Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 67
Three Treasures

People say that the Tao is great
But not practical, even useless.
Because it’s great it’s improbable, not practical or useful.
What’s probable is conventional and petty.
If it were useful,
It would never have become great.
Because it’s great, it seems like folly.
When truths become solid,
They transform into clichés.

Only 3 qualities are worth treasuring and following closely:
Compassion, moderation, and humility.
From compassion comes bravery,
From moderation comes generosity,
From humility comes authentic leadership.

But bravery without compassion,
Generosity without self-restraint,
Leadership without humility
All lead to disaster.

Compassion wins every battle
And outlasts every attack.
What goodness creates,
Compassion protects.

Commentary

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Aesop 620 – 546 BCE
Hero of the oppressed and downtrodden
from Aesop's Fables, the Aesopica

Themes: Kindness

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“In separateness lies the world's greatest misery; in compassion lies the world's true strength.”

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

Themes: Oneness

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“The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.”

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

Themes: Mistakes

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“To know, is to know that you know nothing, that is the meaning of true knowledge.”

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

Themes: Wisdom

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“He is richest who is content with the least, for contentment is the wealth of nature.”

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

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“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

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

Themes: Doubt

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“Verily, we know nothing. Truth is buried deep.”

Democritus Dēmókritos 460 – 370 BCE
Father of modern science and greatest of ancient philosophers

Themes: Truth Humility

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“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE

Themes: Know Yourself

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“Empty is the argument of the philosopher which does not relieve any human suffering.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
from On Nature

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“In all the vicissitudes of their lives, sages are of one will, never forgetting to benefit people.”

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

Themes: Compassion

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“those who are capable of leading the world are those who have no ambition to use the world; those who are capable of sustaining fame are those who do nothing excessive to seek it.”

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

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“He will always be a slave who does not know how to live upon a little.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

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“If we really want to offer someone who is suffering a transfusion of peace and serenity, the best we can do is to be in touch with that in ourselves which is already beyond death.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE

Themes: Suffering

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“Who is the rich man? He who is content.”

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

Themes: Wealth

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“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels”

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

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“Put your trust in the man who feeds the people after finishing his work.”

Lakshmincara ལཀྵྨཱིངྐ་རཱ།། c. 8th Century CE via Keith Dowman
(“The Princess of Crazy wisdom”)
from Masters of Mahamudra

Themes: Integrity

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“Why are you not using your gifts for the benefit of those below?”

Kambala ཀམྦ་ལ་པ། 9th Century CE via Keith Dowman
("The Black-Blanket-Clad Yogin")
Mahasiddha #30
from Masters of Enchantment

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“Three objects, three poisons, three virtuous seeds.”

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

Themes: Golden Chains

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“Through austerity, we learn to stop. When we know when to stop, we are always content.”

Wang Anshi 王安石 1021 – 1086 CE

Themes: Less is More

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“through compassion, we learn to be soft. When we are soft, we can overcome the hardest thing in the world.”

Wang Anshi 王安石 1021 – 1086 CE

Themes: Compassion Power

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“Like billowing clouds, like the incessant gurgle of the brook, the longing of the spirit can never be stilled.”

Hildegard of Bingen 1098 – 1179 CE

Themes: Inspiration

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“It is only belief in oneself as an island that creates the delusion of others apart and this split is the cause of anxiety.”

Kālapa ཀཱ་ལ་པ། 12th century CE via Keith Dowman
("The Handsome Madman")
Mahasiddha #27
from Masters of Enchantment

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“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

Francis of Assisi 1181 – 1226 CE

Themes: Inspiration

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“If you light a lamp for someone else, it will also brighten your own path.”

Nichiren Daishonin 1222 – 1282 CE

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“What is a holy person? The one who is aware of others' suffering.”

Kabīr कबीर 1399 – 1448 CE

Themes: Integrity

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“Humility is truth.”

Erasmus 1466 – 1536 CE
(Desiderius Roterodamus)

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“on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE

Themes: Humility

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“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from Merchant of Venice

Themes: Less is More

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“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from As You Like It

Themes: Wisdom Illusion

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“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

John Donne 1572 – 1631 CE
from Songs and Sonnets

Themes: Oneness

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“Pride is pleasure arising from a man's thinking too highly of himself.”

Baruch Spinoza 1632 – 1677 CE

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“Those who know the true use of money, and regulate the measure of wealth according to their needs, live contented with few things.”

Baruch Spinoza 1632 – 1677 CE

Themes: Money Wealth

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“The more we learn what humility is, the less we discover of it in ourselves”

Madame Guyon Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon 1648 – 1717 CE via Thomas Taylor Allen
from Autobiography of Madame Guyon

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“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

Themes: Know Yourself

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“He that falls in love with himself, will have no rivals.”

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

Themes: Egolessness Love

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“We know accurately only when we know little; doubt grows with knowledge.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Doubt

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“Mercy is the golden chain by which society is bound together.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE

Themes: Compassion

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“With compassion, even enemies turn into friends. Without compassion, even friends turn into enemies.”

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

Themes: Friendship

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“The safest way of not being very miserable is not to expect to be very happy.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Letting Go

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“Thus, the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Creativity Reason

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“Compassion is the basis of morality.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Compassion

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“A great man is always willing to be little.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE

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“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

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“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

Themes: Letting Go Wealth

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“As for doing good, that is one of the professions which are full… There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted… If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

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“A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

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“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

Themes: Wisdom

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“If I can stop one heart from breaking, if I can ease one life the aching, I shall not live in vain.”

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886 CE

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“Education: the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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“Human pride is not worthwhile; there is always something lying in wait to take the wind out of it.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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“To do good is noble. To tell others to do good is even nobler and much less trouble.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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“You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, burning bushes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help?”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.”

Anatole France 1844 – 1924 CE
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)

Themes: Education

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“There are two things that men should never weary of, goodness and humility; we get none too much of them in this rough world among cold, proud people.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

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“He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

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“Men are only as great as they are kind and the only sin is to be unkind.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE via Shan Dao
from A Thosand and One Epigrams, 1911

Themes: Kindness

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“Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Egolessness

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“Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Education

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“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Curiosity

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“Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Beauty Compassion

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“We are one, after all, you and I, together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other.”

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

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“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”

A.A. Milne 1882 – 1956 CE
(Alan Alexander Milne)
from War With Honour

Themes: Conformity Reason

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“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Kindness

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“God changes his appearance every second. Blessed is the man who can recognize him in all his disguises.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE

Themes: God

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“I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.”

Eleanor Roosevelt 1884 – 1962 CE

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“Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”

T.S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE

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“Somehow I had learned from Thoreau, who doubtless learned it from Confucius, that if a man comes to do his own good for you, then must you flee that man and save yourself.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE

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“If any one idea dominates the teachings of Jesus, it is his opposition to the self-righteousness of the righteous.”

Reinhold Niebuhr 1892 – 1971 CE

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“Is it a mad society or a sane one? And even if it's pretty sane, is it right that anybody should be completely adjusted to it?”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Conformity

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“devotees of the apocalyptic religion of Inevitable Progress [believe] that the Kingdom of Heaven is outside you and in the future.

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Perennial Philosophy

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“religious, political, personal… symbols, ideas, beliefs… are the causes of our problems for they divide man from man in every relationship.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)
from Core of the Teaching

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“Most people are not even aware of their need to conform. They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their opinion as the result of their own thinking - and that it just happens that their ideas are the same as this of the majority.”

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE
from Art of Loving

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“Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers.”

Marshall McLuhan 1911 – 1980 CE

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“You begin saving the world by saving one person at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics.”

Charles Bukowski 1920 – 1994 CE
from Women

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“You take it all in. You let the pain of the world touch your heart and you turn it into compassion.”

Karmapa XVI ཀརྨ་བཀའ་བརྒྱུད། 1924 – 1981 CE
(Rangjung Rigpe Dorje)
from Rangjung Rigpe Dorje

Themes: Suffering

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“Education is a system of imposed ignorance.”

Noam Chomsky 1928 CE –
from Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

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“To do any good at all, just believing you’re right and your motives are good isn’t enough. You have to… be in touch.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE
from The Lathe of Heaven

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“the Master walks down the road, an oversized robe carries only compassion”

Gesshin Myoko Roshi 1931 – 1999 CE
from A Sudden Flash of Lightening: Words Out of Silence

Themes: Compassion

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“If one can only see things according to one's own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind.

Robert Anton Wilson 1932 – 2007 CE

Themes: Belief

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“We’ve been filled with great treasure for one purpose: to be spilled.”

Yoko Ono 小野 洋子 1933 CE –
(“Ocean Child”)

Themes: Meaningfulness

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“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

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“True change is within; leave the outside as it is.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

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“Save the planet? We don't even know how to take care of ourselves.”

George Carlin 1937 – 2008 CE
One of the most influential social commentators of his time

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“needlessness of reassurance is a source of humility, because you do not have to confirm yourself anymore.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Tantric Path of Indestructible Wakefulness

Themes: Humility

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“Then there is the other kind of compassion that Mr. Gurdjieff calls idiot compassion, which is compassion with neurosis, a slimy way of trying to fulfill your desire secretly. This is your aim, but you give the appearance of being generous and impersonal.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

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“We cannot find an answer, because answers always run out. That is the problem and the promise.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

Themes: Problems

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“But I mean no harm, nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it's alright, Ma, if I can't please him.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

Themes: Conformity

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“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

Muhammad Ali 1942 – 2016 CE
(Cassius Clay)

Themes: Equality

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“You can’t try to change people without inflicting violence on them… Hitler and Stalin, in their own opinions, were acting for the benefit of humanity.”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

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“If you're feeling helpless, help someone.”

Aung San Suu Kyi အောင်ဆန်းစုကြည် 1945 CE –

Themes: Compassion

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