Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Hope for approval and fear of criticism represent some of the strongest influences on our personal, political, and cultural lives. Most of us, most of the time stay busy trying to impress people while we look for approval, praise and fame. This enslaves and sells our souls to the tyrants of public opinion, the status quo, and to external personal whim. As an antidote to this, the cloak of anonymity opens wide doors of personal expression, creativity, and innovation. In ancient times, perhaps less personal ego fostered this approach, perhaps names were just eroded away by time as is surely the case with many of the quotations that comes to us through the annals of history, perhaps people needed to avoid religious or political persecution. The venerable tradition of using pseudonyms exemplifies both the need and benefit of freeing ourselves from the narrow boxes defined by our personal histories.

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Quotes (65)

“Without taking credit, a wise man is accredited; laying no claim, he is acclaimed.”

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

22. Heaven's Door

“Because they don't nurture an independent self, the wise put themselves in the background and find fulfillment.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #7
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Anonymity

“The wise… teach without saying anything… create without claiming… work without taking credit… accomplish without attachment.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #2
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“The wise appear simple and ordinary on the outside while holding a precious treasure concealed within.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #70
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

43. Inscrutable

“He plans secretly, moves surreptitiously, and foils the enemy's intentions... but his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom or credit for courage because the world at large knows nothing of them.”

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

43. Inscrutable

“The way of the superior man is hidden but becomes more prominent every day, whereas the way of the inferior man is conspicuous but gradually disappears.”

Zisi 子思 481 – 402 BCE via Wing-Tsit Chan
(Kong Ji or Tzu-Ssu)
Confucius' grandson and early influence on Neo-Confucianism
from Doctrine of the Mean, Maintaining Perfect Balance, Zhongyong 中庸

Themes: Anonymity

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself - an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.”

Antisthenes 445 – 365 BCE
Creator of a religious tradition without religion

“Dogs and philosophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards.”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE
(of Sinope)

36. The Small, Dark Light

“While he does not follow the crowd, he won't complain about those who do... The man of Tao remains unknown.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Stephen Mitchell

from The Man of Tao

“The sage is the world’s greatest weapon but not one that is known to the world.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

Themes: Wisdom Anonymity

36. The Small, Dark Light

“Live unobtrusively.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
Western Buddha
from On Nature

70. Inscrutable

“If it is the truth, what does it matter who said it?”

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

Themes: Anonymity Truth

“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple but no one can count the apples in a seed.”

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple but no one can count the apples in a seed.”

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

“Anonymity beats fame. One cannot undo fame.”

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

Themes: Anonymity

“The nail that sticks out is hammered down.

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Japanese Proverb

Themes: Anonymity

“To live well is to live concealed.”

Ovid oʊvɪd 43 BCE – 18 CE
(Publius Ovidius Naso)
Great poet and major influence on the Renaissance, Humanism, and world literature

from The Tristia

15. Inscrutability

“As with a tree, the more of it there is, the farther it is from its roots. The less of it there is, the closer it is to its roots. ‘More’ means more distanat from what is real. ‘Less’ means closer.”

Wang Bi 王弼 226 – 534 CE

22. Heaven's Door

“To give up yourself without regret is the greatest charity.”

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨 5th-6th C. CE

Themes: Anonymity

23. Nothing and Not

“When you truly awaken, you have no formal merit. In the multiplicity of the relative world, you cannot find such freedom.”

Yòngjiā Xuānjué 永嘉玄覺 665 – 713 CE
(Yung-chia Ta-shih; Yōka Genkaku; "The Overnight Guest")
from Song of Enlightenment 证道歌

Themes: Anonymity

“In darkest night it is perfectly clear; in the light of dawn it is hidden.”

Dongshan Liangjie 洞山良价 807 – 869 CE
(Dòngshān Liángjiè; Tōzan Ryōkai)
from Song of the Precious Mirror Samadhi

“With practice hidden, function secretly, like a fool, like an idiot.”

Dongshan Liangjie 洞山良价 807 – 869 CE
(Dòngshān Liángjiè; Tōzan Ryōkai)
from Song of the Precious Mirror Samadhi

Themes: Anonymity

“Those who treasure the Way fit in without making a show and stay forever hidden. Hence, they don’t leave any tracks.”

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

27. No Trace

“These twelve sayings refer to the Tao as it appears to us. Wherever we look, we see its examples. The Tao as a whole, however, is hidden in namelessness.”

Su Che 呂洞 1039 – 1112 CE via Red Pine
(Su Zhe)
Great writer of the Tang and Sung dynasties
from Tao-te-chen-ching-chu

Themes: Anonymity

41. Distilled Life

“Cast off completely your head and skin... the original light flashes through confusion... your footsteps are not visible on the road.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE via Dan Leighton
from Cultivating the Emplty Field

Themes: Anonymity

“Those who cultivate the Tao yet still think about themselves are like people who overeat or overwork.”

Li Xizhai 12th century CE via Red Pine
(Li Hsi-Chai)
from Tao-te-chen-ching yi-chieh

Themes: Anonymity

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“The reason sages don’t speak or act is so they can bestow their blessings in secret and … when their work succeeds and people’s lives go well, people… don’t realize it was made possible by those on high.”

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

17. True Leaders

“As the Godhead is nameless, and all naming is alien to Him so also the soul is nameless; for it is here the same as God.”

Meister Eckhart 1260 – 1328 CE
(Eckhart von Hochheim)

Themes: God Anonymity

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Every familiarity breeds contempt… the more a person shows, the less he has… Reticence is the seal of capacity… you must pay ransom to each you tell.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Shan Dao, #177

Themes: Anonymity

17. True Leaders

“Never advance unless under cover.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #144
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Anonymity

“The more pains you take, the more you should conceal them.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

“Let no one ask a stronger mark of an excellent love to God than that we are insensible to our own reputation.”

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

Themes: Fame Anonymity

“The objections and reluctances I met with in soliciting the subscriptions, made me soon feel the impropriety of presenting one’s self as the proposer of any useful project.. I therefore put myself as much as I could out of sight and stated it as a scheme of ‘a number of friends.’”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Themes: Anonymity

17. True Leaders
77. Stringing a Bow

“The few, who have known somewhat of these things, who foolishly did not keep a guard over their full hearts, who revealed their feelings and thoughts to the people, these, from time immemorial, have been crucified and burned.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE
from Faust, part I

Themes: Anonymity

“I’ve never bothered about getting ahead… What use is there in fame and fortune? In my hut, I listen to the evening rain and stretch my legs without a care in the world.”

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

44. Fame and Fortune

“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste it's fragrance on the desert air.”

Jane Austen 1775 – 1817 CE
from Emma

Themes: Anonymity

“it's much better to do good in a way that no one knows anything about it.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

Themes: Anonymity

70. Inscrutable

“How dreary to be somebody! How public, like a frog. To tell your name the livelong day, To an admiring bog!”

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886 CE

70. Inscrutable

“Argument is generally a waste of time and trouble. It is better to present one’s opinion and leave it to stick or no as it may happen. If sound, it will probably in the end stick, and the sticking is the main thing.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Note-Books (1912)

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE

“The man who makes the deepest notches on the Stick of Time is not usually preceded by a brass band.”

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

Themes: Anonymity

“Distrustful of that popular eye
Whether it be bold or sly”

W.B. (William Butler) Yeats 1865 – 1939 CE via "The Apparitions"

“I distrust official charity. All charity should be done by stealth.”

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

“Sometimes in the afternoon sky a white moon would creep up like a little cloud, furtive, without display, suggesting an actress who does not have to 'come on' for awhile, and so goes 'in front' in her ordinary clothes to watch the rest of the company but keeps in the background, not wishing to attract attention to herself.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Moon Anonymity

“The finest and most significant conversations of my life were anonymous.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Themes: Anonymity

“Anonymity is no excuse for stupidity”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Anonymity

“Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman… I like their unconventionality. I like their completeness. I like their anonymity.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

Themes: Anonymity
“The truth is, I often like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their completeness. I like their anonymity.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

Themes: Anonymity

“While fame impedes and constricts, obscurity wraps about a person like a mist. Dark, ample and free, obscurity lets the mind make its way unimpeded. They alone are free, they alone are truthful, they alone are at peace.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE via Shan Dao
from Orlando: A Biography

“The kindness that gazes upon itself in a mirror turns to stone and a good deed that calls itself by tender names become the parent to a curse.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Anonymity

“Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

56. One with the Dust

“According to the Taoist view, honor leads to greed, discrimination, and strife… they frown on the idea of personal honor.”

Wing-tsit Chan 陳榮捷 1901 – 1994 CE
from Way of Lao Tzu

Themes: Anonymity

3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

“If you want to keep a secret, you must hide it from yourself.”

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

“Fires / Burn in my heart / No smoke rises / No one knows.”

Kenneth Rexroth 1905 – 1982 CE
"Father of the Beats”

“Compelled to speak, God says nothing.
Unable to say anything, man speaks.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE
from Kami no Kakumei

Themes: Anonymity

“It is my rather subversive opinion that a writer's feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second most valuable property on loan to him during his working years.”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE

Themes: Anonymity

“If you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts.”

Carlos Castaneda 1925 – 1998 CE
from Journey to Ixtlan

10. The Power of Goodness

“Hide until everybody goes home. Hide until everybody forgets about you. Hide until everybody dies.”

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

Themes: Anonymity

“Almost everyone struggles for fame, praise, respect; few realize the price in suffering they have to pay for these.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Fame Anonymity

“Whenever you need reassurance, that means you have a fixed idea of what ought to be.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

Themes: Anonymity

12. This Over That

“Name takes sides. Complexity limits options Hence, those who uphold nameless simplicity don’t take sides and keep their options. Open”

Red Pine 1943 CE –
( Bill Porter)
Exceptional translator, cultural diplomat

37. Nameless Simplicity

“Once you’re considered a legend, you can only trace the pattern of your rise for the rest of your life… it could be a real nightmare… I can’t think of anything more boring that that.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –
from Killing Commendatore

Themes: Anonymity Fame

“We would sing and dance around, because we know we can’t be found!”

Beatles 1960 – 1970 CE via Ringo Starr
from Abbey Road

Themes: Anonymity

“When I had fame, fame was killing me. Now it's gone, anonymity is killing me.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Utopia Avenue

Themes: Anonymity

“The sage […] realizes that things arise of their own accord, and not as the result of her own coercion or anxious striving […] so she does not feel any sense of ownership over the result of her actions.”

Yi-Ping Ong 1978 CE –
from Tao Te Ching - Introduction and Notes

2. The Wordless Teachings

Comments (1)

  1. Shan Dao
    Shan Dao 2 years ago
    The case for anonymity becomes increasingly relevant when you consider and reconcile two seemingly unreconcilable dictums:Herman Melville saying in Moby Dick, "God keep me from ever completing anything… For small creations may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity."and Balthasar Gracian in The Art of Worldly Wisdom, "Never let things be seen half finished because deformity sticks in the imagination. To see the tastiest dishes prepared arouses disgust rather than appetite. Take this lesson from Mother Nature who doesn't bring the child to light until it is fit to be seen."