Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Beauty

The symbol of Beauty represents both out deepest delusions as well as our highest inspirations. A confused perception of beauty can lead us to the most perilous of paths to nowhere, degraded aspirations, and aggressive conflicts; but, a true experience of beauty as sacredness can launch us onto sacred journeys, meaningful livelihoods, and creative accomplishments. Seeing and understanding the differences between these two directions may be one of the most powerful influences determining the happiness and suffering in our lives.

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Quotes (89)

“What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful.”

Sappho 612 – 570 BCE
“The Poetess” and most famous Greek woman

Themes: Beauty

“When seduced by an image of beauty, we create ugliness.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #2
(Lǎozǐ)
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Beauty

“On, on! Run, dance, delirious, possessed! You, the beauty and grace of golden Tmolus... sing for joy. Like a foal with its mother at pasture, runs and leaps for joy every daughter of Bacchus.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE via Philip Vellacott
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Bacchae Βάκχαι

“Beauty is a short-lived tyranny.”

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

Themes: Power Beauty

12. This Over That

“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE

Themes: Beauty

12. This Over That

“All things are good and acceptable. That is why all things – a blade of grass or a hundred-foot pine, a leper or a legendary beauty, a national hero or a traitor – are equal in the Tao.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE
(Zhuangzi)

62. Basic Goodness


* Trust not too much to that enchanting face;
Beauty's a charm, but soon the charm will pass.

Virgil 70 – 19 BCE
(Publius Vergilius Maro)
from ​Eclogues (37 BCE)

Themes: Confusion Beauty

“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?”

Lucian of Samosata 125 – 180 CE via Christopher Marlowe
Monumental influence on western literature.

Themes: Beauty

“Everything has a beauty peculiar to itself; but if you put one instead of another, the most beautiful becomes ugly, because it is not in its proper place.”

Lucian of Samosata 125 – 180 CE
Monumental influence on western literature.

Themes: Beauty

“Never would the eye have perceived the sun if it had not first taken the form of the sun; likewise, every person must make themselves beautiful and divine in order to attain the sight of beauty and divinity.”

Plotinus 204 – 249 CE
from Enneads Ἐννεάδες Plotinus / Porphyry

“Wherever there is number, there is beauty.”

Proclus Lycaeus Πρόκλος ὁ Διάδοχος 412 – 485 CE
"The most influential Ancient Greek philosopher you've never heard of"

Themes: Beauty

“Everyone wants precious items and beautiful women but the Sage doesn’t allow them to throw his mind into chaos.”

Wang Zhen 809 – 859 CE
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

Themes: Beauty Karma Wealth

“The noblest functions of the human soul begin with reflecting on art and meditating on things of beauty. Rather than fixating on fame, fortune, pleasure, and power; it waits for the revelations of truth.”

Avicenna أبو علي الحسين بن عبد الله بن الحسن بن علي بن سينا 980 – 1037 CE via Arberry, Shan Dao
(Ibn-Sīnā)
from Avicenna on Theology

“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

“It was just a glance, but it became a fountain that drowned my heart... and if our joy could be worthy of that Moonlight and Sunshine, wouldn't it be for the face of that beauty?”

Rumi مولانا جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی 1207 – 1283 CE via Helminski and Rezwani
(Rumi Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī)
from Love's Ripening

Themes: Beauty

“Beauty awakens the soul to act.”

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

Themes: Beauty

“Branches about to blossom or gardens strewn with faded flowers are worthier of our admiration. In all things, it is the beginnings and ends that are interesting.”

Yoshida Kenkō 兼好 1284 – 1350 CE
Inspiration of self-reinvention
from Harvest of Leisure

Themes: Beauty

“Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together.”

Petrarch 1304 – 1374 CE

61. Lying Low

“A young woman is flighty, eager for many lovers; she rates her beauty beyond what the mirror shows and is proud… She know neither virtue nor intelligence and is always giddy like a leaf in the wind.”

Giovanni Boccaccio dʒoˈvanni bokˈkattʃo 1313 – 1375 CE via Will Durant

“What benefit is beauty, the greatest blessing of heaven, if it be mixed with affectation?”

Erasmus 1466 – 1536 CE
(Desiderius Roterodamus)
"Greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance"
from Praise of Folly

Themes: Beauty

“A pretty face may be enough to catch a man, but it takes character and good nature to hold him.”

Thomas More 1478 – 1535 CE
from Utopia

Themes: Marriage Beauty

“Love, built on beauty, soon as beauty, dies.”

John Donne 1572 – 1631 CE
from Songs and Sonnets

Themes: Love Beauty

12. This Over That

“A beauty should break her mirror early, lest she do so later with open eyes.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #110
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Beauty

“Grace is everything - the breath of speech, the life of talent, the soul of action... without it, beauty is lifeless.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #127
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Integrity Beauty

“Find the good in a thing at once […] amid a thousand defects, seize upon a single beauty.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #140
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Beauty

“Charm, the power of exotic beauty, fascinates and is like the flame in a fire, the light in a lamp, the luster in jewels. Commonly misunderstood as good looks, it’s much more powerful and can make the old appear young, the ugly beautiful, the dull exciting.”

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

“Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll; charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul.”

Alexander Pope 1688 – 1744 CE
Second most quoted English writer

Themes: Marriage Beauty

“If you could ask a toad, 'What is beauty?', he would reply that it is a female with two big round eyes coming out of her little head”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE via Raymond Naves, Shan Dao
from Philosophical Dictionary

Themes: Beauty

“Beauty, like supreme dominion is but supported by opinion.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE

Themes: Opinion Beauty

“Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.”

David Hume 1711 – 1776 CE
"One of the most important philosophers"

Themes: Beauty

“When a thief came to rob Ryokan, there was nothing to steel so Royokan offered him his clothes. When the thief slunk away, Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. ‘Poor fellow,’ he mused, ‘I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.’”

Ryokan 良寛大愚 1758 – 1758 CE via Paul Reps
(Ryōkan Taigu,“The Great Fool”)
from Shasekishū (Sand and Pebbles)

Themes: Beauty Moon

50. Claws and Swords

“Taught from infancy that beauty is woman's scepter, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.”

Mary Wollstonecraft 1759 – 1797 CE
Seminal feminist
from Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

Themes: Slavery Beauty

“From every form the beauty slowly waned
From every firmest limb and fairest face
The strength and freshness fell like dust, and left
The action and the shape without the grace
Of life; the marble brow of youth was cleft


Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE
from Triumph of Life

Themes: Beauty

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

John Keats 1795 – 1821 CE
Writer of "poems as immortal as English"
from Ode on a Grecian Urn, 1819

Themes: Beauty Truth

“I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty.”

Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allen Poe 1809 – 1849 CE
from The Poetic Principle (1850)

Themes: Beauty Poetry

“Who shall be fairest? - who shall be rarest? Who shall be first in the songs that we sing? She who is kindest when fortune is blindest, Bearing through winter the blooms of the spring.”

Charles Mackay 1814 – 1889 CE

63. Easy as Hard

“the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless”

John Ruskin 1819 – 1900 CE

Themes: Beauty

“We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. So medicine, law, business, engineering... these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love... these are what we stay alive for.”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula
from Leaves of Grass

Themes: Beauty Medicine

“Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty.”

John Ruskin 1819 – 1900 CE

Themes: Beauty

“The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.”

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

Themes: God Beauty

“Beauty will save the world.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE

Themes: Beauty

“All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

39. Oneness

“One frequently only finds out how really beautiful a women is, until after considerable acquaintance with her.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

Themes: Beauty

12. This Over That

“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"

“What matters poverty? What matters anything to him who is enamoured of our art? Does he not carry in himself every joy and every beauty?”

Sarah Bernhardt 1844 – 1923 CE
“One of the finest actors of all time”

Themes: Beauty Art

“Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love.”

Rabindranath Tagore 1861 – 1941 CE

54. Planting Well

“When not directly under Greek guidance, the Roman did not perceive beauty in every-day matters, or indeed care to do so. Beauty was unimportant to him. Life in his eyes was a very serious and a very arduous business, and he had no time for what he would have thought of as a mere decoration of it.”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE
from Roman Way

Themes: Beauty

“True beauty is indeed the one thing incapable of answering the expectations of an over-romantic imagination... What disappointments has it not caused since it first appeared to the mass of mankind!”

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

Themes: Beauty

“Beauty sprang instantly… it was made out of ordinary things… that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE
from Mrs. Dalloway

Themes: Beauty

“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Beauty

12. This Over That

“Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain?”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Beauty

“Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

54. Planting Well

“All women are not Helen but have Helen in their hearts.”

William Carlos Williams 1883 – 1963 CE

54. Planting Well
61. Lying Low

“She was beautiful in her ignorance, virtuous in her simplicity, and strong in her weakness. Today she has become ugly in her ingenuity, superficial and heartless in her knowledge. Will the day ever come when beauty and knowledge, ingenuity and virtue, and weakness of body and strength of spirit will be united… ?”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

61. Lying Low

“Your thighs are apple trees. Your knees are a southern breeze.”

William Carlos Williams 1883 – 1963 CE
from In the American Grain

Themes: Beauty

12. This Over That

“Beauty is merciless. You do not look at it, it looks at you and does not forgive.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

Themes: Beauty Beauty

54. Planting Well

“Beauty is merciless. You do not look at it, it looks at you and does not forgive.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

Themes: Beauty Beauty

54. Planting Well

“Beauty is not a need but an ecstasy... a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”

Eleanor Roosevelt 1884 – 1962 CE

Themes: Beauty Old Age

12. This Over That

“The true City of God: that fair and pleasant Country of the Mind where all the great dead are still alive, and wisdom makes with beauty an eternal music.”

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

Themes: Music Beauty

“The harmony of the part with the whole may be the best definition of health, beauty, truth, wisdom, morality, and happiness.”

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

39. Oneness

“Beauty is worse than wine, it intoxicates both the holder and the beholder.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Desire Beauty

“But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart… The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

Themes: Beauty

28. Turning Back

“What makes the desert beautiful,' said the little prince, 'is that somewhere it hides a well...’”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

16. Returning to the Root, Meditation

“When you see a garden of flowers, remember naturally free life in harmony with Truth.”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ། 1910 – 1991 CE via Matthieu Ricard
"Mind" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from Journey to Enlightenment

Themes: Truth Beauty

“Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.”

Albert Camus 1913 – 1960 CE

Themes: Beauty

“The true artist-seer, the heavenly fool who can and does produce beauty, is mainly dazzled to death by his own scruples, the blinding shapes and colors of his own sacred human conscience.”

​ J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE

“If beauty will no longer be separable from life, then we may expect that, eventually, there will no longer be concert halls and museums, since the music and art of life will be inherent in all the sounds, movements, and patterns of ordinary life”

Ralph Alan Dale 1920 – 2006 CE
Translator, author, visionary
from Tao Te Ching, a new translation and commentary

Themes: Beauty

“Everything is beautiful. We have all this beauty in the world and all we have to do is reach out and touch it, it is all there…”

Charles Bukowski 1920 – 1994 CE
"Laureate of American lowlife”
from Women

Themes: Beauty

25. The Mother of All Things

“There is beauty where there is no ‘me’”

Toni Packer 1927 – 2013 CE
A Zen teacher minus the 'Zen' and minus the 'teacher.’

Themes: Beauty Emptiness

13. Honor and Disgrace

“Noticing her body made him feel like a low-class wind-up toy.”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Ubik

Themes: Beauty

“For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. If you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of each of your arms.”

Audrey Hepburn 1929 – 1993 CE

63. Easy as Hard

“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.”

Audrey Hepburn 1929 – 1993 CE

61. Lying Low

“We are the moral inhabitants of the globe. And to deny it is to lie in prison... And unless all races and all ages of man have been totally deluded, there seems to be such a thing as grace, such a thing as beauty, such a thing as harmony — all of which are wholly free, and available to us.”

Toni Morrison 1931 – 2019 CE
(Chloe Ardelia Wofford)
Story-telling voice of American wisdom
from A Humanist View (1975)​

“what people call beautiful is really just decay… How much greater is the beauty that is underneath the surface.”

Gesshin Myoko Roshi 1931 – 1999 CE
Moon heart miraculous light

61. Lying Low

“Cosmetics is a boon to every woman, but a girl's best beauty aid is still a near-sighted man.”

Yoko Ono 小野 洋子 1933 CE –
(“Ocean Child”)

Themes: Beauty

“The same qualities that make someone attractive to the opposite sex and easy to start up a new relationship make it more difficult for that relationship to last.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Beauty Sex

“A trophy wife polishing her veneer continues a hopeless path toward obsolescence.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“When we see things as they are, they make sense to us: the way leaves move when they are blown by the wind, the way rocks get wet when there are snowflakes sitting on them. We see how things display their harmony and their chaos at the same time. So we are never limited by beauty alone, but we appreciate all sides of reality properly.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

Themes: Beauty

76. The Soft and Flexible

“A pretty face may last a year or two; but pretty soon they’ll see what you can do.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Marriage Beauty

12. This Over That

“when we try to grasp anything, it vanishes... there's nothing there, and the nothing is beautiful”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

Themes: Beauty

“The highways of American cities are an enduring testimony to our acceptance of ugliness”

J. Rufus Fears 1945 – 2012 CE

“From a distance, most things look beautiful.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –
from Killing Commendatore

Themes: Beauty

“There are different levels of beauty… some are popular and ordinary, and thus of brief value, and others are difficult and rare, and hence worth pursuing.”

Amy Tan 1952 CE –
Rock and roll singer, bartender, and insightfully talented author
from Saving Fish From Drowning

Themes: Beauty

“The sense of beauty feels more like something the mind just naturally relaxes into when the preoccupation with self subsides.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Why Buddhism is True

Themes: Beauty

“Nothing is more important than that you see and love the beauty that is right in front of you, or else you will have no defense against the ugliness that will hem you in and come at you in so many ways.”

Neal Stephenson 1959 CE –
(Stephen Bury)
Speculative futurist and cultural social commentator

from Anathem (2008)​

Themes: Beauty

“When struck by the desire arrow, all our common sense… go out the window, we… might even find a streetwalking hippopotamus sexy, even as a beautiful girl loyally waits at home.”

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: Beauty Sex

“No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are beautiful.”

Michelle Obama 1964 CE –

“beauty is something to be found rather than passively encountered, it requires us to pick up on certain details, to identify the whiteness of a cotton dress, the reflection of the sea... Chardin opens our eyes to the beauty of salt cellars, Elstir paints nothing grander than cotton dresses and harbors”

Alain de Botton 1969 CE –
Philosophic link between ancient wisdom and modern challenge
from How Proust Can Change Your Life

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