Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Most seem to believe the illusion that control is a result of having power. True control though may arise from the opposite, the letting go of power and the desire to control, a surrendering to the historical, psychological, and cultural influences impinging on our lives. Even Napoleon expressed this idea when describing his life. The image of the “turning stone” in a Japanese garden symbolizes this insight as well as most of the people in our lineage lists. A big animal or person splashing through a stream only changes it for a brief moment while the slow, steady, and meditative rock becomes the lasting influence.

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Quotes (81)

“Only those not seduced and controlled by something external will remain unmanipulated, uncorrupted by power.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Shan Dao, chapter #13
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”

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

“The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

“[Pindar’s poetry is like] A river bursting its banks and rushing down a mountain with uncontrollable momentum, rain-saturated, churning, and chanting thunder.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Control

“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not.”

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

Themes: Control

“The Way is what things follow. Virtue is what they attain. ‘Dark Virtue’ means virtue is present but no one knows who controls it.”

Wang Bi 王弼 226 – 534 CE

Themes: Virtue Control

51. Mysterious Goodness

“Don’t recall, don’t imagine, don’t think, don’t examine, don’t control, rest.”

Tilopa 988 – 1069 CE

57. Wu Wei

“Don’t control what you experience. Just rest in how things are.”

Niguma 1

Themes: Control

57. Wu Wei

“Those who seek the Tao begin by using wisdom to eliminate desires… Once their desires are gone, they eliminate wisdom… Thus by doing nothing, the sage can do great things… those who would rule the world should know the value of not being busy.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE

48. Unlearning

“To say that a blind custom of obedience should be a surer obligation than duty taught and understood is to affirm that a blind man my tread surer with a guide than a seeing man by a light.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE
from Advancement of Learning, 1605

“When a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master.”

Baruch Spinoza 1632 – 1677 CE

Themes: Control

“All systems either of preference or of restraint... retards, instead of accelerating, the progress of the society towards real wealth and greatness; and diminishes, instead of increasing, the real value of the annual produce its land and labor.”

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

Themes: Control Progress

“How an one hold on to a fixed formula and impose it on others?... Everyone has different abilities and skills. The lofty are sharp and broad but unconcerned with with detail, the deep and contemplative take one step at a time and reach their destination gradually.”

​Zhang Xuecheng 章学诚 章学诚 1738 – 1801 CE
(Chang Hsüeh-ch'eng)

“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

Thomas Jefferson 1743 – 1826 CE

“A robin redbreast in a cage puts all Heaven in a rage.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE

Themes: Control

20. Unconventional Mind

“If justice ruled on earth it would be sufficient to have built one's house: it would require not further protection than this manifest right of possession. But because injustice is the order of the day, whoever bult the house must also be in a position to protect it”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE
from Parerga and Paralipomena, "Appendices" and "Omissions"

Themes: Justice Control

“The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.”

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 CE

“All religion is nothing but the fantastic reflection in men’s minds of those external forces which control their daily life, a reflection in which the terrestrial forces assume the form of supernatural forces.”

Friedrich Engels 1820 – 1895 CE
Businessman-philosopher, political theorist
from Anti-Dühring, 1878​

Themes: Religion Control

“All that people seek on earth is someone to bow down to, someone to hand their conscience to, and some means of uniting all in one unanimous and harmonious ant-heap.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE via Constance Garnett, Shan Dao; The Grand inquisitor
from Brothers Karamatzov

Themes: Control

“The mountains have a greand, stupid, lovable tranquility; the sea has a fascinating, treacherous intelligence... you can domesticate mountains, but the sea is ferae naturae.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. 1841 – 1935 CE
Game-changing Supreme Court Justice
from The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

Themes: Control

“To be in hell is to drift; to be in heaven is to steer.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare

Themes: Control

“Our present law-makers, as a body, are ignorant, corrupt and unprincipled; the majority of them are, directly or indirectly, under the control of the very monopolies against whose acts we have been seeking relief.”

Ida Tarbell 1857 – 1944 CE

“People are never so likely to be wrong as when they are organized. And they never have so little freedom. Perhaps that is why the people at large keep their freedom. People can be manipulated only when they are organized.”

Henry Ford 1863 – 1847 CE

Themes: Freedom Control

“No one ever reads a book. He reads himself through books, either to discover or to control himself.”

Romain Rolland 1866 – 1944 CE
“The moral consciousness of Europe”

“Occam was insistent upon this separation of theology and practical truth—a separation which manifestly released scientific inquiry from dogmatic control.”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle
from Outline of History

Themes: Control

“At heart Plato was a reformer, not the philosophical contemplative men called him. A life of contemplation was far from what he wanted for his pupils... to change injustice into justice, to put self-control in the place of outside control”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE

“Consciousness is forever interfering… It would be a simple enough thing to do, if only simplicity were not the most difficult of all things.”

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

“Puritanism consists in a desire to impose the natural asceticism of age upon the young, and this position is largely founded on the untenable theories of an absolute ethic and an only true theology.”

Ananda Coomaraswamy குமாரசுவாமி 1877 – 1947 CE
Perennial philosophy's Citizen of the World
from The Dance of Shiva (1918)

“No passion is stronger in the breast of a man than the desire to make others believe as he believes. Nothing so cuts at the root of his happiness and fills him with rage as the sense that another rates low what he prizes high.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

Themes: Control

“Since inequality grows in an expanding economy... internal barbarization by the majority is part of the price that the minority pays for its control”

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

“These multiplying inventions are the new organs with which we control our environment... menial labor that degraded both master and man is lifted from human shoulders... man will be freed for the tasks of the mind.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time

“Women had domesticated the sheep, the dog, the ass, and the pig; now she domesticated man. Man is woman's last domestic animal, only partially and reluctantly civilized... if pugnacity was not checked, it would lead to brawls at every corner... If sex were not controlled, it would make not only every park, but every street, unsafe for any woman... if acquisitiveness were not checked, it would lead to retail theft, wholesale robbery, political corruption, and to such concentration of wealth as would invite revolution.”

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

Themes: Control

“An intelligent, energetic, educated woman cannot be kept in four walls — even satin-lined, diamond-studded walls — without discovering sooner or later that they are still a prison cell.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from "America's Medieval Women" (1938)​

Themes: Control

“A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time, not on the spot, not here and now… but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera… will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those who would manipulate and control it.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

35. The Power of Goodness

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Brave New World

Themes: Slavery Control

“You prefer to use Pavlov for brainwashing, Pavlov for selling cigarettes and vodka and patriotism. Pavlov for the benefit of dictators, generals and tycoons… but Pavlov could be used for good purposes, for friendliness and trust and compassion.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Island

“Control in any form breeds distortion, conflict and an unhealthy mind.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)
from Awakening of Intelligence

Themes: Control Conflict

30. No War

“Films, football, beer, and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult…. All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence
from 1984

“'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence
from 1984

Themes: Control

“The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous.”

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

Themes: Control

“Poor Icarus fell into the water—but Daedalus, who flew the middle way, succeeded in getting to the other shore… When you follow the path of your desire and enthusiasm and emotion; keep your mind in control and don’t let it pull you compulsively into disaster”

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

“To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him.”

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

Themes: Control

“Societies are kept stable and healthy by reform, not by thought police; this means there must be free play for so-called subversive ideas.”

I. F. Stone 1907 – 1989 CE
One of the greatest 20th century reporters

“The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom. It is also the antithesis of freedom and peace. Every increase in needs tends to increase one's dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control, and therefore increases existential fear. Only by a reduction of needs can one promote a genuine reduction in those tensions which are the ultimate causes of strife and war.”

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

44. Fame and Fortune

“If we throw mother nature out the window, she comes back in the door with a pitchfork.”

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

50. Claws and Swords

“when we have Eros dominated by reason instead of Eros expressing itself with reason, we create a culture this is simply against life”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

Themes: Culture Control

“Society persuades the individual to do what it wants by making it appear that its commands are the individual's inmost self... I am actually being controlled by other people's words and gestures masquerading as my inner or better self.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

Themes: Control Lies

“symptoms... say, anxiety, migraine, depression, alcoholism, phobia, or lethargy enable the person to control others without accepting responsibility for doing so.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

Themes: Control Health

“As human beings, we like things to be fixed. We're always trying to control the world so we can be safe. But in doing so, we make the world very small, seemingly more manageable—like a pigeonhole.”

Charlotte Joko Beck 1917 – 2011 CE
Authentic, pioneering Western Zen master

from Ordinary Wonder

Themes: Control

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE

Themes: Failure Control

“The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history… There is none that disperses its controls more complexly through the voting system, the work situation, the church, the family, the school, the mass media—none more successful in mollifying opposition with reforms, isolating people from one another, creating patriotic loyalty.”

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

from A People's History of the United States​

Themes: Control

“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

Malcolm X الحاجّ مالك الشباز‎‎ 1925 – 1965 CE

“Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture.”

Allen Ginsberg 1926 – 1997 CE

Themes: Culture Control

13. Honor and Disgrace

“The mass media [systematic propaganda] serves as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace… to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society.”

Noam Chomsky 1928 CE –
from Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

“We can only control the end by making a choice at each step—obscure admixtures, blends with no proper tool by which to untangle the components—… and we cannot do it all at once; it is a sequence, an unfolding process.”

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

“If you want to know how to control your site, start at your doorstep.”

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

Themes: Control

“The more you can increase fear of drugs, crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all of the people.”

Noam Chomsky 1928 CE –
from Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda

Themes: Fear Control

“I take the liberty of reading this chapter as a description of what we, ordinary people, should fear… the ruler. It’s certainly what William Blake would have told the oligarchs of the Industrial Revolution, who still control our lives.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

Themes: Fear Control

72. Helpful Fear

“We’re used, our lives shaped and controlled, by our machines, cars, planes, weaponry, bulldozers, computers. These Taoists don’t surrender their power to their creations.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

80. A Golden Age

“Technology is ideology without words and all the more powerful for their absence.”

Neil Postman 1931 – 2003 CE
from Amusing Ourselves to Death

“Our world is now marred by many prison-cultures with the machinery of thought control… distracted by trivia, a perpetual round of entertainments… Big Brother does not watch us by his choice. We watch him by ours.”

Neil Postman 1931 – 2003 CE
from Amusing Ourselves to Death

“If we must obey to command, then our commanding is only obeying and not commanding at all.”

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

Themes: Control

“We find ourselves constantly assailed by forces trying to manipulate and control us. Internally they manifest as vestigial emotions and instincts based on prehistoric human conditions. Externally, they often arise from political and economic interests with goals diametrically opposed to our own self interests and values.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Control Slavery

“No longer under control of other, you are just yourself, very simply.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

Themes: Control

“I don't know how someone controlled you, they bought and sold you. I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps”

George Harrison 1943 – 2001 CE
Guitar-playing philanthropist

from While My Guitar Gently Weeps​

Themes: Control Love

“The early Mongol rulers clearly recognized that knowledge constituted their most potent weapon and controlling the flow of information served as their organizing principle.”

Jack Weatherford 1945 CE –
from Secret History of the Mongol Queens

Themes: Strategy Control

“We try to fix the outside so much, but our control of the outer world is limited, temporary, and often, illusory.”

Matthieu Ricard माथ्यु रिका 1946 CE –
"The happiest person in the world”

Themes: Reason Control

“When you can't retell for yourself the stories of your life then you live in a prison… somebody else controls the story.”

Salman Rushdie 1947 CE –
Fearless antagonist of Islamic fundamentalism

“each person exists as an individual, but the self, or personal identity, is not an independent ego that is somehow in control of body and mind. Rather… a matrix of dependently related events in a state of flux.”

B. Alan Wallace 1950 CE –
(Bruce Alan Wallace)
from Contemplative Science

“Very powerful forces are adamantly opposed to creating full employment [because] if enacted would remove ‘wage pressure’ — the fear struck into the hearts of the poor, of anyone who feared becoming poor, almost everyone on Earth.”

Kim Stanley Robinson 1952 CE –

Themes: Fear Control Poverty

“Understanding genetic control is understanding we’re all puppets and our best hope for even partial liberation is deciphering the logic of the puppeteer [who has] exactly zero regard for the happiness of the puppets.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Moral Animal — Why we are the Way we Are

Themes: Control

“people who long ago decided it wasn't sophisticated to be sincere, that sincerity was for fools, that sincere people were put on earth to be manipulated and exploited by people like them—for the greater good of course.”

Neal Stephenson 1959 CE –
(Stephen Bury)
Speculative futurist and cultural social commentator

from The Cobweb

Themes: Control Openness
“As long as one is in control, one is happy, and as long as someone else holds the leash, one is unhappy.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche རྫོང་གསར་ འཇམ་དབྱངས་ མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་ རིན་པོ་ཆེ། 1961 CE –
(Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche)
"Activity" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo

Themes: Control

17. True Leaders

“The Rubáiyát was an unapologetic expression of hedonism, bringing to mind sensuous embraces in jasmine-filled gardens on balmy Arabian nights, accompanied by cups of cool, intoxicating wine. It was a passionate outcry against the unofficial Victorian ideologies of moderation, primness and self-control.”

Roman Krznaric 1
Practical, popular, modern philosopher

Themes: Control

“The human brain is a machine designed by natural selection to respond in pretty reflexive fashion to the sensory input impinging on it… If you interact with those feelings via the natural, reflexive thirst for the pleasant feelings and the natural, reflexive aversion to the unpleasant feelings—you will continue to be controlled by the world around you.”

Robert Kurzban 1969 CE –

Themes: Control

“It is not the demands of the job that cause the most stress, but the degree of control workers feel they have throughout their day… less control, more stress… Leaders have overall lower stress levels than those who work for them.”

Simon Sinek 1973 CE –
from Leaders Eat Last

Themes: Control

“liberated from the tyranny of the monkey-mind… awareness itself allows us to stand at the river’s edge without getting sucked into the current. Thoughts are still there but we have stopped identifying with them. We have become the awareness, not the thoughts”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

Themes: Control

“Sadly, the influence of conditioning is so strong that we rarely remember that we can step back. And because our understanding is limited, we mistake the little part we do see for the whole truth.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from Joy of Living, 2007

Themes: Control

“If governments and corporations succeed in hacking the human animal, the easiest people to manipulate will be those who believe in free will.”

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

Themes: Control Free Will

“Every day millions of people decide to grant their smartphone a bit more control over their lives or try a new and more effective antidepressant drug. In pursuit of health, happiness and power, humans will gradually change first one of their features and then another, and another, until they will no longer be human.”

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

from Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow

“In the past, censorship worked by blocking the flow of information. In the twenty-first century, censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information. [...] In ancient times having power meant having access to data. Today having power means knowing what to ignore.”

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

from Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow

Themes: Control

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