Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Most might normally think about greed as an uncontrollable passion. Anther way of looking at it, however, could be a a believed deception. Like consumerism and materialism in general, the foundation is believing that some form of happiness will arise from getting more. Based on the false belief in “basic badness” and ignoring our true nature, it sets our sights on goals that never gain our true desires, gaining ideas that only lead us into more confusion, and suffering. When we experience the meaningless emptiness of continually chasing after fame, fortune, pleasure, and power; our materialistic attitudes dissolve by themselves and we begin to discover the profound brilliance, the sacredness of life. Believing the advertising and taking on the role of the donkey always chasing the unreachable carrot, we chase after material things, dedicate our lives to making money and only burden ourselves with anxiety and worry.

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Quotes (83)

“Hell has three gates: lust, anger and greed.”

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

Themes: Greed Anger

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“Blessed are the man and the woman who have grown beyond their greed and have put an end to their hatred and no longer nourish illusions.”

King David 1000 – 920 BCE via Stephen Mitchell
"The baffled king composing Hallelujah!"
from Book of Psalms

Themes: Greed Illusion

“Discontent springs from a constant endeavor to increase the amount of our claims, when we are powerless to increase the amount which will satisfy them.”

Homer 1 via Arthur Schopenhauer
Primogenitor of Western culture
from Odyssey, Ὀδύσσεια

Themes: Greed

“If men had all they wished, they would be often ruined.”

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

Themes: Greed

75. Greed

“When the rich spend taxes on making themselves richer, the people starve.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Shan Dao, chapter #75
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Greed

75. Greed

“When the people don’t have enough, why should the rich have too much?”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Shan Dao, chapter #75
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Greed

“Always wanting, we are blinded and only see what we want.”

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

Themes: Greed Desire

“The ignorant and simple-minded burn with the fires of greed, anger and folly. Obsessed with ideas of birth, growth and destruction, they fall into the habit of grasping becoming fixated and attached.”

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

“When you do not crave what is useless, you do not hurt your nature by greed... If you are endlessly greedy and ambitious, then penalties will kill you.”

Wenzi 文子 1 via Thomas Cleary
"Authentic Presence of Pervading Mystery.”
from The Wenzi, Wénzǐ 文子

“The rich have become so unsocial, those who own property had rather throw their possessions into the sea than lend aid to the needy, while those who are in power circumstance would less gladly find a treasure than seize the possessions of the rich.”

Isocrates Ἰσοκράτης 436 – 338 BCE
from Works

“Only hypocritical, greedy, and criminal leaders create the causes of crime and then punish the people for it.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE
from Book of Mencius 孟子

Themes: Greed

“He who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
Western Buddha
from On Nature

Themes: Wealth Greed

75. Greed

“Whoever loves money never has enough.”

Koheleth 1
from Ecclesiastes קֹהֶלֶת‎

Themes: Greed Wealth

44. Fame and Fortune

“Avarice of the old... how absurd to increase one's baggage as one nears their journey's end.”

Cicero 106 – 43 BCE
from De Re Publica, 54-51 BCE

Themes: Greed Old Age

“In the 1950s, a typical CEO made 20 times the salary of his or her average worker. Last year, CEO pay at an S&P 500 Index firm soared to an average of 361 times more than the average rank-and-file worker, or pay of $13,940,000 a year ($13,940,000 divided by 261 = $53,410 per day).”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from AFL-CIO's Executive Paywatch News (May, 2018)​

Themes: Greed

“How slight and insignificant is the thing which casts down or restores a mind greedy for praise.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Greed

77. Stringing a Bow

“He who is greedy is always in want.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Greed

75. Greed

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”

Plutarch 46 – 120 CE
(Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus)

53. Shameless Thieves

“There is no need to yearn, envy, and grab... Diogenes and Heraclitus were impeccable models of living by such principles rather than by raw impulse.”

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

Themes: Greed

“The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion.”

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨 1

Themes: Greed Anger

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“A greedy man who piles up wealth
is like an owl who loves her chicks
the chicks grow up and eat their mother.
Wealth eventually swallows its owner.
Spread it around and blessings grow.”

Han Shan 1
(Cold Mountain)

Themes: Greed Wealth

75. Greed

“I made a great feast in the joss house, but the hungry gods are never satisfied.”

Yunmen Wenyan 雲門文偃 862 – 949 CE
(Ummon Daishi, Yúnmén Wényǎn)
The most eloquent Chan master

Themes: Greed Economics

“Many men hoard for the future husbands of their wives.”

Solomon ibn Gabirol שלמה בן יהודה אבן גבירול 1021 – 1070 CE via Ascher
from Choice of Pearls

Themes: Greed Marriage

“If you yourself are unable to be fulfilled,
Your greedy rich man's mind will never be satisfied.”

Gesar of Ling གེ་སར་རྒྱལ་པོ། 1 via Robin Kornman
from Gesar of Ling Epic

Themes: Greed

“A man who guzzles the ocean
Needs a stomach the size of the sky.”

Gesar of Ling གེ་སར་རྒྱལ་པོ། 1 via Robin Kornman
from Gesar of Ling Epic

Themes: Greed

“Losing something is the result of possessing something. How can people lose what they don't possess?”

Su Che 呂洞 1039 – 1112 CE via Red Pine
(Su Zhe)
Great writer of the Tang and Sung dynasties
from Tao-te-chen-ching-chu

Themes: Materialism Greed

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Many winds full of anger, lust and greed move rubbish around. The solid mountain of true nature however, stays where it's always been.”

Rumi مولانا جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی 1207 – 1283 CE via Shan Dao
(Rumi Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī)
from Masnavi مثنوي معنوي‎‎) "Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning”

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“Pride, envy, avarice—these are the sparks that set on fire the hearts of a all men.”

Dante 1265 – 1321 CE via Inferno
(Durante degli Alighieri)
from Divine Comedy

“Always panting for riches and never giving our souls or our bodies a moment's peace, we are thrown into a continuous state of misery and anxiety.”

Poggio Bracciolini 1380 – 1459 CE via Sansoni
from Nel VI Centenario della Nascita

Themes: Greed Wealth Health

“Above all things, good policy is to prevent treasuries and monies in a state from being gathered into a few hands.”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from The Prince

“Personal prejudice and financial greed are the two great evils that threaten courts of law, and once they get the upper hand they immediately hamstring society, by destroying all justice.”

Thomas More 1478 – 1535 CE
from Utopia

Themes: Greed Justice

“Robbers and thieves arise from hunger and cold. If people are hungry and have no means to live, they have no choice but to steal. When people steal, it’s because those above force them..”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE

75. Greed

“The Way of Heaven is to give but not to take The Way of Humankind is to take but not to give.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE

Themes: Greed Compassion

77. Stringing a Bow

“No one will gain all without having lost all.”

Madame Guyon Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon 1648 – 1717 CE via Thomas Taylor Allen
from Autobiography of Madame Guyon

Themes: Greed Failure

“As Lao-tzu says: ‘Know your limits and you’ll suffer no disgrace, know when to stop and you’ll be in no danger.’ Let no man take too much.”

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

46. Enough

“Our merchants and master-manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price, and thereby lessening the sale of their goods both at home and abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.”

Adam Smith 1723 – 1790 CE
''The Father of Economic Capitalism"
from Wealth of Nations

Themes: Greed

“Delusion and enlightenment produce one another… You get rid of this, then grab hold of that. Don’t you see how stupid it is!”

Ryokan 良寛大愚 1758 – 1758 CE
(Ryōkan Taigu,“The Great Fool”)

19. All Methods Become Obstacles

“every man has a horizon of his own, and he will expect as much as he thinks it is possible for him to get.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE
from Wisdom of Life

Themes: Greed

“Others will enjoy the wealth we as misers kept. Even our body we hold so dear will be left behind.”

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས། 1813 – 1899 CE
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
from Torch of Certainty

57. Wu Wei

“… men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon polished into the soil for compost… they are employed laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.”

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

Themes: Business Greed

29. Not Doing

“The most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast, the Furies of private interest”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE
from Das Kapital; Capital: Critique of Political Economy

Themes: Greed

“From the first day to this, sheer greed was the driving spirit of civilization.”

Friedrich Engels 1820 – 1895 CE
Businessman-philosopher, political theorist

“All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.”

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

Themes: Progress Greed

“There are many things that we would throw away, if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE
from Picture of Dorian Gray

Themes: Greed

“I could see that the Wasichus [white man] did not care for each other the way our people did before the nation's hoop was broken. They would take everything from each other if they could, and so there were some who had more of everything than they could use, while crowds of people had nothing at all and maybe were starving. This could not be better than the old ways of my people.”

Black Elk 1863 – 1950 CE
(Heȟáka Sápa)

75. Greed

“In its ealy stage, love is shaped by desire; later on it is kept alive only by anxiety... It is born and it thrives only if something remains to be won. We love only what we do not completely possess.”

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

Themes: Greed

“Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident… they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

46. Enough

“And all the greedy gushes out through their small souls. And all the lazy leaks down over their brash bodies. How small it's all!”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from Finnegan's Wake

“Above all, [capitalism] seems by its very nature to stimulate repeated concentrations of wealth, leading to contractions of purchasing power and to depressions... Repeatedly in history, this natural concentration of wealth has led to a pathological, almost cancerous condition.”

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

Themes: Capitalism Greed

“insecurity is the mother of greed, as cruelty is the memory - if only in the blood - of a time when the test of survival (as now between states) was the ability to kill.”

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

Themes: Greed War

“This Power Elite directly employs several millions of the country´s working force in its factories, offices and stores, controls many millions more by lending them the money to buy its products, and, through its ownership of the media of mass communication, influences the thoughts, the feelings and the actions of virtually everybody. To parody the words of W. Churchill, never have so many been manipulated so much by few.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Wealth Greed

13. Honor and Disgrace

“Deception arises when I want, when I am greedy, when I say, 'All experience is hollow, I want something mysterious'—then I am caught.”

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

Themes: Greed Deception

“Greed has no satiation point, since its consummation does not fill the inner emptiness, boredom, loneliness, and depression it is meant to overcome.”

Erich Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE
One of the most powerful voices of his era promoting the true personal freedom beyond social, political, religious, and national belief systems

Themes: Greed

75. Greed

“Desire killed that man, as desire has killed many before and after him If this earth should ever be destroyed, it will be by desire, by the lust of pleasure and self-gratification, by greed.”

John Fire Lame Deer 1903 – 1976 CE via Richard Erdoes

31. Victory Funeral

“Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. Hoarding is idolatry.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906 – 1945 CE

Themes: Greed

44. Fame and Fortune

“In this world laws are written for the lofty aim of ‘the common good’ and then acted out in life on the basis of the common greed.”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE

“The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom. It is also the antithesis of freedom and peace. Every increase in needs tends to increase one's dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control, and therefore increases existential fear. Only by a reduction of needs can one promote a genuine reduction in those tensions which are the ultimate causes of strife and war.”

E. F. Schumacher 1911 – 1977 CE
The “People's Economist”

44. Fame and Fortune

“How can we disarm greed and envy? Perhaps by being much less greedy and envious ourselves; perhaps by resisting the temptation of letting our luxuries become needs; and perhaps by even scrutinizing our needs to see if they cannot be simplified and reduced.”

E. F. Schumacher 1911 – 1977 CE
The “People's Economist”
from Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered

Themes: Greed

75. Greed

“Ignorance, hatred and greed are killing nature.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE via Larry Korn
from One Straw Revolution

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“You can never get enough of what you don't really want.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE

Themes: Desire Greed

“To try to extinguish the drive for riches with money is like trying to quench a fire by pouring butter over it.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE
from World's Religions

Themes: Money Greed

“As a matter of simple logic, there's no difference at all, that I can see, between the man who's greedy for material treasure or even intellectual treasure—and the man who's greedy for spiritual treasure.”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE via Zooey
from Franny and Zooey

“All some folks want is their fair share… and yours.”

Warren Bennis 1925 – 2014 CE
Authentic Leadership pioneering thought leader

Themes: Greed

“Appeals to the base lusts that hide in everyone no matter how respectable on the surface. Yes, the novelist knows humanity, how worthless they are , ruled by their testicles, swayed by cowardice, selling out every cause because of their greed”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Man in the High Castle,

“To accumulate wealth, power or land beyond one's needs in a limited world is to be truly immoral, be it as an individual, an institution, or a nation-state.”

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

Themes: Greed Wealth

“To lose the sense of sacredness of the world is a mortal loss. To injure our world by excesses of greed and ingenuity is to endanger our own sacredness.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

Themes: Greed

29. Not Doing

“downstream in this river of life, our children will pay for our selfishness, for our greed, and for our lack of vision.”

Oren Lyons 1930 CE –

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.”

Neil Postman 1931 – 2003 CE
from Amusing Ourselves to Death

“No one is ever wealthy enough, honored enough, applauded enough. On the contrary, the visibility of our victories only tightens the grip of the failures in our invisible past.”

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

Themes: Greed

“We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are. Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all — by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians — be participating in its destruction?”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

Themes: Greed Consumerism

58. Goals Without Means

“I understood why… their children, inevitably, took those things for granted… Hence the materialistic and often greedy and selfish lifestyle of so many young people in the Western world, especially in the United States. ”

Jane Goodall 1934 CE –

Themes: Materialism Greed
“When the focus of your practice becomes like the light of the sun penetrating a magnifying glass so sharply that it makes a fire, it dissolves greed, anger, and ignorance, the three great obstacles to our original heart/mind.”

Jakusho Kwong 1935 CE –
from No Beginning, No End: The Intimate Heart of Zen

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do…
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Greed

78. Water

“Let me ask you one question,
Is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness?
Do you think that it could?
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

53. Shameless Thieves

“health, social life, job, house, partners, finances; leisure use, leisure amount; working time, education, income, children; food, water, shelter, clothing, sex, health care; mobility; physical safety, social safety, job security, savings account, insurance, disability protection, family leave, vacation; place tenure, a commons; access to wilderness, mountains, ocean; peace, political stability, political input, political satisfaction; air, water, esteem; status, recognition; home, community, neighbors, civil society, sports, the arts; longevity treatments, gender choice; the opportunity to become more what you are — that's all you need”

Kim Stanley Robinson 1952 CE –
from 2312

“Struck by the arrows of greed, we don’t see that it is our own desire for conveniences… that actually supports the wars that are devastating our world.”

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: Greed War

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“Above all, may individuals recognize that it is their greatest personal responsibility to implement the protection of the world's environment... May they crush the egotism and unlimited avarice that are our mighty foes in this degenerate age.”

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 A Prayer to Protect the World's Environment

“If it were not for certain people's greed for wealth, the highways would be filled with cars powered by the sun, and no one would be starving. Such advances are technologically and physically possible, but apparently not emotionally possible.”

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

53. Shameless Thieves

“the more we have, the bigger our fences, the more sophisticated our security to keep people away and the less we want to share.”

Simon Sinek 1973 CE –
from Leaders Eat Last

Themes: Greed

“The capitalist and consumerist ethics are two sides of the same coin, a merger of two commandments. The supreme commandment of the rich is ‘Invest!’ The supreme commandment of the rest of us is ‘Buy!’”

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

from Sapiens

Themes: Greed

“Smith's claim that the selfish human urge to increase private profit is the basis for collective wealth is one of the most revolutionary ideas in human history... What Smith says is, in fact, that greed is good, and that by becoming richer I benefit everybody, not just myself. Egoism is altruism.”

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

Themes: Greed

“Greed and grievance have fueled many a conflict, but it is fear that has contributed the most to human suffering. It composes the most alluring cry with which to rally citizens and soldiers. It provides the easiest moral justification for the killing of other human beings.”

Deepak Malhotra 1
"Professor of the Year"

from Peacemaker's Code

Themes: Fear Greed

“This is the dark side of the ‘American dream.’ We blame the poor, accusing them of being poor because they do not work hard enough. Yet for the most part, the poor have less because the rich have taken more.”

Karmapa XVII ཨོ་རྒྱན་འཕྲིན་ལས་རྡོ་རྗ 1985 CE –
(Orgyen Thrinlay Dorje)

75. Greed

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