Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 77
Stringing a Bow

Following the Tao
Is like stringing a bow:
The high are brought down,
The low are lifted up.

Pull yourself down when too high,
Lift yourself up when too down.
Take from what has too much,
Give to what doesn’t have enough,
This is the way of heaven.
The way of confusion though
Takes from those who have not,
Gives to those who already have too much.

And so the wise
Help without taking credit,
Act without expectation,
Do their work without setting any store by it.
They don’t want their goodness to be seen,
They don’t want to look like they’re better than others,
They don’t sell the value of their good deeds for praise,
They won’t trade their treasure for trinkets.

Commentary

“A man brings about real increase by producing in himself the conditions for it that is, through receptivity to and love of the good. Thus the thing for which he strives comes of itself, with the inevitability of natural law.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 41
c. 2852–2737 BCE
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

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“The smaller the mind, the greater the conceit.”

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

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“Even as a solid rock is unshaken by the wind, so are the wise unshaken by praise or blame.”

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

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“Generosity brings happiness at every stage of its expression. We experience joy in forming the intention to be generous. We experience joy in the actual act of giving something. And we experience joy in remembering the fact that we have given.”

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

Themes: Compassion

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“the path up and down are one and the same”

Heraclitus Ἡράκλειτος
(of Ephesus, the "Weeping Philosopher")
535 – 475 BCE
A Greek Buddha
from On Nature (Fragments)

Themes: Success

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“Not too little, not too much: there safety lies.”

Euripides
480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today

Themes: Middle Way

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“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”

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

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“The excessive increase of anything causes a reaction in the opposite direction;… dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of liberty.”

Plato Πλάτων via Will Durant
428 – 348 BCE
from Republic Πολιτεία

Themes: Democracy Freedom

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“The Way of Heaven is so dark, we need metaphors to understand it
To prepare a bow for use, we string it by pulling down the top and lifting up the bottom.
Likewise, the Way of Heaven is to take from the strong and give to the weak.”

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

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“Rich are the rewards of the generous; profound are the calamities of the resentful… So, by looking into the source of people’s actions, sages can tell their consequences.”

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

Themes: Karma

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“Sages do not let their desires disturb harmony… when they are happy, they do not rejoice too much, and when they are sad, they do not grieve too much.”

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

Themes: Middle Way

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“How slight and insignificant is the thing which casts down or restores a mind greedy for praise.”

Horace
65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Greed

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“Seemeth it nothing to you, never to accuse, never to blame either God or Man? to wear ever the same countenance in going forth as in coming in? This was the secret of Socrates: yet he never said that he knew or taught anything…”

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

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“When soldiers become farmers, wealth naturally distributes and equalizes.”

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

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“Don’t transfer the cow’s load to the ox.”

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

Themes: Perseverance

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“Patch-robed monks roam the world constantly emptying and expanding their minds without the slightest remnant held inside… Do no leave any traces and inside and outside will merge into one totality as leisurely as the sky clearing of rainclouds”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺
(Shōgaku)
1091 – 1157 CE

Themes: No Trace

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“Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given.”

Francis of Assisi
1181 – 1226 CE

Themes: Compassion

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“A new prince, like David should exalt the humble and depress the great, ‘filling the hungry with good things, and sending the rich empty away.’”

Machiavelli
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
1469 – 1527 CE
from Discourses

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“The Way of Heaven is to give but not to take The Way of Humankind is to take but not to give.”

Deqing
(Te-Ch’ing)
1546 – 1623 CE

Themes: Compassion Greed

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“Reticence is the seal of capacity… You must pay ransom to each you tell… What must be done need not be said, what must be said need not be done.”

Balthasar Gracian
1601 – 1658 CE

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“Think of the profit of all as being the real profit and the mind of the whole country as being the real mind.”

Kāngxī 康熙帝
1654 – 1722 CE
from Emperor of China, Self-Portrait of K'ang-hsi

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“The objections and reluctances I met with in soliciting the subscriptions, made me soon feel the impropriety of presenting one’s self as the proposer of any useful project.. I therefore put myself as much as I could out of sight and stated it as a scheme of ‘a number of friends.’”

Benjamin Franklin
1706 – 1790 CE
from Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Themes: Anonymity

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“Excessive sorrow laughs. Excessive joy weeps.”

William Blake
1757 – 1827 CE

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“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803 – 1882 CE

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“You could construe abandoning all hope of results as being to your welfare. For example fame, renown, comfort, and happiness in this life, later happiness among gods or men, even the desire to achieve the transcendence of misery itself.”

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས།
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
1813 – 1899 CE
from Torch of Certainty

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“Slavery has existed in all nations since the beginning of the world. All that modern nations have achieved is to disguise slavery at home and import it.”

Karl Marx
1818 – 1883 CE

Themes: Slavery

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“I do not wish any reward but to know I have done the right thing.”

Mark Twain
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
1835 – 1910 CE

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“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

Robert Louis Stevenson
1850 – 1894 CE

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“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Winston Churchill
1874 – 1965 CE

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“If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid my angels will take flight as well.”

Rainer Maria Rilke
1875 – 1926 CE
Profound singer of universal music

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“Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”

Reinhold Niebuhr
1892 – 1971 CE

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“If I could put it into a very few words, I should say that our prevalent belief is in moderation. We inculcate the virtue of avoiding excesses of all kinds—even including, if you will pardon the paradox, excess of virtue itself.”

James Hilton
1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

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“The neglect, indeed the rejection, of wisdom has gone so far that most of our intellectuals have not even the faintest idea what the term could mean. As a result, they always tend to try and cure a disease by intensifying its causes. The disease having been caused by allowing cleverness to displace wisdom, no amount of clever research is likely to produce a cure.”

E. F. Schumacher
1911 – 1977 CE

Themes: Karma Wisdom

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“Not only the Chinese, but the ancient Greeks and Hindus, the Finns, the Pawnee, and the Arapaho all likened the moon to a bow. Thus the Way of Heaven is like a bow.”

Du Erwei
1913 – 1987 CE
Modern Chinese scholar

Themes: Moon Hinduism

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“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso
1935 CE –

Themes: Compassion Love

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“The most important point is that when you take, you take the worst; and when you give, you give the best… So don’t take any credit – unless you have been blamed.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Lojong III

Themes: Golden Rule

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