Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Chapter 80
A Golden Age

Imagine a small country without many people.
They have advanced technology
But they aren’t mesmerized by their tools,
Hypnotized by their computers,
Enslaved by their inventions.

Mindful of death and appreciating where they are,
They have no need for long journeys.
They have good transportation systems
But no place people would rather be.
They have defensive weapons
But don’t have to display or use them.
They keep things simple
And are happy with the way things are.

They savor their food,
Enjoy wearing their clothes,
Cherish their homes,
And delight in their customs.
The next country could be close enough
To hear their dogs barking,
Their roosters crowing
But people could get old and die
Without ever making a visit.

Commentary

“He that is discontented in one place will seldom be happy in another.”

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

Themes: Travel

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“where there are machines, there are bound to be machine worries; where there are machine worries, there are bound to be machine hearts. With a machine heart in your breast, you've spoiled what was pure and simple”

Chuang Tzu 莊周
(Zhuangzi)
369 – 286 BCE

Themes: Technology

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“When sages govern great states, they think of them as small states and are frugal in the use of resources. When the people are many, sages think of them as few and are careful not to exhaust them.”

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

Themes: Shambhala

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“They change their sky, not their soul, who rush across the sea.”

Horace
65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Travel Change

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“God’s Realm won’t come just because you’re watching for it, and neither can people say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘There it is’, because God’s Realm is actually within you!”

Jesus
3 BCE – 30 CE

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“Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water.”

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

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“They are satisfied with their food because they taste the Tao. They are pleased with their clothing because they are adorned with virtue. They are content with their homes because they are content wherever they are.”

Chéng Xuanying 成玄英
(Ch'eng Hsuan-ying)
631 – 655 CE

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“The wise create enlightened vision with modesty and grace.”

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

Themes: Skillful Means

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“Even with the strength of a large state, it is necessary to always make oneself humbly insignificant.”

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

Themes: Humility

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“The natural endowment of all beings is complete in itself. Poverty does not reduce it. Wealth does not enlarge it. But fools abandon this treasure to chase trash.”

Wang Pang via Red Pine
1044 – 1076 CE
from Lao-tzu-chu

Themes: Wealth Poverty

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“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world—everything is hidden in you.”

Hildegard of Bingen
1098 – 1179 CE

Themes: Basic Goodness

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“Everyday life is the way.”

Mumon Ekai 無門慧開
(Wumen Huikai)
1183 – 1260 CE
from The Gateless Gate, 無門関, 無門關

Themes: Livelihood

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“If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”

Dōgen Zenji 道元禅師
1200 – 1253 CE

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“I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty… go where you will… if you do not find your soul, the world will be unreal… Go not elsewhere.”

Kabīr कबीर
1399 – 1448 CE

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“The gods are just and of our pleasant devices make instruments to plague us.”

William Shakespeare
1564 – 1616 CE
from King Lear

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“Civilization is a hopeless race to discover remedies for the evils it produces.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
1712 – 1778 CE

Themes: Civilization

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“Getting out of danger requires that one believe it is dangerous – belief rules the mind… If there is truthfulness, then the mind develops.”

Liu Yiming 刘一明 via Thomas Cleary
(Liu I-ming)
1734 – 1821 CE
from Taoist I Ching, , Zhouyi chanzhen 周易闡真

Themes: Truth Belief

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“Tyger, tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night”

William Blake
1757 – 1827 CE

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“Our life is no dream; but it ought to become one, and perhaps will.”

Novalis
1772 – 1831 CE

Themes: Dream Shambhala

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“We dream of travels throughout the universe: is not the universe within us? We do not know the depths of our spirit.”

Novalis
1772 – 1831 CE

Themes: Travel

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“You are my creator but I am your master; Obey!”

Mary Shelley
1797 – 1851 CE
from Frankenstein

Themes: Technology

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“Men have become the tools of their tools… have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven.”

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

Themes: Technology

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“As with out colleges, so with a hundred ‘modern improvements’; there is an illusion about them. Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things.”

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

Themes: Materialism

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“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Mark Twain
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
1835 – 1910 CE

Themes: Old Age

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“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.”

Elbert Hubbard
1856 – 1915 CE

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“Man is becoming a willing slave. He no longer needs chains. He begins to grow fond of his slavery, to be proud of it. And this is the most terrible thing that can happen to a man.”

G. I. Gurdjieff
1866 – 1949 CE

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“Men travel faster now, but I do not know if they go to better things.”

Willa Cather
1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

Themes: Travel

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“All of the great empires of the future will be empires of the mind.”

Winston Churchill
1874 – 1965 CE

Themes: Shambhala

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“The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce variety and uncompromising divergences of men…In a large community, we can choose our companions. In a small community, our companions are chosen for us.”

G. K. Chesterton
1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Shambhala

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“it is the tremendous experiment of becoming conscious, which nature has imposed on mankind, uniting the most diverse cultures in a common task.”

Carl Jung
1875 – 1961 CE

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“A new step in the genesis of mind… A new domain of psychical expansion… waiting for us beyond the line where empires are set up against other empires, in an interior totalisation of the world upon itself… a spirit of the earth.”

Teilhard de Chardin via Bernard Wall
1881 – 1955 CE
from Phenomenon of Man

Themes: Shambhala

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“Modern man no longer knows what to do with the time and the potentialities he has unleashed. We groan under the burden of this wealth.”

Teilhard de Chardin via Bernard Wall
1881 – 1955 CE
from Phenomenon of Man

Themes: Wealth Time

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“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”

Kahlil Gibran
1883 – 1931 CE

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“all technological advances will have to be written off as merely new means of achieving old ends... we repeatedly enlarge our instrumentalities without improving our purposes.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant
1885 – 1981 CE
from Lessons of History

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“In the end, nothing is lost. Every event, for good or evil, has effects forever.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant
1885 – 1981 CE

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“Progress in knowledge, science, comforts, and power is only progress in means; if there is no improvement in ends, purposes, or desires, progress is a delusion.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant
1885 – 1981 CE

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“In philosophy, as in politics, the longest distance between two points is a straight line.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant
1885 – 1981 CE

Themes: Philosophy

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“Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime.”

Reinhold Niebuhr
1892 – 1971 CE

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“Technology has tended to devaluate the traditional vision-inducing materials. The illumination of a city, for example, was once a rare event, reserved for victories and national holidays, for the canonization of saints and the crowning of kings. Now it occurs nightly and celebrates the virtues of gin, cigarettes and toothpaste.”

Aldous Huxley
1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Virtue Technology

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“Nobody needs to go anywhere else. We are all, if we only knew it, already there.”

Aldous Huxley
1894 – 1963 CE
from Island

Themes: Travel

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“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.”

Aldous Huxley
1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Technology

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“As long as we invent and progress in mechanical things and not in love, we shall not achieve happiness.”

Jean Giono
1895 – 1970 CE

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“How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.”

Buckminster Fuller
1895 – 1983 CE

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“Alienation as we find it in modern society is almost total… Man has created a world of man-made things as it never existed before. He has constructed a complicated social machine to administer the technical machine he built. The more powerful and gigantic the forces are which he unleashes, the more powerless he feels himself as a human being. He is owned by his creations, and has lost ownership of himself.”

Eric Fromm
1900 – 1980 CE

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“Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
1900 – 1944 CE

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“The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that man may become robots.”

Eric Fromm
1900 – 1980 CE

Themes: Slavery

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“We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”

Marshall McLuhan
1911 – 1980 CE

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“First we build the tools, then they build us.”

Marshall McLuhan
1911 – 1980 CE

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“An attitude to life which seeks fulfillment in the single-minded pursuit of wealth - in short, materialism - does not fit into this world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.”

E. F. Schumacher
1911 – 1977 CE
from Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered

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“Even today, we are generally told that gigantic organizations are inescapably necessary; but when we look closely we can notice that as soon as great size has been created there is often a strenuous attempt to attain smallness within bigness.”

E. F. Schumacher
1911 – 1977 CE
from Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered

Themes: Less is More

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“…the present consumer society is like a drug addict who, no matter how miserable he may feel, finds it extremely difficult to get off the hook.”

E. F. Schumacher
1911 – 1977 CE
from Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered

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“While you sit watching pictures on your color TV set, I stand gazing at ripples in a moonlit pond, thanking the gods for not interrupting with commercials.”

John Blofeld
1913 – 1987 CE

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“We’re used, our lives shaped and controlled, by our machines, cars, planes, weaponry, bulldozers, computers. These Taoists don’t surrender their power to their creations.”

Ursula Le Guin
1929 – 2018 CE

Themes: Technology

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“Where man goes, trees die; or, to paraphrase Tacitus, we make a desert and call it progress.”

Ursula Le Guin
1929 – 2018 CE
from Lavinia

Themes: Progress

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“We make a desert and call it progress.”

Ursula Le Guin
1929 – 2018 CE
from Lavinia

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“For no medium is excessively dangerous if its users understand what its dangers are… To ask is to break the spell.”

Neil Postman
1931 – 2003 CE
from Amusing Ourselves to Death

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“We worry about robots and AI becoming human while the real concern is people becoming robotic.”

Shan Dao 山道
1933 CE –

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“one of the characteristic diseases of the twentieth century was making its way: the suspicion that they would be greatly improved if they were somewhere else.”

Wendell Berry
1934 CE –

Themes: Here and Now

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“We end up bombarded by all kinds of alternatives, and we are never able to relate with any of them properly.”

Chögyam Trungpa
1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

Themes: Less is More

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“Gaviotas is not a community that can be replicated. What needs to be replicated is the Gaviotas way of thinking.”

Paulo Lugari via Alan Weisman
1944 CE –

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“Humans were still not only the cheapest robots around but also… self-reproducing… They showed up and worked, generation after generation; give them 3000 calories a day and a few amenities, a little time off, a strong jolt of fear, and you could work them at almost anything.”

Kim Stanley Robinson
1952 CE –
from 2312

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“Like an adult no longer interested in children’s games… you lose interest in all the trappings and beliefs that society builds up and tears down — political systems, science and technology, global economy, free society…”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche རྫོང་གསར་ འཇམ་དབྱངས་ མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་ རིན་པོ་ཆེ།
(Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche)
1961 CE –
"Activity" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from What Makes You Not a Buddhist

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Comments (1)

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  1. Shan Dao
    The situation in North Korea now is an example of McLuhan’s saying that “every new technology requires a new war.” New technology enables small, weak, and backward countries to leapfrog the steps advanced and powerful countries have taken. This can change the world order, create challenges, and sometimes the conquering of the previously more advanced nation. Examples include the stirrup invented c. 1000 BCE enabling the Xianbei “barbarians” to overrun the much more powerful China; small modern country’s ability to bypass landline phones and directly compete with the much more “advanced” Western countries; and the longbow catapulting the English over the until then dominating French.