Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Nature, Environment

Quotes (85)

“The god-given is called Nature; to follow that nature is called Tao; to cultivate the Tao is called Culture.”

Zisi 子思 481 – 402 BCE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
(Kong Ji or Tzu-Ssu)
Confucius' grandson and early influence on Neo-Confucianism

“He is richest who is content with the least, for contentment is the wealth of nature.”

Socrates 469 – 399 BCE
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization

67. Three Treasures

“Do not let finely meshed nets be cast in ponds and lakes and the fish and turtles will be more than can be consumed; let axes enter the mountain groves only at the appropriate time and the timber will be more than can be used.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner
from Book of Mencius 孟子

“We do not inherit the land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Haida proverb

“This fear, this night of the mind must be dispelled, not by the rays of the sun, but by the face of nature and her laws.”

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

“Be a friend of the world.”

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

“Why do I live among the green mountains?
I laugh and answer not, my soul is serene;
It dwells in another heaven and earth belonging to no man.
The peach trees are in flower and the water flow on.”

Li Bai 李白 701 – 762 CE
(Li Bo)

“The winds are burdened by the utterly awful stink of evil, selfish goings-on. Thunderstorms menace. The air belches out the filthy uncleanliness of the peoples. The earth should not be injured! The earth must not be destroyed!”

Hildegard of Bingen 1098 – 1179 CE

53. Shameless Thieves

“All of creation God gives to humankind to use. If this privilege is misused, God’s justice permits creation to punish humanity.”

Hildegard of Bingen 1098 – 1179 CE

57. Wu Wei

“Glance at the sun. See the moon and stars. Gaze at the beauty of the green earth. Now think.”

Hildegard of Bingen 1098 – 1179 CE

45. Complete Perfection

“Nature is the highest good and the highest excellence lies in accepting the laws of Nature completely.”

Zhu Xi 朱熹 1130 – 1200 CE via Wang Yang Ming, Will Durant
(Zhū Xī)

“Hundreds of flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
A cool breeze in summer, and snow in winder;
If there is no vain cloud in your mind,
For you it is a good season.”

Mumon Ekai 無門慧開 1183 – 1260 CE via Sumiko Kudo
(Wumen Huikai)
Pioneering pathfinder to the Gateless Gate

from Mumonkan

“Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.”

Mumon Ekai 無門慧開 1183 – 1260 CE via Stephen Mitchell
(Wumen Huikai)
Pioneering pathfinder to the Gateless Gate

from The Gateless Gate, 無門関, 無門關

“Does a dog have Buddha Nature? This is the most serious question of all because if you say either yes or no, you lose your own Buddha-nature.”

Mumon Ekai 無門慧開 1183 – 1260 CE via Paul Reps
(Wumen Huikai)
Pioneering pathfinder to the Gateless Gate

from The Gateless Gate, 無門関, 無門關

“At this time, because earth, grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles, all things in the dharma realm in the universe in ten directions carry out buddha-work, therefore everyone receives the benefit of wind and water movement caused by this functioning, and all are imperceptibly helped by the wondrous and incomprehensible influence of buddha to actualize the enlightenment at hand.”

Dōgen Zenji 道元禅師 1200 – 1253 CE

“Amazed at the heights of mountains, the ocean’s wideness, the power of nature, and the distance of stars; ourselves we consider not.”

Petrarch 1304 – 1374 CE

33. Know Yourself

“To understand the essence, listen to the call of frogs, the billowing wind, the falling rain, all speaking the wonderful language of the essential Nature.”

Bassui Tokushō 抜隊 得勝 1327 – 1387 CE
Meditation master without distraction

“Man is a microcosm, a little world, because his is an extract from all the stars and planets, from the earth and the elements, and so he is their quintessence.”

Paracelsus 1493 – 1541 CE
(Theophrastus von Hohenheim)
Revolutionary, shamanistic alchemist
from Archidoxies, 1525

“Let us give Nature a chance; she knows her business better than we do.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE
Grandfather of the Enlightenment

57. Wu Wei

“Art may improve but cannot surpass nature.”

Miguel de Cervantes 1547 – 1616 CE
One of the world's best novelists

“And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. I would not change it.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from As You Like It

51. Mysterious Goodness

“Nature never deceives us; it is we who deceive ourselves.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE
from Emilé (1762)

“Stretching his hand up to reach the stars, too often man forgets the flowers at his feet.”

Jeremy Bentham 1748 – 1832 CE
from Principles of Morals and Legislation

47. Effortless Success

“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.”

William Wordsworth 1770 – 1850 CE

55. Forever Young

“Away, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs, -
To the silent wilderness,
Where the soul need not repress
Its music.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE

“Nature is eternally young, beautiful and generous. It pours poetry and beauty into all beings and plants, which are allowed to develop as they wish. It has the secret of happiness, and no one has been able to take it away from it.”

George Sand 1804 – 1876 CE
(Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin)

“Blessed are they who never read a newspaper, for they shall see Nature and through her, God.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Essays and Other Writings

“Summer is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

John Ruskin 1819 – 1900 CE

“Deer-stalking would be a very fine sport if only the deer had guns.”

W. S. Gilbert 1836 – 1911 CE
Innovative, influential, inspiring dramatist

“Every day I discover even more beautiful things. It is intoxicating me, and I want to paint it all - my head is bursting.. ..I want to fight, scratch it off, start again, because I start to see and understand. I seems to me as if I can see nature and I can catch it all...”

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

“I don't know anything sweeter than this leaking in of Nature through all the cracks in the walls and floors of cities.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. 1841 – 1935 CE
Game-changing Supreme Court Justice
from The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

“What you call God I call Nature, the Supreme intelligence that rules matter… Nature is what we know. We do not know the gods of religions. And nature is not kind, or merciful, or loving. If God made me, He also made the fish I catch and eat. And where do His mercy, kindness, and love for that fish come in?”

Thomas Edison 1847 – 1931 CE
America's greatest inventor

“We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.”

Dean Inge 1860 – 1954 CE
Christian mystic and philosopher

“In general, I find that things that have happened to me out of doors have made a deeper impression than things that have happened indoors.”

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

“As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country as the water is the sea... the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running.”

Willa Cather 1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

from My Ántonia

“Nothing could persuade me that 'in the image of God' applied only to man. In fact, it seemed to me that the high mountains the rivers, lakes, trees flowers, and animals far better exemplified the essence of God than men with their ridiculous clothes, their meanness, vanity, mendacity, and abhorrent egotism”

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

“Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE
from Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

“Trees in particular were mysterious and seemed to me direct embodiments of the incomprehensible meaning of life. For that reason, the woods were the place where I felt closest to its deepest meaning and to its awe-inspiring workings.”

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

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE
from Bäume: Betrachtungen und Gedichte

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

“Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

67. Three Treasures

“Forests require many years to mature; consequently the long point of view is necessary if the forests are to be maintained for the good of our country.”

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

“The forests are the "lungs" of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. Truly, they make the country more livable.”

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

“I remember one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the back of a tree just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out… I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life… and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled… It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late… That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

64. Ordinary Mind

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

“Sometimes, wandering alone in the woods on a summer day, we hear or see the movement of a hundred species of flying, leaping, creeping, crawling, burrowing things. Suddenly we perceive to what a perilous minority we belong on this impartial planet, and for a moment we feel, as these varied denizens clearly do, that we are passing interlopers in their natural habitat.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE

“I cannot look at any green shoot sprouting from the soil without feeling that in that mystic presence I am closer to the essence of reality than when my grandson tries in vain to explain to me the marvels of the atom.”

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

“'Nature' is a term that may lend itself to any ethic and any theology; it fits the science of Darwin and the unmorality of Nietzsche more snugly than the sweet reasonableness of Lao Tzu and Christ.”

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

“A love of nature keeps no factories busy.

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Brave New World

“They thought they would improve on Nature by turning dry prairies into wheat fields, and produced deserts; chopped down vast forests to provide the newsprint demanded by that universal literacy which was to make the world safe for democracy, and got wholesale erosion, pulp magazines and the organs of Fascist, Communist, capitalist and nationalist propaganda... the free press is everywhere the servant of its advertisers, of a pressure group, or of the government.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Perennial Philosophy

“Only people who live on cement streets and carpeted floors can ever forget the inherent drama in nature and, by mere habits of city living, become nature-blind.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE
from On the Wisdom of America, 1950

“If you lose touch with nature you lose touch with humanity.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

“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

“A medicine man has to be of the earth, somebody who reads nature like white men read a book.”

John Fire Lame Deer 1903 – 1976 CE via Richard Erdoes
from Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

27. No Trace

“He talks to the plants and they answer him. He listens to the voices of all those who move upon the earth, the animals. He is as one with them. From all living beings, something flows into him all the time, and something flows from him.”

John Fire Lame Deer 1903 – 1976 CE via Richard Erdoes
from Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

51. Mysterious Goodness

“Is the human species changing its own environment with slowly increasing pollution and rotting its mind with slowly deteriorating religion and education in such a saucepan? [frog in slowly heating water]”

Gregory Bateson 1904 – 1980 CE

“Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into wars, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves…. They exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.

Lewis Thomas 1913 – 1993 CE
Gestaltist of science and art
from On Societies as Organisms (1974)

“If we throw mother nature out the window, she comes back in the door with a pitchfork.”

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

50. Claws and Swords

“The person who can most easily take up natural agriculture… has the mind and heart of a child. One must simply know nature . . . real nature, not the one we think we know!”

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

55. Forever Young

“In nature, the emphasis is in what is rather than what ought to be.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE

“The re-establishment of an ecological balance depends on the ability of society to counteract the progressive materialization of values. The ecological balance cannot be re-established unless we recognize again that only persons have ends and only persons can work towards them.”

Ivan Illich 1926 – 2002 CE
"an archaeologist of ideas"

“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos - the trees, the clouds, everything.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

“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

“nature allows no master over itself [but] We take nature on as an opponent to be subdued for the sake of civilization.”

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

“Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and slaughters a visible Nature without realizing that this Nature he slaughters is the invisible God he worships.”

Hubert Reeves 1932 CE –

“We can't leave people in abject poverty, so we need to raise the standard of living for 80% of the world's people, while bringing it down considerably for the 20% who are destroying our natural resources.”

Jane Goodall 1934 CE –

“Most of us don't realize the difference we could make… point fingers at others. ‘Surely,’ we say, ‘the pollution, waste, and other ills are not our fault. They are the fault of the industry, business, science. They are the fault of the politicians,’ This leads to a destructive and potentially deadly apathy.”

Jane Goodall 1934 CE –

“A man who is willing to undertake the discipline and the difficulty of mending his own ways is worth more to the conservation movement than a hundred who are insisting merely that the government and the industries mend their ways.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

29. Not Doing

“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

53. Shameless Thieves

“If you're a Conservative, why aren't you behind conserving the land?”

Ken Kesey 1935 – 2001 CE

“We are part of nature. Ultimately nature will always be more powerful than us, despite all our knowledge, technology, and super weapons.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

“Save the planet? We don't even know how to take care of ourselves.”

George Carlin 1937 – 2008 CE
One of the most influential social commentators of his time

67. Three Treasures

“When man ceases to revere nature, his knowledge of nature also ceases to be fully integrated into his way of life.”

José Argüelles 1939 – 2011 CE
from Mandala

“The only deserts are deserts of the imagination.”

Paulo Lugari 1944 CE – via Alan Weisman

“Probably the most visible example of unintended consequences, is what happens every time humans try to change the natural ecology of a place.”

Meg Wheatley 1944 CE –
Bringing ancient wisdom into the modern world.

“Judaism, Christianity’s parent sect, is the most powerful of protests against nature. The Old Testament asserts that a father god made nature and that the differentiation into objects and gender was after the fact of his maleness.”

Camille Paglia 1947 CE –
Fearless and insightful status quo critic
from Sexual Personae (1990)

“Francis Bacon kept the famine imagery but turned it to rather different ends. He described nature as a 'common harlot' who needed to be 'tortured' in order to make her yield her secrets.”

David Loy 1947 CE –
from A Buddhist History of the West

“from the crow language… ‘Caw, caw, caw’ had become an English word - ‘Hawk!’”

Kim Stanley Robinson 1952 CE –
from 2312

“When we’re young, we think we are the only species worth knowing. But the more I come to know people, the better I like ravens.”

Louise Erdrich 1954 CE –

“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

“In an individual, selfishness uglifies the world; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Bone Clocks

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“We were all guilty. All complicit in the crime of attempting to enslave the world itself.”

N. K. Jemisin 1972 CE –
from Broken Earth

“I expanded my love to include all of those on the train... for everyone in this entire world, the same for every pet, every wild animal, every insect, every rat that scurried by seeking happiness in a crumb.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from In Love With the World

“The romantic contrast between modern industry that 'destroys nature' and our ancestors who 'lived in harmony with nature' is groundless. Long before the Industrial Revolution, Homo sapiens held the record among all organisms for driving the most plant and animal species to their extinctions. We have the dubious distinction of being the deadliest species in the annals of life.”

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

from Sapiens

“The yearning to live is something we share... this sense of having a living relationship with the earth's resources is necessary for us to change the way we relate to them and treat them.”

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

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