Huìnéng, Enō)
638 – 713 CE
The Sutra of Hui Neng

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“there is no distinction between the Buddha and sentient things, but that sentient being are attached to forms and so seek externally… By their very seeking they lose it.”

Huangbo Xiyun 黄檗希运
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)
? - 850 CE

Themes: Ordinary Mind

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“What is important is to respect the root and extend it to the branches... Those who realize transcendence pass through words and phrases and make them come to life.”

Yuanwu Keqin 圜悟克勤 via J.C. and Thomas Cleary
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
1063 – 1135 CE
from Zen Letters

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“Because of the finger you can point to the moon. Because of the moon you can understand the finger. The moon and the finger are neither different nor the same… Once you’e really seen things as they are, there’s no more moon, no more finger.”

Ryokan 良寛大愚
(Ryōkan Taigu,“The Great Fool”)
1758 – 1758 CE

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“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803 – 1882 CE

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“How lovely it is that there are words and sounds. Are not words and sounds rainbows and illusive bridges between things which are eternally apart?”

Friedrich Nietzsche
1844 – 1900 CE

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“Sagacious spirits doubt all things, and hold fast only to that which is demonstrably true.”

Arthur Desmond
1859 – 1929 CE
from Might Is Right

Themes: Doubt

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“You must learn not what people around you consider good or bad, but to act in life as your conscience bids you. An untrammelled conscience will always know more than all the books and teachers put together.”

G. I. Gurdjieff
1866 – 1949 CE

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“I rarely think in words at all.”

Albert Einstein
1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Science

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“Every word is an adamantine shell which encloses a great explosive force. To discover its meaning you must let it burst inside you like a bomb and in this way liberate the soul which it imprisons.”

Nikos Kazantzakis
1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

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“I remember one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the back of a tree just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out… I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life… and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled… It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late… That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.”

Nikos Kazantzakis
1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

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“Modern man thinks he loses something - time - when he does not do things quickly. Yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains, except kill it.”

Eric Fromm
1900 – 1980 CE
from Art of Loving

Themes: Time

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“Our people would be quite shocked by having to declare that one policy was completely right and another completely wrong.”

James Hilton
1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

Themes: Middle Way

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“There is no problem. When you say ‘I am a human being,’ that is just another name for buddha – human being-buddha.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
1904 – 1971 CE

Themes: Problems

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“When one of the emperors of China asked Bodhidharma what enlightenment was, his answer was, ‘Lots of space, nothing holy’… It’s all good juicy stuff … the art of living in the present moment.”

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

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“Suddenly you’re seeing something extraordinary arising out of a very ordinary thing.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

Themes: Ordinary Mind

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“The ancient Masters… woke up, they ate, they worked, they made love, they raised their families, all the while unseduced by any thoughts.”

Stephen Mitchell
1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

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