Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Freud called aggression “the most powerful obstacle to culture” and Buddhism describes it as one of the Three Poisons (triviṣa)—one of the three basic, innate character flaws that cause suffering in the world and in our personal lives. Not only in humans but for mammals, birds, insects, and even amoeba; the tendency to push away what we don’t like pervades behavioral motivation. The Taoist Farmer story epitomizes the potential benefits of a different approach which Lao Tzu describes in detail. This same appreciation dances through the teachings of most of our wise philosophers and takes a place at the heart of Nietzsche’s way of looking at life.

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Quotes (79)

“The blade itself incites to deeds of violence.”

Odysseus Ὀδυσσεύς 1 via Homer
Trickster lineage hero and symbol
from Odyssey, Ὀδύσσεια

30. No War

“Aggression destroys our greatest treasure.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Shan Dao, chapter #69
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“Let life ripen and then fall, force is not the way at all”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Witter Bynner, #30
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Aggression

“Victory breeds hatred. The defeated live in pain. Happily the peaceful live giving up victory and defeat.”

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

8. Like Water

“Like rain breaking through an ill-thatched house; ignorance, passion, and aggression will break through an unreflecting mind.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE via Shan Dao
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth
from Dhammapada धम्मपद

“Defend and one has a surplus. Attack and one is insufficient…Taking whole is victory over aggression… It preserves the possibilities. Victory is ongoing, a way of being rather than a final goal.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist

31. Victory Funeral

“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

“Beat, beat the crownless head,
Rend the cheek till the tears run red!
O thou whose wound was deepest,
Thou that my children keepest
Gather me where thou sleepest.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE via Gilbert Murray
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Hecuba

Themes: Aggression

“You rely on force; but it is not force that governs human affairs.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE via Philip Vellacott
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Bacchae Βάκχαι

Themes: Aggression

“Do not mistake the rule of force for true power. Men are not shaped by force.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Bacchae Βάκχαι

Themes: Power Aggression

“Educated men condemn murders and call them wrong but do not realize that a war of aggression against another country is wrong praising it and giving it their support… therefore it is clear they do not know the difference between right and wrong.”

Mozi 墨子 470 – 391 BCE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
Chinese personification of Newton, da Vinci, and Jesus

“If you kill such a one as I am, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me... the evil of unjustly taking away the life of another is far greater.”

Socrates 469 – 399 BCE via Jowett
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization
from Apology

Themes: Hate Aggression

“As iron is eaten away by rust, so the envious are consumed by their own passion.”

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

Themes: Hate Aggression

“Violence and injury enclose in their net all that do such things, and generally return upon him who began.”

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

“Go no further down the road of hatred.”

Virgil 70 – 19 BCE
(Publius Vergilius Maro)
from Aeneid

Themes: Aggression Hate

“If anyone wants to be first, that person will be the last of all and everyone’s servant.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE

Themes: Aggression

36. The Small, Dark Light

“Avenge not yourselves, for it is written, 'Vengence is mine, I will repay,' saith the Lord.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE
from Saint Paul

“He who takes up the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that evil can be overcome by evil, or violence by violence?”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Didymos Thomas
from Gospel According to Thomas

30. No War

“Return your sword to its place, for all who will take up the sword, will die by the sword.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Saint Matthew
from New Testament Διαθήκη

“Do not leave alive a single soul, completely destroy them—the Hittities, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you”

Rabbinic Sages 20 – 200 CE via Deuteronomy 20:16-17
from Hebrew Bible, The Tanakh

Themes: Aggression Evil

“Give tidings of painful doom to those who disbelieve... Slay the idolaters wherever you find them... and fight until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.”

Muhammad محمد‎; محمد‎; 570 – 632 CE via George Seldes
from Koran

Themes: Aggression Evil

“We hate suffering, but love it’s causes.”

Shantideva ཞི་བ་ལྷ།།། 685 – 763 CE
(Bhusuku, Śāntideva)
from Bodhisattva Way of Life, Bodhicaryavatara

2. The Wordless Teachings

“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)

“How to act like a Buddha? With total abstention from action never letting passion, aggression, ignorance, or belief that things exist or don’t exist influence how you act.”

Hui Hai 大珠慧海 788 – 831 CE
from Essential Gate for Entry Into Sudden Enlightenment (Tun-wu ju dao yao-men)

“First, eliminate the diseases of being chaotic and contrary, resolute and strong, brutal and overbearing, enraged, extravagant, profligate, boastful, ambitious, courageous, licentious, favored or favoring; then, grounded in noncontention, warfare will cease.”

Wang Zhen 809 – 859 CE
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

“I am sick and tired of this life of endless passion, aggression, and ignorance”

Chamaripa ཙཱ་མཱ་རི་པ། 840 – 940 CE via Shan Dao
(Cāmāripa, “The Siddha Cobbler”)
Mahasiddha #14

“If we repay wrongs with kindness, we put an end to revenge. If we repay wrongs with wrongs, revenge never ends.”

Cao Daochong 道寵 1
(​Daochong or Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung)
from Lao-tzu-chu, Red Pine Translation

63. Easy as Hard

“Even when passion and aggression arise, I have no anxiety. I have confidence in knowing them as self-liberated.”

Marpa Lotsawa 1012 – 1097 CE via Nalanda Translation Committee

“Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hatred, and hatred leads to violence. This is the equation.”

Averroes, Ibn Rushd ابن رشد‎‎ 1126 – 1198 CE

“You think that good means hating what is bad. What's bad is the hating mind itself”

Bankei Yōtaku 盤珪永琢 1622 – 1693 CE via Peter Haskel
Zen Master of the unborn

from Song of Original Mind

Themes: Hate Aggression
“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

Jonathan Swift 1667 – 1745 CE
"Foremost prose satirist in the English language"

from Thoughts on Various Subjects (1703)

“It is impossible to rise to freedom, from the midst of corruptions, without strong convulsions. They are the salutary crises of a serious disease.”

Madame Roland 1754 – 1793 CE via Mémoires de Madame Roland (1795)
(Marie-Jeanne Phlippon)
Revolutionary heroine

“Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!”

Robert Burns 1759 – 1796 CE

Themes: Evil Aggression

“Hatred is the vice of narrow souls; they feed it with all their littleness, and make it the pretext of base tyrannies.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

Themes: Hate Aggression

“A day will come when a cannon will be a museum-piece, as instruments of torture are today. And we will be amazed to think that these things once existed!”

Victor Hugo 1802 – 1885 CE
Literary pioneer, poet, and social justice provocateur
from Opening address, Peace Congress, 1875

Themes: Aggression

“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

30. No War

“Years of love have been forgot in the hatred of a minute.”

Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allen Poe 1809 – 1849 CE

Themes: Aggression Love Hate

“To sum up: the more productive capital grows, the more it extends the division of labour and the application of machinery; the more the division of labour and the application of machinery extend, the more does competition extend among the workers, the more do their wages shrink together... the more he works, the more he competes against his fellow workmen, the more he compels them to compete against him, and to offer themselves on the same wretched conditions as he does so that, in the last analysis, he competes against himself as a member of the working class.”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE
from Wage-Labour and Capital/Value

“From Hell's heart, I stab… for hate's sake, I spit my last breath”

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

Themes: Aggression Hate

“There is no greater fallacy on earth than the doctrine of force”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula
from To the States

“To bill someone for committing murder is a punishment incomparably worse than the crime itself. Murder by legal sentence is immeasurably more terrible than murder by brigands.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE
from The Idiot, 1868

Themes: Aggression

“Most people are far too much occupied with themselves to be malicious.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Human All Too Human - A Book for Free Spirits

Themes: Aggression

“Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”

Thomas Edison 1847 – 1931 CE
America's greatest inventor

“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

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

Themes: Aggression

“An innate, independent, instinctual disposition, aggression constitutes the most powerful obstacle to culture.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE

Themes: Aggression

“A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he can't sit on it.”

Dean Inge 1860 – 1954 CE
Christian mystic and philosopher

Themes: Aggression

“To call war the soil of courage and virtue is like calling debauchery the soil of love... the glories of war are all blood-stained, delirious, and infected with crime; the combative instinct is a savage prompting by which one man's good is found in another's evil.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet
from The Life of Reason

“Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

Themes: Aggression War

“The laying down of the commandment to not kill and to not damage is one of the greatest events in the spiritual history of mankind.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

Themes: Aggression

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE

“that worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which I abhor… This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed… and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriots – how passionately I hate them!... this bogey would have disappeared long ago had the sound sense of the peoples not been systematically corrupted by commercial and political interests.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

31. Victory Funeral

“We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all our citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.”

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

“The Second World War—the tempest which had already begun to drive down upon the earth. Millions of people trembled as they saw the oncoming hunger, slaughter, and madness. All the devils in men were awake and thirsting for blood.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

Themes: War Aggression

“cruelty is the memory—if only in the blood—of a time when the test of survival was the ability to kill... Pugnacity, brutality, greed, and sexual readiness were advantages in the struggle for existence.”

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

Themes: Aggression Evil

“We think there is more violence in the world than before, but in truth there are only more newspapers; vast and powerful organizations scour the planet for crimes and scandals that will console their readers for stenography and monogamy.”

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

Themes: Aggression

“Curse all these men who come into the world to upset it with wars! and curse them for spoiling our homes and fouling our women and making our life a thing of fear and emptiness! Curse such childish men that cannot have done with fights and quarrels in childhood... Curse all women who give birth to men who make war, and curse their grandmothers and all who are their kin!”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from Dragon Seed

Themes: Evil Aggression

“Liberties are not given, they are taken.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

“the world now with all the misery, conflict, destructive brutality, aggression... still brutal, violent, aggressive, acquisitive, competitive and a society that supports this… How very important it is to bring about in the human mind a radical revolution.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

“Jealousy doesn't show how much you love someone, only how insecure you are.”

Margaret Mead 1901 – 1978 CE

Themes: Love Aggression

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims, but accomplices.”

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

“The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretense was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current”

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

Themes: Aggression Hate

“The Greatest Generation? They tell me I am a member of the greatest generation. That's because I saw combat duty as a bombardier in World War II. But I refuse to celebrate "the greatest generation" because in so doing we are celebrating courage and sacrifice in the cause of war. And we are mis-educating the young to believe that military heroism is the noblest form of heroism, when it should be remembered only as the tragic accompaniment of horrendous policies driven by power and profit. The current infatuation with World War II prepares us—innocently on the part of some, deliberately on the part of others—for more war, more military adventures, more attempts to emulate the military heroes of the past.”

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

“The history of bombing—and no one has bombed more than this nation—is a history of endless atrocities, all calmly explained by deceptive and deadly language like 'accident', 'military target', and 'collateral damage'.”

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

Themes: Aggression

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”

Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014 CE

Themes: Hate Aggression

“Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”

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

“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation.”

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

“The cause of someon's aggression is their suffering and your aggression is not going to help anything... by not yelling back you're just getting smart about what's really going to bring you some happiness.”

Pema Chödrön 1936 CE – via Shambhala Sun
(Deirdre Blomfield-Brown)
First American Vajrayana nun
from Interview with Alice Walker, 1999

Themes: Aggression

“When you begin to realize aggression as it is, there is a sudden flash of spaciousness, and the aggression is completely cleared out. It is like living is a stuffy room, and suddenly the window is wide open and fresh air is coming in.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Judith Lief, editor
from Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion

Themes: Aggression

“Politics are often based on bad-mouthing and copying someone else's aggression. This only snowballs making things worse. A Buddhist approach would look at the chaos and problems that exist as delightful and something to confidently work on.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Shan Dao
from A Buddhist Approach to Politics

Themes: Aggression

“Violence is black children going to school for 12 years and receiving 6 years worth of education.”

Julian Bond 1940 – 2015 CE
Courageous civil rights leader

Themes: Aggression

“Come you masters of war
You that build the big guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs…
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
That even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

Themes: Aggression War

31. Victory Funeral

“You can’t try to change people without inflicting violence on them… Hitler and Stalin, in their own opinions, were acting for the benefit of humanity.”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

67. Three Treasures

“Pornography does not cause rape or violence, which predate pornography by thousands of years. Rape and violence occur not because of patriarchal conditioning but because of the opposite, a breakdown of social controls...”

Camille Paglia 1947 CE –
Fearless and insightful status quo critic

Themes: Aggression

“Hatred is like a long, dark shadow. Not even the person it falls upon knows where it comes from. It is like a two-edged sword. When you cut the other person, you cut yourself… Once it has taken root in your heart, hatred is the most difficult think in the world to shake off.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Jay Rubin
from Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Themes: Hate Aggression

“An unmarried man 24-35 is about 3x as likely to murder another male as a married man of the same age… leaving lots of men without wives and children is not just inegalitarian; it’s dangerous…”

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

Themes: Aggression

“What causes all the hatred?… human beings operating under the influence of the reality-distortion fields convincing us that we and ours are in the right, that we are by nature good, and that, when we do the occasional bad thing, it’s not a reflection of the ‘real us’; whereas they and theirs aren’t in the right and aren’t by nature good, and when they do the occasional good thing, it’s not a reflection of the ‘real them.’”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Why Buddhism is True

Themes: Aggression Hate

“Hell is merely the perception of your own aggression.”

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: Aggression Hate

69. No Enemy

“We have the dubious distinction of being the deadliest species in the annals of biology.”

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

from Sapiens

Themes: Aggression

“One who desires victory over others perpetuates a cycle of resistance and violence that only decrease one’s likelihood of survival.”

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

69. No Enemy

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