Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Most cultures over-value thinking. Belief in concepts helps political, religious, and philosophical tyrants control and enslave their followers. Without good quality thinking however, a good life would become almost impossible. Thinking is more helpful if we don’t believe our thoughts but instead understand them as symbols, sign posts pointing toward the deeper truth, the non-thought reality that nurtures wisdom, compassion, and enlightenment.

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Quotes (73)

“No man knows distinctly anything, and no man ever will... all things are matters of opinion.”

Xenophanes Ξενοφάνης ὁ Κολοφώνιος 570 – 475 BCE
(Xenophanes of Colophon)
from Fragments

“Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.”

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

Themes: Non-Thought

“all these things are but the names which mortals have given, believing them, to be true”

Parmenides 540 – 450 BCE via John Burnett
Grandfather of Western philosophy
from On Nature

1. The Unnamed

“Whoever says salvation exists is a slave because he keeps weighing each of his words and deeds at every moment. "Will I be saved or damned?' he tremblingly asks. 'Will I go to heaven or to hell?'”

Ananda 阿難 1 via Nikos Kazantzakis
"Guardian of the Dharma"

“Forget the years, forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

11. Appreciating Emptiness

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE

Themes: Non-Thought

“The mind of sages has no point of view, and their thoughts have no direction.”

Wang Bi 王弼 226 – 534 CE

Themes: Non-Thought

49. No Set Mind

“If you use your mind to study reality, you won't understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you'll understand both.”

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨 1

14. Finding and Following the Formless Form

“When the mind is always empty, you journey from place to place in the country of the Buddhas. When the mind is always moving, you travel from one hell to the next hell.”

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨 1

“Knock on the sky and listen to the sound.”

Jianzhi Sengcan 鑑智僧璨 529 – 606 CE
(Jiànzhì Sēngcàn)

Themes: Non-Thought

25. The Mother of All Things

“Outwardly in the world of good and evil, yet without thoughts stirring the heart—this is meditation.
Inwardly seeing one's own true nature and not being distracted from it—this is meditation.”

Huineng 惠能 638 – 713 CE
(Huìnéng, Enō)
The Sutra of Hui Neng

“Confused by thoughts, we experience duality in life. Unencumbered by ideas, the enlightened see the one Reality.”

Huineng 惠能 638 – 713 CE
(Huìnéng, Enō)
The Sutra of Hui Neng

Themes: Non-Thought

“I smile, and am silent, and even my soul remains quiet: it lives in the other world which no one owns.
The peach trees blossom, the water flows.

Li Bai 李白 701 – 762 CE
(Li Bo)

Themes: Water Non-Thought

“In ignorance, samsara and nirvana are separate; in realization, they are the union of pure pleasure.”

Sarvabhaksha སརྦ་བྷཀྵ། 1
( “The Glutton” )
Mahasiddha #75

“when things come to us, we must understand them from the ground up... When in ordinary life one has the ability to react to thing by reflexes only, without any admixture of a thought of others or of oneself, that is a circulation of the Light arising out of circumstances. It is the first secret.”

Lü Dongbin 呂洞賓 1
(Lü Tung-Pin)

from Secret of the Golden Flower 太乙金華宗旨; Tàiyǐ Jīnhuá Zōngzhǐ

Themes: Non-Thought

“If you cling to the words with which you have learned to interpret the truth, you will be held in bondage by them and will never realize the truth.”

Huating Decheng 華亭德誠 820 – 858 CE via Charles Luk

“The foolish reject what they see and not what they think; the wise reject what they think and not what they see.”

Huangbo Xiyun 黄檗希运 1
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)
from Zen Teachings of Huang Po on the Transmission of Mind, John Blofeld translation

Themes: Non-Thought

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Here it is—right now. Start thinking about it and you miss it.”

Huangbo Xiyun 黄檗希运 1
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)

Themes: Non-Thought

“Without self, not thinking, not achieving… I live in consummate pure delight and perfect awareness.”

Virupa བི་རཱུ་པ། 1 via Keith Dowman
(“Dakini Master”)
Mahasiddha #3
from Masters of Enchantment

13. Honor and Disgrace

“To free your mind from desire, visualize your body as the heavens and your thoughts as stars in the sky.”

Aciṅta ཨ་ཙིངྟ་།། 862 – 912 CE
("The Avaricious Hermit")
Mahasiddha #38

“From the soil of unknowing and ignorance comes the clay of passion and thought.”

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

“If the thought that he is effaced from self occurs to one with a realization of fans ['no-mind'], that is a defect. The highest state is to be effaced from effacement.”

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

“Only if you can forget the words and embody the meaning will you (have)... the ability to kill people's false selves and conditioned perceptions”

Yuanwu Keqin 圜悟克勤 1063 – 1135 CE via J.C. and Thomas Cleary
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
from Zen Letters

48. Unlearning

“experience the absence of conditioned mind and observe that all phenomena are like dreams… enter into the uncontrived, uncluttered ocean of true nature.”

Yuanwu Keqin 圜悟克勤 1063 – 1135 CE via J.C. and Thomas Cleary
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
from Zen Letters

Themes: Dream Non-Thought

7. Lose Yourself, Gain Your Soul

“My strength failing and my vitality exhausted, I cannot find the bull. I only hear the locusts chirping through the forest at night.”

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

from 10 Bulls

Themes: Non-Thought

40. Returning

“Understanding depends on things. Hence, it involves fabrication. Not understanding returns to the origin. Hence, it approaches the truth.”

Li Xizhai 1 via Red Pine
(Li Hsi-Chai)
from Tao-te-chen-ching yi-chieh

71. Sick of Sickness

“Thinking good and bad is hell and heaven.

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

from The Gateless Gate, 無門関, 無門關

Themes: Non-Thought

20. Unconventional Mind

“Within the essence of totally pure awakened mind, there is no object to view or anything that constitutes a view—not the slightest sense of anything to look at or anyone looking.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from The Basic Space of Phenomena

Themes: Non-Thought

“I have not heard of a single Buddha, past or present, who has been enlightened by sacred prayers and scriptures.”

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

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from Hamlet

Themes: Non-Thought

49. No Set Mind

“Without thinking of anything whatsoever, rest vividly awake in the practice of mind essence.”

Karma Chagme Rinpoche I ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་རཱ་ག་ཨ་སྱས། 1613 – 1678 CE via Erik Pema Kunsang
from Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen

29. Not Doing

“Don’t hate the arising of thoughts or stop the thoughts that do arise; simply realize that our original mind, right from the start, is beyond thought, so that, no matter what, you never [actually] get involved with thoughts.”

Bankei Yōtaku 盤珪永琢 1622 – 1693 CE
Zen Master of the unborn

“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

“Taking hold of the not-thought that lies in thoughts, in their every act they hear the voice of Truth… As the Truth reveals itself in its eternal tranquility, this very earth is the Lotus-Land of Purity, and this body is the body of the Buddha.”

Hakuin Ekaku 白隠 慧鶴 1686 – 1769 CE

51. Mysterious Goodness

“Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

16. Returning to the Root, Meditation

“There are two distinct classes of what are called thoughts: those that we produce in ourselves by reflection and the act of thinking, and those that bolt into the mind of their own accord”

Thomas Paine 1737 – 1809 CE

“Nothing can contribute more to peace of soul than the lack of any opinion whatever.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742 – 1799 CE
One of history’s best aphorists

“You can't prevent time passing. When something has passed, why do thoughts still loiter?”

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

Themes: Non-Thought

5. Christmas Trees

“The actual life of a thought lasts only until it reaches the point of speech... As soon as our thinking has found words it ceases to be sincere.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

56. One with the Dust

“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.”

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

Themes: Non-Thought

“The opposition between the men who have and the men who are is immemorial.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902

“Intelligence is characterized by a natural incomprehension of life.”

Henri-Louis Bergson 1859 – 1941 CE
from Creative Evolution

“when spirit began to degenerate into intellect, there set a reaction against it, … the dark, earth-born, feminine principle with its emotionality and instinctiveness reaching far back into the depths of time and into the roots of psychological continuity.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

6. The Source

“Shut your eyes and see.”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from Ulysses

1. The Unnamed

“No time, no devotion, can be too great, therefore, which makes the vehicle of our message less distorting. We must shape our words till they are the thinnest integument for our thoughts [and] Thoughts are divine.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE
from Orlando: A Biography

“Wisdom can never be transmitted by words, only by examples and experience.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Heroes of History

“Am I convinced of the uselessness of everything I believe I know?

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

“For a seeker of reality, there is only one meditation—the rigorous refusal to harbor thoughts. To be free from thoughts is itself meditation.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj 1897 – 1981 CE
Householder guru of non-duality
from I Am That

“[Everyone has] an inner potentiality which can absorb the truth but cannot be activated as long as the mind is not disentangled from its attachments to the phenomenal.”

Charles Luk 陆宽昱 1898 – 1978 CE
from Ch'an and Zen Teaching (1960)

Themes: Non-Thought

“But prejudice is the greatest enemy of objective observation and creative thought, while an awareness of yet unexplored possibilities will open our minds to new perspectives which reveal new facts.”

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

Themes: Non-Thought Enemy

“What you see with your eyes closed is what counts.”

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

Themes: Non-Thought

47. Effortless Success

“To do something without thinking is the most important point in understanding ourselves… when you just do something, and when your mind is just acting as it is, that is how you catch your mind in the true sense.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE
from Crooked Cucumber: the Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki

29. Not Doing

“Moment after moment we should renew our life, we should not stick to old ideas of what life is, or what our way of life is… If we always stick to old ideas and always repeat the same thing over and over again, then we are confined in our old way of life.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

Themes: Non-Thought

49. No Set Mind

“When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

Themes: Non-Thought

3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

“Happiness is indeed a Eurydice, vanishing as soon as gazed upon. It can exist only in acceptance, and succumbs as soon as it is laid claim to.”

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

“All great work artistic, poetic, intellectual or spiritual is produced at those moments when creators forget themselves altogether and are free from self-consciousness.”

Walpola Rahula Thero 1907 – 1997 CE
“Supreme Master of Buddhist Scriptures”

“All phenomena are completely new and fresh, absolutely unique and entirely free from all concepts of past, present, and future.”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ། 1910 – 1991 CE
"Mind" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from Maha Ati

40. Returning

“All thoughts are completely without substance… Once you recognize this, they can no longer fool you.”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ། 1910 – 1991 CE
"Mind" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo

11. Appreciating Emptiness

“Bliss and radiance occur of themselves when the mind is tranquil.”

Freda Bedi, Sister Palmo 1911 – 1977 CE

“I felt that I understood nothing... In an instant all my doubts and the gloomy mist of my confusion vanished. Everything I had held in firm conviction, everything upon which I had ordinarily relied was swept away with the wind.”

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

Themes: Doubt Non-Thought

“When we tie a child down with petty, microcosmic scientific knowledge, he loses the freedom to acquire with his own hands macrocosmic wisdom. If children are allowed to play freely in a world that transcends science, they will develop natural methods of farming by themselves.”

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

Themes: Non-Thought

“It was the Impressionists who made an art of instantaneous, and Claude Monet who showed how it could be done.”

Daniel J. Boorstin 1914 – 2004 CE
American intellectual Paul Revere
from Creators: Heroes of the Imagination

Themes: Non-Thought

“The true artist-seer, the heavenly fool who can and does produce beauty, is mainly dazzled to death by his own scruples, the blinding shapes and colors of his own sacred human conscience.”

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

“If you want peace you must learn to drink cha from an empty cup.”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from Shōgun, 1975

Themes: Peace Non-Thought

“The passageway into the world of shamans opens up after the warrior has learned to shut off his internal dialogue.”

Carlos Castaneda 1925 – 1998 CE
from Wheel of Time: The Shamans of Mexico Their Thoughts About Life Death & the Universe

Themes: Non-Thought

2. The Wordless Teachings

“No thinking, no mind. No mind, no problem.”

Seungsahn 숭산행원대선사 1927 – 2004 CE
(Soen Sa Nim)

“The Buddhist approach is not based on hope. It would look at the chaos and problems that exist as delightful and something to work on relaxed with the turmoil in complete confidence.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from A Buddhist Approach to Politics

“If words are of any use at all, they are the words of the poet. For poetry has the ability to point us toward the truth, then stand aside.”

Red Pine 1943 CE – via Red Pine
( Bill Porter)
Exceptional translator, cultural diplomat
from Lao-Tzu's Taoteching

1. The Unnamed

“The Tao that cannot be named is the intelligence of the universe: whatever is happening right now... the don't-know mind”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

Themes: Non-Thought

3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

“The best ideas are thoughts that appear, unbidden, from out of the dark.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –
from Killing Commendatore

Themes: Non-Thought

“What's important is being attentive, being alert to things, not prejudging but listening to what's going on, keeping our ears, heart and mind open.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Philip Gabriel, Shan Dao
from Sputnik Sweetheart

“Stop thinking about that shit. Some thoughts are poison. You can think them, but only when you've got the strength—or therapy... 'Til then? Right now? Close it off. Focus on right here and now.”

N. K. Jemisin 1972 CE –
from The City We Became (2020)

“The confusion that arises when we cling to our beliefs and expectations obscures the innate clarity of our awakened minds... this confused, conceptual mind simply does not have the capacity to understand mind beyond concepts.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from In Love with the World

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