Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Silence and Stillness

Quotes (83)

“Good sir, sit still and hearken to the words of others that are thy betters. (Quoted by Socrates and the cause of his indictment.)”

Homer 1
Primogenitor of Western culture
from Iliad

“Midnight comes--and goes, the hours fly and solitary still, I lie.”

Sappho 612 – 570 BCE
“The Poetess” and most famous Greek woman

“Without stillness, the earth would crumble.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Shan Dao, chapter 39
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“Use stillness to let what is troubled settle and grow clear”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Shan Dao, chapter #15
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“Be silent or let thy words be worth more than silence.”

Pythagorus 570 – 495 BCE
(of Samos)
"The most influential philosopher of all time"
from Golden Verses of Pythagoras Χρύσεα

15. Inscrutability

“Nothing in the world is faster than the mind; but the mouth is a close runner-up.”

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

“If what one has to say is not better than silence, then one should keep silent.”

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

56. One with the Dust

“Not every truth is the better for showing its face undisguised; and often silence is the wisest thing for a man to heed.”

Pindar Πίνδαρος 522 – 443 BCE
Archetype of poetry

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

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

73. Heaven’s Net

“Always when you are about to say anything, first weigh it in your mind; for with many the tongue outruns the thought. Let there be but two occasions for speech — when the subject is one which you thoroughly know and when it one on which you are compelled to speak. On these occasions alone is speech better than silence; on all others, it is better to be silent than to speak.”

Isocrates Ἰσοκράτης 436 – 338 BCE

“The sage’s mind is so still, it can mirror Heaven and Earth and reflect the 10,000 things.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

10. The Power of Goodness

“The reason we have two ears and only one mouth is so we may hear more and talk less.”

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

“Lose your stillness and you will fail in everything you do.”

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

“It’s because Heaven becomes one that it graces the sky with constellations and light. It’s because Earth becomes one that it remains still and immovable… It’s because kings become one that they pacify the world. But Heaven must move between yin and yang.”

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

39. Oneness

“A dragon is still. Hence, it is able to constantly transform itself. A tiger is restless. Hence it dies young.”

Heshang Gong 河上公 202 – 157 BCE via Edward Erkes
(Ho-shang Kung or "Riverside Sage”)
from Lao-tzu-chu

26. The Still Rule the Restless

“Silence at the proper season is wisdom, and better than any speech.”

Plutarch 46 – 120 CE
(Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus)

2. The Wordless Teachings

“By means of tranquility, the murky becomes clear. By means of movement, the still becomes alive. This is the natural Way.”

Wang Bi 王弼 226 – 534 CE

15. Inscrutability

“I never saw any lamp shining more brilliantly than the lamp of silence.”

Abu Yazid al-Bisṭāmī بایزید بسطامی‎‎ 804 – 874 CE

“Stillness corresponds to nonexistence. Movement corresponds to existence. Provisionally different, they are ultimately the same. Both meet in darkness.”

Cao Daochong 道寵 1
(​Daochong or Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung)

“The first step in the acquisition of wisdom is silence”

Solomon ibn Gabirol שלמה בן יהודה אבן גבירול 1021 – 1070 CE via Ascher
from Choice of Pearls

“Those who meet resistance with agreement, toil with relaxation pride with humility, and action with stillness have no enemy. Wherever they go, the conquer.”

Lu Huiqing 1031 – 1111 CE

69. No Enemy

“Dharma is not found in the written word, how can one speak of it?”

Touzi Yiqing 投子義青 1032 – 1083 CE
(Tōsu Gisei, “Zen Master of Complete Compassion”)

“The teaching's voice is total silence amid the ringing wind chimes. The moon hangs in the old pine tree, cold in the falling night.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE

70. Inscrutable

“False thinking stops and stillness necessarily arises, stillness arises and wisdom appears, wisdom arises and stillness necessarily disappears”

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

“The primal wisdom, silent but also glorious, responds to conditions.”

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

“The Tao is also hard to understand and hard to put into practice… because all words are wrong, because it cannot be learned, and because the mind only leads us astray. Effortless stillness is not necessarily right, and actionless activity is not necessarily wrong.”

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

70. Inscrutable

“I will be waiting for your silence to break, your soul to shake, and your love to wake!”

Rumi مولانا جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی 1207 – 1283 CE
(Rumi Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī)
from Masnavi مثنوي معنوي‎‎) "Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning”

76. The Soft and Flexible

“Elsewhere, Lao-tzu extols simplemindedness and weakness over wisdom and strength. Why then does he extol wisdom and strength here? Wisdom and strength are for dealing with the inside. Simplemindedness and weakness are for dealing with the outside.”

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

33. Know Yourself

“Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness.”

Meister Eckhart 1260 – 1328 CE
(Eckhart von Hochheim)

“I am happiest when I have nothing to distract me and I am completely alone.”

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

“The tongue is a wild beast – once let loose it is difficult to chain… The worst is that he who should be the most reserved is the least.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE

56. One with the Dust

“He than can live alone resembles the brute beast in nothing, the sage in much, and like a god in everything.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #137

“Reticence is the seal of capacity… You must pay ransom to each you tell… What must be done need not be said, what must be said need not be done.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE

77. Stringing a Bow

“Think with the few and speak with the many… Truth is for the few, error is both common and vulgar… The wise person therefore retires into silence and if he allows himself to come out of it he does so in the shade and before few and fit persons.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE

41. Distilled Life

“There was a period when I chose a time and place for prayer ... But now I seek constant prayer, in constant inward stillness”

Madame Guyon Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon 1648 – 1717 CE via Thomas Taylor Allen
from Autobiography of Madame Guyon

“The limitless sky of meditation, the clear moonlight of wisdom; the truth revealed as eternal stillness.”

Hakuin Ekaku 白隠 慧鶴 1686 – 1769 CE

“Silence is not always a sign of wisdom but babbling is ever a mark of folly.”

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

37. Nameless Simplicity

“People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE

56. One with the Dust

“Tell a wise person, or else keep silent, because the mass man will mock it right away.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

41. Distilled Life

“We were the first to ever burst into the silent sea.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 – 1834 CE
from Rime of the Ancient Mariner

“If I maintain my silence about my secret it is my prisoner...if I let it slip from my tongue, I am its prisoner.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

15. Inscrutability

“Silence is as deep as eternity, speech a shallow as time.”

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

“true genius… prefers silence to saying the something which is not everything that should be said.”

Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allen Poe 1809 – 1849 CE

56. One with the Dust

“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”

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

from Impressions of Theophrastus Such

“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”

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

from Impressions of Theophrastus Such​

“Silence is not always tact and it is tact that is golden, not silence.”

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

“Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid.”

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

30. No War

“What keeps my heart awake is colorful silence.”

Claude Monet 1840 – 1926 CE
"the driving force behind Impressionism"

“Ole Cousin Wildcat walk all 'roun' de tree, rubbin' hisse'f, but he aint sayin' nothin'.”

Joel Chandler Harris 1848 – 1908 CE
from Legends of the old Plantation

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE

56. One with the Dust

“Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.”

Nikola Tesla Никола Тесла 1856 – 1943 CE

“the long silence from which everything begins and in which everything ends. Intimately known and yet strange like Nature, lovingly tender and yet cruel like fate,.. the totality of life of which we are a small and helpless part.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

51. Mysterious Goodness

“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.”

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

“Silence is truth. Silence is bliss. Silence is peace. And hence Silence is the Self.”

Ramana Maharshi 1879 – 1950 CE

“Therefore it is the law of the mystics to see all things, to experience all things, either of heaven or earth, and yet to say little.”

Inayat Khan 1882 – 1927 CE

70. Inscrutable

“Everything in life is speaking in spite of its apparent silence.”

Inayat Khan 1882 – 1927 CE

36. The Small, Dark Light

“A seeker of silences am I, and what treasure have I found in silences”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

“I have a passionate love for solitude and silence; I can gaze for hours at a fire or the sea without feeling any nee for additional companionship. These have always been my most faithful, most beloved comrades... Direct contact with human beings I had always found irksome.”

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

“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

5. Christmas Trees

“Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

“I said nothing. I had learned that this is usually the best thing to say.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Transition

“Do not move, let the wind speak - that is paradise.”

Ezra Pound 1885 – 1972 CE
from Cantos

“She knew that he was a man who knew what he did and why he did it, and before such a man a woman may keep silence and know that it will be well with her.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from Dragon Seed

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

“A man who knows that he is silent, or knows that he loves, doesn’t know what love is, nor what silence is.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)
from Awakening of Intelligence

56. One with the Dust

“To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

“Don't talk unless you can improve the silence.”

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

“The English regard slackness as a vice. We, on the other hand should vastly prefer it to tension. Is there not too much tension in the world…”

James Hilton 1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

73. Heaven’s Net

“What you see with your eyes shut is what counts. The wicasa wakan loves the silence, wrapping it around himself like a blanket… he talks to the plants and they answer him.”

John Fire Lame Deer 1903 – 1976 CE via Richard Erdoes
from Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

17. True Leaders

“Nature abhors a long silence.”

Lewis Thomas 1913 – 1993 CE
Gestaltist of science and art
from Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher

“There is a monastic outlook common to all who question the value of a life submitted entirely to arbitrary, secular presupposition dictated by social convention and dedication to the pursuit of temporal, mirage-like satisfactions; and instead, find something they vastly prefer in solitude.”

Thomas Merton 1915 – 1968 CE
from The Way of Chuang Tzu

“he was either as brief as a gatekeeper at a Trappist monastery—sometimes for days, weeks at a stretch—or he was a non-stop talker.”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE
from Raise High the Roof Beams, Seymour an Introduction

“We will be more successful in all our endeavors if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-center ourselves.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

“Silence, according to western and eastern tradition alike, is necessary for the emergence of persons. It is taken from us by machines that ape people.”

Ivan Illich 1926 – 2002 CE
"an archaeologist of ideas"
from Silence is a Commons (1982)

“the mind wanders without certainties, desolate, silent, awkward. But in that milky, dim strangeness lies the way… the way embodies the eternal beginning, the ever-springing source.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

20. Unconventional Mind

“I don't want to be alone, I want to be left alone.”

Audrey Hepburn 1929 – 1993 CE

63. Easy as Hard

“nature's perfect silence... a silence so complete there is no way of knowing what it is silent about—if anything.”

James P. Carse 1932 – 2020 CE
Thought-proving, influential, deep thinker
from Finite and Infinite Games

“Myth provokes explanation but accepts none of it. Where explanation absorbs the unspeakable into the speakable, myth reintroduces the silence that makes original discourse possible.”

James P. Carse 1932 – 2020 CE
Thought-proving, influential, deep thinker
from Finite and Infinite Games

“The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenements halls and whispered in the sounds of silence.”

Paul Simon 1941 CE –
Prolific planter of musical, cultural wisdom seeds
from Sounds of Silence, 1964

“The more truly solitary we are, the more compassionate we can be.”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –

“In the tenth century BCE, the priests of India devised the Brahmodya competition, which would become a model of authentic theological discourse. The idea was to push language as far as it would go, until participants became aware of the ineffable... The winner was the contestant who reduced the others to silence. In that moment of silence, the Brahman was present... The aim of good theology is to help the audience to live for a while in that silence.”

Karen Armstrong 1944 CE –
Champion of the Golden Rule and perennial philosophy
from The Case for God​

“When trying to accomplish something serious, I liked to do it myself. Having to check things out with other people and get them to understand seemed to me a great waste of time and energy when it was a lot easier to work along in silence.”

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

“Some things must be said, and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali 1969 CE –
Powerful voice for Islamic reform
from Infidel

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