Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 75
Greed

When the rich spend taxes on making themselves richer,
The people starve.
Thieves and robbers arise from cold and hunger.
When the people don’t have enough,
Why should the rich have too much?

When the rich oppress,
The people rebel.
When the government is too intrusive,
The people are hard to govern.
The more laws they make,
The more criminals appear.

When the powerful make too much of life,
The people make light of death.
Those not seduced by fortune and fame
Are worth so much more than these wealth-seekers.
Only a leader not focused on personal gain
Can wisely govern.

Commentary

“Ravana all your wealth is wasted, what's the use of being rich if you won't spend your gold to do good for other people?”

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

Themes: Wealth

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“Ravana all your wealth is wasted, what's the use of being rich if you won't spend your gold to do good for other people?”

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

Themes: Wealth

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“If men had all they wished, they would be often ruined.”

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

Themes: Greed

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“When the rich spend taxes on making themselves richer, the people starve.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #75
(Lǎozǐ)
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Greed

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“If there were an honorable way to get rich, I’d do it, even if it meant being a stooge standing around with a whip. But there isn’t an honorable way, so I just do what I like.”

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

Themes: Wealth Integrity

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“You should eat to live; not live to eat. (Those who don’t work to live, live long – Yen Tsun, 53-24 BCE.)”

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

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“To keep a constant mind-and-heart of goodness without a constant, meaningful livelihood is only possible for a very few. If people lack a good livelihood, it follows that they will lack a good mind and heart; will become reckless, depraved, and stop at nothing. Only hypocritical, greedy, and criminal leaders create the causes of crime and then punish the people for it.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner, Shan Dao
(Mengzi)
from Book of Mencius 孟子

Themes: Livelihood Crime

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“He who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
from On Nature

Themes: Wealth Greed

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“If you seek what you don’t have, what you do have will be lost. If you cultivate what you already have, then what you want comes about.”

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

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“He who is greedy is always in want.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Greed

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“It’s harder for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich person to pass into the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE

Themes: Wealth

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“Childish beings look out for themselves, Buddhas labor for the good of others.”

Shantideva ཞི་བ་ལྷ།།། 685 – 763 CE via Matthieu Ricard
(Bhusuku, Śāntideva)
from Bodhisattva Way of Life, Bodhicaryavatara

Themes: Compassion

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“A greedy man who piles up wealth
is like an owl who loves her chicks
the chicks grow up and eat their mother.
Wealth eventually swallows its owner.
Spread it around and blessings grow.”

Han Shan c. 730-850 CE
(Cold Mountain)

Themes: Greed Wealth

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“When one family has weapons, it affects its village. When a village has weapons, it affects its state. When a state has weapons, it affects All under Heaven. When All under Heaven have weapons, chaos is preordained.”

Wang Zhen 809 – 859 CE
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

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“If those above take too much, those below will be impoverished. If those above use too much force, those below will rebel.”

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

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“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted… what else is to be concluded but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”

Thomas More 1478 – 1535 CE
from Utopia

Themes: Law and Order

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“Robbers and thieves arise from hunger and cold. If people are hungry and have no means to live, they have no choice but to steal. When people steal, it’s because those above force them..”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE
(Te-Ch’ing)

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“All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from Merchant of Venice

Themes: Wealth Livelihood

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“Every law is an infraction of liberty.”

Jeremy Bentham 1748 – 1832 CE
from Principles of Morals and Legislation

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“Most people spend the greatest part of their time working in order to live, and what little freedom remains so fills them with fear that they seek out any and every means to be rid of it.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Livelihood

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“That government is best which governs not at all;' and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

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“Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

Themes: Change

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“The more things are forbidden, the more popular they become.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

Themes: Paradox

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“The poor have to labor in the face of the majestic equality of the law, which forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to be in the streets, and to steal bread.”

Anatole France 1844 – 1924 CE
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)

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“Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessaries.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

Themes: Civilization

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“I used to think meanly of the plumber; but how he shines beside the politician!”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

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“I could see that the Wasichus [white man] did not care for each other the way our people did before the nation's hoop was broken. They would take everything from each other if they could, and so there were some who had more of everything than they could use, while crowds of people had nothing at all and maybe were starving. This could not be better than the old ways of my people.”

Black Elk 1863 – 1950 CE
(Heȟáka Sápa)

Themes: Capitalism Greed

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“It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

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“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 CE

Themes: Change

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“No nation keeps its word. A nation is a big, blind worm, following what? Fate perhaps. A nation has no honor, it has no word to keep. …”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

Themes: Lies Nationalism

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“Hunger makes a thief of any man.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE

Themes: Law and Order

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“Just as modern mass production requires the standardization of commodities, so the social process requires standardization of man, and this standardization is called equality.”

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE

Themes: Equality

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“Greed has no satiation point, since its consummation does not fill the inner emptiness, boredom, loneliness, and depression it is meant to overcome.”

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE

Themes: Greed

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We believe that to govern perfectly it is necessary to avoid governing too much.

James Hilton 1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

Themes: Government

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“How can we disarm greed and envy? Perhaps by being much less greedy and envious ourselves; perhaps by resisting the temptation of letting our luxuries become needs; and perhaps by even scrutinizing our needs to see if they cannot be simplified and reduced.”

E. F. Schumacher 1911 – 1977 CE
The “People's Economist”
from Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered

Themes: Greed

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“How many hundreds of years ago was this book written? And yet still this chapter must be written in the present tense”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

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“It is certain, I think, that the best government is the one that governs the least. But there is a much-neglected corollary: the best citizen is the one who least needs governing.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

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“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

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“Imagine no possessions.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Materialism

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“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

Aung San Suu Kyi အောင်ဆန်းစုကြည် 1945 CE –

Themes: Power

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“This is the dark side of the ‘American dream.’ We blame the poor, accusing them of being poor because they do not work hard enough. Yet for the most part, the poor have less because the rich have taken more.”

Karmapa XVII ཨོ་རྒྱན་འཕྲིན་ལས་རྡོ་རྗ 1985 CE –
(Orgyen Thrinlay Dorje)

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