Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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The first-thought image of “warrior” may most often entail mindless, robot-like automatons marching off to perpetuate atrocities on the weak and helpless. However, the symbol of Warrior can also have a more positive, even inspiring connotation personifying courage, creative strategy, and the strength to cut through confusion, corruption, and the enslavement to religious dogma, political partisanship, and nationalistic chauvinism. As Chögyam Trungpa describes, "Warriorship here does not refer to making war on others. Aggression is the source of our problems, not the solution. Here the word 'warrior' is taken from the Tibetan pawo, which literally means 'one who is brave.' Warriorship in this context is the tradition of human bravery, or the tradition of fearlessness."

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Quotes (74)

“The blade itself incites to deeds of violence.”

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

30. No War

“murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses, hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls, great fighters' souls, but made their bodies carrion, feasts for the dogs and birds.”

Homer 850 BCE - ?
Primogenitor of Western culture
from Iliad

“Those with outer courage dare to die, those with inner courage dare to live.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Witter Bynner, Shan Dao #73
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

“In their dealings with the world, great people are neither for nor against anyone. They follow whatever is right.”

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

Themes: Warriors

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist

73. Heaven’s Net

“The truly good has no enemies.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner
from Book of Equanimity

Themes: Enemy Warriors

“To act without needing a reason… to ride the current of what is – this is the primal virtue.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

2. The Wordless Teachings

“The agricultural population, says Cato, produces the bravest men, the most valiant soldiers, and a class of citizens the least given of all to evil designs…. A bad bargain is always a ground for repentance.”

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

from Natural History

Themes: Warriors

“Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE
from Meditations Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν

“Those who live for themselves fight with others. Those who don’t live for themselves are the refuge of others.”

Wang Bi 王弼 226 – 534 CE

Themes: Warriors

7. Lose Yourself, Gain Your Soul

“The greatest victory involves no fighting.”

Xuanzong 武隆基 685 – 756 CE
(Hsuan-Tsung or Wu Longji)

Themes: Conflict Warriors

31. Victory Funeral

“Put your trust in the man who feeds the people after finishing his work.”

Lakshmincara ལཀྵྨཱིངྐ་རཱ།། c. 8th Century CE via Keith Dowman
(“The Princess of Crazy wisdom”)
from Masters of Mahamudra

67. Three Treasures

“The frontier posts run with blood enough to fill an ocean, and the war-loving Emperor's dreams of conquest have still not ended... blue is the smoke of war, white the bones of men.”

Du Fu 杜甫 杜甫 712 – 770 CE

Themes: Warriors War

“When one family has weapons, it affects its village. When a village has weapons, it affects its state. When a state has weapons, it affects All under Heaven. When All under Heaven have weapons, chaos is preordained.”

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

75. Greed

“First improve yourself, then reach out to others and to later generations bequeath the noble, pure, and kindly Tao. Thus blessings reach your descendants, virtue grows, beauty lasts, and worship never ends.”

Cao Daochong 道寵 fl. 960 - 1268
(​Daochong or Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung)
from Lao-tzu-chu, Red Pine Translation

54. Planting Well

“The truly holy person welcomes all that is earthly.”

Hildegard of Bingen 1098 – 1179 CE

66. Go Low

“I am a woman of the warrior line. What book should I read?”

Kakusan Shido 1252 – 1305 CE via Maurine Stewart, Roshi

Themes: Warriors Books

“Man has no greater enemy than himself.”

Petrarch 1304 – 1374 CE

23. Nothing and Not

“Whenever men are not obliged by necessity to fight, they fight from ambition.”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from The Prince

Themes: Warriors Ambition

“Then a soldier, full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel, seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from As You Like It

Themes: Warriors

“The chief characteristic of highminded integrity is speaking well of an enemy.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via John Blofeld, Shan Dao
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Enemy Warriors

“Never take things against the grain… Everything has a smooth and a seamy side. The best of weapons wounds if taken by the blade, while the enemy’s spear may be our best protection if taken by the staff.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE

69. No Enemy

“When a country is defeated, there remain only mountains and rivers, and on a ruined castle in spring only grasses thrive. I sat down on my hat and wept bitterly till I almost forgot time.
A thicket of summer grass
Is all that remains
Of the dreams and ambitions
Of ancient warriors.”

Matsuo Bashō 松尾 芭蕉 1644 – 1694 CE

30. No War

“Poor nations are hungry, and rich nations are proud; and pride and hunger will ever be at variance. For these reasons, the trade of a soldier is held the most honorable of all others; because a soldier is a Yahoo hired to kill in cold blood as many of his own species—who have never offended him,—as possibly he can.”

Jonathan Swift 1667 – 1745 CE
"Foremost prose satirist in the English language"

from Gulliver's Travels

Themes: Warriors War

“A million drilled assassins go from one end of Europe to the other murdering and robbing with discipline in order to earn their bread, because there is no more honest occupation”

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

“No wise combatant underestimates their antagonist.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.”

Lord Byron 1788 – 1824 CE
(George Gordon Byron)
The first rock-star style celebrity

“Of Caesar’s crime from him to Constantine
And Gregory and John and men divine
Spread the plague of blood and gold abroad,
Who rose like shadows between Man and god”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE via Shan Dao, editor
from Triumph of Life

Themes: Warriors

“Our life is not really a mutual helpfulness; but rather, it's fair competition cloaked under due laws of war; it's a mutual hostility.”

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

“No man thoroughly understands a truth until he has contended against it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism
from Compensation

Themes: Warriors

“A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives—approving of some and disapproving of others... I ought or I ought not, constitute the whole of morality.”

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 CE
from Descent of Man

“I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me.”

Frederick Douglass 1818 – 1895 CE
International symbol of social justice

36. The Small, Dark Light

“that one most perilous and long voyage ended, only begins a second; and a second ended, only begins a third, and so on, for ever and for aye. Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all earthly effort.”

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

Themes: Ambition Warriors

“And if the idea of peril so much enhances the popular conceit of the soldier's profession; let me assure ye that many a veteran who has freely marched up to a battery, would quickly recoil at the apparition of the sperm whale's vast tail, fanning into eddies the air over his head.”

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

Themes: Warriors

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

Themes: Warriors Patience

“by whatever name men may all murder—murder always remains murder and a criminal and shameful thing... we must stop seeing as something else what we call now service of country, heroism of war, military glory, and patriotism. We must learn to see these as they really are—the naked, criminal business of murder”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

“Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War… He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out... and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel.”

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

31. Victory Funeral

“The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that's what an army is—a mob; the don't fight with courage that's born in them, but with courage that's borrowed from their mass”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author
from Huckleberry Finn, 1984

Themes: Warriors

“Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War… He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out... and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel.”

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

31. Victory Funeral

“The eternal forces of truth always work in the individual and immediately in an unsuccessful way, underdogs always until history comes—after they are long dead—and puts them on the top.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from Memories and Studies (1911)

“The true basis of morality is utility; that is, the adaptation of our actions to the promotion of the general welfare and happiness; the endeavor so to rule our lives that we may serve and bless mankind.”

Annie Besant 1847 – 1933 CE

“If, in the present chaotic and shameful struggle for existence, when organized society offers a premium on greed, cruelty, and deceit, men can be found who stand aloof and almost alone in their determination to work for good rather than gold.”

Lucy Parsons 1853 – 1942 CE
(Eldine Gonzalez)
Political activist “more dangerous than a thousand rioters”

“The exemption of women from military service is founded not on any natural inaptitude that men do not share, but on the fact that communities cannot reproduce themselves without plenty of women. Men are more largely dispensable, and are sacrificed accordingly.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Saint Joan, 1923

“the worst part about making a soldier of a man is not that a soldier kills, but that the soldier loses his own soul.”

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

“Military service produces moral imbecility.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from John Bull's Other Island, 1906

Themes: Warriors

“The only way to abolish war is to make peace seem heroic.”

John Dewey 1859 – 1952 CE
The "Second Confucius"

Themes: Peace Warriors

“To fight is a radical instinct; if men have nothing else to fight over, they will fight over words, fancies, or women; or they will fight because they dislike each other’s looks, or because they have met walking in opposite directions… To fight for a reason and in a calculating spirit is something your true warrior despises.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet
from Reason in Religion

Themes: Conflict Warriors

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

W.B. (William Butler) Yeats 1865 – 1939 CE

Themes: Warriors

33. Know Yourself

“Many a man will have the courage to die gallantly, but will not have the courage to say, or even to think, that the cause for which he is asked to die is an unworthy one.”

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

Themes: Warriors

“It is not good when people no longer believe in war. Pretty soon they no longer believe in many other things which they absolutely must believe in if they are to be decent men.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from An Appeal to Reason (1930)

Themes: Warriors

“A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

“Today, writing is a grave duty. Its purpose is not to entertain the mind with fairy tales and make it forget, but to proclaim a state of mobilization to all the luminous forces still surviving in our age of transition, and to urge men to do their utmost to surpass the beast.”

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

“If anything is clear in the experience of mankind, it is that successful revolutionists soon behave like the men they have overthrown.”

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

Themes: Warriors

“in those thousand times a thousand years, man had to be pugnacious, always ready to fight—for his food, for his mate, for his life. If he could, he took more mates than one, for hunting and fighting were mortally dangerous and left a surplus of women over men; so the male is still polygamous [or polygamous] by nature.”

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

Themes: Warriors

“When a man becomes a soldier, he ceases to be a man and goes back to the beast he once was in some other life.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from Dragon Seed

Themes: Warriors

“Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940 CE
Prototype of "Jazz Age" exuberance
from Noteooks​

Themes: Warriors

“The white man's symbol is the square. Square is his house, his office buildings with walls that separate people from one another. Square is the door that keeps strangers out... gadgets, boxes—TV sets, washing machines, computers, cars... You become a prisoner inside all these boxes. More and more young white people want to stop being 'straight' and 'square' and try to become round, join our circle. That is good.”

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

“All the war propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”

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

Themes: Warriors

“the social effects of fighting a war by railway... just as every citizen had been a worker, every citizen became a soldier. Previous wars had had no such scope.”

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

Themes: Warriors

“A Warrior is the master of his fate. No matter what fate throws at him, fame or infamy, health or sickness, poverty or riches, he uses the situation for his own inner development.”

Robert S. De Ropp 1913 – 1987 CE

“The Japanese are a good people who love chrysanthemums. But depending on the leadership, they can be transformed with great ease into barbaric warriors.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE via Metreaud
from Road Back to Nature

Themes: Warriors

“Yet a real artist, I've noticed, will survive anything. (Even praise, I happily suspect.)”

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

Themes: Warriors

“That in China the scholar ranked at the top of the social scale may have been Confucius’ doing, but Taoism is fully as responsible for placing the soldier at that bottom.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE
from World's Religions

“The Greatest Generation? They tell me I am a member of the greatest generation. That's because I saw combat duty as a bombardier in World War II. But I refuse to celebrate "the greatest generation" because in so doing we are celebrating courage and sacrifice in the cause of war. And we are mis-educating the young to believe that military heroism is the noblest form of heroism, when it should be remembered only as the tragic accompaniment of horrendous policies driven by power and profit. The current infatuation with World War II prepares us—innocently on the part of some, deliberately on the part of others—for more war, more military adventures, more attempts to emulate the military heroes of the past.”

Howard Zinn 1922 – 2010 CE
Historian of the oppressed and defeated

“The average man acts only if there is a chance for profit. Warriors act not for profit but for the spirit.”

Carlos Castaneda 1925 – 1998 CE

44. Fame and Fortune

“An innocent man is a sin before God. Inhuman and therefore untrustworthy. No man should live without absorbing the sins of his kind, the foul air of his innocence, even if it did wilt rows of angel trumpets and cause them to fall from their vines.”

Toni Morrison 1931 – 2019 CE
(Chloe Ardelia Wofford)
Story-telling voice of American wisdom
from Tar Baby (1981)​​

Themes: Paradox Warriors

“Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior's world.”

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

52. Cultivating the Changeless

“Avoid teams at all cost - there is no ‘I’ in team… but there is an ‘I’ in independence, individuality and integrity.”

George Carlin 1937 – 2008 CE
One of the most influential social commentators of his time

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Bodhisattvas are known as warriors because they are visionary. They are not confused, and they do not shy away from others.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Judith Lief, editor
from Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion

Themes: Warriors

“the warrior’s journey is based on resting in the state of warriorship rather than struggling to take the next step.. which is not based on ego-centered concerns but on resting in unconditional confidence, free from aggression.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

Themes: Warriors

46. Enough

“A warrior doesn’t need color television or video games… doesn’t need to read comic books… the world of entertainment doesn’t arise.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

60. Less is More

“I never cut class. I loved getting A’s, I liked being smart. I liked being on time. I thought being smart is cooler than anything in the world.”

Michelle Obama 1964 CE –

“He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Cloud Atlas

Themes: Warriors


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