Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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The word "karma" holds many different meanings and interpretations. Here we mean cause and effect, consequences, the results of our thoughts, words, and deeds. This idea seems simple and obvious at first but actually has many layers of meaning. For example, the consequence of a certain action could seem very good because it enriches us physically but at the same time could seem very bad because it harms us psychologically. Goethe's archetypical book, Faust explores this dichotomy commonly known as "selling our souls to the devil."

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Quotes (72)

“Scepticism is as much the result of knowledge, as knowledge is of scepticism.”

Odysseus Ὀδυσσεύς c. 1100 BCE via Homer
Trickster lineage hero and symbol
from Odyssey, Ὀδύσσεια

Themes: Karma

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

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

Themes: Integrity Karma

“Jove weighs affairs of earth in dubious scales, and the good suffers, while the bad prevails.”

Homer 850 BCE - ?
Primogenitor of Western culture
from Odyssey, Ὀδύσσεια

Themes: Karma

“What you are is what you have been. What you'll be is what you do now.”

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

64. Ordinary Mind

“For already I have once been a boy and a girl, a bush and a bird and a dumb sea fish.”

Empedocles 490 – 430 BCE
"The father of rhetoric"—Aristotle

Themes: Karma

“The excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction.. the most aggravated form of tyranny arises out of the most extreme form of liberty.”

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

“We are born alone and die alone; experience the good and bad consequences of our karma alone; and we go alone to hell or the supreme abode”

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

“The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the directions of the wind. But, the goodness of a person spreads in all direction.”

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

Themes: Karma Hinduism

“If you seek what you don’t have, what you do have will be lost. If you cultivate what you already have, then what you want comes about.”

Liú Ān 劉安 c. 179–122 BCE via Thomas Cleary
from Huainanzi

75. Greed

“Rich are the rewards of the generous; profound are the calamities of the resentful… So, by looking into the source of people’s actions, sages can tell their consequences.”

Liú Ān 劉安 c. 179–122 BCE via Thomas Cleary
from Huainanzi

Themes: Karma

77. Stringing a Bow

“To what extremes won't you compel our hearts, you accursed lust for gold?”

Virgil 70 – 19 BCE via Robert Fagles
(Publius Vergilius Maro)
from Aeneid

“He who can believe himself well, will be well.”

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

Themes: Karma

“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE
from Meditations Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν

Themes: Anger Karma

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“We hate suffering, but love it’s causes.”

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

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Old and sick final years over a hundred
Face brown head white content with mountain life
Cloth robe pulled tight I accept my karma
Why would I envy the clever ways of others?”

Han Shan c. 730-850 CE
(Cold Mountain)

Themes: Karma

55. Forever Young

“Regard… your future as the effect of your present state of mind.”

Catrapa ཙ་ཏྲ་པ། 750 – 850 CE via Keith Dowman
("The Lucky Beggar")
Mahasiddha #23
from Masters of Mahamudra

40. Returning

“Everyone wants precious items and beautiful women but the Sage doesn’t allow them to throw his mind into chaos.”

Wang Zhen 809 – 859 CE
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

Themes: Wealth Beauty Karma

“When kings do not act out of happiness and anger, their punishments and rewards will not be excessive, nor will metal weapons and leather armor arise.”

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

“Listen: this story's one you ought to know,
You'll reap the consequence of what you sow.”

Ferdowsi فردوسی 940 – 1020 CE
(Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi Tusi)
"undisputed giant of Persian literature"
from Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings (977–1010 CE)

“Sesame oil is the essence. Although the ignorant know that it is in the sesame seed, they do not understand the way of cause, effect, and becoming and therefor are not able to extract the essence. In the same way, the guru shows the truth of tathata. If it is not shown by the guru, it cannot be realized just like the sesame oil that remains in the seed”

Tilopa 988 – 1069 CE via Nalanda Translation Committee
from Rain of Wisdom

Themes: Teachers Karma

“Bestowing honors embarrasses those who don’t receive them…Prizing treasures pains those who don’t possess them… Displaying attractions distresses those who don’t enjoy them to the point where they cause trouble.”

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

Themes: Karma

3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

“And this delightful Herb whose tender Green
Fledges the River's Lip on which we lean—
Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!”

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

from Rubaiyat

“Soft words soften the hearts that are harder than rock, harsh words harden hearts that are softer than silk.”

Al-Ghazali أبو حامد محمد بن محمد الطوسي الغزالي 1058 – 1111 CE
(Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali)
Philosopher of Sufism

Themes: Karma

“If someone denies the existence of the effects arranged according to the causes, or if their wisdom cannot understand it, they have no true knowledge.”

Averroes, Ibn Rushd ابن رشد‎‎ 1126 – 1198 CE via Shan Dao

Themes: Karma Wisdom

“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། 12th century CE via Keith Dowman
("The Handsome Madman")
Mahasiddha #27
from Masters of Enchantment

67. Three Treasures

“Evil has its evil reward. Even the clever cannot escape… its retribution is ingenious and beyond the reach of human plans. It never lets evildoers slip through its net.”

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

“Let no man lose heart from thinking that he cannot do what others have done before him… men are born, and live, and die, always in accordance with the same rules.”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from Discourses on Livy

Themes: Karma

“Whenever we endeavor to bring about our own perfection, or that of others, by our own efforts, the result is simply imperfection.”

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

Themes: Wu Wei Karma

57. Wu Wei

“The same motives always produce the same actions; the same events follow from the same causes”

David Hume 1711 – 1776 CE
"One of the most important philosophers"
from An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748)

“By eternal, ironclad
Great laws,
Must we all,
Of our existence,
Fulfill the round.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE
from Das Göttliche, 1783 (The Divine)

Themes: Karma

“Foolish men imagine that because judgment for an evil thing is delayed, there is no justice... Judgment for an evil thing is many times delayed some day or two, some century or two, but it is sure as life, it is sure as death.”

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

Themes: Karma Justice

“You could construe abandoning all hope of results as being to your welfare. For example fame, renown, comfort, and happiness in this life, later happiness among gods or men, even the desire to achieve the transcendence of misery itself.”

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས། 1813 – 1899 CE
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
from Torch of Certainty

77. Stringing a Bow

“Others will enjoy the wealth we as misers kept. Even our body we hold so dear will be left behind.”

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས། 1813 – 1899 CE
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
from Torch of Certainty

57. Wu Wei

“Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures.”

Bahá'u'lláh بهاء الله‎‎, 1817 – 1892 CE
("Glory of God")

Themes: Education Karma

“It seems, in fact, as though the second half of man's life is made up of nothing but the habits he has accumulated during the first half.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE

Themes: Karma

“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

“A man is the resultant and exponent of all the forces that have been brought to bear upon him, whether before his birth or afterwards... as he is by nature, and as he has been acted on, and is now acted on from without, so will he do, as certainly and regularly as though he were a machine.”

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

“Good judgment is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgment.”

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

Themes: Karma

47. Effortless Success

“Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE
from Virginibus Puerisque (1881)

Themes: Business Karma

“We are not punished for our sins, but by them.”

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

Themes: Karma

“The present contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was already in the cause.”

Henri-Louis Bergson 1859 – 1941 CE
from Creative Evolution

Themes: Karma

40. Returning

“We imagine the future as a reflection of the present projected into empty space, whereas it is the result—often the imminent result—of causes which for the most part escape us.”

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

Themes: Karma

“as in the past, so in the future, the wrong we have done, thought, or intended will wreak its vengeance on our souls.”

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

“She was a murderess, but on top of that she had also murdered herself. For one who commits such a crime destroys her own soul... Sometimes it seems as if even animals and plants 'know' it.”

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

“He is resolved to forget that the desperate clinging to the self, and the desperate clinging to life are the surest way to eternal death.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE
from Steppenwolf

Themes: Karma Forget Memory

“From your past emerges the present, and from the present is born your future.”

Muhammad Iqbal محمد اقبال 1877 – 1938 CE

Themes: Karma

“What could I say to you that would be of value, except that perhaps you seek too much, that as a result of your seeking you cannot find.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE

81. Journey Without Goal

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

18. The Sick Society

“In each of us, the entire history of the world is reflected. And however autonomous our soul, it is indebted to an inheritance worked upon it from all sides—before it came into being—by the totality of the earth's energies.”

Teilhard de Chardin 1881 – 1955 CE
from Divine Milieu

Themes: Karma Continuity

“And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees and changing leaves.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

“Many causes produce war. There are ancient hatreds, turbulent frontiers, the 'legacy of old forgotten, far-off things, and battles long ago.' There are new-born fanaticisms.”

Franklin Roosevelt 1882 – 1945 CE
Champion and creator of a more just and equitable society

Themes: Karma Fanaticism

“Crows don't hatch doves.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

Themes: Karma

“you are what you are because of what you have been; because of your heredity stretching back into forgotten generations; because of every element of environment that has affected you, every man or woman that has met you, every book that you have read, every experience that you have had... And so it is with a city, a country, a race... It is only the past that lives.”

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

Themes: Karma Time

“In the end nothing is lost; for good or evil, every event has effects forever.”

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

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them, finding bad reasons for what one believes for other bad reasons.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Karma Belief

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Everybody strains after happiness, and the result is that nobody's happy.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

78. Water

“Surely it is the right wish that draws us to the right place. Nothing of importance happens accidentally in our life.”

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

Themes: Karma Desire

“The I Ching is actually concerned with nothing other than the recognition of causes and conditions which determine our destiny. He who knows the causes, or sees the germinations, controls what is otherwise felt as fate.”

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

from Inner Structure of the I Ching

“Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time.”

Thomas Wolfe 1900 – 1938 CE
(Thomas Clayton Wolfe)
Father of autobiographical fiction
from Look Homeward, Angel

Themes: Karma Continuity

“Nature always strikes back. It takes all the running we can do to remain in the same place.”

René Dubos 1901 – 1982 CE
Influential scientific environmentalist

Themes: Karma

“We can never speak of cause and effect in an absolute way, but that an event is a cause of another event which is its effect, relative to some universal law. However, these universal laws are very often so trivial that as a rule we take them for granted instead of making conscious use of them.”

Karl Popper 1902 – 1994 CE
Major Philosopher of Science
from The Open Society and its Enemies

“But the myth of power is, of course, a very powerful myth, and probably most people in this world more or less believe in it. It is a myth, which, if everybody believes in it, becomes to that extent self-validating. But it is still epistemological lunacy and leads inevitably to various sorts of disaster.”

Gregory Bateson 1904 – 1980 CE
from Steps to an Ecology of the Mind

Themes: Power Karma

“Freud tells us to blame our parents for all the shortcomings of our life, and Marx tells us to blame the upper class of our society. But the only one to blame is oneself… Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself.”

Joseph Campbell 1904 – 1987 CE
Great translator of ancient myth into modern symbols
from Power of Myth

“Yama Raja executes the law of karma, making visible to the dead the totality of their pas actions in the mirror of karma.”

Li Gotami Govinda 1906 – 1988 CE
(Ratti Petit)
Pioneering, fearless, artistic woman of wisdom
from Tibet in Pictures

Themes: Karma

“The neglect, indeed the rejection, of wisdom has gone so far that most of our intellectuals have not even the faintest idea what the term could mean. As a result, they always tend to try and cure a disease by intensifying its causes. The disease having been caused by allowing cleverness to displace wisdom, no amount of clever research is likely to produce a cure.”

E. F. Schumacher 1911 – 1977 CE
The “People's Economist”

Themes: Karma Wisdom

77. Stringing a Bow

“We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have - for their usefulness.”

Thomas Merton 1915 – 1968 CE

7. Lose Yourself, Gain Your Soul

“I feel the hot winds of karma driving me. Nevertheless I remain here. I must not shrink from the clear white light”

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

Themes: Karma

“Every kind of ignorance in the world all results from not realizing that our perceptions are gambles. We believe what we see and then we believe our interpretation of it, we don't even know we are making an interpretation most of the time. We think this is reality.”

Robert Anton Wilson 1932 – 2007 CE
from Real Reality

49. No Set Mind

“It isn't the things that happen to us in our lives that cause us to suffer, it's how we relate to the things that happen to us that causes us to suffer.”

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

Themes: Karma

81. Journey Without Goal

“If you live on the railroad tracks the train's going to hit you.”

Jim Harrison 1937 – 2016 CE
"untrammeled renegade genius”

“Saving fish from drowning... saving people for their own good... killing them as an unfortunate consequence of saving them... like Vietnam, Bosnia... you can't have intentions without consequences. The question is, who pays the consequences”

Amy Tan 1952 CE –
Rock and roll singer, bartender, and insightfully talented author
from Saving Fish From Drowning

“I think where people tend to end up results from a combination of encouragement, accident, and lucky break… So it's all about trying to find the best fit between your talents and what the world can offer at that point in time.”

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

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