Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Erik Lam


Quotes (84)

“Danger arises when a man feels secure in his positon. Destruction threatens when a man seeks to preserve his worldly estate. Confusion develops when a man has put everything in order.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 1 via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 12
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

Themes: Confusion Wealth

50. Claws and Swords

“Words that become names are only concepts, not real things.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Shan Dao, chapter #1
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“There is nothing more foolish, nothing more given to outrage than a useless mob.”

Herodotus Ἡρόδοτος 1
“The Father of History”
from Histories

“they confuse what is habitual with what is proper, and what is customary with what is right.”

Mozi 墨子 470 – 391 BCE via Burton Watson
Chinese personification of Newton, da Vinci, and Jesus
from Moderation

“Whenever you deliberate on the business of the state, you distrust and dislike men of superior intelligence and cultivate instead the most depraved of the orators who come before you; you prefer those who are witless to those who are wise, those who dole out the public money to those who perform public services at their own expense.”

Isocrates Ἰσοκράτης 436 – 338 BCE
from Areopagiticus

“It is the nature of things to be unequal… If you rank them equally you throw the world into confusion. Suppose shoes, large and small, were the same price—who would make large ones?”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner
from Book of Mencius 孟子

“He who knows he is a fool is not the biggest fool; He who knows he is confused is not in the worst confusion.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

“When the knowledge of bows and arrows arose, the birds above were troubled… When the knowledge of argument and disputation multiplied, the people were confused.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

Themes: Confusion

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Each denying what the other affirms and affirming what the other denies brings us only confusion.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Lin Yutang

“Anyone who isn't confused here doesn't really understand what's going on.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

Themes: Confusion

* Trust not too much to that enchanting face;
Beauty's a charm, but soon the charm will pass.

Virgil 70 – 19 BCE
(Publius Vergilius Maro)
from ​Eclogues (37 BCE)

Themes: Beauty Confusion

“Does the outer world distract you with disturbing thoughts? Do fear and longing sap your strength?”

Marpa Lotsawa 1012 – 1097 CE

Themes: Confusion

“The good looks of that reckless maiden
May be pleasant to look at,
But if you get together with her, it will be a den of corruption.”

Gesar of Ling གེ་སར་རྒྱལ་པོ། 1 via Robin Kornman
from Gesar of Ling Epic

Themes: Confusion

“Grant your blessing so that confusion may dawn as wisdom.”

Gampopa སྒམ་པོ་པ། 1079 – 1153 CE via Herbert Guenther
(Sönam Rinchen, Dakpo Rinpoche)
from Jewel Ornament of Liberation

Themes: Wisdom Confusion

32. Uncontrived Awareness

“Wisdom illuminates the darkness without confusion... Follow the current and paddle along, naturally unobstructed”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE
from Cultivating the Emplty Field

Themes: Confusion

“Ordinary people are sunk in sound, color, wealth, and power—their true mind and pure nature become obscured.”

Lù Jiǔyuān 陸九淵 1139 – 1192 CE via Chan, Shan Dao
(Lu Xiangshan)

“God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites so that you will have two wings to fly, not one.”

Rumi مولانا جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی 1207 – 1283 CE
(Rumi Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī)

“Labeling takes place in confusion, for what is nonexistent is taken to exist... Since there never has been confusion, is no confusion, and never will be confusion, conditioned existence is merely a label.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Richard Barron
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from The Basic Space of Phenomena

Themes: Confusion

“One of the great secrets of the day is to know how to take possession of popular prejudices and passions, in such a way as to introduce a confusion of principles”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from The Prince

Themes: Confusion

“You taught me language; and my profit on't is, I know how to curse.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from The Tempest

“One of the worst mistakes we can make is taking too much to heart, being anxious about and focusing on what doesn't concern us while neglecting what's important.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, Shan Dao chapter #192
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Confusion

“By looking into the essence of whatever occurs, it becomes simply the empty forms of your mind’s confusion.”

Karma Chagme Rinpoche I ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་རཱ་ག་ཨ་སྱས། 1613 – 1678 CE via Erik Pema Kunsang
from Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen

Themes: Confusion

16. Returning to the Root, Meditation

“There is in the universe no chaos, no confusion save in appearance.”

Leibniz 1646 – 1716 CE
(Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz)

“Wine and sex distract from reality, the lure of wealth deranges our nature, emotions and desires arise in a tangle and we become lost in confusion.”

Liu Yiming 刘一明 1734 – 1821 CE via Thomas Cleary, Shan Dao, #43 Parting
(Liu I-ming)
from Taoist I Ching, , Zhouyi chanzhen 周易闡真

“If there is confusion in your head and in your heart, what more do you want! A man who no longer loves and no longer errs should have himself buried straight away.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Confusion

43. No Effort, No Trace

“Luminosity is the nature of one's mind that aeons of confusion cannot darken.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། 1781 – 1851 CE via Erik Pema Kunsang
from Flight of the Garuda

32. Uncontrived Awareness

“Hope is the confusion of the desire for a thing with its probability.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Hope Confusion

13. Honor and Disgrace

“To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact.”

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 CE

Themes: Confusion

“we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them”

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

from Middlemarch

“In the confusion we stay with each other, happy to be together, speaking without uttering a single word.”

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

Themes: Confusion

“There is no greater fallacy on earth than the doctrine of force”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula
from To the States

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE

Themes: Confusion

“men measure by false standards—the everyone seeks power, success, riches for himself and admires others who attain them—while undervaluing the truly precious things in life”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from Civilization and It's Discontents (1930)

“The claims our civilization makes that life is too hard for the grater part of humanity furthers aversion to reality and becomes the origin of neurosis.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE via Shan Dao
from New Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis (1933)

“It is a common mistake to avoid imaginary, and ignore the real dangers”

Nikola Tesla Никола Тесла 1856 – 1943 CE

“When the mind withdraws into itself and dispenses with facts it makes only chaos.”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE

“Harriet there, serious-minded, thinking I was being befooled, and the agent thinking he was befooling me, and I, thinking I was befooling both of them—and all of us wrong. It was very like life wherever you find it.”

David Grayson 1870 – 1946 CE
(Ray Stannard Baker)
One of the most insightful journalists, historians, and biographers of his time

from David Grayson Omnibus

Themes: Confusion

“Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Confusion Time

“To each one of us, clear ideas are those which have the same degree of confusion as our own.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE via Justin O'Brien
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from Maxims of Marcel Proust

Themes: Confusion

“Weren’t you always distracted by expectation, as if every event announced a beloved?”

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

Themes: Confusion

“If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

Themes: Confusion

41. Distilled Life

“Eventually all things fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moments, and know everything happens for a reason.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

“Here at last was a philosopher who had the courage to see that all was not for the best in the fundamentals of the universe, to be the first to speak of the suffering of the world which visibly and glaringly surrounds us, and of the confusion, passion, evil—all those things which the [other philosophers] hardly seemed to notice and always tried to resolve into all-embracing harmony and comprehensibility.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Themes: Confusion

“Those who tell of two ways and praise one are recognized as prophets or great teachers. They save men from confusion and hard choices. They offer… simple schemes, but truth is not so simple.”

Martin Buber מרטין בובר‎‎ 1878 – 1965 CE
from Ich und Du, I and Thou

Themes: Truth Confusion

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“Confusion of goals and perfection of means seems, in my opinion, to characterize our age.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Confusion

“Reality is nothing more than the chimera subjected to our desire and our suffering.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE via P. A. Bien
from Report to Greco

Themes: Confusion

“It is true that we cannot conquer death; we can, however, conquer our fear of death.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE via P. A. Bien
from Report to Greco

Themes: Confusion

“Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.”

Adolf Hitler 1
the most immoral and cruel conqueror in human history
from Mein Kampf (1935)

“Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not yet understood.”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE

Themes: Confusion

“The human habit of seeing only one phase of the truth, which happens to lie before our eyes and raising the developing it into a perfect system of logic is the reason our philosophy necessarily becomes more and more estranged from life.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE

“There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind…”

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

Themes: Confusion

“Fame is a form—perhaps the worst form—of incomprehension.”

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

Themes: Confusion Fame

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence
from 1984

Themes: Confusion

“The world of meditation is of extraordinary beauty… all concepts and confusion fall away.”

Freda Bedi, Sister Palmo 1911 – 1977 CE

“As human knowledge deepens, things do not become clearer; this only deepens the mysteries and increases the level of confusion.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE
from Road Back to Nature

Themes: Confusion

“When we no longer confuse ourselves with the definition of ourselves that others have given us, we are at once universal and unique.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

“What you have to see is that you don't like yourself. But the self you don't like isn't your true self; the self you don't like consists of your core belief, with its accompanying thoughts and body sensations.”

Charlotte Joko Beck 1917 – 2011 CE
Authentic, pioneering Western Zen master

from Ordinary Wonder

Themes: Confusion

“Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them—if you want to.”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE
from The Catcher in the Rye

“I think I'd have found out a lot sooner if we hadn't necked so damn much. My big trouble is, I always sort of think whoever I'm necking is a pretty intelligent person. It hasn't got a goddam thing to do with it, but I keep thinking it anyway.”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE
from Catcher in the Rye

Themes: Sex Confusion

“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE

Themes: Confusion

“I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE

Themes: Confusion

“He comes to believe that political power... is the result of access to the television screen... what he wants is not more liberty as a citizen but better service as a client. He wants a better product rather than freedom from servitude to it. It is vital that he come to see that the acceleration he demands is self-defeating, and that it must result in a further decline of equity, leisure, and autonomy.”

Ivan Illich 1926 – 2002 CE
"an archaeologist of ideas"
from Energy and Equity (1974)

“The dilemma of civilized man: body mobilized in preparation for panic flight but danger obscure; nothing to see; nothing for body to do. Run? But where to and why? No clue.”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE via Shan Dao
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Man in the High Castle,

Themes: Confusion

“The definition of your self-system lacks authentic boundaries. You've erected a precarious structure of personality on unconscious factors over which you have no control.”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Ubik

Themes: Confusion

“Just because you notice other people's confusion, doesn't mean you aren't confused yourself.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“Thinking that our confusion is the understanding of knowledge creates mental illness.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Confusion

71. Sick of Sickness

“The only reason we don't open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don't feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else's eyes.”

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

“the result of anything aimed at enriching the ego is destruction, complete confusion, perpetual confusion.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

11. Appreciating Emptiness
7. Lose Yourself, Gain Your Soul

“coemergent wisdom… refers to confusion and realization existing simultaneously, as opposed to confusion coming first and then realization taking over and cleaning out the confusion… confusion and realization are simultaneous.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Sherab Chodzin, editor
from Illusion's Game

Themes: Confusion

23. Nothing and Not

“Talking about confusion is much more helpful than talking about how to save ourselves.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Orderly Chaos — The Mandala Principle

Themes: Confusion

“How can I go forward when I don't know which way I'm facing?”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Confusion

63. Easy as Hard

“He's as blind as he can be, just sees what he wants to see… Isn't he a bit like you and me?”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE
from Rubber Soul

“I got mixed up confusion… my head’s full of questions, my temperature’s rising fast, I’m looking for some answers but I don’t know who to ask.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –
from Mixed Up Confusion

Themes: Confusion

“If there is no self-being there can be no dependent being either... Yet we strive to become real through the eyes of others who strive to become real through the eyes of others who strive...”

David Loy 1947 CE –
from A Buddhist History of the West

“Her 21st century rational brain wonders why sex is such a big deal to him, not understanding that to his Pleistocene emotions it's not just a big deal—it's the only deal.”

Paul Seabright 1958 CE –
Author and British Professor of Economics
from War of the Sexes

Themes: Confusion

“A tourist makes a show of giving a ten-dollar tip to the doorman for pushing a revolving door, and the next minute he’s bargaining for a five-dollar T-shirt from a vendor who is trying to support her baby and family.”

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

Themes: Confusion Family

“Siddhartha’s path does not ultimately lead to happiness… it’s a release from the the straitjacket of delusion… a direct route to freedom from suffering and confusion.”

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

3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

“when we look at a thing, we change what it is. Which is exactly why we never see things as they are, only as we are.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Utopia Avenue

Themes: Confusion

“Feeling lost, crazy and desperate belongs to a good life as much as optimism, certainty and reason.”

Alain de Botton 1969 CE –
Philosophic link between ancient wisdom and modern challenge

Themes: Confusion

“Without a Just Cause, an organization starts to function like a ship without a compass.”

Simon Sinek 1973 CE –
from Infinite Game

Themes: Confusion

“Everywhere the mind goes, the opportunity for meditation exists. The idea that meditation is something that we only do sitting on a cushion in a particular way or at a particular time has created a lot of confusion… we can recognize awareness anywhere, anytime”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

“The confusion that arises when we cling to our beliefs and expectations obscures the innate clarity of our awakened minds... this confused, conceptual mind simply does not have the capacity to understand mind beyond concepts.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from In Love with the World

“Humans have a remarkable ability to know and not know at the same time. Or, more correctly, they can know something when they really think about it but most of the time they don't think about it.”

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

from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Themes: Confusion

“It's an old political trick: 'If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em.'”

Harry S. Truman 1884 – 1972 CE

Themes: Confusion

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