Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Our problems don’t arise nearly as much from delusion as from our lack of knowing how much delusion engulfs us, how much falseness we believe, how much illusion we take as real. Thoughts aren’t so much the problem here; it’s our believing the thoughts that creates so much pain and suffering. When we realize and see the delusion in our own mind, in our society, and in the culture surrounding us; we become humble, open, childlike and receptive. We can learn and understand more when we realize that we don’t already know everything with such certainty.

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Quotes (86)

“Of all the world’s wonders which is the most wonderful? That no man, though he sees others dying all around him, believe that he himself will die.”

Vyasa व्यास 1
Hindu immortals, Vishnu avatar, 5th incarnation of Brahma
from Mahābhārata महाभारतम्

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“How long will you love delusions and seek false gods”

King David 1000 – 920 BCE
"The baffled king composing Hallelujah!"
from Book of Psalms

Themes: Delusion

“No gossip ever dies away entirely, if many people voice it: it too is a kind of divinity.”

Hesiod 846 – 777 BCE
“History’s first economist”
from Works and Days

Themes: Delusion

“Less treasure, less theft, less desire, less delusion”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Shan Dao, chapter #3
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“People who foolishly cling to words and phrases are like elephants in a quagmire.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE via Red Pine, Shan Dao
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth
from Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra

Themes: Delusion

“When people laughed at him because he walked backward beneath the portico, he said to them: ‘Aren't you ashamed, you who walk backward along the whole path of existence, and blame me for walking backward along the path of the promenade?’”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE via Will Durant
(of Sinope)
from Life of Greece

41. Distilled Life

“How do I know that love of life is not a delusion after all? How do I know but that he who dreads death is not as a child who has lost his way and does not know his way home?”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Lin Yutang

Themes: Delusion

“Indeed, what is there that does not appear marvelous when it comes to our knowledge for the first time? How many things, too, are looked upon as quite impossible until they have actually been effected?”

Pliny 23 – 79 CE
(Pliny Gaius Plinius Secundus, Pliny the Elder)
Founding father of the encyclopedia

from Natural History

Themes: Delusion

“People of this world are deluded. They're always longing for something - always, in a word, seeking.”

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨 1

Themes: Delusion Desire

“Not creating delusions is enlightenment.”

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨 1

“Pure pleasure lies within each of us but delusion veils it.”

Dārikapa དཱ་རི་ཀ་པ། 1 via Keith Dowman
(“Slave-King of the Temple Whore”)
Mahasiddha #77
from Masters of Enchantment

Themes: Pleasure Delusion

“If you love the sacred and despise the ordinary, you are still bobbing in the ocean of delusion.”

Rinzai Gigen 臨済義玄 1
(Línjì Yìxuán)

“The flame of pure awareness burns away all delusion.”

Kumbharipa ཀུམྦྷ་རི་པ། 1 via Keith Dowman, Shan Dao
(“The Eternal Potter”)
Mahasiddha #63

“Going from one to two is the origin of all delusion.”

Su Che 呂洞 1039 – 1112 CE via Red Pine
(Su Zhe)
Great writer of the Tang and Sung dynasties
from Tao-te-chen-ching-chu

10. The Power of Goodness

“Each moment is similar and because of the similarity, we are deluded.”

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

Themes: Delusion

“In the interlaced net of principle and phenomena, true emptiness appears. Shining to obliterate the fundamental delusion.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE

48. Unlearning
59. The Gardening of Spirit
4. The Father of All Things

“Face whatever appears before you… enter the current of the world and join with the delusion.”

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

Themes: Delusion

“It is only belief in oneself as an island that creates the delusion of others apart and this split is the cause of anxiety.”

Kālapa ཀཱ་ལ་པ། 1 via Keith Dowman
("The Handsome Madman")
Mahasiddha #27
from Masters of Enchantment

67. Three Treasures

“Enlightenment always comes after the road of thinking is blocked... if not blocked, whatever you think, whatever you do, is like a tangling ghost.”

Mumon Ekai 無門慧開 1183 – 1260 CE via Paul Reps
(Wumen Huikai)
Pioneering pathfinder to the Gateless Gate

from The Gateless Gate, 無門関, 無門關

Themes: Delusion

“Ordinary mind is seduced by trivial sense objects in all their variety. Beings are deceived by misconstruing what is not dualistic as dualistic.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Padma Translation Committee
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)

“There is no ice which does not return to water. So you will understand there is no difference between ordinary beings and Buddhas except for one thing - delusion. When it is dissolved they are identical.”

Bassui Tokushō 抜隊 得勝 1327 – 1387 CE
Meditation master without distraction

Themes: No Trace Delusion

“Seeking the Buddha and Dharma outside our minds is like cooking sand in the hopes of producing rice.”

Bassui Tokushō 抜隊 得勝 1327 – 1387 CE
Meditation master without distraction

Themes: Delusion

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

Erasmus 1466 – 1536 CE
(Desiderius Roterodamus)
"Greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance"

“Anything that is understood is a delusion. Anything that is a delusion is an affliction. Understanding is not the affliction. It is the understanding of understanding that becomes the affliction. To understand what is the affliction is to cure the illness without medicine.”

Chiao Hung 1540 – 1620 CE via Red Pine
(Jiao Hung)

Themes: Delusion Medicine

“Leave something to wish for. That way you will not be miserable from too much happiness… If one possessed all, all would be disillusion and discontent… Surfeits of happiness are fatal… when desire dies, fear is born.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE

Themes: Delusion Desire

44. Fame and Fortune

“While deluded, one is used by this body; when enlightened, one uses this body.”

Bunan 至道無難 1603 – 1676 CE
(Shido Bunan Zenji Munan)

Themes: Delusion Health

“Originally, thoughts have no real substance… if they arise, just let them arise; if they stop, just let them stop. As long as you’re not attaching to these reflected traces, delusions won’t be produced.”

Bankei 盤珪永琢 1622 – 1693 CE
(Bankei Yōtaku)

14. Finding and Following the Formless Form

“Clear are the workings of cause and effect. You become deluded, but don't know it's something that you've done yourself... what's called self-centeredness.”

Bankei 盤珪永琢 1622 – 1693 CE
(Bankei Yōtaku)

“There can be no greater Hypocrisy than for us as a People, to refuse to bear Arms and yet purchase Slaves at a very great Price, thereby justifying their selling of them, and the War, by which they were or are obtained;”

Benjamin Lay 1682 – 1759 CE
from All Slave-Keepers That keep the Innocent in Bondage, Apostates

Themes: War Delusion

“One day everything will be well—that is our hope.
Everything's fine today—that is our delusion.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE
from Poéme sur le désastre de Lisbonne, 1756

Themes: Delusion Hope

“. . . in no instance has a system in regard to religion been ever established, but for the purpose, as well as with the effect of its being made an instrument of intimidation, corruption, and delusion, for the support of depredation and oppression in the hands of governments.”

Jeremy Bentham 1748 – 1832 CE
from Constitutional Code

“The world has always been the same — an endless farce, an antic game, a universal masquerade!”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE
from Faust, part II

Themes: Delusion

5. Christmas Trees

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Slavery Delusion

“Delusion and enlightenment produce one another… You get rid of this, then grab hold of that. Don’t you see how stupid it is!”

Ryokan 良寛大愚 1758 – 1758 CE
(Ryōkan Taigu,“The Great Fool”)

19. All Methods Become Obstacles

“The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.”

William Hazlitt 1778 – 1830 CE
One of the English languages best art and literature critics of all time

from Characteristics, 1823

Themes: Lies Delusion

“Celia, whose mind had never been thought too powerful, saw the emptiness of other people's pretensions much more readily. To have in general but little feeling, seems to be the only security against feeling too much on any particular occasion.”

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Delusion

“It's amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

Themes: Beauty Delusion

“There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”

Lord Acton 1834 – 1902 CE
(John Dalberg-Acton)
Prolific historian and politician
from Historical Essays and Studies (1907)

Themes: Delusion

“When a pickpocket sees a saint, he sees only his pockets; when a saint sees a pickpocket, he sees only his innocence.”

Ramakrishna 1836 – 1886 CE

Themes: Delusion

49. No Set Mind

“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: Change Delusion

“Like gold hidden in its matrix, buddhahood is hidden by the tendencies created by mental poisons and then reinforced by the actions that those disturbances have produced.”

Shechen Gyaltsap 1871 – 1926 CE via Matthieu Ricard
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche's main teacher
from Chariot of Complete Liberation

Themes: Delusion

“Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from Unpopular Essays

“. . . passion paralyses good taste and makes its victim accept with rapture what a man in his senses would either laugh at or turn from with disgust.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from Death in Venice (1924)

Themes: Delusion

“We are solitary. We many delude ourselves and act as though this were not so. that is all.”

Rainer Maria Rilke 1875 – 1926 CE via Norton
Profound singer of universal music
from Letters to a Young Poet (1904)

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.”

Teilhard de Chardin 1881 – 1955 CE via Bernard Wall
from Divine Milieu

Themes: Delusion

81. Journey Without Goal

“Such are the visions which ceaselessly float up, pace beside, put their faces in front of, the actual thing… taking away the sense of the earth”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE
from Mrs. Dalloway

Themes: Delusion

“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

80. A Golden Age

“Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door and a lost kingdom of peace.”

Eugene O'Neill 1888 – 1953 CE

Themes: Delusion Magic Peace

“Yes, your appreciation of yourself blinds you. It is the biggest obstacle to a new life.”

Jeanne de Salzmann 1889 – 1990 CE
(Madame de Salzmann)
Follower, preserver, and promoter of Gurdjieff's teachings
from The Reality of Being

“Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve.”

Karl Popper 1902 – 1994 CE
Major Philosopher of Science

Themes: Delusion

“Power worship blurs political judgment because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue.”

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

“Once you are in the middle of delusion, there is no end to delusion. You will be involved in deluded ideas one after another.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE via Trudy Dixon
from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Themes: Delusion

“Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love?”

Denys de Rougemont 1906 – 1985 CE
Non-conformist leader, influential cultural theorist

Themes: Delusion

“Romance only comes into existence where love is fatal, frowned upon and doomed by life itself.”

Denys de Rougemont 1906 – 1985 CE
Non-conformist leader, influential cultural theorist

Themes: Delusion

“This mind, unlike enlightened mind, is always being carried away by one delusion after another.”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ། 1910 – 1991 CE via Matthieu Ricard
"Mind" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from Journey to Enlightenment

Themes: Delusion Mind

12. This Over That

“Sentient beings, self and others, enemies and dear ones-all are made by thoughts. It is like seeing a rope and mistaking it for a snake… We have been deluded by our thoughts.”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ། 1910 – 1991 CE via Matthieu Ricard
"Mind" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from Journey to Enlightenment

Themes: Delusion Enemy

“We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”

Marshall McLuhan 1911 – 1980 CE

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“any man-made environment is a conditioner that creates non-perceptive somnambulists.”

Marshall McLuhan 1911 – 1980 CE
from War and Peace in the Global Village

“it is notorious that most revolutions establish worse tyrannies than they destroy. To be free from convention is not to spurn it but not to be deceived by it. It is to be able to use it as an instrument instead of being used by it”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from The Way of Zen (1957)

“When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.”

Robert M. Pirsig 1928 – 2017 CE
from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Themes: Delusion Religion

“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”

Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014 CE

Themes: Delusion Time

“Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”

Bill Mollison 1928 – 2016 CE
Permaculture's Founder-Father

“The average American suffers from two delusions, one that God is dead and the other is that there is a difference between brands of cigarettes.”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE
Legendary consciousness provocateur

Themes: Delusion

“The Buddha advocated a 'middle way' yet this was only after a preliminary course of extremes... As to the way of escaping delusion, there is no division of opinion: Go to extremes. That is the first necessity.”

Colin Wilson 1931 – 2013 CE
from Outsider

“If someone thinks he doesn't depend on others, he is like a sick person who thinks he doesn't have to go to a doctor because he can cure himself with poison, or like a poor person who says he doesn't have to depend on richer people even though he has an empty wallet.”

Thinley Norbu གདུང་སྲས་ཕྲིན་ལས་ནོར་བུ 1931 – 2011 CE
(Kyabjé Dungse)

Themes: Health Delusion

“It is essential to the identity of a society to forget that it has forgotten that society is always a species of culture.”

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

Themes: Delusion

“Society is where we prove to parents qua audience that we are not what we thought they thought we were.”

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

Themes: Delusion

“Race, gender, ethnic, national, age, handicap, appearance-based prejudice are all ways of substituting something trivial and unworthy for real merit and ability. Prejudice means trying to preserve unearned privilege and advantage.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

32. Uncontrived Awareness

“In MacKay’s classic, The Madness of Crowds he points out that historically people more easily believe extreme views (tulip mania, the Crusades, the witch trials) when the society is experiencing abrupt and frequent change. Extreme views tend to be more clear and simple than the truth which is more messy, paradoxical, and multi-layered. So when populations struggle to deal with too much change, latching on to a foolish but strong and clear message becomes much more tempting.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Change Delusion

“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.”

Jane Goodall 1934 CE –

“most people are drowning in their delusional ignorance without knowing that their suffering was created by themselves.”

Jakusho Kwong 1935 CE –
from No Beginning, No End: The Intimate Heart of Zen

“In trying to fight for a grain of sesame seed each day, we lose track of our sky.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Evam seminar
from The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa

Themes: Delusion

“Living is easy with eyes closed misunderstanding all you see.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE
from Magical Mystery Tour

“Goo goo g'joob.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE via Inuit
from Magical Mystery Tour

Themes: Delusion

“All lies and jests, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

Paul Simon 1941 CE –
Prolific planter of musical, cultural wisdom seeds

Themes: Delusion Lies

“every painful feeling is caused by a prior thought... the only thing that an interrupt happiness is an untrue thought.”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

“if you are deluded about your own nature, who you are, and act on the basis of that delusion, you will constantly suffer repercussions.”

B. Alan Wallace 1950 CE –
(Bruce Alan Wallace)
from Buddhism with an Attitude

“In our unconsciousness we take credit where no credit is due, oblivious to the real source of everything we pretend is ours”

Peter Kingsley 1953 CE –
from A Story Waiting to Pierce You

“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

“All emotions are basically a form of prejudice.”

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

26. The Still Rule the Restless

“It takes a long time to dissolve the bars of a mental cage.”

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

Themes: Slavery Delusion

“To mistake our habitual misperceptions for the whole of reality is what we mean by ignorance, and these delusions define the world of confusion, or samsara.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from In Love with the World

Themes: Delusion

“from torment and agony to dissatisfaction, distress, agitation, and annoyance.. Every variety reflects a mental disturbance that arises when we substitute reality as-it-is for what we wish it to be.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from In Love With the World

Themes: Delusion

“Capitalism's belief in perpetual economic growth flies in the face of almost everything we know about the universe. A society of wolves would be extremely foolish to believe that the supply of sheep would keep on growing indefinitely... Banks and governments print money, but ultimately, it is the scientists who foot the bill.”

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

from Sapiens

Themes: Delusion

“When we see the world through the lens of desire, reality becomes fractured into what we want and what we do not want.”

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

Themes: Desire Delusion

1. The Unnamed

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