Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Most people seem to think about gardening in terms of fun, flowers, and free food. It has many more less obvious benefits however. For example, mixing Biochar into our soil mixes and even spreading it on top of the soil can create huge environmental benefits. It can improve microbial activity that sequesters twice as much CO2 as in regular soils. Gardening techniques can reduce fire risk, prevent erosion, and increase the soil's oxygen and water holding capacities. Converting a grass lawn to a garden represents one of the most consequence-producing gardening projects. On a small scale, we can even help reach the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

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Quotes (80)

“There is infinite space in your garden; all men, all women are welcome here; all they need do is enter.”

Solomon 990 – 931 BCE via Stephen Mitchell
Magician, exorcist, great prophet of Judaism and Islam
from Odes of Solomon (1st or 2nd century CE)

“When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily.”

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

Themes: Gardening

37. Nameless Simplicity

“And a marvelous herb of the soil grows here,
Whose match I never had heard it sung
In the Dorian Isle of Pelops near
Or in Asia far hath sprung.”

Sophocles Σοφοκλῆς 497 – 405 BCE
“The Wise and Honored One”
from Oediplus at Colonus, 406 BCE

Themes: Gardening

“However well a man sows a field or plants a farm, he cannot know who will gather in the fruits; another may build a beautiful house, but he knows not who will inhabit it.”

Xenophon of Athens Ξενοφῶν 1 via Shan Dao
General, Socratic biographer, philosopher

“Plant mulberry trees around the homesteads and people will be able to wear silk. Promote the breeding of pigs and fowl and people will be able to eat meat. Assure farmers the time to cultivate their fields and families will not suffer from hunger.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via James Legge, Shan Dao
from Book of Mencius 孟子

“Where would the gardener be if there were no more weeds?”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Thomas Merton

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Gardening

“Once plants reach their height of development, they wither. Once people reach their peak, they grow old. Force does not prevail for long. It isn’t the Tao. What is withered and old cannot follow the Tao. And what cannot follow the Tao soon dies.”

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

55. Forever Young

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

Cicero 106 – 43 BCE
from Ad Familiares IX, 4

Themes: Books Gardening

“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

Anonymous 1 via anonymous Greek proverb​
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

54. Planting Well

“All gardeners know better than other gardeners.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Chinese Proverb​

Themes: Gardening

“Pleasure for an hour, a bottle of wine; pleasure for a year, marriage; pleasure for a lifetime, a garden.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Chinese Proverb​

“How lucky, if they know their happiness are farmers—more than lucky, they for whom, far from the clash of arms, the earth herself, most fair in dealing, freely lavishes an easy livelihood.”

Virgil 70 – 19 BCE via John Dryden
(Publius Vergilius Maro)
from Georgics (29 BC)

“It is impossible to deny the good of life to any order of living things… Those that deny the happy life to plants are really denying it to all living things.”

Plotinus 204 – 249 CE via Stephen MacKenna, B.S. Page, Shan Dao
from Enneads Ἐννεάδες Plotinus / Porphyry

“All pleasure and pain arise in the mind so cultivate mind’s nature; awaken consciousness in the heart’s core.”

Shantipa ཤཱནྟི་པ། 1 via Keith Dowman, Shan Dao
("The Academic")
Mahasiddha #12

“A field which has not been worked will not bear fruit even if the six grains are sown.”

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

Themes: Gardening

“If you throw the six grains in a meadow, there will be no sprouts.
If you plant seeds in a plowed field, then you get results.”

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

“With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own hand labored it to grow”

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

from Rubaiyat

Themes: Gardening

“The beauty of my garden is invisible... I use no magic to extend my life; Now, before me, the dead trees become alive.”

Kakuan Shien 廓庵師遠 1100 – 1200 CE
(Kuo-an Shih-yuan, Kuòān Shīyuǎn )
Most popular Ten Bulls artist/poet

from 10 Bulls

“Those who plant something well, plant it without planting. Thus it is never uprooted. Those who hold something well, hold it without holding. Thus it is never taken away.”

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

Themes: Gardening Paradox

54. Planting Well

“And when the Moon says, 'it is time to plant,' why not dance, dance and sing?”

Hafiz خواجه شمس‌‌الدین محمد حافظ شیرازی 1315 – 1394 CE via Daniel Ladinsky
(Hafez, Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad)
Inspiring friend to the true and free human spirit

“Water the ground of appreciation and love, sew the seeds of compassion, and watch the tree of awakened heart grow.”

Tsongkhapa ཙོང་ཁ་པ། 1357 – 1419 CE via Shan Dao
(Zongkapa Lobsang Zhaba, "the Man from Onion Valley")

“'That's well said,' replied Candide, 'but we must cultivate our garden.'”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE
from Candide

Themes: Gardening

“Corn is a necessity, silver only a superfluity.”

Adam Smith 1723 – 1790 CE
''The Father of Economic Capitalism"
from Wealth of Nations

Themes: Gardening

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”

Thomas Jefferson 1743 – 1826 CE

Themes: Gardening

“And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.”

William Wordsworth 1770 – 1850 CE

13. Honor and Disgrace

“When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers therefore are the founders of human civilization.”

Daniel Webster 1782 – 1852 CE
America's greatest orator

“What is a weed? A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

“What is success? To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

“The first farmer was the first man, and all historic nobility rests on possession and use of land.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

Themes: Gardening

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

Themes: Gardening

64. Ordinary Mind

“The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.”

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

“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.”

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

Themes: Gardening

“I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula
from Song of Myself, Part 52

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.”

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

Themes: Gardening

“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

77. Stringing a Bow

“The best place to seek God is in a garden—dig for him there.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God, 1932

Themes: Gardening

“In my garden I understand dimly why evil is in the world and in my garden learn how transitory it is.”

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

from Great Possessions

Themes: Gardening Evil

“The mind can be influenced like a plant, like a cell, like a chemical element; one has only to introduce it into a series of new circumstances or a new setting.

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE via Justin O'Brien
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from In Search of Lost Time

“Every time I talk to a savant, I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I’m convinced of the opposite.”

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

Themes: Gardening

“she still had that something which fires the imagination… that somehow revealed the meaning in common things… to make you feel the goodness of planting and tending and harvesting at last… It was no wonder that her sons stood tall and straight. She was a rich mine of life, like the founders of early races.”

Willa Cather 1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

62. Basic Goodness

“Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. It's true life is invisible, hidden... What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.”

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

“Trees in particular were mysterious and seemed to me direct embodiments of the incomprehensible meaning of life. For that reason, the woods were the place where I felt closest to its deepest meaning and to its awe-inspiring workings.”

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

“Like plants, so men also grow, some in the light, others in the shadows. There are many who need the shadows and not the light.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Red Book, Liber Novus

“Song brings us health, and color will heal wounds…therefore, I advise to keep more flowers. Plants wisely selected according to color are healing.”

Helena Roerich Елéна Ивáновна Рéрих 1879 – 1955 CE

“The old agricultural view of the world in terms of seed and growth did far more justice to the complexity and irrepressible expansiveness of things.”

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

“In my Utopia, every family, including philosophers, would apply half of its working hours to growing its essential vegetables on a plot of land around or near its house”

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

Themes: Gardening

“Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened, into the rose garden.”

T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE
from Four Quartets

Themes: Gardening Memory

“I go forth to seek —
To seek and claim the lovely magic garden
Where grasses softly sigh and Muses speak.”

Anna Akhmatova Анна Ахматова 1889 – 1966 CE via Irina Zheleznova
(Andreyevna Gorenko)
Russia's most loved female poet

Themes: Magic Gardening

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower 1890 – 1969 CE
from Speech, 1956

“among the inmates of an insane asylum you never find a successful carrot-grower”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE
from On the Wisdom of America, 1950

Themes: Gardening

“So instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers, plant your own gardens and decorate your own soul.”

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

“What torments me tonight is the gardener's point of view... When by mutation a new rose is born in a garden, all the gardeners rejoice. They isolate the rose, tend it, foster it. But there is no gardener for men... It is the human race and not the individual that is wounded here”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE
from Wind, Sand, and Stars (1939)

“excessive interdependence of systems increases the likelihood of collective disasters... A partial degree of independence with regard to food production is in fact coming to be considered a matter of national security in most parts of the world.”

René Dubos 1901 – 1982 CE via The Global Village
Influential scientific environmentalist

from Celebrations of life (1981)

Themes: Gardening

“agricultural practices have brought about dramatic decreases in the number of animals and plants of most native species and have simultaneously increased the numbers of other animals and plants... earth is constantly changing through the agency of all the forms of life which are part of it, including humankind.”

René Dubos 1901 – 1982 CE
Influential scientific environmentalist

from Celebrations of life (1981)

“Emptiness is the garden where you can't see anything. It is the mother of all.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE via David Chadwick

6. The Source

“Ultimately, it is not the growing technique which is the most important factor, but rather the state of mind of the farmer.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE via Larry Korn
from One Straw Revolution

“Some weeding, composting or pruning may be necessary at first, but these measures should be gradually reduced each year.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE
from One Straw Revolution

Themes: Gardening

“Without attention, the human sense of wonder and the holy will stir occasionally, but to become a steady flame it must be tended”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE
from World's Religions

“If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

“The universe will never be extinguished because just when the darkness seems to have smothered all, the new seeds of light are reborn in the very depths. That is the Way. When the seed falls, it falls into the earth, into the soil. And beneath, out of sight, it comes to life.”

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

“Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.”

Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014 CE

“We're only truly secure when we can look out our kitchen window and see our food growing and our friends working nearby.”

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

Themes: Gardening

“Honor the hands that harvest your crops.”

Dolores Huerta 1930 CE –

Themes: Gardening

“All culture has the form of gardening: the encouragement of spontaneity in others by way of one's own, the respect for source, and the refusal to convert source into resource.”

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

Themes: Gardening

“To garden is not to engage in a hobby or an amusement; it is to design a culture capable of adjusting to the widest possible range of surprise”

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

Themes: Gardening

“Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?”

Jane Goodall 1934 CE –

“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –
from The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (1977)

Themes: Gardening

“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

Themes: Gardening

76. The Soft and Flexible

“The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer. I've never seen anybody really find the answer, but they think they have. So they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom.”

Ken Kesey 1935 – 2001 CE

“We can plant the moon of bodhichitta in everyone’s heart and the sun of the Great Eastern Sun in their heads.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

Themes: Gardening Moon

“How different this world would be if our leaders spent as much time in their gardens as they do in their war rooms.”

Red Pine 1943 CE –
( Bill Porter)
Exceptional translator, cultural diplomat

76. The Soft and Flexible

“What if cultivating your own garden were the best way to help the world? What if your little backyard could, with the proper care, grow enough vegetable and fruits to feed a million people? What if your gardening inspired a thousand of your neighbors to do the same?”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

59. The Gardening of Spirit

psyche, the Greek word for 'soul,' can also mean 'butterfly'... what depths of joy lie hidden within that pinpoint of a brain? The whole world contained in a garden, in a single flower! All time contained in a summer's day, and life one all-embracing multi-orgasmic fragrance!”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –

“There was nothing Suzuki Roshi liked more than working in his garden.”

David Chadwick 1945 CE –
Close student of Suzuki Roshi
from Crooked Cucumber: the Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki

59. The Gardening of Spirit

“Blow up your TV...throw away your paper...move to the country and build you a home. Plant a little garden...eat a lot of peaches...try and find Jesus on your own.”

John Prine 1946 CE –

“civilizations, cultures are organisms seeded (seeds = teachings) from another unseen world and planted”

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

Themes: Gardening Culture

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.”

Michael Pollan 1955 CE –
Champion for Sustainable Agriculture
from The Omnivore's Dilemma

Themes: Gardening

“A garden should make you feel you've entered privileged space -- a place not just set apart but reverberant -- and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”

Michael Pollan 1955 CE –
Champion for Sustainable Agriculture
from Second Nature: A Gardener's Education​​

Themes: Gardening

“Ten thousand years ago most people were hunter-gatherers and only a few pioneers in the Middle East were farmers. Yet the future belonged to the farmers. In 1850 more than 90 per cent of humans were peasants, and in the small villages along the Ganges, the Nile and the Yangtze nobody knew anything about steam engines, railroads or telegraph lines. Yet the fate of those peasants had already been sealed in Manchester and Birmingham by the handful of engineers, politicians and financiers who spearheaded the Industrial Revolution. Steam engines, railroads and telegraphs transformed the production of food, textiles, vehicles and weapons, giving industrial powers a decisive edge over traditional agricultural societies.”

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

from Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow


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