Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 73
Heaven’s Net

Those with outer courage
Dare to act and take life.
Those with inner courage
Dare to not act and give life.
Both of these are sometimes good,
sometimes harmful
When one best, when the other?
Even the most wise don’t know for sure.

The Way of Heaven
Doesn’t compete but easily wins,
Doesn’t speak but answers completely,
Doesn’t request but attracts all it needs,
Doesn’t stress but impeccably acts.

Heaven’s Net catches everything,
The mesh is wide yet nothing slips through.

Commentary

“Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit; even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel. Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain.”

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

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“A superior man in dealing with the world is not for anything or against anything.”

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

Themes: Middle Way

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“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Sun Tzu 孙武
(Sun Zi)
544 – 496 BCE
HIstory's supreme strategist

Themes: War Warriors

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“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

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

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“Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.”

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

Themes: Letting Go

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“The mind is always present. You just don't see it.”

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨
(Daruma)
5th-6th C. CE

Themes: Mind

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“No unintentional transgression is too great for his leniency… No intentional crime is too small for his punishment.”

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

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“Yin and yang take turns. The four seasons come and go. The moon waxes and wanes. All things have their time. They don’t have to be summoned to come.”

Wang Anshi 王安石
1021 – 1086 CE

Themes: Moon Middle Way

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“Everyone knows about daring to act but not about daring not to act. Those who dare to act walk on the edge of a knife Those who dare not to act walk down the middle of a path.”

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

Themes: Middle Way

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“Your surroundings don't matter. God is with you everywhere -- in the market place as well as in seclusion or in the church. If you look for nothing but God, nothing or no one can disturb you.”

Meister Eckhart
(Eckhart von Hochheim)
1260 – 1328 CE

Themes: God

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“Always act as if others were watching… know that walls have ears and that ill deeds rebound back… know that sooner or later, all will be known.”

Balthasar Gracian
1601 – 1658 CE
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Skillful Means

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“What the hammer? What the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? What dread grasp dare its deadly terrors clasp!”

William Blake
1757 – 1827 CE

Themes: Golden Chains

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“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

Arthur Schopenhauer
1788 – 1860 CE

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“vain to popularize profundities, and all truth is profound”

Herman Melville
1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

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“Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life.”

Marcel Proust
1871 – 1922 CE
from Rembrance of Things Past

Themes: Openness

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“the greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble… They an never be solved, but only outgrown.”

Carl Jung
1875 – 1961 CE

Themes: Problems

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“Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.”

Nikos Kazantzakis
1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

Themes: Reality Change

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“The English regard slackness as a vice. We, on the other hand should vastly prefer it to tension. Is there not too much tension in the world…”

James Hilton
1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

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“The point at which we can either extend ourselves further and go towards an unfamiliar brilliance, or return to a more soothing and familiar dimness is the threshold of magic.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

Themes: Magic

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  1. Shan Dao
    According to Red Pine, the last two lines of this poem are now a common proverb in China. An insight embedded in not just Chinese culture but in wisdom traditions all over the world, this acknowledgment of “karma,” that no one can ever get away with anything, may be one of history’s most civilizing statements.