Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 78
Water

Water seems so soft, weak, yielding
Yet easily overcomes the hard and strong.
It has no equal.
The soft overcomes the hard,
The weak overcomes the strong.
This is easy to understand
But rarely put into practice.

And so the wise teach:
Only leaders who take responsibility
For people’s disgrace;
Only leaders who take on people’s misfortunes
Are worthy of leadership.
The truest words always sound wrong.

Commentary

“Water reaches its goal by flowing continuously. It fills up every depression before it flows on… So likewise in teaching others everything depends on consistency, for it is only through repetition that the pupil makes the material his own.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 29
c. 2852–2737 BCE
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

Themes: Water Education

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“If I commit an offense, it has nothing to do with my people. If my people commit an offense, the offense rests with me.”

Emperor Shun 帝舜
(Dìshùn)
2294 – 2184 BCE
The highest model of a good ruler

Themes: Crime

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“If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for ten years plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years educate children.”

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

Themes: Education

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“I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”

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

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“I am a citizen of the world.”

Diogenes
(of Sinope)
412 – 323 BCE

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“Everyone wants to be first, while I alone want to be last, which means to endure the world’s disgrace.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周
(Zhuangzi)
369 – 286 BCE

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“Rulership was set up because the strong oppressed the weak, the many did violence to the few, the cunning fooled the simple, the bold attacked the timid, people kept knowledge to themselves and did not teach, people accumulated wealth and did not share it. So the institution of rulership was set up to equalize and unify them.”

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

Themes: Government

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“Though the bamboo forest is dense, water flows through it freely.”

Jianzhi Sengcan 鑑智僧璨
(Jiànzhì Sēngcàn)
529 – 606 CE

Themes: Water

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“The nature of water is to stay low, to not struggle, and to take on the shape of its container. Thus nothing is weaker. Yet despite such weakness it can bore through rocks. Rocks, however, cannot wear down water.”

Xuanzong 武隆基
(Hsuan-Tsung or Wu Longji)
685 – 756 CE

Themes: Competition Water

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“Since water can bore through rock and float metal, there is nothing it does not conquer.”

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

Themes: Water

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“Be praised my Lord through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.”

Francis of Assisi via Stephen Mitchell
1181 – 1226 CE
from Canticle of the Sun

Themes: Water

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“I would rather be a man of paradoxes than a man of prejudices.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
1712 – 1778 CE

Themes: Paradox

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“When nations grow old the Arts grow cold; And commerce settles on every tree.”

William Blake
1757 – 1827 CE

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“Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”

Arthur Schopenhauer
1788 – 1860 CE
from Parerga and Paralipomena, "Appendices" and "Omissions"

Themes: Nationalism

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“The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.”

John Stuart Mill
1806 – 1873 CE

Themes: Civilization

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“He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary.”

Friedrich Nietzsche
1844 – 1900 CE

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“Suffering — how divine it is, how misunderstood! We owe to it all that is good in us, all that gives value to life; we owe to it pity, we owe to it courage, we owe to it all the virtues.”

Anatole France
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)
1844 – 1924 CE
from The Garden of Epicurus

Themes: Virtue

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“I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity.”

Rabindranath Tagore
1861 – 1941 CE

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“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

W.B. (William Butler) Yeats
1865 – 1939 CE

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“We do not need to get good laws to restrain bad people. We need to get good people to restrain us from bad laws.”

G. K. Chesterton
1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Law and Order

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“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”

Albert Einstein
1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Nationalism

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“We have reached a point today where labor-saving devices are good only when they do not throw the worker out of his job.”

Eleanor Roosevelt
1884 – 1962 CE

Themes: Livelihood

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“Every experience is a paradox in that it means to be absolute, and yet is relative; in that it somehow always goes beyond itself and yet never escapes itself. ”

T.S. Eliot
1888 – 1965 CE

Themes: Paradox

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“Everybody strains after happiness, and the result is that nobody's happy.”

Aldous Huxley
1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Karma Happiness

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“If you think in terms of people divided up into countries, you won't follow me. The idea of countries is going by the boards. Young people are getting wonderfully uprooted and they're too strong to get sucked into this 'country' crap.”

Buckminster Fuller
1895 – 1983 CE

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“Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. 'Patriotism' is its cult... Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one's country which is not part of one's love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.”

Eric Fromm
1900 – 1980 CE

Themes: Nationalism Love

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“If it’s not a paradox, it’s not the truth.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
1904 – 1971 CE

Themes: Paradox

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“No one is really working for peace unless he is working primarily for the restoration of wisdom… From an economic point of view, the central concept of wisdom is permanence. We must study an economics of permanence.”

E. F. Schumacher
1911 – 1977 CE

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“It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.”

Arthur C. Clarke
1917 – 2008 CE
from The Exploration of Space

Themes: Nationalism

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“Our mind is like a clear glass of water. If we put salt into water, it becomes salt water; sugar, it becomes sugar water, shit, it becomes shit water. But originally the water is clear.”

Seungsahn 숭산행원대선사
(Soen Sa Nim)
1927 – 2004 CE

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“The Buddhist idea of a politician is not so much one of a con man or of a businessman who wins favor with everybody, but someone who simply does what is necessary… having a sense of responsibility to society.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from A Buddhist Approach to Politics

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“Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do…
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...”

John Lennon
1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Greed

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“Whenever we cling to a particular side of reality, it’s we who are the monkeys, losing ourselves in outrage or partial delight… when the mind is clear, each is an occasion for rejoicing.”

Stephen Mitchell
1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

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