Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Most would not even begin to question the goodness of winning and would consider any suggestion to the contrary as crazy and absurd. And yet, the greatest sages of all history do just that. The Buddha is quoted saying, “Victory breeds hatred” and Lao Tzu, “Less fame, less fighting.” Even political leaders like Napoleon saw through the myth of victory and realized that “It is only a small step from victory to disaster.” The absurdity begins to dissolve when we look a little deeper into our desire for victory and what we really want. Many psychologists and philosophers agree that the main human motivation is for approval and respect. And although we assume that being victorious brings these to us, the opposite is most often the case and victory only brings disillusionment, resentment, jealousy, and even hatred. For example, John Lennon being murdered, so many rock and movie stars dying from drug overdoses, charismatic political leaders being assassinated. Our educational, sports, and business systems praise and reward so highly the very few most successful making a tiny percentage glad while embittering the majority. So often our quests for approval collapse into animosity. The idea of victory needs to fall apart and transform from a personal, egocentric quest into a vision of success for a larger hole, our families, countries, for the world as a whole.

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Quotes (75)

“'Tis man's to fight, but Heaven's to give victory.”

Homer 1
Primogenitor of Western culture
from Iliad

Themes: Victory

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.”

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

Themes: Victory

“Victory breeds hatred. The defeated live in pain. Happily the peaceful live giving up victory and defeat.”

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

8. Like Water

“Like stones thrown on eggs... Victory is gained by surprise.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE via Thomas Cleary
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist
from Art of War 孙子兵法

Themes: Victory

“Defend and one has a surplus. Attack and one is insufficient…Taking whole is victory over aggression… It preserves the possibilities. Victory is ongoing, a way of being rather than a final goal.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist

31. Victory Funeral

“Trust in self interest, spread one’s awesomeness over the enemy... Victory can be known. It cannot be made… And so the superior military cuts down strategy. Its inferior cuts down alliances. Its inferior cuts down the military. The worst attacks walled cities.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE via Denma Translation Group
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist
from Art of War 孙子兵法

Themes: Victory Strategy

54. Planting Well
28. Turning Back

“the daughters of the Sun, hasting to convey me into the light, threw back their veils”

Parmenides 540 – 450 BCE
Grandfather of Western philosophy
from On Nature

Themes: Victory

“The days that are still to come are the wisest witnesses.”

Pindar Πίνδαρος 522 – 443 BCE
Archetype of poetry

Themes: Victory

“Success for the striver washes away the effort of striving.”

Pindar Πίνδαρος 522 – 443 BCE
Archetype of poetry

Themes: Success Victory

“You win the victory when you yield to friends.”

Sophocles Σοφοκλῆς 497 – 405 BCE
“The Wise and Honored One”
from Ajax, 409 BCE​

Themes: Victory

“Greedy for sights you should not see, impatient for deeds you should not do... he who best enjoys each passing day is truly blessed.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE via Philip Vellacott
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Bacchae Βάκχαι

“Dead men have no victory.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Phoenician Women

Themes: Victory

“The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself; to be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE

Themes: Victory

“I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης 382 – 322 BCE

“When an archer is shooting for nothing, he has all his skill… But the prize divides him… He thinks more of winning than of shooting – the need to win drains him of power.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

44. Fame and Fortune

“You can win over a greedy person by offering money, a proud person by cowering, a foolish one by agreeing with him; but you can only win over the wise with truth.”

Chandragupta Maurya 340 – 297 BCE via Shan Dao
Ashoka’s grandfather, founder of the Maurya Empire

Themes: Truth Victory

“Man conquers the world by conquering himself.”

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

Themes: Victory

“The greatest of all victories is the victory of righteousness.”

Ashoka 304 – 232 BCE
One of the world's most enlightened leaders

Themes: Victory Integrity

“The path of perennial victory is weakness. The path of perennial defeat is strength. These two are easy to recognize, but people remain oblivious to them.”

Lie Yukou 列圄寇/列禦寇/列子 1
(Liè Yǔkòu, Liezi)
from Liezi "True Classic of Simplicity and Perfect Emptiness”

Themes: Victory

76. The Soft and Flexible

“Fortune makes a fool of those she favors too much.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Success Victory

44. Fame and Fortune

“By yielding you may obtain victory.”

Ovid oʊvɪd 43 BCE – 18 CE
(Publius Ovidius Naso)
Great poet and major influence on the Renaissance, Humanism, and world literature

“First, do not lose the view in action... at the same time one should not lose one's actions in the view.”

Padmasambhava པདྨཱ་ཀ་ར། 1 via HH Dujom Rinpoche
("The Lotus-Born", Guru Rinpoche)

Themes: Victory

“It isn’t hard for an army to achieve victory. But it is hard to hold on to victory. There is no great army that has not brought on its own defeat through its victories.”

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

Themes: Victory

76. The Soft and Flexible

“Only those who refuse to trade themselves for something external are fit to receive the kingdom.”

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

Themes: Success Victory

“to the prizes of victory in war I preferred the battle of minds in disputation.”

Peter Abelard Pierre Abélard 1079 – 1142 CE
from Dialogue Between a Philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian

Themes: War Victory

“dispassion means to rest, and rest is the root of victory… passion means to act, and action is the basis of defeat.”

Li Xizhai 1 via Red Pine
(Li Hsi-Chai)
from Tao-te-chen-ching yi-chieh

Themes: Victory

31. Victory Funeral

“By making ourselves lower than others we can use their wisdom and power as our own. Thus we can win without taking up arms, without getting angry, and without making enemies.”

Wu Cheng 吴澄 1249 – 1333 CE via Red Pine
"Mr. Grass Hut"
from Tao-te-chen-ching-chu

“If you imagine that once you have accomplished your ambitions you will have time to turn to the Way, you will discover that your ambitions never come to an end.”

Yoshida Kenkō 兼好 1284 – 1350 CE via Donald Keene
Inspiration of self-reinvention
from Harvest of Leisure

Themes: Victory

“To experience constant success, it's necessary to change habits and attitudes, to recreate yourself according to the changing times.”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE via Shan Dao
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from The Prince

“There are some defeats more triumphant than victories.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE
Grandfather of the Enlightenment
from Essays, French Essais

Themes: Victory

“A worthy and heroic death is better than worthless and despicable triumph”

Giordano Bruno 1548 – 1600 CE

“All victories breed hate, and that over your superior is foolish or fatal. Preeminence is always detested”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Victory

8. Like Water

“Our debates were… to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth without… desire of victory… all expressions of positiveness in opinions or direct contradiction were prohibited.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Themes: Opinion Victory

21. Following Empty Heart

“What you have inherited from your forefathers, you must first win for yourself if you are to possess it.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE via R.J. Hollingdale

“It is only a small step from victory to disaster.”

Napoleon Bonaparte 1769 – 1821 CE

Themes: Victory

“He who surpasses or subdues mankind,
Must look down on the hate of those below.”

Lord Byron 1788 – 1824 CE
(George Gordon Byron)
The first rock-star style celebrity
from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1808-1817)

Themes: Victory Hate

“If there be no enemy there's no fight. If no fight, no victory and if no victory there is no crown.”

Thomas Carlyle 1795 – 1881 CE
"Great Man” theory of history creator

“The god of Victory is said to be one handed, but Peace gives victory to both sides.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

Themes: Victory

“What is success? To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

Themes: Strategy Victory

“Out of every fruition of success, no matter what, comes forth something to make a new effort necessary.”

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

“When our hearts grow soft with infinite, universal, unquenchable love and we realize that each one of us is responsible for all of mankind and for every individual person, we will have the power to win over the whole world.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE via Constance Garnett, Shan Dao
from Brothers Karamatzov

Themes: Victory Power Love

“When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory — must follow it, cannot help but follow it.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

Themes: Karma Victory

8. Like Water

“If this be the whole fruit of victory— that a race of creatures of such unexampled insipidity should succeed, and protract... their contented and inoffensive lives— better to lose rather than win the battle.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from Pragmatism (1907)

“the aggressor is overcome by the poison of his pride; victory is only another name for defeat; but the Spirit of Gentleness and Truth is eternal.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE
from A Thousand and One Epigrams

“A victory meant the glory of a lifetime. the soul-stirring excitement together with the extreme beauty of the spectacle would seem to give a theme fitted to the heart's desire of a poet. But... the perfect expression of anything means that that thing has reached its culmination and is on the point of declining.”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE
from The Greek Way

Themes: Ambition Victory

“The road to success is always under construction”

J. D. (Jake) Sandefer 1868 – 1940 CE

Themes: Success Victory

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“If we take care of the means, we are bound to reach the end sooner or later. When once we have grasped this point, final victory is beyond question.”

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 CE

“The problems of victory are more agreeable than the problems of defeat, but they are no less difficult.”

Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 CE

Themes: Victory

“as in all metaphysical questions, both are true; Life is—or has—meaning and meaninglessness. I cherish the anxious hope that meaning will preponderate and win the battle.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE via Richard and Clara Winston
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

“When the heart believes and loves, nothing chimerical exists; nothing exists but courage, trust, and fruitful action.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

“We seek victory—not over any nation or people—but over ignorance, poverty, disease, and human degradation wherever they may be found.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower 1890 – 1969 CE
from State of the Union (1959)

“History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them.”

B.R. Ambedkar 1891 – 1956 CE

“The struggle can be won only by acceptance of both the forces of light and darkness in their full significance: as the creative and the receptive, the male and the female, the strong and the soft.”

Anagarika​ (Lama) Govinda 1898 – 1985 CE
(Ernst Hoffmann)
Pioneer of Tibetan Buddhism to the West

from Inner Structure of the I Ching

Themes: Victory Conflict

“We know that there is no defense against the most destructive of modern weapons. Both the victor and the defeated will lose the next war. All the factors that formerly protected this country—geographical isolation, industrial strength, and military power—are now obsolete.”

Robert Hutchins 1899 – 1977 CE
(Robert Maynard Hutchins)
from The Great Conversation

Themes: War Victory

“On the plains of hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions who at the dawn of victory lay down to rest, and in resting died.”

Adlai Stevenson 1900 – 1965 CE

Themes: Victory

“Despite the success cult, men are most deeply moved not by the reaching of the goal but by the grandness of the effort involved in getting there - or failing to get there.”

Max Lerner 1902 – 1992 CE
(Maxwell Alan)

  • It is wrong to think that belief in freedom always leads to victory; we must always be prepared for it to lead to defeat. If we choose freedom, then we must be prepared to perish along with it.

Karl Popper 1902 – 1994 CE via Patrick Camiller
Major Philosopher of Science
from On Freedom (1958)

Themes: Victory Failure

“One may conquer millions in battle, but he who conquers himself—only one—is the greatest of conquerors.”

Walpola Rahula Thero 1907 – 1997 CE
“Supreme Master of Buddhist Scriptures”

from What the Buddha Taught, 1959

“There is no one so great as the one who does not try to accomplish anything more”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE via Larry Korn
from One Straw Revolution

Themes: Success Victory

9. Know When to Stop

“To win his two dozen victories, Sophocles had to be wondrously fertile and able to produce on demand. A man of wealth, noted for his elegant style of life, he was a model of the Athenian public man of letters… He served as a treasurer for tribute money, was elected one of Athen’s ten generals, mounted many expeditions, and—at the age of 83—served on a commission to reorganize the government.”

Daniel J. Boorstin 1914 – 2004 CE
American intellectual Paul Revere
from Creators--Heroes of the Imagniation

Themes: Victory

“Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”

John Kennedy 1917 – 1963 CE
Modern America's most popular president

Themes: Victory Failure

“Because you flow like water, you can neither win nor lose.”

Timothy Leary 1920 – 1996 CE
Pioneering psychonaut, performing philosopher, and counter-cultural hero
from Tao Te Ching – Psychedelic Prayers

Themes: Water Victory

8. Like Water

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014 CE

“low and high, winning and losing, destruction and self-destruction, reverse themselves, each turning into its seeming opposite.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

Themes: Victory One Taste

42. Children of the Way

“love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.”

Leonard Cohen 1934 – 2016 CE
from Hallelujah

Themes: Victory

“It helps to remember that our spiritual practice is not about accomplishing anything—not about winning or losing—but about ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is.”

Pema Chödrön 1936 CE –
(Deirdre Blomfield-Brown)
First American Vajrayana nun

66. Go Low

“Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime, life outside goes on
All around you”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –
from Bringing it all Back Home

Themes: Deception Victory

“I know that talk is cheap. But the heat of the battle is as sweet as the victory.”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE

Themes: Victory

“It is better to win the peace and to lose the war.”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE

Themes: War Victory Peace

30. No War

“Chinese leaders used 5 strategies to win over ‘barbarians’ into the ‘true civilization:’ luxurious clothes to corrupt their eyes, delicious food to corrupt their mouths, beautiful women and music to corrupt their ears; massive buildings, slaves, and granaries to corrupt their appetites; and finally, wine and feasts to corrupt the minds of their leaders.”

Jack Weatherford 1945 CE –
from Secret History of the Mongol Queens

“The day you stop racing, is the day you win the race.”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE

47. Effortless Success

“There is no biological incentive to do nothing… it feels good to put in a lot of effort to accomplish something.”

Simon Sinek 1973 CE –
from Leaders Eat Last

Themes: Victory

“If we wake up to this reality, we can actively direct what comes next, and not just passively accept false conclusions of what feels inevitable.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from In Love With the World

“One who desires victory over others perpetuates a cycle of resistance and violence that only decrease one’s likelihood of survival.”

Yi-Ping Ong 1978 CE –
from Tao Te Ching - Introduction and Notes

69. No Enemy

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