Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Probably rooted in some Darwinian natural selection process, humans have deeply rooted propensities for conflict, aggression, and extreme views. This powerful influence on human behavior obviously leads to fighting, murder, extreme suffering, and war. Solid and extreme views justify and encourage this kind of activity. Going to war, killing, and conflict lose their foundation when not disguised in solid beliefs, ideologies, or nationalism. In this context, the idea of “Middle Way” becomes an antidote, an alternative, a path toward sanity. Reality never conforms to our belief systems. External and self-deception exert so much more power over us than we realize. As Balthasar observes, “All fools are fully convinced and everyone fully convinced is a fool.” As the Taoist yin-yang symbol conveys, every dark and negative experience has its inner light; every bright and positive one, its inner dark. A life lived in accord with a “Middle Way” avoids extreme views, beliefs, and opinions; fosters understanding, peace, and compassion.

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Quotes (80)

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Aesop 620 – 546 BCE
Hero of the oppressed and downtrodden
from Aesop's Fables, the Aesopica

Themes: Kindness Conflict

67. Three Treasures

“When leaders are convinced by concepts, corruption, confusion, and conflict reign. When instead they remain unconvinced and open, blessings and goodness spread.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Shan Dao, chapter #65
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“Compassion wins every battle and outlasts every attack.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

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

Themes: Anger Conflict

63. Easy as Hard

“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

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

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

73. Heaven’s Net

“We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being and pass away through strife.”

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

Themes: Conflict Justice

“Conflicts break out when opposite parties—the rich and the poor—are equally balanced. if one or the other were highly superior, the other side would not risk an attack.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης 382 – 322 BCE via Shan Dao
from Politics

Themes: Conflict

“Those who govern others with worthiness never win them over. Those who serve others with worthiness never fail to gain their support.”

Lie Yukou 列圄寇/列禦寇/列子 1
(Liè Yǔkòu, Liezi)
from Liezi "True Classic of Simplicity and Perfect Emptiness”

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace.”

Ovid oʊvɪd 43 BCE – 18 CE
(Publius Ovidius Naso)
Great poet and major influence on the Renaissance, Humanism, and world literature

“On Golden Rule:
Repay wrongs with the Power of Goodness;
Love your brother and sister as your soul;
protect them as you do the pupils of your eyes.”

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

63. Easy as Hard

“How do you think you can help mundane beings with gold? It will only cause greater conflict and strife, greater sin and evil.”

Nagarjuna नागर्जुन 1 via Keith Dowman

“The greatest victory involves no fighting.”

Xuanzong 武隆基 685 – 756 CE
(Hsuan-Tsung or Wu Longji)

Themes: Warriors Conflict

31. Victory Funeral

“We hurt ourselves; our pain is self-inflicted! Why should others be the object of our anger?”

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

Themes: Anger Conflict

“When the mind is at peace, the world too is at peace... I don't hold on to anything, don't reject anything; nowhere an obstacle or conflict.”

Layman Pang 龐居士 740 – 808 CE via Stephen Mitchell

“Conflict arises because duality is not seen as it is at all... if we are completely in touch with these dualistic feelings, that absolute experience of duality is itself the experience of nonduality.”

Padmasambhava པདྨཱ་ཀ་ར། 1 via Chögyam Trungpa & Francesca Fremantle
("The Lotus-Born", Guru Rinpoche)
from Tibetan Book of the Dead

Themes: Conflict

“When fighting and quarreling cease in the family, military deployments cease in the states, and punitive expeditions cease throughout the realm"”

Wang Zhen 809 – 859 CE via Ralph D. Sawyer
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

Themes: Family Conflict

“contention is the source of military combat, the foundation of disaster and chaos... therefore, Lao Tzu repeatedly takes noncontention as the essence. When no one contends, how will weapons and armor arise? For what purpose will forces be deployed for combat?”

Wang Zhen 809 – 859 CE via Ralph D. Sawyer
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

Themes: Conflict

“True teachings pacify violent emotions, conflicting thoughts, and still these wave-like disturbances in meditation.”

Nirgunapa ནིརྒུ་ཎ་པ། 1 via Keith Dowman
"The Enlightened Moron" #57

“Taoists don’t avoid what others hate… They only avoid what others fight over, namely flattery and ostentation.”

Lu Huiqing 1031 – 1111 CE

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Struggle is over; gain and loss are assimilated. I sing the song of the village woodsman, and play the tunes of the children.”

Kakuan Shien 廓庵師遠 1100 – 1200 CE
(Kuo-an Shih-yuan, Kuòān Shīyuǎn )
Most popular Ten Bulls artist/poet

from 10 Bulls

“There are many winds full of anger, and lust and greed. They move the rubbish around, but the solid mountain of true nature stays where it's always been”

Rumi مولانا جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی 1207 – 1283 CE
(Rumi Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī)

“All people love a compassionate person as they do their own parents… Hence, those who attack or defend with compassion meet no opposition.”

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

“What the wise choose is what everyone else hates. Who is going to compete with them?”

Li Hungfu 1574 – 1574 CE via Red Pine
from Lao-tzu-chieh

“In the nature of man we find three main causes of conflict: competition, diffidence, and the lust for approval.”

Thomas Hobbes 1588 – 1679 CE via Shan Dao
from Leviathan

“People have no enemies, none at all right from the start. You create them all yourself fighting over right and wrong.”

Bankei 盤珪永琢 1622 – 1693 CE
(Bankei Yōtaku)

Themes: Conflict Enemy

“I think that everything goes awry with us, that nobody knows his office nor what he is doing, nor what he ought to do. Almost all of their time is passed in senseless quarrels: Jansenists with Molinists, lawyers with churchmen, men of letters with men of letters, courtiers with courtiers, financiers with the people, wives with husbands, relatives with relatives—it's an eternal war.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE via Shan Dao
from Candide

Themes: Conflict

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; 'Tis dearness only that gives everything its value.”

Thomas Paine 1737 – 1809 CE

“I've always felt that a person's intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.”

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

“If there be no enemy there's no fight. If no fight, no victory and if no victory there is no crown.”

Thomas Carlyle 1795 – 1881 CE
"Great Man” theory of history creator

“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

“As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.”

John Stuart Mill 1806 – 1873 CE

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

Themes: Conflict

“The history of all previously existing societies is the history of class struggles.”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE
from Communist Manifesto

Themes: History Conflict

“The great enemy of knowledge is not error… One error conflicts with another, each destroys its opponent, and truth is evolved.”

Henry Thomas Buckle 1821 – 1862 CE
from History of Civilization

Themes: Truth Conflict Enemy

43. No Effort, No Trace

“Argument is generally a waste of time and trouble. It is better to present one’s opinion and leave it to stick or no as it may happen. If sound, it will probably in the end stick, and the sticking is the main thing.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Note-Books (1912)

“The opposition between the men who have and the men who are is immemorial.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902

“Sublimation of instinct is an especially conspicuous feature of cultural evolution… civilization is built up on renunciation of instinctual gratifications… This ‘cultural privation’ dominates the whole field of social relations and is the cause of the antagonism against which all civilization has to fight.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from Civilization and its Discontents, 1930

“This is a busy world, and no one has time to sit right down and hate you. The only enemies we have are those we conjure up ourselves. The idea that we have enemies is only egotism gone to seed.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE via Shan Dao
from A Thosand and One Epigrams, 1911

Themes: Hate Conflict Enemy

“Conflict stirs us to observation and memory, instigates invention, shocks us out of sheep-like passivity, and sets us at noting and contriving…conflict is a sine qua non of reflection and ingenuity.”

John Dewey 1859 – 1952 CE
The "Second Confucius"

“The task of philosophy is to clarify our ideas about contemporary social and moral conflicts. It's purpose is to become—as far as humanly possible—an organ for dealing with these conflicts... Philosophy is a catholic and far-sighted theory about our adjustments to the conflicting factors of life.”

John Dewey 1859 – 1952 CE via Shan Dao
The "Second Confucius"
from Creative Intelligence, 1917

“To fight is a radical instinct; if men have nothing else to fight over, they will fight over words, fancies, or women; or they will fight because they dislike each other’s looks, or because they have met walking in opposite directions… To fight for a reason and in a calculating spirit is something your true warrior despises.”

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

Themes: Warriors Conflict

“Of our conflicts with others, we make rhetoric; of our conflicts with ourselves, we make poetry.”

W.B. (William Butler) Yeats 1865 – 1939 CE

Themes: Poetry Conflict

“Of all evils of war the greatest is the purely spiritual evil: the hatred, the injustice, the repudiation of truth, the artificial conflict.”

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

Themes: Truth Conflict

“the greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble... They can never be solved, only outgrown... while to remain caught in a conflict is something pathological.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Introduction to Secret of the Golden Flower

Themes: Conflict

“You cannot struggle with men, not you, because at the very moment you are fighting, you keep thinking that your enemy might be right, and no matter what he does to you after that, you forgive him.”

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

Themes: Conflict Enemy

“Greatest of all dialogues, of course, is the Republic, being the fullest exposition of Plato's philosophy, and in its earlier parts a dramatic conflict of personalities and idea... Their form entitles them to as high a place in the annals of literature as their content has given them in the history of thought.”

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

Themes: Conflict

“War in our time has become an anachronism. Whatever the case in the past, war in the future can serve no useful purpose.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower 1890 – 1969 CE via Mike Wallace (1959)

Themes: Conflict War

“Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Brave New World

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“Control in any form breeds distortion, conflict and an unhealthy mind.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)
from Awakening of Intelligence

Themes: Control Conflict

30. No War

“The struggle can be won only by acceptance of both the forces of light and darkness in their full significance: as the creative and the receptive, the male and the female, the strong and the soft.”

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

from Inner Structure of the I Ching

Themes: Victory Conflict

“The very process of living is a continual interplay between the individual and his environment, often taking the form of a struggle resulting in injury or disease.”

René Dubos 1901 – 1982 CE
Influential scientific environmentalist

“A relationship with no combat in it is dull, and a relationship with too much combat in it is toxic. What is desirable is a relationship with a certain optimum of conflict.”

Gregory Bateson 1904 – 1980 CE
from Mind and nature: a necessary unity (1988)​

“The cause of conflict is some fixed or one-sided idea… there is not particular way in true practice. You should find your own way”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE via Trudy Dixon
from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

“A constant image is the conflict of the eagle and serpent. The serpent bound to earth, the eagle in spiritual flight… when the two amalgamate, we get a wonderful dragon, a serpent with wings.”

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

“the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality… It is the source of all the troubles in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations… to this false view can be traced all the evil in the world.”

Walpola Rahula Thero 1907 – 1997 CE
“Supreme Master of Buddhist Scriptures”

from What the Buddha Taught, 1959

“[Moral conflicts are] an intrinsic, irremovable element in human life... These collisions of values are of the essence of what they are and what we are.”

Isaiah Berlin 1909 – 1997 CE
"the world's greatest talker"
from The Proper Study of Mankind

Themes: Conflict

“I believe The Art of War shows quite clearly how to take the initiative and combat the enemy—any enemy… Sun Tzu’s truths can equally show the way to victory in all kinds of ordinary business conflicts, boardroom battles, and in the day to day fight for survival we all endure—even in the battle of the sexes! It has been a constant companion to me… I would make it obligatory study… I believe, very much, that Sun Tzu’s knowledge is vital to our survival.”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from The Art of War, 1983

Themes: Strategy Conflict

“What if someone gave a war and Nobody came?”

Allen Ginsberg 1926 – 1997 CE

Themes: Conflict War

31. Victory Funeral

“Disagreement shakes us out of our slumbers and forces us to see our own point of view through contrast with another person who does not share it”

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

Themes: Conflict

“The conflict between right and wrong is a sickness of the mind.”

Seungsahn 숭산행원대선사 1927 – 2004 CE
(Soen Sa Nim)

Themes: Health Conflict

“The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology but to break down the barrier of dualistic thought and understand technology for what it is—a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both.”

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

“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

“Heresies play an essential role by keeping our minds argumentative and alert.”

Hubert Reeves 1932 CE –

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

Themes: Peace Conflict

30. No War

“It is the war that is going on inside our own heads to which we have to call the truce.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from The New Age

Themes: War Conflict

31. Victory Funeral

“Universally—in all traditions and schools of thought, religions, philosophies, political theories—there's always a conflict about how to relate the imaginary world to the physical world.”

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

“You don't have to dress up in fancy costumes, you don't have to have someone—or a whole organization—behind you to prove that what you're doing is right... a tremendous conflict with form goes along with that.”

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

“Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting my friends.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Conflict War

31. Victory Funeral

“Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”

Molly Ivins 1944 – 2007 CE
Biting but humorous social commentator

Themes: Conflict

“The Middle East is the crucible of conflict and the graveyard of empires.”

J. Rufus Fears 1945 – 2012 CE

“...The problem is that feminists have taken over with their attempts to inhibit sex. We have a serious testosterone problem in this country. … It's a mess out there. Men are suspicious of women's intentions. Feminism has crippled them. They don't know when to make a pass. If they do make a pass, they don't know if they're going to end up in court.”

Camille Paglia 1947 CE –
Fearless and insightful status quo critic
from Playboy Interview, 1995:

Themes: Conflict

“Fights over ideas are the most vicious of all. If it were merely food, or water, or shelter, we would work something out But in the realm of ideas, one can become idealistic.”

Kim Stanley Robinson 1952 CE –

“The mental machinery that drives modern wars—patriotic fervor, mass self-righteousness, contagious rage—have their deepest roots in... conflicts among coalitions of males for status.”

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

Themes: Conflict War

“This isn't about what is . . . it's about what people think is. It's all imaginary anyway. That's why it's important. People only fight over imaginary things.”

Neil Gaiman 1960 CE –
Myth-transmitting creative maelstrom
from American Gods

Themes: Illusion Conflict

“he actually threw concepts at me. I had no idea your kind had advanced to the point of using energized abstract macroconstructs in combat. Who expects microbes to go nuclear?”

N. K. Jemisin 1972 CE –

Themes: Conflict

“The more we allow ourselves to be guided by compassion—to pause for a moment and try to see where another person is coming from—the less likely we are to engage in conflict.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

Themes: Kindness Conflict

“Rejoicing in the success of others means letting go of competitiveness, jealousy, and envy”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

“military globalization: War spreads ideas, technologies, and people far more quickly than commerce does... People care far more about their enemies than about their trade partners. For every American film about Taiwan, there are probably fifty about Vietnam.”

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

from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Themes: Conflict Enemy

“Human beings are great at starting wars. We are also reasonably capable of ending wars, given enough time. What we struggle with, is avoiding wars altogether... When ancient kingdoms came into contact with one another, no matter how many gifts were exchanged in the early days, wars of domination eventually resulted.”

Deepak Malhotra 1
"Professor of the Year"

from Peacemaker's Code

Themes: Conflict War

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