Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Arrogance and Pride

Though arrogance almost always casts a dark aura that increases delusion, ego-centrism, and failure; consequences of pride have more ambiguous results. The other side of Erasmus’ observation that “humility is truth” may be that pride means living in delusion. This delusion runs deep but could be necessary in some ways for a functioning society. It also obviously manifests in many more negative and destructive ways. There also though seems to be a pride based on truth—the truth of egolessness, basic goodness, and the sacredness of experience.

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Quotes (71)

“The smaller the mind, the greater the conceit.”

Aesop 620 – 546 BCE
Hero of the oppressed and downtrodden
from Aesop's Fables, the Aesopica

77. Stringing a Bow

“He who feels punctured must once have been a bubble.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Witter Bynner
(Lǎozǐ)
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

36. The Small, Dark Light

“Standing tiptoe we lose balance... pride has never brought a person greatness.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Witter Bynner, #24
(Lǎozǐ)
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

“Pretend to be weak so that your opponent may grow arrogant.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE via Lionel Giles and James Clavell
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist
from Art of War 孙子兵法

“The gods love to thwart whatever is greater than the rest. They do not suffer pride in anyone but themselves.”

Herodotus Ἡρόδοτος c. 484 - 425 BCE
“The Father of History”
from Histories

“Oh vain is man,
Who glories in his joy and has no fears;
While to and fro the chances of the years
Dance like an idiot in the wind!”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE via Will Durant, Shan Dao
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Trojan Women

“Those who trust themselves cannot be swayed by slander or flattery. Those whose knowledge is sufficient cannot be enticed by power or profit.”

Liú Ān 劉安 c. 179–122 BCE
(Huainanzi)
from Huainanzi

“The lofty pine is oftenest shaken by the winds; High towers fall with a heavier crash; And the lightning strikes the highest mountain.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

66. Go Low

“How little is required to enslave a mind greedy for praise.
(Sic leve, sic parvum est, animum quod laudis avarum Subruit ac reficit)”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE via Shan Dao

“Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Matthew
from New Testament Διαθήκη

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

38. Fruit Over Flowers
65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels”

Augustine ɔːɡəstiːn 354 – 430 CE
(Saint Augustine, Saint Austin, Augustine of Hippo)

67. Three Treasures

“If you say, 'It's enough, I have reached perfection,' all is lost. The task of perfection is to help us see our imperfection.”

Augustine ɔːɡəstiːn 354 – 430 CE via Aldous Huxley, Shan Dao
(Saint Augustine, Saint Austin, Augustine of Hippo)

“The rich and successful who become arrogant bring calamity upon themselves; the wise do not try to possess their achievements.”

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

“The main characteristics of noble people are not to be pleased by praise; not to be displeased by criticism.”

Sakya Pandita ས་སྐྱ་པཎྜ་ཏ་ཀུན་དགའ་རྒྱལ་མཚན། 1182 – 1251 CE via John T. Davenport; Shan Dao
(Kunga Gyeltsen)
from Ordinary Wisdom, Sakya Legshe (Jewel Treasury of Good Advice)

“Those who display themselves don’t shine for long. Those who flatter themselves don’t succeed for long. And those who parade themselves don’t lead for long”

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

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Pride, envy, avarice—these are the sparks that set on fire the hearts of a all men.”

Dante 1265 – 1321 CE via Inferno
(Durante degli Alighieri)
from Divine Comedy

“It is a great error to act superior to others.... anyone truly versed in any art will be clearly aware of his own deficiency; and therefore, his ambition being never satisfied, he ends by never being proud.”

Yoshida Kenkō 兼好 1284 – 1350 CE via Donald Keene
Inspiration of self-reinvention
from Harvest of Leisure

“A young woman is flighty, eager for many lovers; she rates her beauty beyond what the mirror shows and is proud… She know neither virtue nor intelligence and is always giddy like a leaf in the wind.”

Giovanni Boccaccio dʒoˈvanni bokˈkattʃo 1313 – 1375 CE via Will Durant

“Humility is truth.”

Erasmus 1466 – 1536 CE
(Desiderius Roterodamus)
"Greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance"

67. Three Treasures

“Pride thinks it's own happiness shines the brighter by comparing it with the misfortunes of others.”

Thomas More 1478 – 1535 CE
from Utopia

“Glory and curiosity are the two scourges of the soul; the last prompts us to thrust our noses into everything, the other forbids us to leave anything doubtful and undecided.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE
from Essays, French Essais

“People raise themselves up on their tiptoes to see over the heards of others,but they cannot stand like ths for long.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE
(Te-Ch’ing)

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Everyone has a high opinion of himself, especially those who have the least ground for it.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #194
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

“The pompous speak with an echo and at every sentence look for applause or flattery but contempt is the only reward for self-satisfaction.


Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, Shan Dao chapter #141
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

“Many would be wise if they did not think themselves wise.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs

28. Turning Back

“If you don’t take the thought of death to heart, your spiritual practice will stray into conceit, arrogance, and materialism.”

Karma Chagme Rinpoche I ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་རཱ་ག་ཨ་སྱས། 1613 – 1678 CE via Shan Dao

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Pride is pleasure arising from a man's thinking too highly of himself.”

Baruch Spinoza 1632 – 1677 CE

67. Three Treasures

“The more we learn what humility is, the less we discover of it in ourselves”

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

67. Three Treasures

“Arrogance means that one knows how to press forward but not how to draw back… knows something about winning but nothing about losing.”

Kāngxī 康熙帝 1654 – 1722 CE via Jonathan D. Spence
from Emperor of China, Self-Portrait of K'ang-hsi

“Pride, the never-failing vice of fools.”

Alexander Pope 1688 – 1744 CE
Second most quoted English writer
from An Essay on Criticism, 1709

“From all those ideas which have crowded into my brain in conflict with each other, I have obtained nothing but uncertainty. However, it is much more sad and foolish for a man to believe he knows what in fact he does not.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE via Raymond Naves, Shan Dao
from Philosophical Dictionary

“He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

15. Inscrutability

“Good Sense is a thing all need, few have, and none think they lack.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Poor Richard's Almanack

33. Know Yourself

“What everyone most aims at in ordinary contact with his fellows is to prove them inferior to himself; and how much more is this the case in politics.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via T. Bailey Saunders
from Wisdom of Life

“If you stroke a cat, it will purr; if you praise a man, a sweet expression of delight will appear on his face even though the praise is a palpable lie.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via T. Bailey Saunders
from Wisdom of Life

“Pride works from within; it is the direct appreciation of oneself. Vanity is the desire to arrive at this appreciation indirectly, from without.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via T. Bailey Saunders
from Wisdom of Life

“Nothing so fortifies a friendship as a belief on the part of one friend that he is superior to the other.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

“Whenever someone brags about their common sense, you can be sure they have very little, either common or uncommon.”

Henry Thomas Buckle 1821 – 1862 CE
from History of Civilization

21. Following Empty Heart

“A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

67. Three Treasures

“Praise is the shipwreck of historians.”

Lord Acton 1834 – 1902 CE
(John Dalberg-Acton)
Prolific historian and politician
from Lecture, Cambridge 1895

“Human pride is not worthwhile; there is always something lying in wait to take the wind out of it.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

67. Three Treasures

“I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big success. I am for those tiny, invisible loving human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets which will rend the hardest monuments of pride.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”

“The only cure for vanity is laughter, and the only fault that is laughable is vanity.”

Henri-Louis Bergson 1859 – 1941 CE
from Laughter

9. Know When to Stop

“Discussion is impossible with someone who claims not to seek the truth, but already to possess it.”

Romain Rolland 1866 – 1944 CE
“The moral consciousness of Europe”
from Above the Battle

“Insanity is possession by an unconscious content when consciousness has denied its existence… this narrowness of consciousness, this hubris is always the shortest way to the insane asylum.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Introduction to Secret of the Golden Flower

“Surrounded by treasure, you lie ill at ease; proud beyond measure, you come to your knees”

Witter Bynner 1881 – 1968 CE
(Emanuel Morgan)

9. Know When to Stop

“Nothing can be more arrogant, though nothing is commoner than to assume that of Gods there is only one, and of religions none but the speaker's.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE
from Orlando: A Biography

“You bowed to yourself in the mirror, stepping forward to applause earnestly”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from Ulysses

“There is nothing so shallow as sophistication; it judges everything from the surface, and thinks it is profound. All modern life has been misled by it.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE

21. Following Empty Heart

“If any one idea dominates the teachings of Jesus, it is his opposition to the self-righteousness of the righteous.”

Reinhold Niebuhr 1892 – 1971 CE

67. Three Treasures

“To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

53. Shameless Thieves

“Exceptional human qualities only arise when a person over the course of many years lives and works with only a generosity without any expectation of reward and without a shred of egoism.”

Jean Giono 1895 – 1970 CE via Shan Dao
from Man Who Planted Trees

“There appears to be an innate human tendency to underestimate the capacity of those who do not belong to ‘our’ group. Those who do not share our background cannot have our ability. Foreigners, people who are in a different economic status, and the young seem invariably to be regarded as intellectually backward”

Robert Hutchins 1899 – 1977 CE
(Robert Maynard Hutchins)
from The Great Conversation

“The surest cure for vanity is loneliness.”

Thomas Wolfe 1900 – 1938 CE
(Thomas Clayton Wolfe)
Father of autobiographical fiction

“But the conceited man did not hear him. Conceited people never hear anything but praise.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

66. Go Low

“One who thinks he is a good father is not a good father; one who thinks he is a good husband is not a good husband. One who thinks he is one of the worst husbands may be a good one if he is always trying to be a good one with single-hearted effort.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE via Trudy Dixon
from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

“young people—when they think they are beginning to understand nature—they can be sure that they are on the wrong track.”

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

56. One with the Dust

“To believe that our beliefs are permanent truths which encompass reality is a sad arrogance.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

2. The Wordless Teachings

“You can only be kind or cruel if you have, and cherish, a self… Altruism is the other side of egoism.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

5. Christmas Trees

“‘No … big … deal’… don’t make too big a deal because that leads to arrogance and pride, or a sense of specialness. On the other hand, making too big a deal about your difficulties takes you in the other direction; it takes you into poverty, self-denigration, and a low opinion of yourself.”

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

48. Unlearning

“All (Buddhist) teachings are basically related with a way of subjugating our ego, shedding our ego.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa

3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

“Arrogant people are so involved with themselves and they are competing so much with others that they won’t even look. When you are fully gentle, without arrogance and without aggression, you see the brilliance of the universe.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

36. The Small, Dark Light

“Stop acting, stop speeding. Sit and do nothing. You should take pride in the fact that you have learned a very valuable message: you actually can survive beautifully by doing nothing.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

26. The Still Rule the Restless

“The first will be last and the last will be first.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

76. The Soft and Flexible

“If you can get humor and seriousness at the same time, you've created a special little thing, and that's what I'm looking for, because if you get pompous, you lose everything.”

Paul Simon 1941 CE –
Prolific planter of musical, cultural wisdom seeds

“Humiliation is the most underestimated force in international relations”

Thomas L. Friedman 1953 CE –

“Anyone who claims to know what's going on will lie about the little things too.”

Neil Gaiman 1960 CE –
Myth-transmitting creative maelstrom
from American Gods

“Power is crack cocaine for your ego and battery acid for your soul.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –

9. Know When to Stop

“Where there’s bluster, there’s duplicity.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Cloud Atlas

63. Easy as Hard

“We think we’re better than average at not being biased in thinking that we’re better than average.”

Robert Kurzban 1969 CE –

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