Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Expressed by The Golden Rule, cautioned by the idea of Idiot Compassion, and circulated with the nuances of Kindness; Compassion becomes the heart of all great religions, philosophies, political systems, and sciences. In the neo-Confucian system that governed China for 700 years, a politician’s compassion—their willingness to put the good of their village or state or country—above their personal advantage, was what determined their gaining or losing power and influence. Historically, the decreasing of compassion has signaled the corruption and fall of political, religious, and cultural leaders as well as of countries, religions, and philosophies. A biological, intrinsic emotion; our choice of following, rejecting, or ignoring the appeal of compassion may be the most potent influence determining the meaningfulness, happiness, and peace of our individual, political, and planetary lives.

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Quotes (93)

“All strangers and beggars are from Zeus, and a gift, though small, is precious.”

Homer 1
Primogenitor of Western culture

“Compassion wins every battle and outlasts every attack.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1

“A man is never as big as when he is on his knees to help a child.”

Pythagorus 570 – 495 BCE
(of Samos)
"The most influential philosopher of all time"
from Golden Verses of Pythagoras Χρύσεα

36. The Small, Dark Light

“Generosity brings happiness at every stage of its expression. We experience joy in forming the intention to be generous. We experience joy in the actual act of giving something. And we experience joy in remembering the fact that we have given.”

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

Themes: Compassion

77. Stringing a Bow

“Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.”

Mahavira 540 – 468 BCE
"the great hero”

Themes: Compassion

“One man means as much to me as a multitude, and a multitude only as much as one man.”

Democritus Dēmókritos 460 – 370 BCE
Father of modern science and greatest of ancient philosophers

“All people have a mind-and-heart that cannot bear to see the suffering of others... to be without compassion is not to be human.”

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

“All men are my children. What I desire for my own children—and I desire their welfare and happiness both in this world and the next—that I desire for all men.”

Ashoka 304 – 232 BCE
One of the world's most enlightened leaders

“In all the vicissitudes of their lives, sages are of one will, never forgetting to benefit people.”

Liú Ān 劉安 1 via Thomas Cleary
from Huainanzi

Themes: Compassion

67. Three Treasures

“The best person is the one who benefits all human beings.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me... as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE
from Gospel According to Matthew

Themes: Compassion

“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

“To parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess.”

Muhammad محمد‎; محمد‎; 570 – 632 CE
from Koran

“Childish beings look out for themselves, Buddhas labor for the good of others.”

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

Themes: Compassion

75. Greed

“I will be a good doctor for the sick and suffering. I will lead those who have lost their way to the right road. I will be a bright light for those in the dark night, and cause the poor and destitute to uncover hidden treasures.”

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

Themes: Compassion

“Moral concepts practiced without understanding can be the greatest obstacles to […] uncompromising compassion.”

Ghaṇṭāpa གྷ་ཎྚཱ་པ། 1
(“The Celibate Bell-Ringer”)
Mahasiddha #52

“If you separate compassion and wisdom, you will only be running away from life.”

Kanhapa ནག་པོ་པ། 1 via Shan Dao
("The Dark-Skinned One")
Mahasiddha #17

15. Inscrutability

“through compassion, we learn to be soft. When we are soft, we can overcome the hardest thing in the world.”

Wang Anshi 王安石 1021 – 1086 CE

Themes: Compassion Power

67. Three Treasures

“Perhaps by mingling my sighs with yours I may make your sufferings less, for it is said that all sorrows divided are made lighter.”

Heloise 1090 – 1164 CE

“Be magnanimous, beyond appearances.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE via Dan Leighton
from Cultivating the Emplty Field

Themes: Compassion

“She is with everyone and in everyone, and so beautiful is her secret that no person can know the sweetness with which she sustains people, and spares them in inscrutable mercy.”

Hildegard of Bingen 1098 – 1179 CE

52. Cultivating the Changeless

“When we are the most in need of compassion, what is the greatest compassion that God can bestow on us? He makes us compassionate.”

Ibn' Arabi Ibn 'Arabi 1165 – 1240 CE
“the foremost spiritual leader in Muslim history”

Themes: Compassion

“If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

Francis of Assisi 1181 – 1226 CE

Themes: Compassion

27. No Trace

“Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given.”

Francis of Assisi 1181 – 1226 CE

77. Stringing a Bow

“To give is non-attachment.”

Dōgen Zenji 道元禅師 1200 – 1253 CE via Suzuki Roshi

Themes: Compassion

“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

“You are like those who pass through the night pulling a light behind them. It doesn't profit themselves but makes those who follow them wise.”

Dante 1265 – 1321 CE via Purgatory XXII (tr: Shan Dao)
(Durante degli Alighieri)
from Divine Comedy (1320)

“There is no lighter burden, nor more agreeable, than a pen. Other pleasures fail us, or wound us while they charm; but the pen we take up rejoicing, and lay down with satisfaction for it has the power to advantage many others, even though they may not born for thousands of years to come”

Petrarch 1304 – 1374 CE via Robinson and Rolf

“Love may turn into an inordinate clinging to the love object, compassion can turn into sentimentality and a feeling of helplessness, joy can turn into a feeling of elation and over-excitement that gets lost in unrealistic goals, but equanimity brings us back to solid ground. It’s still vulnerable to apathy but this is countered by love completing the cycle.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Herbert V. Guenther, Shan Dao
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from Kindly Bent to Ease Us, Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease ངལ་གསོ་སྐོར་གསུམ་

“To be human it is to have compassion for the unhappy.”

Giovanni Boccaccio dʒoˈvanni bokˈkattʃo 1313 – 1375 CE

Themes: Compassion

“I weave light into words so that when your mind holds them
Your eyes will relinquish their sadness, turn bright a little brighter,
Giving to us the way a candle does in the dark.”

Hafiz خواجه شمس‌‌الدین محمد حافظ شیرازی 1315 – 1394 CE via Daniel Ladinsky
(Hafez, Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad)
Inspiring friend to the true and free human spirit

“For love lends luster to an honorable name,
And saves mankind from wickedness and shame.”

Geoffrey Chaucer 1343 – 1400 CE via George Philip Krapp
“Father of English literature”
from Troilus and Cressida

Themes: Compassion

“You say I gave too much; I say too little. What I paid was my social body, my town body, my family body, and all my inherited jewels.”

Meera 1498 – 1546 CE
(Mirabai, Meera Bai )
Inspiring poet, cultural freedom inspiration

“Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.”

Teresa of Avila 1515 – 1582 CE
from Way of Perfection

6. The Source

“whichever one is remorseful and compassionate will win. For the Way of Heaven is to love life and to help those who are compassionate to overcome their enemies.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE

69. No Enemy

“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: Compassion Greed

77. Stringing a Bow

“Money is like mulch, not good except it be spread.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE

Themes: Wealth Compassion

“Teaching rich men to enjoy life means asking them to give money away, which is difficult, to say the least. But it doesn’t have to be a huge amount. Not constantly grasping for more is good start and small amounts are greatly appreciated by the poor. Small and frequent gestures benefit both giver and recipient helping to banish envy and enmity.”

Lǐ Yú 李漁 1610 – 1680 CE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
(Li Liweng)
from Art of Living

“Love truth, but pardon error.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

Themes: Compassion

63. Easy as Hard

“Every day will allow you, will invite you to add something to the pleasure of others or to diminish something of their pains.”

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

Themes: Compassion

“It is ever true that he who does nothing for others, does nothing for himself.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Compassion

81. Journey Without Goal

“Mercy is the golden chain by which society is bound together.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE

Themes: Compassion

67. Three Treasures

“One with compassion is kind even when angry; one without compassion kills even as he smiles.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། 1781 – 1851 CE
from Flight of the Garuda

37. Nameless Simplicity

“If a person has compassion, they are a Buddha.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། 1781 – 1851 CE
from Flight of the Garuda

69. No Enemy

“Compassion is the basis of morality.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

67. Three Treasures

“Those who love not their fellow-beings live unfruitful lives, and prepare for their old age a miserable grave.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE
from Alastor, the Spirit of Solitude

Themes: Compassion

“Some day you will find out that there is far more happiness in another's happiness than in your own.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Victor Hugo 1802 – 1885 CE
Literary pioneer, poet, and social justice provocateur

Themes: Compassion God

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”

Disraeli, Benjamin 1804 – 1881 CE
(Earl of Beaconsfield )
Political balance between mob rule and tyranny

“I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of other men, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the contrary, its necessary premise and confirmation.”

Mikhail Bakunin 1814 – 1876 CE
Romantic rebel, revolutionary anarchist, founding father of modern socialism
from Man, Society, and Freedom (1871)

Themes: Compassion

“I should like to make life beautiful—I mean everybody's life... It spoils my enjoyment of anything when I am made to think that most people are shut out from it.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

from Middlemarch

“More helpful than all wisdom is one draught of simple human pity that will not forsake us.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

Themes: Compassion

“You are working for the whole, you are acting for the future. Seek no reward, for great is your reward on this earth: the spiritual joy.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE via Constance Garnett, Shan Dao
from Brothers Karamatzov

“Love is such a priceless treasure that you can buy the whole world with it, and redeem not only your own but other people's sins. Go, and do not be afraid.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE via Constance Garnett
from Brothers Karamatzov

Themes: Compassion

“If I can stop one heart from breaking, if I can ease one life the aching, I shall not live in vain.”

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886 CE

67. Three Treasures

“their only religion was that of self-respect and consideration for other people.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Erewhon

“If you're anxious for to shine in the high aesthetic line as a man of culture rare,
You must get up all the germs of the transcendental terms, and plant them everywhere.”

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

from Patience, 1881

“compassion... If you feel this, you have a motive for existence, a guide for action, a reason for courage, an imperative necessity for intellectual honesty.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from The Impact of Science on Society

“'Yes,' I thought, 'this is it, my world, the real world, the secret where there are no teachers, no schools, no unanswerable questions, where one can be without having to ask anything'... In real life, I have promised myself this splendor again and again, but I have never kept my promise.”

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

“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

“You often say ; I would give, but only to the deserving. The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture… For in truth it is life that gives unto life-while you, who deem yourself a giver, is but a witness.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Compassion

53. Shameless Thieves

“Our industrial leaders should welcome and help to implement the welfare state as a humane mitigation of the painful inequality of human fortune, and a saving substitute from social turmoil and dictatorial repression.”

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

“You will see that in life you receive exactly what you give. Your life is the mirror of what you are.”

Jeanne de Salzmann 1889 – 1990 CE
(Madame de Salzmann)
Follower, preserver, and promoter of Gurdjieff's teachings
from The Reality of Being

“It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life... It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

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

“Avolokitesvara wanted to help the whole world, but could not do so with only two arms and one head. He therefore burst into a thousand arms and a thousand heads”

Li Gotami Govinda 1906 – 1988 CE
(Ratti Petit)
Pioneering, fearless, artistic woman of wisdom
from Tibet in Pictures

Themes: Compassion

“Animals do feel like us, also joy, love, fear and pain but they cannot grasp the spoken word. It is our obligation to take their part and continue to resist the people who profit by them, who slaughter them and who torture them.”

Denys de Rougemont 1906 – 1985 CE
Non-conformist leader, influential cultural theorist
from Love in the Western World

“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”

Albert Camus 1913 – 1960 CE

“Let us begin by removing national boundaries with the trees and grasses. The liberation of peoples everywhere shall begin from this point... grasses and trees have no national boundaries. Let us scatter the seeds of various drought-hardy grasses, trees, and food crops by airplane all at once over those areas on earth that have turned to desert.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE
from Road Back to Nature

“Animals have genes for altruism, and those genes have been selected in the evolution of many creatures because of the advantage they confer for the continuing survival of the species.”

Lewis Thomas 1913 – 1993 CE
Gestaltist of science and art
from Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (1984)

Themes: Compassion

“The patron saint of American philanthropy is... Benjamin Franklin, the man with a business sense and an eye on his community. For Franklin, doing good was not a private act between bountiful giver and grateful receiver it was a prudent social act.”

Daniel J. Boorstin 1914 – 2004 CE
American intellectual Paul Revere
from Hidden History (1987)

“I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE
from Catcher in the Rye

“We become compassionate not from altruism which denies the self for the sake of the other, but from the insight that sees and feels one is the other.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE

“'They know not what they do' is a universal truth.”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE
from Some of the Dharma

Themes: Compassion

“Rather than converting people from one organized religion to another organized religion, we should try to convert people from misery to happiness, from bondage to liberation and from cruelty to compassion.”

Goenka ဂိုအင်ကာ 1924 – 2013 CE
(Satya Narayan)
"The Man who Taught the World to Meditate"

Themes: Compassion

“You keep going. That is the bodhisattva’s way. As long as it benefits even one being you have to, without any sense of discouragement, go on.”

Karmapa XVI ཀརྨ་བཀའ་བརྒྱུད། 1924 – 1981 CE
(Rangjung Rigpe Dorje)
from Rangjung Rigpe Dorje

43. No Effort, No Trace

“When you learn, teach; when you get, give.”

Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014 CE

“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”

Audrey Hepburn 1929 – 1993 CE

Themes: Compassion

61. Lying Low

“the Master walks down the road, an oversized robe carries only compassion”

Gesshin Myoko Roshi 1931 – 1999 CE
Moon heart miraculous light
from A Sudden Flash of Lightening: Words Out of Silence

Themes: Compassion

67. Three Treasures

“I think the best thing you can do is help each other. When we do that, we do something meaningful. I choose this meaning for myself since no one knows. I make sure that in my life I can help other people who are in trouble.”

Hubert Reeves 1932 CE –

“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Jane Goodall 1934 CE –

Themes: Compassion

“The foundation of the Buddha's teachings lies in compassion, and the reason for practicing the teachings is to wipe out the persistence of ego, the number-one enemy of compassion.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

69. No Enemy

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

Themes: Compassion Love

77. Stringing a Bow

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

67. Three Treasures

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

Pema Chödrön 1936 CE –
(Deirdre Blomfield-Brown)
First American Vajrayana nun

Themes: Compassion

69. No Enemy

“Compassion is based on some sense of soft spot in us... some kind of opening. It doesn't matter what it is we love as long as there is a sore spot of some kind, an open wound of some kind.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

Themes: Compassion

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make...”

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

“The more truly solitary we are, the more compassionate we can be.”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –

“We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world… It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”

Karen Armstrong 1944 CE –
Champion of the Golden Rule and perennial philosophy

Themes: Compassion

“If you're feeling helpless, help someone.”

Aung San Suu Kyi အောင်ဆန်းစုကြည် 1945 CE –

67. Three Treasures

“Compassion without wisdom is bondage. Wisdom without compassion is bondage. Compassion and wisdom are the two wings of enlightenment.”

B. Alan Wallace 1950 CE –
(Bruce Alan Wallace)
from Buddhism with an Attitude

Themes: Compassion Wisdom

“Love is when you are thinking: ‘How can I make you happy?’ Attachment is when you are thinking: ‘Why aren’t you making me happy?’”

Dzogchen Pönlop 1965 CE –

“Compassion is the spontaneous wisdom of the heart. It’s always with us. It always has been, and always will be.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

Themes: Compassion

“everyone just wants to be happy. The truly sad thing is that most people seek happiness in ways that actually sabotage their attempts. If we could see the whole truth of any situation, our only response would be one of compassion.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from Joy of Living, 2007

Themes: Compassion