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 (90)

“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: Karma Integrity

“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

“Our life is shaped by the mind, we become what we think.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE via Eknath Easwaran
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth
from Dhammapada धम्मपद

Themes: Karma

“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

“one who loves will be loved by others and one who hates will be hated by others... I cannot understand how the men of the world can hear this doctrine of universality and still criticize it!”

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

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

“When leaders during times of peace and prosperity abandon themselves to pleasure-seeking and complacency, they unwittingly invite calamity. In all cases, either disaster or happiness arise from our choices.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Shan Dao

Themes: Karma

“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: Hinduism Karma

“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

“All the causes and results of positive and negative deeds have emerged merely from the symbols of conceptualizing thought... pacified by the emptiness which is without conceptual elaborations.”

Nagarjuna नागर्जुन c. 150-250 CE via Dudjom Rinpoche
from Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism

Themes: Mind Karma

“All the suffering there is in this world arises from wishing our self to be happy. All the happiness there is in this world arises from wishing others to be happy.”

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

Themes: Karma

37. Nameless Simplicity

“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

“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

“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

“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: Karma Teachers

“Just as karma from past lifetimes cannot be sidestepped,
Wrinkles on one's forehead cannot be erased.”

Gesar of Ling གེ་སར་རྒྱལ་པོ། 11th century CE via Robin Kornman
from Gesar of Ling Epic

Themes: 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: Wisdom Karma

“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: Karma Wu Wei

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)

“In human life the most important scenes will depend upon the character of a single actor... An acrimonious humor falling upon a single fiber of one man my prevent or suspend the misery of nations.”

Edward Gibbon 1737 – 1794 CE
from Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

Themes: Karma Power

“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

“the beginning presupposes the end almost as much as the end presupposes the beginning”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via Will Durant
from The World as Will and Idea (1819)

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: Justice Karma

“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

“It is impossible to deny that dishonest men often grow rich and famous, becoming powerful in their parish or in parliament. Their portraits simper from shop windows; and they live and die respected. This success is theirs; yet it is not the success which a noble soul will envy.”

George Henry Lewes 1817 – 1878 CE
English philosopher and soul mate to George Eliot
from The Principles of Success in Literature (1865)

Themes: Success Karma

“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

“all the anguish of that then present suffering was but the direct issue of a former woe... as the most poisonous reptile of the marsh perpetuates his kind as inevitably as the sweetest songster of the grove; so equally with every felicity, all miserable events do naturally beget their like”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

Themes: Karma

“A task too strong for wizard spells
This squire has brought about;
'Tis easy dropping stones in wells,
But who shall get them out?”

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Karma

“Our deeds still travel with us from afar,
And what we have been makes us what we are.”

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: 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

“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

Themes: Karma

“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

“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: Victory Karma

8. Like Water

“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: Karma Business

“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: Forget Memory Karma

“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: Continuity Karma

“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: Fanaticism Karma

“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

“Crows don't hatch doves.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

Themes: Karma

“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

“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: Time Karma

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

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

78. Water

“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: Belief Karma

2. The Wordless Teachings

“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: Continuity Karma

“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

“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

“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: Karma Power

“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: Wisdom Karma

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”

“nowness is not a way of seeing the truth; nowness is being true... You have to stop running in order to ask questions, and this cuts the chain reaction of karmic energy”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Transcending Materialism

Themes: Karma

“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

“All the things we are commonly blamed or praised for—ranging from murder to theft to Darwin’s eminently Victorian politeness—are the result not of choices made by some immaterial 'I' but of physical necessity.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Moral Animal — Why we are the Way we Are

Themes: Karma

“The karma of global warming is not nature turning against us—we have turned against ourselves. We are doing something hostile to nature.”

Dzigar Kongtrül Rinpoche ཛི་གར་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ། 1964 CE –
from Minimum Needs and Maximum Contentment

Themes: Karma

“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

“Everything you think, everything you say, and everything you do is reflected back to you as your own experience. If you cause someone pain, you experience pain ten times worse. If you promote others' happiness and well-being, you experience the same happiness ten times over. If your own mind is calm, then the people around you will experience a similar degree of calmness.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from The Joy of Living (2007)

“Our ancestors made the world what it is. We can decide what the world will become.”

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

from Unstoppable Us

Themes: Karma

“Every point in history is a crossroads. A single traveled road leads from the past to the present, but myriad paths fork off into the future.”

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

from Sapiens

Themes: Karma

“The myth of the pivotal event has done considerable damage to our understanding of cause and effect as it relates to human affairs... For those who wish to predict the future—or avoid the mistakes of the past—pivotal moments are among the most dangerous of history's artifacts.”

Deepak Malhotra 1978
"Professor of the Year"

from Peacemaker's Code

Themes: Karma

“we often use the language of karma to describe the relationship between intentional actions and their full range of results... Our actions have ripple effects beyond the direct results we readily perceive”

Karmapa XVII ཨོ་རྒྱན་འཕྲིན་ལས་རྡོ་རྗ 1985 CE –
(Orgyen Thrinlay Dorje)
from Interconnected (2017)

Themes: Karma

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