Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Fate / Destiny

Most understand the ideas of fate and destiny purely from a superstitious point of view. It’s not difficult however to weave in scientific notions of genetics, biology, and evolution; psychological theories of personality development, effects of trauma and other other major life events; sociological influences of culture, peer pressure, advertising, and marketing. The influences on our lives and decisions are powerful but—at the same time—subtle and disguised. How much depends on Free Will? How much is conditioned and outside our influence? How distorted and mistaken our conclusions? Some postulate a sameness, a deep and common humanity; our differences only created by different environments. Some say our only choice is to accept or fight against our momentary experience. These speculations can lead to a fatalistic determinism; but, they can also form a foundation for Wu Wei, a journey without goal, a wisdom-filled awareness guiding consciousness.

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Quotes (82)

“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection.”

Vyasa व्यास 1 via Bhagavad Gita
Hindu immortals, Vishnu avatar, 5th incarnation of Brahma
from Mahābhārata महाभारतम्

18. The Sick Society

“When it is a man’s fate to undertake new beginnings, everything is still unformed, dark. Therefore he must hold back because any premature move might bring disaster.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 1 via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 3, "Difficuty at the Beginning"
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

52. Cultivating the Changeless
12. Never finish

“And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it, neither brave man nor coward, I tell you—it's born with us the day that we are born.”

Homer 1
Primogenitor of Western culture
from Iliad

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“To accept destiny is to face life with open eyes; not to accept destiny is to face death blindfolded.”

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

16. Returning to the Root, Meditation

“What you are is what you have been. What you'll be is what you do now.”

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

64. Ordinary Mind

“Dreadful is the mysterious power of Fate; there is no escape from it by wealth or war, by walled city, or dark, sea-beaten ships.”

Sophocles Σοφοκλῆς 497 – 405 BCE
“The Wise and Honored One”
from Antigone, 442 BCE

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“Confucians believe firmly in the existence of fate and propound this doctrine... if officials believe such ideas, they will be lax in their duties; and if the common people believe them, they will neglect their tasks.”

Mozi 墨子 470 – 391 BCE via Burton Watson
Chinese personification of Newton, da Vinci, and Jesus
from Against Confucians

“The fate of empires depends on the education of youth.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης 382 – 322 BCE
from Politics

“Do not let the artificial obliterate the natural; do not let will obliterate destiny; do not let virtue be sacrificed to fame”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Jack Kerouac

“Age creeps on apace, all will soon be over;
If only it could be forever as this time it was!
But man's fate is fixed;
From meetings and partings none can ever escape.”

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)

“Death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”

Koheleth 1
from Ecclesiastes קֹהֶלֶת‎

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to mend of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.”

Koheleth 1
from Ecclesiastes קֹהֶלֶת‎

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“The harp playing of Xanthippe and her talk, her expressive eyes and her song — and the fire within her just now beginning; these, my soul, will inflame you. The reasons why or whence or how I do not know; but you will know, ill-fated soul, that you are burning.”

Philodemus Φιλόδημος 110 – 35 BCE
(of Gadara)

“Who then is free? The wise man who commands his passions, who fears not death, nor chain, firmly resisting his appetites and despising the honors of the world, who relies wholly on himself, whose angular points of character have all been rounded off and polished and against whom Fortune in her onset is ever defeated.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE
from Ars Poetica

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“What is freedom?... not being a slave to any circumstance... it means compelling Fortune to enter the lists on equal terms.”

Seneca ˈsɛnɪkə 4 BCE – 65 CE
(Lucius Annaeus)
from Epistulae ad Lucilium

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“Fate leads the willing while the unwilling get dragged.”

Seneca ˈsɛnɪkə 4 BCE – 65 CE
(Lucius Annaeus)

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“Fate leads him who follows it, and drags him who resist.”

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

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…”

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

“An owl, noiseless as a feathered cloud, glided away in the moonlight, a songbird in its left foot. Fate goes ever as it must.”

Hilda of Whitby 614 – 680 CE via Nicola Griffith

“Regard… your future as the effect of your present state of mind.”

Catrapa ཙ་ཏྲ་པ། 750 – 850 CE via Keith Dowman
("The Lucky Beggar")
Mahasiddha #23
from Masters of Mahamudra

40. Returning

“Listen: this story's one you ought to know,
You'll reap the consequence of what you sow.”

Ferdowsi فردوسی 940 – 1020 CE
(Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi Tusi)
"undisputed giant of Persian literature"
from Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings (977–1010 CE)

“How shall a man escape from that which is written; How shall he flee from his destiny?”

Ferdowsi فردوسی 940 – 1020 CE
(Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi Tusi)
"undisputed giant of Persian literature"

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“Khayyám, who stitched the tens of science,
His fallen in grief's furnace and been suddenly burned;
The shears of Fate have cut the tent ropes of his life,
And the broker of Hope has sold him for nothing!”

Omar Khayyám 1048 – 1131 CE via Edward Fitzgerald
Persian Astronomer-Poet, prophet of the here and now

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“’Tis all a checker board of nights and days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.”

Omar Khayyám 1048 – 1131 CE
Persian Astronomer-Poet, prophet of the here and now

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good; I was actually being redirected to something better.”

Al-Ghazali أبو حامد محمد بن محمد الطوسي الغزالي 1058 – 1111 CE
(Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali)
Philosopher of Sufism

“We make plans, unaware of what is being planned”

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

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“Evil has its evil reward. Even the clever cannot escape… its retribution is ingenious and beyond the reach of human plans. It never lets evildoers slip through its net.”

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

“Do not be afraid; our fate cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.”

Dante 1265 – 1321 CE
(Durante degli Alighieri)

“It may quite well be that without cause you are thus in despair.
How can you tell beforehand how you'll fare?
And why must you the worst always suppose,
Although the outcome you nor no one knows?

Geoffrey Chaucer 1343 – 1400 CE via W. W. Skeat
“Father of English literature”
from Troilus and Cressida

“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”

Joan of Arc Jeanne d'Arc 1412 – 1431 CE
Mystical, visionary warrior

“Think more highly of what fate has given you rather than what it has denied.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #120
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

“Think more highly of what fate has given you rather than what it has denied.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #120
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

“The more he saw, the more he doubted… courage was often rashness; and prudence, cowardice; generosity, a clever piece of calculation; justice, a wrong; honesty, a modus vivendi; and by some strange dispensation of fate, he must see that those who at heart were really honest, scrupulous, just, generous, prudent or brave were held cheaply by their fellow-men.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

“The very essence of instinct is that it’s followed independently of reason.”

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 CE

“a laugh's the wisest, easiest answer to all that's queer; and come what will, one comfort's always left—that unfailing comfort is, it's all predestinated... I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing.”

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

“Why so soft, so pliant and yielding? Why is there so much denial, self denial, in your hearts? So little destiny in your eyes?… For all creators are hard. And it must seem blessedness to you to impress your hand on millennia as on wax.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“I thank fate for having made me born poor. Poverty taught me the true value of the gifts useful to life.”

Anatole France 1844 – 1924 CE
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)

47. Effortless Success

“It is perhaps a more fortunate destiny to have a taste for collecting shells than to be born a millionaire.”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

53. Shameless Thieves

“The derivation of a need for religion from the child's feeling of helplessness and the longing it evokes for a father seems to me incontrovertible... [and] kept alive perpetually by the fear of what the superior power of fate will bring.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from Civilization and It's Discontents (1930)

“It is possible that in contact with western science, and inspired by the spirit of history, the original teachings of Gautama , revived and purified, may yet play a large part in the direction of human destiny”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle
from Outline of History

“But perhaps there are in us forces other than mind and heart, other even than the senses—mysterious forces which take hold of us in the moments when the others are asleep.”

Romain Rolland 1866 – 1944 CE
“The moral consciousness of Europe”
from Jean Christophe Vol I

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“Men are helpless as far as their fate is concerned, but they can ally themselves with the good, and in suffering and dying, die and suffer nobly. This is the spirit of Sophocles He had the sure instinct of the consummate artist, he had a supreme gift of poetic expression, a great intellect, and an unsurpassed sureness of beautiful workmanship”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE
from The Greek Way, 1930

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“We find a little of everything in our memory; it is a kind of pharmacy or chemical laboratory in which chance guides our hand now to a calming drug and now to a dangerous poison.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE via Justin O'Brien
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from Maxims of Marcel Proust

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“Fate itself if subdued by the mind which leaves nothing to be purged by the purifying fire of Time.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from The Freeman's Worship, 1903

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“the long silence from which everything begins and in which everything ends. Intimately known and yet strange like Nature, lovingly tender and yet cruel like fate,.. the totality of life of which we are a small and helpless part.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

51. Mysterious Goodness

“A man lives not only his personal life, as an individual, but also, consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from The Magic Mountain (1924)

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“She was a murderess, but on top of that she had also murdered herself. For one who commits such a crime destroys her own soul... Sometimes it seems as if even animals and plants 'know' it.”

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

“In resigning ourselves to our fate without a struggle, we are guilty of inhumanity.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

“No nation keeps its word. A nation is a big, blind worm, following what? Fate perhaps. A nation has no honor, it has no word to keep. …”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

75. Greed

“Let yourself be carried away, like the clouds in the sky. You shouldn’t resist. God exists in your destiny just as much as he does in these mountains and in that lake.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE

“Man does not realize that throughout his entire life he does things he believes. Precisely what to believe and how to believe comprises the solution of the problems of being. Man's free will or free choice molds his destiny.”

Helena Roerich Елéна Ивáновна Рéрих 1879 – 1955 CE

“Humanity will get the fate it deserves.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“It is the destiny of things real to destroy those that are artifice.”

Teilhard de Chardin 1881 – 1955 CE via Bernard Wall
from Phenomenon of Man

Themes: Fate / Destiny

49. No Set Mind

“And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees and changing leaves.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

“These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.”

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

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“My soul suddenly longed to transcend its destiny, breathe free air, and become a bird—for a flash only, as long as it could endure. But that was enough; this flash was eternity. That is the meaning of eternity.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

“I do not believe in coincidence; I believe in destiny.”

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

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“Greek religion paved the way for philosophy by emphasizing Fate which became the idea of law, a force more powerful than personal fiat creating the fundamental difference between mythology and science.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE

“As every poet must be, Euripides is above all sensitive; he feels the problems of mankind intensely and express them with passion; he is the most tragic and the most human of dramatists. He created living individuals replacing operations of destiny with psychological analysis.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE via Shan Dao
from Life of Greece

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“In the end nothing is lost; for good or evil, every event has effects forever.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Our Oriental Heritage

“Struggle is the most invaluable experience of all. Suffering seems to be the inevitable fate of the creative sensitive types. Poverty, disease, death, unrequited love affairs, and disappointments of every sort fan the flame of the artistic spirit. The greatest works of art were not created by spoiled brats. They were born for the most part out of a sense of despair, and if not despair then just plain hard work. Somewhere along the line the artist learns the art of transformation.”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE
from Reflections (1981)

“Everybody strains after happiness, and the result is that nobody's happy.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

78. Water

“appalled by the raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms, and by the too obtrusive fate that heeded its inhabitants along a short cut from nothing to nothing, she saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand.”

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

“If you have character, endeavor, personality, courage and the capacity for concentrated labor, you will do what is your destiny – and, perhaps, even do it well.”

Ariel Durant 1898 – 1981 CE
(Chaya Kaufman)

“The I Ching is actually concerned with nothing other than the recognition of causes and conditions which determine our destiny. He who knows the causes, or sees the germinations, controls what is otherwise felt as fate.”

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

from Inner Structure of the I Ching

“If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored. One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”

Thomas Wolfe 1900 – 1938 CE
(Thomas Clayton Wolfe)
Father of autobiographical fiction

“He directs the destiny of the nations, but he cannot direct his own destiny with dignity or wisdom for ten consecutive minutes.”

Thomas Wolfe 1900 – 1938 CE
(Thomas Clayton Wolfe)
Father of autobiographical fiction
from You Can't Go Home Again, 1940

“Ah destiny… touched by that dark miracle of chance which makes new magic in a dusty world.”

Thomas Wolfe 1900 – 1938 CE
(Thomas Clayton Wolfe)
Father of autobiographical fiction
from Look Homeward, Angel

“Human destiny is bound to remain a gamble, because at some unpredictable time and in some unforeseeable manner nature will strike back. The multiplicity of determinants which affect biological systems limits the power of the experimental method to predict their trends and behavior.”

René Dubos 1901 – 1982 CE
Influential scientific environmentalist

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“Love thine enemies because they are the instruments of your destiny.”

Joseph Campbell 1904 – 1987 CE
Great translator of ancient myth into modern symbols
from Power of Myth

“A Warrior is the master of his fate. No matter what fate throws at him, fame or infamy, health or sickness, poverty or riches, he uses the situation for his own inner development.”

Robert S. De Ropp 1913 – 1987 CE

“If Christianity is pessimistic as to man, it is optimistic as to human destiny. Marxism, pessimistic as to destiny, pessimistic as to human nature, is optimistic as to the progress of history.”

Albert Camus 1913 – 1960 CE
from Notebooks, 1942-1951

“A man’s fate is a man’s fate and life is but an illusion.”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from Shōgun, 1975

“Fate arises not as a limitation on our freedom, but as a manifestation of our freedom, testimony that choice is consequent.”

James P. Carse 1932 – 2020 CE
Thought-proving, influential, deep thinker
from Finite and Infinite Games

Themes: Fate / Destiny

“While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the President of the United States sometimes must have
To stand naked.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

71. Sick of Sickness

“People devote a lot of energy to thinking about things. Whether they want to or not. Yet in the end we all just have to wait—only time can tell how events play out. The answers lie ahead.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –
from Killing Commendatore

“It was a Chinese kind of Buddhism, which is a bit of this, that, and the other—ancestor worship, a belief in ghosts, bad fate, all the frightful things. But it was not the Burmese version that desires nothing. With our kind of Buddhism, we desired everything…”

Amy Tan 1952 CE –
Rock and roll singer, bartender, and insightfully talented author

“I think where people tend to end up results from a combination of encouragement, accident, and lucky break… So it's all about trying to find the best fit between your talents and what the world can offer at that point in time.”

Alain de Botton 1969 CE –
Philosophic link between ancient wisdom and modern challenge

“The veil deliberately marks women as private and restricted property, nonpersons. The veil sets women apart from men and apart from the world; it restrains them, confines them, grooms them for docility. A mind can be cramped just as a body may be, and a Muslim veil blinkers both your vision and your destiny. It is the mark of a kind of apartheid, not the domination of a race but of a sex.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali 1969 CE –
Powerful voice for Islamic reform

“I think where people tend to end up results from a combination of encouragement, accident, and lucky break… So it's all about trying to find the best fit between your talents and what the world can offer at that point in time.”

Alain de Botton 1969 CE –
Philosophic link between ancient wisdom and modern challenge

“The Greeks did not waste any sacrifices on Fate, and Hindus built no temples to Atman... The fundamental insight of polytheism is that the supreme power governing the world is unconcerned with the mundane desires, cares, and worries of humans.”

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

from Sapiens

“Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history... the fate of industrially farmed animals [is] one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time.”

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

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