Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
Search Quotes Search Sages Search Chapters

Moral Freedom

Two theories of human nature, two ethical systems of thought: with one, people are “born bad” in sin; with the other, born pure with basic goodness. The first view leads to justifications for external control, slavery, manipulation of self and others, people pretending and trying to be very different from how they are; the second leads to wu wei, journeys without goals, pluralism, peace, harmony, authentic presence, and political systems like democracy. Representing the first, we have Ragnar Redbird saying, “Might makes right” and with the second, Abraham Lincoln saying, “Right makes might.” The first gives allegiance to “The Words:” rigid, external, ethical definitions and dictums trying to describe, define, and prescribe every experience; the second only has allegiance for reality, things as they are, for awareness and the wisdom that results.

Read More

Quotes (93)

“It is true he does not fit in with his environment, inasmuch as he is too brusque and pays too little attention to form. But as he is upright in character, he meets with response...”

Fu Xi 伏羲 c. 2852–2737 BCE via P. K. Dick
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

Themes: Moral Freedom

“Life and Death are indeed changes of great moment but they cannot affect the sage's mind which he lets wander in the moral harmony of things. He does not notice the loss of particular objects.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

1. The Unnamed

“In their dealings with the world, great people are neither for nor against anyone. They follow whatever is right.”

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

Themes: Moral Freedom

“Into the same river no man can step twice; for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you.”

Heraclitus Ἡράκλειτος 535 – 475 BCE
(of Ephesus, the "Weeping Philosopher")
A Greek Buddha

“The Tao is the way things are which you can't depart from even for one instant.”

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

“To find yourself, think for yourself.”

Socrates 469 – 399 BCE
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“The one who thinks he does not know is profound, the one who thinks he knows is shallow.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Lin Yutang
(Zhuangzi)

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Moral Freedom

1. The Unnamed

“How can speech be so obscured that there should be a distinction of right and wrong? Can we, or can we not, distinguish it from the chirping of young birds?”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Lin Yutang
(Zhuangzi)

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Moral Freedom

“Don’t be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and honest people are first taken advantage of.”

Chandragupta Maurya 340 – 297 BCE
Ashoka’s grandfather, founder of the Maurya Empire

Themes: Moral Freedom

“Those who are good at walking find the Way within themselves, not somewhere outside.”

Heshang Gong 河上公 202 – 157 BCE
(Ho-shang Kung or "Riverside Sage”)

Themes: Moral Freedom

27. No Trace

“Right and wrong are situational. In the appropriate situation, nothing is wrong. Without the appropriate situation, nothing is right.”

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

Themes: Moral Freedom

64. Ordinary Mind

“All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher.”

Lucretius 99 – 55 BCE
(Titus Carus)
from De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)

“When human life laid prostrate on the earth crushed down under the weight of religion, Epicurus found the living source of his soul and passed far beyond the flaming walls of convention finding the wonders of mind, the spirit of the immeasurable universe in turn putting under foot and trampling down on religion.”

Lucretius 99 – 55 BCE via H. A. J. Munro, Shan Dao
(Titus Carus)
from De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)

“If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know (Gospel of Paul - Corinthians).”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE

Themes: Moral Freedom

“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

“Once Contemplative Wisdom comes into play, all the virtues may have to yield.”

Plotinus 204 – 249 CE via Stephen MacKenna, B.S. Page, Shan Dao
from Enneads Ἐννεάδες Plotinus / Porphyry

“Seek not to follow in the footsteps of men of old; seek what they sought.”

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

Themes: Moral Freedom

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“The wise don’t reject anything - both positive and negative qualities are aids on the path. —”

Ghaṇṭāpa གྷ་ཎྚཱ་པ། early 9th century via Keith Dowman, Shan Dao
(“The Celibate Bell-Ringer”)
Mahasiddha #52

“All depends on time and occasion, nothing is eternal. Therefore sages act without effort, teach without words, 'good and bad' don't enter their minds.”

Lu Huiqing 1031 – 1111 CE via Red Pine, Shan Dao

Themes: Moral Freedom

2. The Wordless Teachings

“It is the intention, not the deed wherein the merit or praise of the doer consists.”

Peter Abelard Pierre Abélard 1079 – 1142 CE

Themes: Moral Freedom
“There is no fixed shape to the preservation of perfect balance; it depends on the circumstances of the moment.”

Zhu Xi 朱熹 1130 – 1200 CE via Daniel K. Gardner
(Zhū Xī)
from Four Books

“Only by carefully considering each set of circumstances, and following what’s called for by those circumstances can one act in accord with the appropriate course of action.”

Zhu Xi 朱熹 1130 – 1200 CE via Daniel K. Gardner
(Zhū Xī)
from Four Books

“If the believer understood the meaning of the saying 'the color of the water is the color of the receptacle', he would admit the validity of all beliefs and he would recognize God in every form and every object of faith.”

Ibn' Arabi Ibn 'Arabi 1165 – 1240 CE
“the foremost spiritual leader in Muslim history”

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“The wise can investigate things for themselves but fools chase after whatever is popular.”

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

Themes: Moral Freedom

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“A free mind is one which is untroubled and unfettered by anything, which has not bound its best part to any particular manner of being or devotion and which does not seek its own interest in anything.”

Meister Eckhart 1260 – 1328 CE
(Eckhart von Hochheim)

Themes: Moral Freedom

81. Journey Without Goal

“Buddhahood is not reached through prejudicial Dharma. Like the clouds in the sky, we do not take any sides.”

Dölpopa Shérap Gyeltsen དོལ་པོ་པ་ཤེས་རབ་རྒྱལ་མཚན། 1292 – 1361 CE via Cyrus Stearns

Themes: Moral Freedom

“Liberty is one of the choicest gifts that heaven can bestowed upon man, and exceeds in value all the treasures for without it, life is insupportable.”

Miguel de Cervantes 1547 – 1616 CE via Jarvis, Shan Dao
One of the world's best novelists
from Don Quixote (1605-1615)

“Philosophers should diligently inquire for this is the way that reigns in men's morals, forms and subdues their minds.”

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

“Begin philosophy by doubting everything.”

René Descartes 1596 – 1650 CE

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“All forms of one-sidedness are deformities of mind and lead to indulgencies of folly.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, Shan Dao chapter #168
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Moral Freedom

“Thought makes the whole dignity of man; therefore, endeavor to think well, that is the only morality.”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time
from Pensée

“For modes of faith, let graceless zealots fight;
He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.”

Alexander Pope 1688 – 1744 CE
Second most quoted English writer
from An Essay on Man

“What has the vain science of words to do with the morality which should guide your actions?”

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

“Dare to think for yourself.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“I have never thought, for my part, that man's freedom consists in his being able to do whatever he wills, but that he should not, by any human power, be forced to do what is against his will. ”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE

Themes: Moral Freedom

“Dare to understand!”

Immanuel Kant 1724 – 1804 CE

Themes: Moral Freedom

“Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.”

Immanuel Kant 1724 – 1804 CE
from Critique Of Pure Reason

“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

Thomas Paine 1737 – 1809 CE

“That a change in the relations in which a man is placed should change his ideas of moral right or wrong, is neither new, nor peculiar... Homer tells us it was so 2600 years ago.”

Thomas Jefferson 1743 – 1826 CE

Themes: Moral Freedom

“When will Mankind be convinced that true Religion is from the Heart, between Man and his creator, and not the imposition of Man or creeds and tests?”

Abigail Adams 1744 – 1818 CE
One of the most exceptional women in American history

“He who thinks and thinks for himself, will always have a claim to thanks… If it is right, it will serve as a guide to direct; if wrong, as a beacon to warn.”

Jeremy Bentham 1748 – 1832 CE
from Principles of Morals and Legislation

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong.”

Jeremy Bentham 1748 – 1832 CE
from Constitutional Code; For the Use All Nations and All Governments Professing Liberal Opinions

Themes: Moral Freedom

“In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE via "London"
from Songs of Experience, 1794

Themes: Moral Freedom

“No matter what arises, do not fixate on it! This is the ultimate and essential practice.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། 1781 – 1851 CE via Erik Pema Kunsang
from Flight of the Garuda

Themes: Moral Freedom

15. Inscrutability

“Every true thinker for himself is so far like a monarch… He takes as little notice of authority as a monarch does of a command; nothing is valid unless he has himself authorized it.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

“if I repent of anything,it is very likely to be my good behavior… Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”

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

Themes: Moral Freedom

18. The Sick Society

“Be careful lest in casting out the devils you cast out the best that's in you.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE via Joseph Campbell

Themes: Moral Freedom

“The true basis of morality is utility; that is, the adaptation of our actions to the promotion of the general welfare and happiness; the endeavor so to rule our lives that we may serve and bless mankind.”

Annie Besant 1847 – 1933 CE

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Maxims for Revolutionists

Themes: Moral Freedom

“Fortunately, some are born with spiritual immune systems that sooner or later give rejection to the illusory worldview grafted upon them from birth through social conditioning.”

Henri-Louis Bergson 1859 – 1941 CE
from Creative Evolution

Themes: Moral Freedom

45. Complete Perfection

“The bad man is the man who—no matter how good he has been—begins to deteriorate, to grow less good. The good man is the one who—no matter how morally unworthy he has been—is moving to become better. Such a conception makes one severe in judging himself, and humane in judging others.”

John Dewey 1859 – 1952 CE
The "Second Confucius"
from Reconstruction in Philosophy, 1920

“The condition every art requires is, not so much freedom from restriction, as freedom from adulteration and from the intrusion of foreign matter, considerations and purposes which have nothing to do with spontaneous invention.”

Willa Cather 1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

from On Writing

“If we surrender to earth's intelligence, we can rise up rooted, like trees.”

Rainer Maria Rilke 1875 – 1926 CE
Profound singer of universal music

“I have offended many people, for as soon as I saw that they did not understand me, that was the end of the matter, I had to move on. I had no patience with people—aside from my patients. I had to obey an inner law which was imposed on me and left me no freedom of choice.”

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

Themes: Moral Freedom

“My path is not your path therefore I cannot teach you. The way is within us, but not in Gods, nor in teachings, nor in laws. Within us is the way, the truth, and the life.”

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

“Siddhartha determined to no longer be instructed by any doctrine whatsoever and said, ‘I shall learn from myself, be a pupil of myself; I shall get to know myself, the mystery of Siddhartha.’ He then looked around as if he were seeing the world for the first time.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE via Hilda Rosner, Shan Dao
from Siddhartha

“Those who are too lazy and comfortable to think for themselves and be their own judges obey the laws. Others sense their own laws within them.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“There is no tyranny more ferocious than the tyranny of morality. Everything is sacrificed to it.”

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

“I do not accept any absolute formulas for living. No preconceived code can see ahead to everything that can happen.”

Martin Buber מרטין בובר‎‎ 1878 – 1965 CE

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“People imagined that it was out of date of follow their own moral sense, that they must all sing in chorus, and live by other people's notions, notions that were crammed down everybody's throat.”

Boris Pasternak Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к 1890 – 1960 CE
Russia's greatest poet
from Doctor Zhivago (1957)

No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE
from Wisdom of the Heart (1951)

Themes: Moral Freedom

“It may be that religion is dead, and if it is, we had better know it and set ourselves to try to discover other sources of moral strength before it is too late.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from What America Means to Me, 1947

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Moral Freedom

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“It is only by making psychological and moral experiments that we an discover the intimate nature of mind and its potentialities.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Perennial Philosophy

“The minute you choose to do what you really want to do, it's a different kind of life.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“The jewel has facets and it is possible that many religions are moderately true.”

James Hilton 1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Without diversity, freedom is but an empty word... Human beings are not really free and cannot be fully creative if they do not have many options from which to choose.”

René Dubos 1901 – 1982 CE
Influential scientific environmentalist

from Celebrations of life (1981)

“You can’t be so stuck up, so inhuman, that you want to be pure, your soul wrapped in a plastic bag.”

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

Themes: Moral Freedom

41. Distilled Life

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.”

Anais Nin 1903 – 1977 CE

Themes: Moral Freedom

44. Fame and Fortune

“The secret of Soto Zen is just three words: not always so… If you understand thing in this way, without being caught by words or rules, without too much of a preconceived idea, then you can actually do something.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

Themes: Moral Freedom

72. Helpful Fear

“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

“Rickln told me something that struck me every much, ‘One must kill the demon of purity in you!’ What a shock this was for me! the demon of purity: that meant the turning upside down of all my values.”

Hergé 1907 – 1983 CE
(Georges Prosper Remi )
Intrepid reporter of world culture

Themes: Moral Freedom

“The sacred is the prime obstacle to his freedom. He will become himself only when he is totally demysticized. He will not be truly free until he has killed the last god.”

Mircea Eliade 1907 – 1986 CE

“Those who truly think for themselves are like monarchs, they recognize no one above them and no more accept authorities than a monarch does orders. They don’t acknowledge the validity of anything they have not themselves confirmed.”

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

“A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.”

John Kennedy 1917 – 1963 CE
Modern America's most popular president

from Profiles in Courage

Themes: Moral Freedom

“We are free when we are not the slave of our impulses, but rather their master [when] we become the authors of our own dramas rather than characters in them.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE
from World's Religions

“The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it - basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.”

Charles Bukowski 1920 – 1994 CE
"Laureate of American lowlife”
from Tales of Ordinary Madness

Themes: Moral Freedom

“My witness is the empty sky”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE
from Some of the Dharma

Themes: Moral Freedom

“What we call ‘normal’ is a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection and other forms of destructive action on experience… The ‘normally’ alienated person, by reason of the fact that he acts more or less like everyone else, is taken to be sane.”

R. D. Laing 1927 – 1989 CE
from Politics of Experience

Themes: Moral Freedom

“If you want to get the plain truth, be not concerned with right and wrong.”

Seungsahn 숭산행원대선사 1927 – 2004 CE
(Soen Sa Nim)

“Sectarianism is the problem; pluralism is the answer.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“The truth you believe in and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.”

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

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Because they do not bring about notions as to what to reject and what to accept, they are also free from hope and fear, and they are not subject to cultivating and exerting.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Judith Lief, editor
from Tantric Path of Indestructible Wakefulness

72. Helpful Fear

“The past is fiction, the future a dream. We are living on the edge of a razor.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

40. Returning

“Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Religion—a medieval form of unreason—when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms… ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”

Salman Rushdie 1947 CE –
Fearless antagonist of Islamic fundamentalism

“Religion—a medieval form of unreason—when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms… ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”

Salman Rushdie 1947 CE –
Fearless antagonist of Islamic fundamentalism

“I was past the point of determining what was just and unjust. In a world outside space and time, all dualities—before and after, up and down—ceased to exist. In such a world, I could no longer perceive myself as myself. I and myself were being torn apart.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –
from Killing Commendatore

Themes: Moral Freedom

“Right and wrong were shades of meaning, not sides of a coin.”

Louise Erdrich 1954 CE –

Themes: Moral Freedom

“Our entire notion of good and bad, our whole landscape of feelings—fear, lust, love, and the many other feelings, salient and subtle, that inform our everyday thoughts and perceptions—are products of the particular evolutionary history of our species.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Why Buddhism is True

“like salad to a tiger… no longer falling prey to small praises and criticisms.”

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

Themes: Moral Freedom

15. Inscrutability

“Belief grows ever ‘truer.’ The actual past is brittle, ever-dimming… The present presses the virtual past into its own service, to lend credence to its mythologies.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

Sources

Comments (0)

Please log in or create an account to comment.