Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Tibetan sand painting

Mandala Principle

Mandalas project maps of non-dualistic experience and point toward authentic, wu wei paths of pluralistic conceptual freedom beyond gaining ideas. The confused and ego-centric but unfortunately most common view posits us as separate and independent agents. With even cursive introspection though, we see the interrelatedness of experience, the millions of historical influences making up each moment, the thousands of inextricably connected parts making up each whole. The images we have of “self” reinforce this false understanding while the symbolism of mandala offers an image much closer to reality, a map of wholeness, a totality that unites center and fringe.

"The word mandala literally means 'association,' 'society.' The Tibetan word for mandala is kyilkhor. Kyil means 'center,' khor means 'fringe,' 'gestalt' 'area around.' It is a way of looking at situations in terms of relativity: if that exist, this exists; if this exists, that exists. Things exist interdependently, and that interdependent existence of things happens in the fashion of orderly chaos." — Chögyam Trungpa

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Quotes (77)

“All that is visible must grow beyond itself, extend into the realm of the invisible. Thereby it receives its true consecration and clarity and takes firm room in the cosmic order. (#50, The Cauldron)”

Fu Xi 伏羲 1
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

“When two people are at one in their inmost hearts, they shatter even the strength of iron or of bronze.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 1
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

“The immortals give each thing its proper place in our mortal lives throughout the good green earth.”

Homer 1 via Robert Fagles
Primogenitor of Western culture
from Odyssey, Ὀδύσσεια

“In separateness lies the world's greatest misery; in compassion lies the world's true strength.”

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

67. Three Treasures

“Faced with chaos or conflict, the sage commander looks first to the largest reference point. No matter what ground he has been given, he always thinks bigger… he looks to the space around things.”

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

27. No Trace

“In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.”

Mahavira 540 – 468 BCE
"the great hero”

“All things come out of the one, and the one out of all things.”

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

“at one time there grew to be the one alone out of many, and at another time it separated so that there were many out of the one”

Empedocles 490 – 430 BCE
"The father of rhetoric"—Aristotle
from On Nature

“When there is no more separation between 'this' and 'that,' it is called the still-point of Tao. At the still point in the center of the circle, one sees the infinite in all things.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

“That which is added to and does not increase, is taken away from and does not decrease... fathomless like the sea, inexhaustible; it sustains and gives life to all creation.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao

from Zhuangzi

“The gates of Heaven are open wide; off I ride born on a dark cloud... one Yin for every Yang.”

Qu Yuan 屈原 340 – 278 BCE via The Great Controller of Destinies (tr: Arthur Waley)
(Qū Yuán)
"King of the Water Immortals"
from Nine songs: a study of shamanism in ancient China (1955)

“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

“You are not an isolated entity, but a unique, irreplaceable part of the cosmos... an essential piece of the puzzle of humanity, a part of a vast, intricate, and perfectly ordered human community.”

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

“Wisdom has the task of presenting all things as Universals, stripped of matter for treatment by Understanding.”

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

“Each person’s life is like a mandala – a vast, limitless circle. We stand in the center of our own circle, and everything we see, hear and think forms the mandala of our life.”

Saraha 1

“The flower’s perfume has no form, but it pervades space. Likewise, through a spiral of mandalas formless reality is known.”

Saraha 1

“The birds have vanished into the sky, and now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.”

Li Bai 李白 701 – 762 CE
(Li Bo)

“In the infinite mandala of space, all phenomena are easily accommodated.”

Padmasambhava པདྨཱ་ཀ་ར། 1
("The Lotus-Born", Guru Rinpoche)

“Uniting with space, your consort's secret mandala,
Pure pleasure exciting your nerve centers,
Your aggression was assuaged and loving kindness was born.”

Yeshe Tsogyal ཡེ་ཤེས་མཚོ་རྒྱལ 777 – 837 CE
(Sky Dancer)

“Knowing that in truth not a single thing exists which can be attained is called sitting is a bodhimandala… a state in which no concepts arise.”

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

48. Unlearning

“innate coemergent wisdom abides in the heart of all beings... the far-reaching, unfathomable meaning is apparent at this very moment. O how wonderous!”

Tilopa 988 – 1069 CE via Nalanda Translation Committee
from Rain of Wisdom

“This body is a mandala of deities.”

Marpa Lotsawa 1012 – 1097 CE via Nalanda Translation Committee

“Everything that is in the heavens, on earth, and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.”

Hildegard of Bingen 1098 – 1179 CE

39. Oneness

“For the wise, knowledge is not limited to form… Name is not limited to matter… Success is not limited to action… they don’t have to do anything.”

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

47. Effortless Success

“However things appear or sound, within the vast realm of basic space they do not stray from their spontaneous equalness as dharmakaya, awakened mind.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Padma Translation Committee
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from The Basic Space of Phenomena

“Love may turn into an inordinate clinging to the love object, compassion can turn into sentimentality and a feeling of helplessness, joy can turn into a feeling of elation and over-excitement that gets lost in unrealistic goals, but equanimity brings us back to solid ground. It’s still vulnerable to apathy but this is countered by love completing the cycle.”

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་

“Meditate focusing your attention on the pure radiant light. Contemplate the deities of the vast Mandalas in which they (and you) reside. Feel the pride of being divine like them.”

Tsongkhapa ཙོང་ཁ་པ། 1357 – 1419 CE via Shan Dao
(Zongkapa Lobsang Zhaba, "the Man from Onion Valley")

“All things are in the Universe, and the universe is in all things: we in it, and it in us; in this way everything concurs in a perfect unity.”

Giordano Bruno 1548 – 1600 CE
from Cause, Principle, and Unity: And Essays on Magic

“What a chimera then is man! What a novelty, what a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, server of uncertainty and error, the glory and the scum of the universe.”

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

“All are but parts of one stupendous whole whose body Nature is, and God the soul.”

Alexander Pope 1688 – 1744 CE
Second most quoted English writer

“Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE
from A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1754)

“The Vegetative Universe opens like a flower from the earth's center in which is eternity.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE

“He looked at his Soul with a Telescope. What seemed all irregular, he saw and showed to be beautiful Constellations; and he added to the Consciousness hidden worlds within worlds.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 – 1834 CE
from Notebooks

“Without a center, without an edge… without an inside, without an outside… as far as the sky pervades, so does awareness.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། 1781 – 1851 CE via Matthieu Ricard
from Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin

14. Finding and Following the Formless Form

“Nothing in the world exists as a single block. Everything is a mosaic. The history of the past may be told in chronological sequence, but you cannot apply the same method to the moving present.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

Every book is a quotation, and every house is a quotation out of all forests and mines and stone quarries, and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

“Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.”

Bahá'u'lláh بهاء الله‎‎, 1817 – 1892 CE
("Glory of God")

“For all is like an ocean, all flows and connects; touch it in one place and it echoes at the other end of the world.”

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

“When he realizes that he is responsible to all men for all and for everything, for all human sins, communal and individual, only then will the purpose of a monk’s solitude be realized”

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

“what I want to reproduce is what lies between the motif and me.. I want to paint the air in which the bridge, the house and the boat are to be found - the beauty of the air around them... it is only the, surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.”

Claude Monet 1840 – 1926 CE
"the driving force behind Impressionism"

“There can be no difference anywhere that doesn't make a difference elsewhere”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from Pragmatism (1907)

“I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight”

Black Elk 1863 – 1950 CE
(Heȟáka Sápa)

“At the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit. And that center is really everywhere. It is within each of us.”

Black Elk 1863 – 1950 CE
(Heȟáka Sápa)

25. The Mother of All Things
6. The Source

“This philosophy [Lü Dongbin's] is—to a certain extent—the common property of all Chinese trends of thought. It is built on the premise that cosmos and man in the last analysis obey common laws; that man is a cosmos in miniature and is not divided from the great cosmos by any fixed limits.”

Richard Wilhelm 1873 – 1930 CE
Translator bridging East and West
from Introduction to Secret of the Golden Flower

“Nature compels us to recognize the fact of mutual dependence, each life necessarily helping the other lives who are linked to it. In the very fibers of our being, we bear within ourselves the fact of the solidarity of life.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

“The mandala is an archetypal image whose occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies the wholeness of the self. This circular image represents the wholeness of the psychic ground or—to put it in mythic terms—the divinity incarnate in man.”

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

“Mandalas usually appear in situations of psychic confusion and represent a pattern of order which, like a psychological 'view-finder' marked with a cross or circle divided into four and superimposed on the psychic chaos.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE via Shan Dao
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Civilization in Transition

“First of all, what man must know is that he is not one; he is many. He has not one permanent and unchangeable ‘I’ or Ego. He is always different. One moment he is one, another moment he is another, the third moment he is a third, and so on, almost without end.”

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

“Wealth in the modern world does not come merely from individual effort; it results from a combination... the people in the mass have inevitably helped to make large fortunes possible. Without mass cooperation great accumulations of wealth would be impossible.”

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

“Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

54. Planting Well

“the mysterious force which uses men—and used animals, plants, and minerals before us—as its carriers and beasts of burden, and which hastens along as though it had a purpose and were following a specific road. You feel surrounded here by the blind forces which create sight and light.”

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

“I know that life is in its basis a mystery; a river flowing from an unknown source and in its development an infinite subtlety, 'a dome of many-colored glass,' too complex for thought, much less for utterance.”

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

“It is a mistake to think that the past is dead. Nothing that has ever happened is quite without influence at the moment. The preset is merely the past rolled up and concentrated in this second of time.”

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

“You will see that in life you receive exactly what you give. Your life is the mirror of what you are.”

Jeanne de Salzmann 1889 – 1990 CE
(Madame de Salzmann)
Follower, preserver, and promoter of Gurdjieff's teachings
from The Reality of Being

“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940 CE
Prototype of "Jazz Age" exuberance
from Great Gatsby

“The feeling of awe and sense of wonder arises from the recognition of the deep mystery that surrounds us everywhere, and this feeling deepens as our knowledge grows.”

Anagarika​ (Lama) Govinda 1898 – 1985 CE
(Ernst Hoffmann)
Pioneer of Tibetan Buddhism to the West

“The self-conscious element of an art that is divorced from life or meaning is unknown in Tibet... It is only from the standpoint of creative visualization... crystallising into the universal order of a mandala that we can understand”

Anagarika​ (Lama) Govinda 1898 – 1985 CE
(Ernst Hoffmann)
Pioneer of Tibetan Buddhism to the West

from Way of the White Clouds (1966)

“The earth is literally our mother, not only because we depend on her for nurture and shelter but even more because the human species has been shaped by her in the womb of evolution. Our salvation depends upon our ability to create a religion of nature.”

René Dubos 1901 – 1982 CE
Influential scientific environmentalist

“We are social creatures to the inmost center of our being. The notion that one can begin anything at all from scratch, free from the past, or unindebted to others, could not conceivably be more wrong.”

Karl Popper 1902 – 1994 CE
Major Philosopher of Science

“Learn to see everyday life as a mandala in which one is the center and be free of the bias and prejudice of past conditioning, present desires, and future hopes and expectations… be natural and spontaneous, accept and learn from everything.”

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

45. Complete Perfection

“All aspects of every phenomenon are completely clear and lucid, the universe is open and unobstructed, everything mutually interpenetrating.”

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

25. The Mother of All Things

“Acoustic Space has the basic character of a sphere whose focus or center is simultaneously everywhere and whose margin is nowhere.”

Marshall McLuhan 1911 – 1980 CE

45. Complete Perfection

“A properly drawn mandala is a book in itself containing a great deal of information but he who would read the symbols must first learn the language.”

Robert S. De Ropp 1913 – 1987 CE

“Nature is an astounding reality. One must constantly keep in mind that coming into contact with true nature can be an overwhelming experience. This is, after all, a world of inspiration that can justly be called the 'Great Spirit.'”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE
from Road Back to Nature

“Everything's a rabbit hole.”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE

“No part of us is unrelated to other parts, even down to the single cell. Every cell probably knows the whole of us. There is a new consciousness implied in these premises; namely, that reality is a complex, interrelated and integral structure, including our own body-mind-emotions-spirit, as well as our relationship to others and to our environment.”

Ralph Alan Dale 1920 – 2006 CE
Translator, author, visionary
from Tao Te Ching, a new translation and commentary

“Meditators create a field of bliss around themselves through their spontaneous luminous power, and use their pure elements to help other attain the same level and join with then in the same mandala, the same mind.”

Thinley Norbu གདུང་སྲས་ཕྲིན་ལས་ནོར་བུ 1931 – 2011 CE
(Kyabjé Dungse)

“Our ancient experience confirms at every point that everything is linked together, everything is inseparable.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

39. Oneness

“Each person's life is like a mandala—a vast, limitless circle. We stand in the center of our own circle, and everything we see, hear and think forms the mandala of our life… But it's up to you whether your life is a mandala of neurosis or a mandala of sanity.”

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

“The basic principle of mandala involves working with our life situation, our basic existence, our whole being.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Mandala Principle

“Mandalas multiply so many times that they finally become nonexistent. The boundaries begin to dissolve. This is such an invasion of privacy! That is why it's called freedom.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Mandala Principle

“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

Mandala means 'society' or 'group' and is connected with unique or alone, loneliness. When you stand in the middle of your mandala, no one else, only you can see this vision.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via The Six Chakras and the Four Karmas (tr: Judith Lief, editor, Shan Dao)
from Secret Beyond Thought, Boston, 1971

“The Mandala is earth and man, both the atom that composes the material essence of man, and the galaxy of which the earth is but an atom… the microcosm and the macrocosm, the largest structural processes s well as the smallest. It is the gateway between the two.”

José Argüelles 1939 – 2011 CE
from Mandala

“Our lives can only be seen as a mandala if we include everything, all positive qualities as well as all that we would like to ignore, reject, or distance ourselves from.”

Judith Simmer Brown 1946 CE –

“We’re both looking at the same moon, in the same world. We’re connected to reality by the same line. All I have to do is quietly draw it towards me.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Philip Gabriel
from Sputnik Sweetheart

“When we place our interconnectedness at the center of our life, empathy and contentment can become the primary resources that we turn to first.”

Karmapa XVII ཨོ་རྒྱན་འཕྲིན་ལས་རྡོ་རྗ 1985 CE – via Finnegan
(Orgyen Thrinlay Dorje)
from Interconnected (2017)