Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Journey Without Goal

As John Lennon sang quoting Allen Saunders, “Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.” Unfortunately though, most of us most of the time don’t notice that life because we’re so focused and fixated on those plans that distract us from our real, meaningful life moments. Like Lao Tzu’s description of Wu Wei, the idea of journey without goal includes action without gaining ideas, aimless wandering, aimless gardening, business without profit motive, fame without fixation, wealth without attachment, power without control. This realization and understanding injects a radical sense of sanity into our confused, delusional, and materialistic world of consumerism, selfishness, and aggression. It opens up the possibility of a spiritual path not based on materialism, of political service without conflicts of interest, of wisdom without arrogance.

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Quotes (82)

“A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.”

“Never engage in action for the sake of reward… alike in success and defeat.”

Vyasa व्यास c. 3000 BCE
Hindu immortals, Vishnu avatar, 5th incarnation of Brahma
from Mahābhārata महाभारतम्

2. The Wordless Teachings

“They do not-doing and all goes well.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #3
(Lǎozǐ)
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“When I attained unexcelled, perfect enlightenment, there was nothing that I attained.”

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

“However well a man sows a field or plants a farm, he cannot know who will gather in the fruits; another may build a beautiful house, but he knows not who will inhabit it.”

Xenophon of Athens Ξενοφῶν  (430–354 BCE) via Shan Dao
General, Socratic biographer, philosopher

“To start from nowhere and follow no road is the first step.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Thomas Merton
(Zhuangzi)

from Zhuangzi

5. Christmas Trees

“The Master understands that there is nothing to understand.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE
(Zhuangzi)

9. Know When to Stop

“not-doing is the opposite of inaction. Because acting without effort, each job does itself in its own time.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE
(Zhuangzi)

29. Not Doing

“To act without needing a reason… to ride the current of what is – this is the primal virtue.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Stephen Mitchell
(Zhuangzi)

2. The Wordless Teachings

“God’s Realm won’t come just because you’re watching for it, and neither can people say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘There it is’, because God’s Realm is actually within you!”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE

80. A Golden Age

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.”

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

27. No Trace

“A monk asked Joshu, ‘Please guide me with your teachings, master.’ Joshu asked, Have you eaten your porridge?’ and the monk replied, ‘Yes, I have eaten.’ Josh then said, ‘Then go wash your bowl.’”

Joshu, Zhàozhōu Cōngshěn 趙州從諗 778 – 897 CE

34. An Unmoored Boat

“Illumination means the realization that Illumination is not something to be attained.”

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

“For thirty years I sought God. But when I looked carefully I found that in reality God was the seeker and I the sought.”

Abu Yazid al-Bisṭāmī بایزید بسطامی‎‎ 804 – 874 CE

“The last line summarizes the entire 5,000 words of the previous eighty verses. It doesn’t focus on action or inaction but simply on action that doesn’t involve struggle.”

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

81. Journey Without Goal

“You have always been one with the Buddha, so do not pretend you can attain to this oneness by various practices.”

Huangbo Xiyun 黄檗希运 ? - 850 CE
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)

81. Journey Without Goal

“The non duality of all phenomena cannot be found by seeking.”

Kapālapa ཀ་པཱ་ལ་པ། 9th Century CE via Keith Dowman, Shan Dao
(“The Skull Bearer”)
Mahasiddha #72
from Masters of Enchantment

“Give up any possibilities of fruition.”

Atisha ཨ་ཏི་ཤ་མར་མེ་མཛད་དཔལ་ཡེ་ཤེས་ 980 – 1054 CE
(Atiśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna)

81. Journey Without Goal

“Give up all hope of fruition.”

Atisha ཨ་ཏི་ཤ་མར་མེ་མཛད་དཔལ་ཡེ་ཤེས་ 980 – 1054 CE
(Atiśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna)
from Seven Points of Mind Training, Lojong བློ་སྦྱོངས་དོན་བདུན་མ;

“Cease all activity; abandon all desire; let thoughts rise and fall as they will like the ocean waves.”

Tilopa 988 – 1069 CE via Garma C.C. Chang

“There is nothing to abandon or practice, no meditation or post-meditation. Just this.”

Niguma 11th C. CE via Miranda Shaw

“My parting message to all of you: don’t go seeking after something. (from his death poem)”

Touzi Yiqing 投子義青 1032 – 1083 CE
(Tōsu Gisei, “Zen Master of Complete Compassion”)

“If you start seeking, you are unable to see… As soon as you seek, it is like grasping at shadows.”

Yuanwu Keqin 圜悟克勤 1063 – 1135 CE via Thomas Cleary
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
from Zen Letters

10. The Power of Goodness

“Patch-robed monks roam the world constantly emptying and expanding their minds without the slightest remnant held inside… Do no leave any traces and inside and outside will merge into one totality as leisurely as the sky clearing of rainclouds”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE
(Shōgaku)

77. Stringing a Bow

“What you're looking for is where you're looking from.”

Francis of Assisi 1181 – 1226 CE

“External objects cause distractions and obscure mental clarity.
Therefore, pay attention to the primary perception and discover peace.”

Sakya Pandita ས་སྐྱ་པཎྜ་ཏ་ཀུན་དགའ་རྒྱལ་མཚན། 1182 – 1251 CE via John T. Davenport; Shan Dao
(Kunga Gyeltsen)
from Ordinary Wisdom, Sakya Legshe (Jewel Treasury of Good Advice)

“What you seek is seeking you.”

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

81. Journey Without Goal

“A sage’s nonaction is nonaction that is not nonaction… the edge that is not an edge does not cut… the light that is not a light does not blind. All of these are examples of nonaction”

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

“There is no need to look for God here or there. He is no farther away than the door of your own heart.”

Meister Eckhart 1260 – 1328 CE
(Eckhart von Hochheim)

47. Effortless Success

“My course is set for an uncharted sea.”

Dante 1265 – 1321 CE
(Durante degli Alighieri)

“Happiness is not a destination, it's a method of travel.”

John of the Cross 1542 – 1591 CE

“Purposeful action leads to exhaustion. The Tao is empty and acts without purpose. Therefore it can’t be exhausted.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE
(Te-Ch’ing)

6. The Source

“All things are with more spirit chased than enjoyed.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE

“Study and learn the teachings but become more and more non-sectarian. Follow and learn from teachers but leave them and combine all into one. Meditate and do spiritual practices but don’ think they improve anything.”

Karma Chagme Rinpoche I ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་རཱ་ག་ཨ་སྱས། 1613 – 1678 CE via Shan Dao

81. Journey Without Goal

“I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

81. Journey Without Goal

“Nurturing firmness with flexibility, solidity with openness, from striving enter into nonstriving, from effort into spontaneity and practice introspection in action letting true yin and true yang naturally unite.”

Liu Yiming 刘一明 1734 – 1821 CE via Thomas Cleary, Shan Dao, #53 Gradual Progress
(Liu I-ming)
from Taoist I Ching, , Zhouyi chanzhen 周易闡真

“The greatest events occur without intention playing any part in them; chance makes good mistakes and undoes the most carefully planned undertaking. The world's greatest events are not produced, they happen.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742 – 1799 CE
One of history’s best aphorists

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

27. No Trace

“One never goes so far as when one doesn't know where one is going.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

57. Wu Wei

“The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew, and leave us nothing but grief and pain for promised joy.”

Robert Burns 1759 – 1796 CE

“Everywhere in life, the true question is not what we gain, but what we do.”

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

“I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

“The quest for enlightenment only makes sense because buddha-nature is already present.”

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

47. Effortless Success

“I do not wish any reward but to know I have done the right thing.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

77. Stringing a Bow

“Become who you are!”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Thus Spoke Zarathustra

“Those who cannot renounce attachment to the results of their work are far from the path.”

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 CE

57. Wu Wei

“Nothing to illuminate,
Nothing to eliminate,
Looking perfectly at perfection itself,
Seeing perfection, one is perfectly free.”

Shechen Gyaltsap 1871 – 1926 CE via Matthieu Ricard

“My destination is no longer a place, rather a new way of seeing.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from In Search of Lost Time

40. Returning

“My whole religion is this: do every duty, and expect no reward for it, either here or hereafter.”

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

“The art of letting things happen, action in non-action, letting go of oneself… became a key to me: we must be able to let thing happen in the psyche… this becomes a real art of which few people know anything. Consciousness is forever interfering.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

37. Nameless Simplicity

“The only journey is the ‘Let life happen to you.’ Believe me: life is in the right, always. Journey within.”

Rainer Maria Rilke 1875 – 1926 CE
Profound singer of universal music
from Duino Elegies

47. Effortless Success

“"When someone seeks," said Siddhartha, "then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal."”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE
from Siddhartha

26. The Still Rule the Restless

“What could I say to you that would be of value, except that perhaps you seek too much, that as a result of your seeking you cannot find.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE

81. Journey Without Goal

“It is only when we realize that life is taking us nowhere that it begins to have meaning.”

Ouspensky Пётр Демья́нович Успе́нский 1878 – 1947 CE
(Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii)

“A sound man... by never being an end in himself... endlessly becomes himself.”

Witter Bynner 1881 – 1968 CE
(Emanuel Morgan)

7. Lose Yourself, Gain Your Soul

“Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from Ulysses

“When you have reached the mountain top, only then will you begin to climb.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

“And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE

10. The Power of Goodness

“The journey, not the destination matters...”

T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE

81. Journey Without Goal

“Culture is the one thing that we cannot deliberately aim at. It is the product of a variety of more or less harmonious activities, each pursued for its own sake.”

T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE
from Notes Toward the Definition of Culture, 1948

“Man is born to live, not just to prepare to live.”

Boris Pasternak Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к 1890 – 1960 CE
Russia's greatest poet
from Doctor Zhivago (1957)

“Our goal is to discover that we have always been where we ought to be. Unhappily we make the task exceedingly difficult for ourselves.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

81. Journey Without Goal

“How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

80. A Golden Age

“Those who are wise won't be busy, and those who are too busy can't be wise.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE

“Exceptional human qualities only arise when a person over the course of many years lives and works with only a generosity without any expectation of reward and without a shred of egoism.”

Jean Giono 1895 – 1970 CE via Shan Dao
from Man Who Planted Trees

“Anyone who imagines actions will bring about realization is deluded.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj 1897 – 1981 CE via Maurice Frydman
Householder guru of non-duality
from I Am That

“Despite the success cult, men are most deeply moved not by the reaching of the goal but by the grandness of the effort involved in getting there - or failing to get there.”

Max Lerner 1902 – 1992 CE
(Maxwell Alan)

“When you do something, just to do it should be your purpose”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

28. Turning Back

“the false serpent persuaded Adam that he must still do something to become like God… to make himself what God had already made him. That was the Fall of man.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906 – 1945 CE

10. The Power of Goodness

“When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the effort to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized.”

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

“Tao is not pursuing any purpose, and therefore is not meeting any difficulty.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

“My reward is the perfect blue sky at dawn in the desert in a bird-resounding riverbottom grove”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE
from Some of the Dharma

“There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

“To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.”

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

“The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE
from The Lathe of Heaven

81. Journey Without Goal

“An enlightened end has no means.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

58. Goals Without Means

“In dreams the truth is learned that all good works are done in the absence of a caress.”

Leonard Cohen 1934 – 2016 CE

“The tantric tradition builds us up so we do not have to relate at the level of a donkey reaching for a carrot anymore. The donkey has the carrot already”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

58. Goals Without Means

“Goals too clearly defined can become blinders.”

Mary Catherine Bateson 1939 CE –

“Oh, that magic feeling, nowhere to go, nowhere to go.”

Paul McCartney 1942 CE – via Paul McCartney
(Sir James Paul McCartney)
from Abbey Road

“Am I spending all my time and energy in some useless pursuit? Hauling a bucket of water to a place that's on the verge of flooding? Shouldn't I give up any useless effort and just go with the flow?”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Philip Gabriel
from Sputnik Sweetheart

“The sage […] realizes that things arise of their own accord, and not as the result of her own coercion or anxious striving […] so she does not feel any sense of ownership over the result of her actions.”

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

2. The Wordless Teachings

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