Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Like most situations, actions, people, and objects; money isn't "good" or "bad" in itself—everything depends on context. Money is a powerful and useful symbol but a destructive deity as it has become in most places and times. One of the 4 Worldly Dharmas—along with Fame, Pleasure, and Power—money and wealth easily becomes an addictive and powerful influence over our lives and decisions. The less thoughtful make choices based on short-term over long-term results; the more strategic and aware make the more mid- and long-range choices; but still, the materialistic approach to money prevails reeking havoc in its wake. How many leaders, countries, movements, civilizations, and everyday people have crashed into corruption, ignominy, and suffering by following the siren-calls of money-seeking? Of course, we need some form of money and wealth to survive and most-often need to make some kind of Faustian compromise in order to secure it. The main choice may only be how much we’re willing to give up and with how much self-awareness we can maintain in the process. Closely linked to the Desire defined by the Buddha as the cause of Suffering, our experience of and relationship to Money and Wealth is ignored only at our great peril.

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Quotes (83)

“Some wicked men are rich, some good are poor,
We will not change our virtue for their store:
Virtue's a thing that none can take away;
But money changes owners all the day.”

Solon 638 – 558 BCE
Founder of Athenian democracy

Themes: Money Virtue

“Aren't you ashamed to care so much to make all the money you can, and to advance your reputation and prestige -while for truth and wisdom and the improvement of your soul you have no care or worry?”

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

53. Shameless Thieves

“If unjustly gained, the love of money is impious; and if justly, shameful. It is unseemly to be merely parsimonious even with justice on one's side.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
Western Buddha

Themes: Money

“When men are enlightened enough to follow their natural instincts, they will have no need of law-courts or police, will have no temples and no public worship, and use no money.”

Zeno Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς 334 – 262 BCE
(of Citium)

Themes: Wu Wei Money

70. Inscrutable

“There is no fixed road to wealth, and money has no permanent master.”

Sima Qian 司馬遷 145 – 86 BCE via Burton Watson
(Ssu-ma Ch'ien)
Father of Chinese historians

Themes: Money Wealth

“There is nothing more honorable or noble than indifference to money. There is nothing so characteristic of narrowness and littleness of soul than the love of riches.”

Cicero 106 – 43 BCE
from De Officiis, 44 BCE

Themes: Wealth Money

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Native American saying

Themes: Money Indra's Net

“a wife and dower, credit and friends, even birth and beauty, are all the gifts of Queen Money.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE
from Epistles

Themes: Money

“Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE

Themes: Money

58. Goals Without Means

“The irritations of amassing, protecting, and losing money easily become an endless anguish.”

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

Themes: Money

“Should Heaven rain pearls, the cold cannot wear them as clothes;
Should Heaven rain jade, the hungry cannot use it as food.”

Su Shi 苏轼 1037 – 1101 CE via Arbour to Joyful Rain (tr: Herbert A. Giles)
(Dongpo, Su Tungpo)
"pre-eminent personality of 11th century China"

Themes: Money Materialism

“Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend”

Omar Khayyám 1048 – 1131 CE via Edward Fitzgerald
Persian Astronomer-Poet, prophet of the here and now

from Rubaiyat

Themes: Money

“Make the most of what we yet may spend
Before we too into the dust descend”

Omar Khayyám 1048 – 1131 CE via Edward Fitzgerald
Persian Astronomer-Poet, prophet of the here and now

from Rubaiyat

Themes: Money

“Aren't you ashamed to care so much to make all the money you can, and to advance your reputation and prestige—while for truth and wisdom and the improvement of your soul you have no care or worry?”

Machig Labdrön མ་གཅིག་ལབ་སྒྲོན། 1055 – 1149 CE

“The Emperor's Mint and the way it is wrought is such that you might say the he has the Secret of Alchemy in perfection, and you would be right. For he makes his money after this fashion.”

Marco Polo 1254 – 1324 CE
Epitome of adventurous business, political, and geographical exploration

Themes: Money

“If a man has desires but cannot satisfy them, or has money but does not use it, he is exactly the same as a poor man... When it comes to this point, there is no difference between poverty and wealth.”

Yoshida Kenkō 兼好 1284 – 1350 CE via Sir George Bailey Sansom
Inspiration of self-reinvention
from Essays in Idleness

Themes: Money Poverty

“Nor can they understand why a totally useless substance like gold should now, all over the world, be considered far more important than human beings, who gave it such value as it has, purely for their own convenience.”

Thomas More 1478 – 1535 CE
from Utopia

Themes: Poverty Money

“Of great riches there is no real use, except in the distribution; the rest is but conceit... money is like muck, not good except it be spread.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE via "Of Riches"
from Of Goodness and the Goodness of Nature

Themes: Money

“Money is a great servant but a bad master.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE

44. Fame and Fortune

“Throwing your whole life away, sacrificed to the thirst for gold... But when you saw your life was through, all your money was no use”

Bankei Yōtaku 盤珪永琢 1622 – 1693 CE via Peter Haskel
Zen Master of the unborn

from Song of Original Mind

Themes: Materialism Money

“Those who know the true use of money, and regulate the measure of wealth according to their needs, live contented with few things.”

Baruch Spinoza 1632 – 1677 CE

Themes: Money Wealth

67. Three Treasures

“Don't think money does everything or you are going to end up doing everything for money.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

Themes: Economics Money

44. Fame and Fortune

“I have never seen the Philosopher’s Stone that turns lead into Gold, but I have known the pursuit of it turn a Man’s Gold into Lead.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Poor Richard's Almanack

53. Shameless Thieves

“A great stock, though with small profits, generally increases faster than a small stock with great profits. Money, says the proverb, makes money. When you have a little, it is often easier to get more. The great difficulty is to get that little.”

Adam Smith 1723 – 1790 CE
''The Father of Economic Capitalism"
from Wealth of Nations

Themes: Money

“The hand that gives is among the hand that takes. Money has no fatherland, financiers are without patriotism and without decency, their sole object is gain.”

Napoleon Bonaparte 1769 – 1821 CE

Themes: Money Capitalism

“Labor does not have to ask the patronage of capital, but capital solicits the air of labor... If you divorce capital from labor, capital is hoarded, and labor starves.”

Daniel Webster 1782 – 1852 CE
America's greatest orator
from Speech, 1824

Themes: Capitalism Money

“Money alone is absolutely good, because it is not only a concrete satisfaction of one need in particular; it is an abstract satisfaction of all.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via T. Bailey Saunders
from Aphorisms

Themes: Money

“Wealth is nowhere more at home than in the merchant class because merchants look upon money only as a means of further gain, just as a workman regards his tools so they try to preserve and increase it by using it.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via T. Bailey Saunders
from Wisdom of Life

“Gold is a living god.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE
from Notes on Queen Mab

Themes: Materialism Money

“I’d need rest to refresh my brain, and to get rest it’s necessary to travel, and to travel one must have money, and in order to get money you have to work. . . . I am in a vicious circle . . .from which it is impossible to escape.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

Themes: Money Travel

“Clever though be the many thoughts expressed by mouth or pen about the invention of money and its enormous value as a civilizer, against such praises should be set the curse to which it has always been doomed in song and legend... gold here figures as the demon strangling manhood's innocence... the goblin's game of paper money.”

Wilhelm Richard Wagner 1813 – 1883 CE
from Know Thyself (1881)​

Themes: Money

“Money has often been a cause of the delusion of multitudes. Sober nations have all at once become desperate gamblers, and risked almost their existence upon the turn of a piece of paper.”

Charles Mackay 1814 – 1889 CE
from Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Themes: Poverty Money

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”

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

Themes: Money Business

37. Nameless Simplicity

“Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man – and turns them into commodities…. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange…. The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general.”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE
from On the Jewish Question (1844)

Themes: Judaism Money

“money may be dirt but dirt is not money”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE
from Das Kapital; Capital: Critique of Political Economy

Themes: Money

“In business, the one sole object is, by any means, pecuniary gain. The magician's serpent in the fable ate up all the other serpents; and money-making is our magican's serpent, remaining today sole master... saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood, mal-administration”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula

Themes: Money Business

“What Egyptian worship of garlic or crocodile was ever so damnable as the modern worship of money?”

John Ruskin 1819 – 1900 CE
from Fors Clavigera, 1871

Themes: Money

“Time, like money, is measured by our needs.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

from Middlemarch

Themes: Money Time

“Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal—that there is no human relation between master and slave.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE
from What Is to Be Done? (1889)

Themes: Slavery Money

“Though wisdom cannot be gotten for gold, still less can it be gotten without it... gold lies at the root of wisdom”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Note-Books (1912)

Themes: Wisdom Money

“Money is the symbol of duty, it is the sacrament of having done for mankind that which mankind wanted. Mankind may not be a very good judge, but there is no better.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Erewhon

Themes: Money

“Money is a horrible thing to chase but a wonderful thing to find.”

Henry James 1843 – 1916 CE via Shan Dao

Themes: Money

“The means employed by the lust for power have changed, but the same volcano continues to glow... what one formerly did 'for the sake of God' one now does for the sake of money—that which now gives the highest feeling of power and good conscience.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

“People know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE
from Picture of Dorian Gray

Themes: Money

“The universal regard for money is the one hopeful fact in our civilization... the most important thing in our world. It represents health, strength, honor, generosity and beauty as conspicuously as the want of it represents illness, weakness, disgrace, meanness and ugliness.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Major Barbara, 1907

Themes: Money

“Instead of sympathizing with the poor and abolishing the rich, we must ruthlessly abolish the poor by raising their standard of life... Lack of money is the root of all evil... What is the matter with the poor is Poverty: what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism

Themes: Money Poverty

“A man is a failure who goes through life earning nothing but money.”

Charles Beard 1874 – 1948 CE
Pioneering progressive historian

Themes: Money Failure

“Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident… they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

46. Enough

“Money only appeals to selfishness and irresistibly invites abuse. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

53. Shameless Thieves

“I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

Themes: Education Money

“The importance of money flows from it being a link between the present and the future.”

John Maynard Keynes 1883 – 1946 CE
Revolutionary economist credited with saving capitalism

Themes: Money

“The most pitiful among men is he who turns his dreams into silver and gold.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Money

44. Fame and Fortune

“To walk in money through the night crowd, protected by money, lulled by money, dulled by money, the crowd itself a money, the breath money, no least single object anywhere that is not money, money, money everywhere and still not enough, and then no money or a little money or less money or more money, but money, always money, and if you have money or you don't have money it is the money that counts and money makes money, but what makes money make money?”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE
from Tropic of Capricorn (1939)

Themes: Money

“Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence—those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. If war, waste, and moneylenders were abolished, you'd collapse. And while you people are over consuming the rest of the world sinks more and more deeply into chronic disaster.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Island

58. Goals Without Means

“The idea that to make a man work you've got to hold gold in front of his eyes is a growth, not an axiom. We’ve done that for so long that we've forgotten there’s any other way.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940 CE
Prototype of "Jazz Age" exuberance
from This Side of Paradise (1920)

“Her voice was full of money... that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it... the king's daughter, the golden girl”

F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940 CE
Prototype of "Jazz Age" exuberance
from Great Gatsby

Themes: Money

“You can't measure time by days, the way you measure money by dollars and cents, because dollars are all the same while every day is different and maybe every hour as well.”

Jorge Luis Borges 1899 – 1986 CE
Literary Explorer of Labyrinthian Dreams, Mirrors, and Mythologies

Themes: Money

“Without money, you can't be straightforward in your dealings with women. For without money, you can't pick and choose, you've got to take what women you can get; and then, necessarily, you've got to break free of them. Constancy, like all other virtues, has got to be paid for in money... Marriage is only a trap set for you by the money-god. You grab the bait; snap goes the trap; and there you are, chained by the leg to some 'good' job... And what a life! Licit sexual intercourse in the shade of the aspidistra. Pram-pushing and sneaky adulteries. And the wife finding you out and breaking the cut-glass whisky decanter over your head.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence
from Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)

Themes: Money Marriage

“To try to extinguish the drive for riches with money is like trying to quench a fire by pouring butter over it.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE
from World's Religions

Themes: Greed Money

“The point is we both know life and understand death—and both believe treatment in hell and everywhere else depends on money.”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from Shōgun, 1975

Themes: Money

“Money is emptiness, money is not different from emptiness, neither is emptiness different from money, indeed, emptiness is money.”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE
from Some of the Dharma

Themes: Money

“Money changes all the iron rules into rubber bands.”

Ryszard Kapuściński 1932 – 2007 CE
“One of the most credible journalists the world has ever seen"

“'Selling our souls to the devil' is just a dramatic way of saying 'trading our time for money.'”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

Themes: Money Economics

53. Shameless Thieves

“What could be more superstitious than the idea that money brings forth food?”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

Themes: Money

46. Enough

“Man sacrifices his health in order to make money Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

44. Fame and Fortune

“Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”

George Carlin 1937 – 2008 CE
One of the most influential social commentators of his time

72. Helpful Fear

“If we are passionate, if we are in love or in a lustful state, we begin to feel that there is an enormous amount of glue sprayed all over the world… We want to be stuck to things, to objects, wealth, money, friends… so we begin to spray this crude glue all over the place. We are asking to be stuck.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

Themes: Desire Wealth Money

44. Fame and Fortune

“Let me ask you one question,
Is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness?
Do you think that it could?
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

53. Shameless Thieves

“Money doesn't talk, it swears.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

46. Enough

“Out of college, money spent, see no future, pay no rent...”

Paul McCartney 1942 CE –
(Sir James Paul McCartney)
from You Never Give Me Your Money

Themes: Education Money

“I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love.”

Paul McCartney 1942 CE – via Hard Days Night
(Sir James Paul McCartney)

Themes: Love Money

“Money can't buy life.”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE via final words to his son Ziggy

“The magic touch, that special spark needed to create a successful business... spend your money for the things that money can buy, don't worry about profit or loss, and save your energy for the things that money can't buy.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Jay Rubin, Shan Dao
from Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Themes: Money Business

“The best thing you can buy with money is freedom, time. I don't know how much I earn a year. I have no idea.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –

Themes: Freedom Money Time

“Out of college, money spent
See no future, pay no rent
All the money's gone...
Nowhere to go, nowhere to go.”

Beatles 1960 – 1970 CE via Paul McCartney
from Abbey Road

Themes: Money Poverty

“Money, the most influential god in America—untouchable asshole but his stock never falls.”

Neil Gaiman 1960 CE –
Myth-transmitting creative maelstrom
from American Gods

Themes: Money Materialism

“Success isn't about how much money you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives”

Michelle Obama 1964 CE –

Themes: Money Success

“Men invented money. Women invented mutual aid.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Bone Clocks

44. Fame and Fortune

“The lie that happiness is about borrowing money you haven’t got to buy crap you don’t need”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Bone Clocks

53. Shameless Thieves

“Money is an abstraction of tangible resources or human effort... an abstraction, it has no 'real' value to our primitive brains.”

Simon Sinek 1973 CE –
from Leaders Eat Last

Themes: Money

“the dollar bill is universally venerated across all political and religious divides. though it has no intrinsic value, trust in the dollar is so firm that it is shared even by Islamic fundamentalists, Mexican drug lords, and North Korean tyrants.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Themes: Money

“Money is the most universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Sapiens

Themes: Money

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