Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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As opposed to anarchistic, simplistic understandings that become self-justifications based on ‘be yourself,’ insights into our true selves reveal a sacred and deeply meaningful nature, an inspiring perception that transcends passion and aggression, hope and fear, nationalism and racial identity, egocentricism and selfishness. Cultural advertisements persuasively convince us that our lives become meaningful only after we achieve some kind of success: fame, fortune, wealth, power, pleasure. They seduce us into goal-oriented life-styles that sacrifice the present for imagined goals that either never materialize or come about shrouded in disappointment, dissatisfaction and regret. In his psychologically revolutionary book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl describes his experience in a Nazi concentration camp and correlates people’s ability to survive and the degree of meaningfulness they’ve found in their lives. The more that meaningfulness arises from inner realizations instead of external gaining ideas, the more authentic and powerful that perception of meaningfulness becomes.

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Quotes (133)

“When people appreciate and love life, they naturally love and take care of things.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Shan Dao, chapter #74
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Meaningfulness

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

6. The Source

“Seeing the meaningful as meaningful, and the meaningless as meaningless, one is capable of genuine understanding.”

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

“He who hears the Tao in the morning can die in the evening.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

Pericles 495 – 429 BCE via Thucydides
Disprover that all power corrupts

Themes: Meaningfulness

“Man is a being in search of meaning.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE

Themes: Meaningfulness

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“If our actions do not satisfy the mnd-and-heart, we become starved.”

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

“The spirit of the universe informs all life... things emerge and submerge, but it remains for ever without change.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Lin Yutang

Themes: Meaningfulness

“The goal of life is living in agreement with Nature.”

Zeno Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς 334 – 262 BCE
(of Citium)

26. The Still Rule the Restless

“The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?”

Koheleth 1
from Ecclesiastes קֹהֶלֶת‎

5. Christmas Trees

“Why rely on forms and titles? These are like games, stunts and tricks—entertaining but unimportant and meaningless.”

Yang Xiong 揚雄 53 BCE – 18 CE via Michael Nylan, Shan Dao
from Fayan 法言, Exemplary Figures or Model Sayings

“A person's worth is measured by the worth of what he values.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

57. Wu Wei

“In these things there lies a deep meaning; yet when we would express it, words suddenly fail us.”

Tao Yuanming 365 – 427 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

1. The Unnamed

“Consciousness dissolves itself in vision.”

Lü Dongbin 呂洞賓 1 via Richard Wilhelm
(Lü Tung-Pin)

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

15. Inscrutability

“…since you are fundamentally complete in every respect, you should not try to supplement that perfection by such meaningless practices… Only awake to the One Mind, and thre is nothing whatsoever to be attained.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

35. The Power of Goodness

“When you fail to go beyond the world of thoughts and senses, your actions have no significance or meaning.”

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

“There must be a great purpose for a great mountain to shake.
There must be a great purpose to roll out the carpet of the great plain.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

“Better than disks of jade followed by teams of horses would be one good word or one good deed to keep the people from losing sight of the good.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

62. Basic Goodness

“Like the aroma of sandalwood spread on the wind, virtue spreads far and wide through place and time.”

Sakya Pandita ས་སྐྱ་པཎྜ་ཏ་ཀུན་དགའ་རྒྱལ་མཚན། 1182 – 1251 CE via John T. Davenport, Shan Dao #415
(Kunga Gyeltsen)
from Ordinary Wisdom, Sakya Legshe (Jewel Treasury of Good Advice)

“Life is the only thing worth living for.”

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: Meaningfulness

57. Wu Wei

“This aloneness is worth more than a thousand lives.
This freedom is worth more than all the lands on earth.
To be alone with the truth for just a moment,
Is worth more than the world and life itself.”

Rumi مولانا جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی 1207 – 1283 CE
(Rumi Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī)

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to live in a way that makes life worth living.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Herbert V. Guenther, Shan Dao
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from Kindly Bent to Ease Us, Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease ངལ་གསོ་སྐོར་གསུམ་

Set out on the path to peace by being alert and mindful to the misery of chasing after the fame, fortune, pleasure, and power goals of a belief in a separate self. Quickly conquer this fictitious being and enjoy the feast of life's true meaning.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Herbert V. Guenther, Shan Dao
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from Kindly Bent to Ease Us, Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease ངལ་གསོ་སྐོར་གསུམ་

“Enthusiasm is love and dreams of a beautiful life, due to which we are enabled to become better”

Giordano Bruno 1548 – 1600 CE

“Though neither miserable in pain nor courageous in battle, men die from the weariness of boredom, doing the same things over and over.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE via James Spedding, Shan Dao
from Unlisted SourceEssays, Civil and Moral 1625

“the greatest evil in heaven and on earth: they pass through the world without doing any useful work and are thus great thieves”

Bunan 至道無難 1603 – 1676 CE
(Shido Bunan Zenji Munan)

“Careless handling of one item might bring harm to the whole world, a moment's carelessness damage all future generations.”

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

“There are no real pleasures without real needs.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

“Oh you, who have never heard the voice of heaven, who think man destined only to live this little life and die in peace; you who reign in populous cities with your fatal acquisitions, your restless spirits, your corrupt hearts and endless desires... retire to the woods, renounce civilizations advances and vices from which always arise more real calamities than even apparent advantages.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE via GDH Cole, Shan Dao
from On the Origin of Inequality

“The human heart refuses to believe in a universe without a purpose.”

Immanuel Kant 1724 – 1804 CE
from Critique Of Pure Reason

Themes: Meaningfulness

“Don't wait around for your life to happen to you. Find something that makes you happy, and do it. Because everything else is all just background noise.”

George Mason 1725 – 1792 CE
First American abolitionist, founding father, and Constitutional savior

“True yin and true yang naturally form a couple and from striving enter into nonstriving, from effort arrive at spontaneity completely realizing essence and arriving at the true meaning of life.”

Liu Yiming 刘一明 1734 – 1821 CE via Thomas Cleary, Shan Dao, #53 Gradual Progress
(Liu I-ming)
from Taoist I Ching, , Zhouyi chanzhen 周易闡真

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; 'Tis dearness only that gives everything its value.”

Thomas Paine 1737 – 1809 CE

“Every second is of infinite value.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

35. The Power of Goodness

“To greatly increase your happiness, just realize the simple truth that the value and the meaningfulness of our lives is within and not based on external factors.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via Shan Dao
from Wisdom of Life

“Show whence I came, and where I am, and why—
'Arise and quench thy thirst,' was her reply
I rose; and bent at her sweet command,
And suddenly my brain became as sand.

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE via Shan Dao

Themes: Meaningfulness

“Who is to decide which is the grimmer sight: withered hearts, or empty skulls?”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)
from Père Goriot

Themes: Meaningfulness

“Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism
from Progress of Culture

“What a man is born for is to be a Reformer, a Remaker of what man has made; a renouncer of lies; a restorer of truth and good”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism
from The Reformer (1841)

Themes: Meaningfulness

“I have never yet met a man who was quite awake… with an infinite expectation of the dawn… the day is a perpetual morning… I went to the woods… to see if I could learn what it had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

Themes: Meaningfulness

35. The Power of Goodness

“what I should most rejoice at would be to have something good to do with my money”

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Meaningfulness

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula
from Leaves of Grass

Themes: Meaningfulness

“better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE
from Brothers Karamatzov

Themes: Meaningfulness

“The secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE
from Brothers Karamatzov

Themes: Meaningfulness

“What if my whole life has all been wrong?... I was going up in public opinion, but to the same extent life was ebbing away from me”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE
from The Death of Ivan Ilyich

“If I can stop one heart from breaking, if I can ease one life the aching, I shall not live in vain.”

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886 CE

67. Three Treasures

“How little a thing can make us happy when we feel that we have earned it.”

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

36. The Small, Dark Light

“These then are my last words to you: Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from The Will to Believe

“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.”

Henry James 1843 – 1916 CE

“I thank fate for having made me born poor. Poverty taught me the true value of the gifts useful to life.”

Anatole France 1844 – 1924 CE
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)

47. Effortless Success

“An editor must have a purpose. ... What a legacy for one's conscience to know that one has been instrumental in mowing down the old prejudices that rattle in the wind like weeds.”

Joel Chandler Harris 1848 – 1908 CE

“It is perhaps a more fortunate destiny to have a taste for collecting shells than to be born a millionaire.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

53. Shameless Thieves

“men measure by false standards—the everyone seeks power, success, riches for himself and admires others who attain them—while undervaluing the truly precious things in life”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from Civilization and It's Discontents (1930)

“The moment a man questions the meaning and value of life, he is sick, since objectively neither has any existence. [It is] a kind of fermentation leading to sadness and depression.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from Letter to Marie Bonapart (1926)

Themes: Meaningfulness

“The purpose of life is not perfection as a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining…”

John Dewey 1859 – 1952 CE
The "Second Confucius"
from Psychology and Social Science

“That life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions, and, were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

“To understand is hard. Once one understands, action is easy.”

Sun Yat-sen 孙逸仙 1866 – 1925 CE

“One must be very strong, very stupid, or completely exhausted to face life with indifference.”

Alexandra David-Néel 1868 – 1969 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

“it is the feeling of being necessary, of being desired, flowing into a man that produces the satisfaction of contentment.”

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

from Adventures in Friendship

Themes: Meaningfulness

“compassion... If you feel this, you have a motive for existence, a guide for action, a reason for courage, an imperative necessity for intellectual honesty.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from The Impact of Science on Society

“She lent herself to immemorial human attitudes which we recognize by instinct as universal and true... a look or gesture somehow revealed the meaning in common things.”

Willa Cather 1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

from My Ántonia

“Supreme meaning is the Path, the Way, and the Bridge to what is to come. That is the God yet to come.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

“If you marry the ordered to the chaos you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness.”

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

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

“as in all metaphysical questions, both are true; Life is—or has—meaning and meaninglessness. I cherish the anxious hope that meaning will preponderate and win the battle.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE via Richard and Clara Winston
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

“What the secular mind does is to assert that we (symbolists) are reading meaning into things that originally had none: our assertion is that they are reading out the meaning. The proof of our contention lies in the perfection, consistency and universality of the pattern in which these meanings are united.”

Ananda Coomaraswamy குமாரசுவாமி 1877 – 1947 CE
Perennial philosophy's Citizen of the World
from Christian and Oriental Philosophy of Art (1941)

Themes: Meaningfulness

“It is only when we realize that life is taking us nowhere that it begins to have meaning.”

Ouspensky Пётр Демья́нович Успе́нский 1878 – 1947 CE
(Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii)

“The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

13. Honor and Disgrace

“Only a life lived for others is a life worth while.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE
from Youth, 1932

“[Taoism is] the straightest, most logical explanation as yet advanced for the continuance of life, the most logical use yet advised for enjoying it.”

Witter Bynner 1881 – 1968 CE
(Emanuel Morgan)

“What is the meaning of life?… The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

“there is a purpose above each purpose, and there is again a purpose under each purpose; and yet beyond and beneath all purposes there is no purpose.”

Inayat Khan 1882 – 1927 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

6. The Source

“Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”

Franklin Roosevelt 1882 – 1945 CE
Champion and creator of a more just and equitable society

“Every integral man has inside him—in his heart of hearts—a mystic center around which all else revolves... Alas for the man who does not feel himself governed inside by an absolute monarch. His ungoverned, incoherent life is scattered to the four winds.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

“It is our duty to set ourselves an end beyond our individual concerns, beyond our convenient, agreeable habits, higher than our own selves, and disdaining laughter, hunger, even death, to toil night and day to attain that end... Not to attain it, but never to halt in the ascent. Only then does life acquire nobility and oneness.”

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

“I would rather contribute a microscopic mite to improving the conduct of men and statesmen than write the one hundred best books.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

“Life is that which can hold a purpose for 3000 years and never yield. The individual fails, but life succeeds. The individual is foolish, but life holds in its blood nd seed the wisdom of generations.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

“all technological advances will have to be written off as merely new means of achieving old ends... we repeatedly enlarge our instrumentalities without improving our purposes.”

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

80. A Golden Age

“We had the experience but missed the meaning. And approach to the meaning restores the experience in a different form.”

T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE

70. Inscrutable

“It has always been assumed that the most important things in the Gospels are the ethical maxims and commandments. But for me the most important thing is that Christ speaks in parables taken from life, that He explains the truth in terms of everyday reality. The idea that underlies this is that communion between mortals is immortal, and that the whole of life is symbolic because it is meaningful.”

Boris Pasternak Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к 1890 – 1960 CE
Russia's greatest poet
from A Girl from a Different World

“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE

“The most tragic person in our civilization is the middle-aged woman whose duties in the home are finished, whose children are gone, and who is in her mental and physical prime and yet feels there is no more need for her.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from Men and Women, 1941

Themes: Meaningfulness

“Nothing costs enough here.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

18. The Sick Society

“The great end of any man's existence is to find his place in life—and that is the secret of contentment.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

“The idea that to make a man work you've got to hold gold in front of his eyes is a growth, not an axiom. We’ve done that for so long that we've forgotten there’s any other way.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940 CE
Prototype of "Jazz Age" exuberance
from This Side of Paradise (1920)

“What at one time are most effective expressions gradually become so worn with use that they cease to carry a definite meaning. The underlying ideas may be as valid as ever, but the words, even when they refer to problems that are still with us, no longer convey the same conviction.”

Friedrich Hayek 1899 – 1992 CE

“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.”

Erich Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE
One of the most powerful voices of his era promoting the true personal freedom beyond social, political, religious, and national belief systems
from The Sane Society

58. Goals Without Means
38. Fruit Over Flowers

“The individual is a path. Man only matters who takes the path.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

“Is this not the true romantic feeling; not to desire to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping you.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

“Indians chase the vision, white men chase the dollar.”

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

Themes: Meaningfulness

37. Nameless Simplicity

“We Sioux spend a lot of time thinking about everyday things… We see in the world around us many symbols that teach us the meaning of life.”

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

45. Complete Perfection

“From emptiness, everything comes out. One whole body of water, or one whole mind, is emptiness. When we reach this understanding we find true meaning to our life.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

2. The Wordless Teachings
4. The Father of All Things

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life but I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking… what we’re really seeking is an experience of being alive, the rapture of being alive.”

Joseph Campbell 1904 – 1987 CE
Great translator of ancient myth into modern symbols
from Power of Myth

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

Viktor Frankl 1905 – 1997 CE
Brave and insightful concentration camp survivor

from Man's Search for Meaning

Themes: Meaningfulness

“The need of reason is not inspired by the quest for truth but by the quest for meaning. And truth and meaning are not the same. The basic fallacy, taking precedence over all specific metaphysical fallacies, is to interpret meaning on the model of truth.”

Hannah Arendt 1906 – 1975 CE
Fearless researcher into the darker reaches of the human psyche
from The Life of the Mind (1971/1978)

Themes: Meaningfulness

“The crises of modern man are to a large extent religious ones, insofar as they are an awakening of his awareness to an absence of meaning.”

Mircea Eliade 1907 – 1986 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

“everyone growing up faces differential opportunities... differential experiences that you don't look for, that you don't plan for, but, boy, you better not miss them. The things that make you bigger than you are. The things that give you a vision. The things that give you a challenge.”

James Michener 1907 – 1997 CE
Historical and Generational Saga Master

from Interview (1991)

“Everything is naturally perfect just as it is, completely pure and undefiled. All phenomena naturally appear in their uniquely correct modes and situation, forming ever-changing patterns full of meaning and significance, like participants in a great dance… The everyday practice is just ordinary life itself.”

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

34. An Unmoored Boat

“Try to give to others as much of the teachings as possible. Then you might be of some benefit and not waste your life. ”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ། 1910 – 1991 CE via Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche ཛི་གར་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་
"Mind" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo

Themes: Meaningfulness

59. The Gardening of Spirit

“That soul-destroying, meaningless, mechanical, monotonous, moronic work is an insult to human nature which must necessarily and inevitably produce either escapism or aggression, and that no amount of ‘bread and circuses’ can compensate for the damage done – these are facts which are neither denied nor acknowledged but are met with an unbreakable conspiracy of silence – because to deny them would be too obviously absurd and to acknowledge them would condemn the central preoccupation of modern society as a crime against humanity.”

E. F. Schumacher 1911 – 1977 CE
The “People's Economist”

72. Helpful Fear

“Nature, it has been said, abhors a vacuum, and when the available 'spiritual space' is not filled by some higher motivation, then it will necessarily be filled by something lower – by the small, mean, calculating attitude to life which is rationalized in the economic calculus.”

E. F. Schumacher 1911 – 1977 CE
The “People's Economist”

Themes: Meaningfulness

74. The Great Executioner

“Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy.”

Albert Camus 1913 – 1960 CE

“There is a monastic outlook common to all who question the value of a life submitted entirely to arbitrary, secular presupposition dictated by social convention and dedication to the pursuit of temporal, mirage-like satisfactions; and instead, find something they vastly prefer in solitude.”

Thomas Merton 1915 – 1968 CE
from The Way of Chuang Tzu

“Everything that everybody does is so—I don't know—not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid necessarily. But just so tiny and meaningless... And the worst part is, if you go bohemian or something crazy like that, you're conforming just as much as everybody else, only in a different way.”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE via Franny
from Franny and Zooey

“Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart?”

Carlos Castaneda 1925 – 1998 CE
from Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge

Themes: Meaningfulness

21. Following Empty Heart

“If there are no meanings, no values, no source of sustenance or help, then man, as creator, must invent, conjure up meanings and values, sustenance and succor out of nothing.”

R. D. Laing 1927 – 1989 CE

Themes: Meaningfulness

“People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question because the structure demands… the system demands it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it is meaningless.”

Robert M. Pirsig 1928 – 2017 CE
from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

“Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”

Dolores Huerta 1930 CE –

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives... it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference — the way in which we are like no other life.”

Toni Morrison 1931 – 2019 CE
(Chloe Ardelia Wofford)
Story-telling voice of American wisdom
from Nobel Prize Lecture (1993)

“Religion, mysticism and magic all spring from the same basic 'feeling' about the universe: a sudden feeling of meaning, which human beings sometimes 'pick up' accidentally, as your radio might pick up some unknown station.”

Colin Wilson 1931 – 2013 CE
from The Occult

“I think the best thing you can do is help each other. When we do that, we do something meaningful. I choose this meaning for myself since no one knows. I make sure that in my life I can help other people who are in trouble.”

Hubert Reeves 1932 CE –

“The idea of ‘retirement’ is a scam deluding people into sacrificing the meaningfulness of their careers for the illusion of pleasure, of unconstrained leisure. The result of a propaganda campaign during the age of industrialization and rapid population growth to deal with unemployment, governments wanted to minimize the discontent of jobless youth by tricking older people into obscurity, pointless dependence, and abandoning one of our most basic sources of happiness—meaningful and productive work.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“To 'make America great again' would mean individuals seeing through all the materialistic, consumerism lies and re-finding real meaningfulness and inspiration in their lives; it doesn’t have anything to do with all of our 'Homer Simpsons' regaining the prestige and respect they’ve lost through their laziness, arrogance, and egomania.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“Without your love it's a honky tonk parade, without your love it's a melody played in a penny arcade.”

Billy Rose and Yip Harburg 1933 CE –
It's Only a Paper Moon
from It's Only a Paper Moon

“We’ve been filled with great treasure for one purpose: to be spilled.”

Yoko Ono 小野 洋子 1933 CE –
(“Ocean Child”)

67. Three Treasures

“Every drop in the ocean counts… You may think I’m small, but I have a universe in my mind…”

Yoko Ono 小野 洋子 1933 CE –
(“Ocean Child”)

Themes: Meaningfulness

“The little Angels of the trees and flowers. They offered to unlock my mind… till every fiber Of my soul was bathed in harmony.”

Jane Goodall 1934 CE –

“In this state of total consumerism - which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves - all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

60. Less is More

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

Themes: Meaningfulness

81. Journey Without Goal

“American culture is going down the drain… an enormous degeneration… a culture that has no spiritual center, a culture that has money and education, but no sense of being at peace with the world, no sense of purpose in life.”

Woody Allen 1935 CE –

“The danger of civilization, of course, is that you will piss away your life on nonsense.”

Jim Harrison 1937 – 2016 CE
"untrammeled renegade genius”
from Beast God Forgot to Invent

“Take these broken wings and learn to fly.”

Paul McCartney 1942 CE – via Blackbird
(Sir James Paul McCartney)

“Determination, energy, and courage appear spontaneously when we care deeply about something. We take risks that are unimaginable in any other context.”

Meg Wheatley 1944 CE –
Bringing ancient wisdom into the modern world.

“The Bhagavad Gita, like the Divine Comedy, is one of the greatest works of education ever composed. It leads from the darkness of a life without meaning to the clarity of God’s wisdom... The ultimate message of the Bhagavad Gita is that God has created many roads to the truth; each person must find his or her own road.”

J. Rufus Fears 1945 – 2012 CE

“Don’t pointless things have a place, too, in this far-from-perfect world? Remove everything pointless from an imperfect life and it’d lose even its imperfection.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Philip Gabriel
from Sputnik Sweetheart

“behind the walkman, BMWs, all our wonderful technological inventions, … there is a purpose waiting to be discovered”

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

“every single civilization including this western world, was brought into being from a sacred place to serve a sacred purpose. And when that purpose is forgotten… the fundamental balance and harmony of its existence become disrupted”

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

“Her hands were filled because they grasped the meaning of empty.”

Louise Erdrich 1954 CE – via The Antelope Wife

11. Appreciating Emptiness

“By understanding emptiness, you lose interest in all the trappings and beliefs that society builds up and tears down—political systems, science and technology, global economy... you become like an adult who is not so interested in children's games anymore.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche རྫོང་གསར་ འཇམ་དབྱངས་ མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་ རིན་པོ་ཆེ། 1961 CE –
(Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche)
"Activity" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from What Makes You Not a Buddhist

11. Appreciating Emptiness

“When we make a conscious choice to seize the day, we are making a commitment to being active rather than passive beings, to pursuing our own path rather than one determined for us, to living in this moment rather than waiting for the next . And through that act of decision, we gain a sense of purpose by becoming the author of our own life.”

Roman Krznaric 1
Practical, popular, modern philosopher

from Carpe Diem Regained (2017)

“There is no greater inspiration, no greater courage, than the intention to lead all beings to the perfect freedom and complete well-being of recognizing their true nature.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

Themes: Meaningfulness

“A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship, whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is... happiness consists in seeing one's life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile.”

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

from Sapiens

Themes: Meaningfulness


Modern Man in Search of a Soul

by Carl Jung

Insightful shamanistic scientist

Man's Search for Meaning

by Viktor Frankl

Brave and insightful concentration camp survivor

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