Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Openness sounds so simple and easy to experience but how rare and wonderful. Our life experiences continually provide a myriad of traps and seductions enticing us into fixed points of view, solid opinions, prejudice, and chauvinistic attitudes.

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Quotes (85)

“Visible effects of the invisible manifest themselves… a heart free of prejudices and therefore open to truth… An egg is hollow. The light-giving power must work to quicken it from outside, but there must be a germ of life within, if life it to be awakened.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 1 via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 61
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

Themes: Openness

32. Uncontrived Awareness

“The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.”

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

Themes: Openness

76. The Soft and Flexible

“The sage commander moves beyond defeat by being victorious over his own aggression... the general who is not victorious over his anger brings destruction to his own troops as well as the enemy. Aggression gives the enemy something against which to fight. this mires the general in battle. The sage commander responds to aggression by creating space”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE via Denma Translation Group
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist
from Art of War 孙子兵法

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

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

Themes: Doubt Openness

67. Three Treasures
71. Sick of Sickness

“The most useful piece of learning for the uses of life is to unlearn what is untrue.”

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

Themes: Openness

“Can you stop looking to others and focus on your innermost self? Can you return to the beginning of the world and be like a newborn baby?”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

76. The Soft and Flexible

“when the mind is open and free of its own thoughts, life unfolds effortlessly and the whole world is filled with light”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

Themes: Openness No Trace

21. Following Empty Heart

“Not to understand is profound; to understand is shallow. Not to understand is to be on the inside; to understand is to be on the outside.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

Themes: Openness

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“The sage is full of anxiety and indecision in undertaking anything, and so he is always successful.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Success Openness

“Nothing is certain, not even that.”

Arcesilaus Ἀρκεσίλαος 316 – 241 BCE

Themes: Doubt Openness

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“A grain of corn contains the Universe:The hills and rivers fill a small cooking-pot.”

Anonymous 1 via Zen proverb
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

“Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.”

Plutarch 46 – 120 CE
(Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus)
from Parallel Lives

Themes: Openness

“Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE

35. The Power of Goodness

“The Inner Light is beyond praise and blame;
Like space it knows no boundaries,
It is only when you hunt for it that you lose it;
You remain silent and it speaks; you speak, and it is dumb.”

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: Openness

“How long will you keep pounding on an open door begging for someone to open it?”

Rabia Basri رابعة العدوية القيسية‎‎ 714 – 801 CE
(Rābi‘a al-‘Adawīyya)

Themes: Openness

47. Effortless Success

“While the unrealized, spiritual child, five times poisoned, is lost in samsara, the realized sage rejects nothing whatsover.”

Ghaṇṭāpa གྷ་ཎྚཱ་པ། 1 via Keith Dowman
(“The Celibate Bell-Ringer”)
Mahasiddha #52

Themes: Openness

“Wrap the leather of preconception around the mold of emptiness and compassion”

Chamaripa ཙཱ་མཱ་རི་པ། 840 – 940 CE via Keith Dowman
(Cāmāripa, “The Siddha Cobbler”)
Mahasiddha #14
from Masters of Mahamudra

Themes: Openness

“From the soil of unknowing and ignorance comes the clay of passion and thought.”

Kumbharipa ཀུམྦྷ་རི་པ། 1 via Keith Dowman
(“The Eternal Potter”)
Mahasiddha #63

“Understanding depends on things. Hence, it involves fabrication. Not understanding returns to the origin. Hence, it approaches the truth.”

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

71. Sick of Sickness

“When the government leaves power with the people… makes no demands, the people respond with openness instead of deception. When the government makes demands, the people use every means to escape.”

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

Themes: Power Openness

58. Goals Without Means

“You are water, but in a whirlpool and engulfed; come down among us... we know nothing except singing these songs of unknowingness.”

Rumi مولانا جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی 1207 – 1283 CE via Helminski and Rezwani
(Rumi Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī)
from Love's Ripening

Themes: Water Openness

“I speak and speak, ... but the listener retains only the words he is expecting. ... It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.”

Marco Polo 1254 – 1324 CE
Epitome of adventurous business, political, and geographical exploration

Themes: Openness

“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.”

Meister Eckhart 1260 – 1328 CE
(Eckhart von Hochheim)

Themes: Openness

“Truly, the beauty of life is its uncertainty.”

Yoshida Kenkō 兼好 1284 – 1350 CE via Sir George Bailey Sansome
Inspiration of self-reinvention

Themes: Openness

“All fools are fully convinced and everyone fully convinced is a fool.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“the crudest or simplest people have something of value to say, something one can check through to the source and remember”

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

Themes: Openness

“At these words the samurai… sheathed his sword and bowed. ‘Here open the gates of paradise,’ said Hakuin.”

Hakuin Ekaku 白隠 慧鶴 1686 – 1769 CE

Themes: Openness

74. The Great Executioner

“In the affairs of this world, men are saved not by Faith,but by the lack of it.”

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

“Nurturing firmness with flexibility, solidity with openness, from striving enter into nonstriving, from effort into spontaneity and practice introspection in action letting true yin and true yang naturally unite.”

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

“But let no person say what they would or would not do, since we are not judges for ourselves until circumstances call us to act.”

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

Themes: Openness

“Now let me dare to open wide the gate/Past which men's steps have ever flinching trod.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Openness Ambition

“to attain a clear consciousness, a main requirement is to comprehend anything that "goes without saying" as a problem”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via R. J. Hollingdale, Shan Dao
from Parerga and Paralipomena, "Appendices" and "Omissions"

Themes: Openness

“The only means of strengthening one’s intelligence is to make up one’s mind about nothing—to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.”

John Keats 1795 – 1821 CE
Writer of "poems as immortal as English"
from letters 1819

Themes: Openness Reason

“The universe is wider than our views of it.”

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

Themes: Openness

71. Sick of Sickness

“Sincerity is nevertheless the only enduring strength.The principle is universal, stretching from the highest purposes of Literature down to its smallest details. It underlies the labor of the philosopher, the investigator, the moralist, the poet, the novelist, the critic, the historian, and the compiler.”

George Henry Lewes 1817 – 1878 CE
English philosopher and soul mate to George Eliot
from The Principles of Success in Literature (1865)

Themes: Openness

“Genius is necessarily intolerant of fetters: on the one hand it must have the utmost play for its spontaneity; on the other, it may confidently await those messages from the universe which summon it to its peculiar work”

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Openness

“all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

Themes: Openness

“Dwell in possibility.”

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886 CE

Themes: Openness

1. The Unnamed

“Everything secret degenerates; nothing is safe that does not bear discussion and publicity.”

Lord Acton 1834 – 1902 CE
(John Dalberg-Acton)
Prolific historian and politician
from Time Magazine, 1969

Themes: Openness

“There is no conclusion. What has concluded that we might conclude in regard to it There are no fortunes to be told and there is no advice to be given. Farewell.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from Last words found on his desk

Themes: Openness

“Bigotry is always ignorant, and the wise try to understand and to see the truth in ideas with which they do not agree.”

Annie Besant 1847 – 1933 CE

Themes: Openness

“Intelligence is characterized by a natural incomprehension of life.”

Henri-Louis Bergson 1859 – 1941 CE
from Creative Evolution

“Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.”

Black Elk 1863 – 1950 CE
(Heȟáka Sápa)

Themes: Openness

30. No War

“Be ready to revise any system, scrap any method, abandon any theory, if the success of the job requires it.”

Henry Ford 1863 – 1847 CE

Themes: Openness

“Looking back, I have this to regret, that too often when I loved, I did not say so.”

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

Themes: Openness

“Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life.”

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

Themes: Openness

73. Heaven’s Net

“The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Openness

81. Journey Without Goal

“Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”

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

44. Fame and Fortune

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart... live in the question.”

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

Themes: Patience Openness

“I am incapable of determining ultimate worth or worthlessness... There is nothing I'm quite sure about. I have no definite convictions—not about anything, really”

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

Themes: Openness

“If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Openness

“there is an uncertainty which is more certain that certitude itself... there were no longer any such things as truth and falsehood; everything was a soft dough which I kneaded and rolled freely”

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

Themes: Openness

“Be confident, not certain.”

Eleanor Roosevelt 1884 – 1962 CE

Themes: Doubt Openness

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Suppose it were forbidden to say ‘I know’, only allowed to say ‘I believe I know’?”

Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889 – 1951 CE
One of the world's most famous philosophers
from On Certainty

Themes: Openness

“Truth we shall never know; it is only clarity we are striving for... even more important than knowing the truths is the general unsettling of our complacent beliefs and gilt-edged assumptions... No one begins to think until he has some of that brute complacency thoroughly thrashed out of him with the rawhide of wiser minds.”

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

Themes: Reason Openness

“How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

80. A Golden Age

“What matters most are the simple pleasures so abundant that we can all enjoy them...Happiness doesn't lie in the objects we gather around us. To find it, all we need to do is open our eyes.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

81. Journey Without Goal

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

12. This Over That

“the distribution of flexibility among the many variables of a system is a matter of very great importance. The healthy system... may be compared to an acrobat on a high wire... he must be free to move from one position of instability to another... If his arms are fixed or paralyzed (isolated from communication), he must fall.”

Gregory Bateson 1904 – 1980 CE
from Steps to an Ecology of the Mind

“The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, and to all people experiencing everything totally without mental reservations and blockages...”

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

Themes: Openness

51. Mysterious Goodness

“Are you listening? Listening is the greatest gift I can give you as a teacher, and the greatest gift you can give another person.”

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

from Ordinary Wonder

Themes: Openness

“I’d always rather err on the side of openness. But there’s a difference between optimum and maximum openness, and fixing that boundary is a judgment call.”

Warren Bennis 1925 – 2014 CE
Authentic Leadership pioneering thought leader

“You must keep don’t know mind always and everywhere. This is the true practice of Zen.”

Seungsahn 숭산행원대선사 1927 – 2004 CE
(Soen Sa Nim)

Themes: Openness Humility

“Only don’t know!”

Seungsahn 숭산행원대선사 1927 – 2004 CE
(Soen Sa Nim)

Themes: Doubt Openness

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you actually don’t know.”

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

Themes: Science Openness

“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Martin Luther King Jr. 1929 – 1968 CE
Leading world influence for equality, peace, non-violence, and poverty alleviation

Themes: Openness

“and then there was the vast openness of open space and that vast openness was I , myself”

Gesshin Myoko Roshi 1931 – 1999 CE
Moon heart miraculous light

12. This Over That

“I don't believe anything, but I have many suspicions.”

Robert Anton Wilson 1932 – 2007 CE

Themes: Doubt Openness

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“This open-ended, or what I have called horizontal, way of thinking then penetrates every aspect of Buddhism. It cancels the claim that anyone, even the most accomplished Buddhists, or bodhisattvas, can say what Buddhism is truly about.”

James P. Carse 1932 – 2020 CE
Thought-proving, influential, deep thinker
from The Religious Case Against Belief (2008)

Themes: Openness

“The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer. I've never seen anybody really find the answer, but they think they have. So they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom.”

Ken Kesey 1935 – 2001 CE

“Energy is openness and all-pervasiveness. It is constantly expanding. It is decentralized energy, a sense of flood, ocean, outer space, the light of the sun and moon.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

Themes: Openness

25. The Mother of All Things

“We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn.”

Mary Catherine Bateson 1939 CE –

Themes: Openness

“we do not have to depend on feedback and we can relate with life as directly and straightforwardly as possible… Working with energy in a tantric sense is a decentralized process… energy is openness and all-pervasive… constantly expanding.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

Themes: Openness

34. An Unmoored Boat

“We cut our ground and have a frightening – terrifying – sudden glimpse of groundlessness… no one is standing on any ground, so communication can take place quite freely”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

28. Turning Back

“With the mandalic approach, nothing is excluded, everything finds its place and students move through a world of magic in which they are a tongue of the earth, chanting her song to the stars.”

José Argüelles 1939 – 2011 CE via Shan Dao
from Mandala

“Open-mindedness is the sibling of peace.”

Salman Rushdie 1947 CE –
Fearless antagonist of Islamic fundamentalism

Themes: Peace Openness

“Is it possible for one human being to understand another? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –
from Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

“What's important is being attentive, being alert to things, not prejudging but listening to what's going on, keeping our ears, heart and mind open.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Philip Gabriel, Shan Dao
from Sputnik Sweetheart

“Genghis Khan... brought with him an all-embracing openness, a religious tolerance based on shamanic principles that was almost as much of a threat to his enemies as anything else. He introduced not just the idea but the reality of international law and trade and travel, and helped lay the foundations for the modern world.”

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

“I'd open my mouth wide, my ears wide, my heart, and I'd let everything inside... for a while, I wouldn't want anything more but what I had.”

Louise Erdrich 1954 CE – via Love Medicine

Themes: Openness

“The conscious self doesn’t create thoughts; it receives them.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Why Buddhism is True

Themes: Openness

“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

“Existential flexibility is the capacity to initiate an extreme disruption to a business model or strategic course in order to more effectively advance a Just Cause.”

Simon Sinek 1973 CE –
from Infinite Game

Themes: Openness

“The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation…”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

Themes: Openness

“If you feel overwhelmed and confused by the global predicament, you are on the right track.”

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

from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Themes: Openness

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