Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Our minds are a powerful and beneficial ally but an abusive and tyrannical master. We either learn to direct and shape their direction or—by default—we quickly lapse back into status quo, herd instinct conformity and cultural slavery. A good translation of the word "Mantra" as used in Eastern spiritual traditions is "mind protection." Meditation, chanting, and reciting mantras all have this same effect: disrupting the cultural and the conceptual momentum our minds habitually follow. These techniques and others like art, poetry, and other creative endeavors open up a little blue-sky awareness space—opportunities to experience a little freedom and the possibility of redirecting our experience away from materialistic craving and the consequent suffering it produces, toward a little wisdom, compassion, and enlightenment.

As discussed in the Culture theme, birds sing the same songs over and over, generation to generation. As a force of evolutionary conservatism most animals have a narrow range of sounds narrowly repeated again and again. Humans feel independent and unique yet like most animal species, think and repeat the same thoughts and beliefs as their parents, their ancestors, and name this their cultures. Evolutionary change makers however say something new and as a consequence must face antipathy and often persecution from the herd committed to the status quo, against change, and afraid of any new notes. This inherited culture becomes both a building block enabling us to see farther, innovate beyond, and further evolve as well as a conceptual chain that prevents us from going beyond. Spiritual practice like meditation, mindfulness, and mantra as well as studying and learning from different cultures and different wisdom traditions help break these golden chains that ensnare us to the words over the sense within the philosophy and practices of our favorite beliefs and practices.

When an individual gets feedback that they’re making mistakes, when people get abusive and violent toward them, when their safety, security, and lifestyle are threatened; they most often find a serious motivation for change and prioritizes that above almost everything else. Nations, civilizations, and cultures though seem to often lack even this modicum of common sense. For example, much of American culture has gotten lazy. To a large extent becoming a country of Homer Simpsons. Each generation needs to work with their minds in order to translate the wisdom and skillful strategies of the past into modern terms.

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Quotes (80)

“To some the powers of bloody war belong, to some, sweet music, and the charm of song; To few, and wondrous few, has Jove assigned a wise, extensive, all-considering mind.”

Homer 1 via Alexander Pope
Primogenitor of Western culture
from Iliad

Themes: Mind

“Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are, it solely relies on what you think.”

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

Themes: Mind Happiness

58. Goals Without Means

“The objective world, like a vision, is a manifestation of mind itself.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE via D. T. Suzuki
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth
from Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra

Themes: Reality Mind

“As mind gives order to the chaos of our actions, so the World Mind gave order to the primeval seeds, setting them into a rotary vortex and guiding them toward the development of organic forms.”

Anaxagoras Ἀναξαγόρας 510 – 428 BCE via Will Durant
“The Copernicus and Darwin of his age”

Themes: Mind Evolution

“Learn how to govern your own mind and the universe will take care of itself.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Stephen Mitchell

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Mind

“Amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

57. Wu Wei

“Minds of living things and the light fabric of their spirits are neither birthless nor deathless.”

Lucretius 99 – 55 BCE via R.E. Latham
(Titus Carus)
from De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)

Themes: Mind

“Our minds are like our stomachs; they are whetted by the change of their food, and variety supplies both with fresh appetites.”

Quintilian 35 – 100 CE

Themes: Mind Curiosity

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”

Plutarch 46 – 120 CE
(Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus)

Themes: Carpe diem Mind

11. Appreciating Emptiness

“All the causes and results of positive and negative deeds have emerged merely from the symbols of conceptualizing thought... pacified by the emptiness which is without conceptual elaborations.”

Nagarjuna नागर्जुन 1 via Dudjom Rinpoche
from Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism

Themes: Mind Karma

“All Buddhas past, present and future have one essence. Understand this essence and you will discover your mind’s true nature.”

Āryadeva འཕགས་པ་ལྷ། 1
from Four Hundred Verses on the Yogic Deeds of Bodhisattvas

Themes: Mind Buddhism

39. Oneness

“Learn the true nature of your own mind. Then let go and dissolve into unstrsuctusred reality. This tensionless state is the yogin’s life.”

Āryadeva འཕགས་པ་ལྷ། 1
from Four Hundred Verses on the Yogic Deeds of Bodhisattvas

Themes: Letting Go Mind

51. Mysterious Goodness

“The mind is always present. You just don't see it... When the mind creates the idea of the mind, people are deluded but if you don't use the mind to create the idea of the mind, you will always live in the country of the Buddhas”

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨 1 via Shan Dao

Themes: No Trace Mind

73. Heaven’s Net

“I realized that all things in the universe are the essence of mind itself.”

Huineng 惠能 638 – 713 CE
(Huìnéng, Enō)
The Sutra of Hui Neng

Themes: Mind

16. Returning to the Root, Meditation

“Whoever realizes that from the very beginning there has been nothing other than mind, has acquired the realization of all the Buddhas of the three times.”

Saraha 1

35. The Power of Goodness

“If the mind itself that is twisted into knots is loosened, it is undoubtedly freed.”

Saraha 1 via Elizabeth M. Callahan
from Doha for the People

Themes: Mind

“When the mind is at peace, the world too is at peace.”

Layman Pang 龐居士 740 – 808 CE

Themes: Mind Peace

“All the workings of my mind have dissolved into thought-free space.”

Tantepa 1 via Keith Dowman

Themes: Mind

“Original nature is your eternal mind… impervious to gain and loss, calumny and eulogy, praise and blame, sorry and joy”

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

“Your Mind is the Buddha. The Buddha is Mind. Mind and Buddha are indivisible.”

Huangbo Xiyun 黄檗希运 1
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)

Themes: Mind

16. Returning to the Root, Meditation

“Develop a mind that rests on no thing whatsoever.”

Huangbo Xiyun 黄檗希运 1
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)

Themes: Mind

27. No Trace

“The Mind is no mind of conceptual thought and it is completely detached from form. So Buddhas and sentient beings do not differ at all.”

Huangbo Xiyun 黄檗希运 1
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)

Themes: Mind

50. Claws and Swords

“The Mind is no other than the Buddha, and Buddha is no other than sentient being. When Mind assumes the form of sentient being, it has suffered no decrease; when it has become a Buddha, it has added nothing to itself.”

Huangbo Xiyun 黄檗希运 1
(Huangbo Xiyun, Huángbò Xīyùn, Obaku)

“The innate purity that is the nature of mind… exists within, so do not look elsewhere.”

Virupa བི་རཱུ་པ། 1 via Keith Dowman
(“Dakini Master”)
Mahasiddha #3
from Masters of Mahamudra

Themes: Mind Travel

6. The Source

“Cultivate the mountain of mind and realize the pure pleasure of mind’s nature.”

Shantipa ཤཱནྟི་པ། 1 via Keith Dowman
("The Academic")
Mahasiddha #12
from Masters of Mahamudra

Themes: Mind

“Your own mind, uncontrived, is the body of ultimate enlightenment.”

Niguma 1

32. Uncontrived Awareness

“Mind shines as bodhicitta... the innate essence is naturally luminous.”

Marpa Lotsawa 1012 – 1097 CE via Nalanda Translation Committee

Themes: Mind

“If the minds of one hundred men are in harmony, it is like the synchronized gait of one hundred horses.”

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

Themes: Mind

“Your mind is like a magical gem manifesting all that is”

Mekopa མེ་ཀོ་པ། 1050 CE – via Keith Dowman
("Guru Dread-Stare")
Mahasiddha #43

“mind itself is like a blazing jewel”

Kaṅkaṇa ཀངྐ་ཎ་པ། 1 via Keith Dowman
(“The Siddha-King”)
Mahasiddha #29
from Masters of Mahamudra

Themes: Mind

22. Heaven's Door

“Once you discover the original, inherently complete and real mind, no matter what situation you meet, you will understand completely.”

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

“Nothing exits outside of our minds... all general ideas are conceptions formed as tools”

Peter Abelard Pierre Abélard 1079 – 1142 CE via Will Durant

Themes: Mind

“The primal mind transcends conditioning... How can you possibly attain anything outside yourself?”

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

Themes: Mind

“The mirror of mind is bright as the moon; the universe in a grain of sand.”

Sun Bu'er 1119 – 1182 CE via Thomas Cleary
from Secret Book on the Inner Elixir

Themes: Moon Mind

“The mind is morally self-sufficient, endowed with innate knowledge of the good, and an innate ability to do good. It is one and indissoluble. It fills the whole universe… The investigation of things means nothing more than to investigate this mind.”

Lù Jiǔyuān 陸九淵 1139 – 1192 CE
(Lu Xiangshan)

“Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said, 'The flag is moving.' and the other said, 'No, the wind is moving.' their teacher happened to be passing by and told them, 'Not the wind, not the flag; it is your mind that is moving.'”

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

from The Gateless Gate, 無門関, 無門關

Themes: Mind

“Mind itself is a vast expanse, the realm of unchanging space. It's indeterminate display is the expanse of the magical expression of its responsiveness.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Richard Barron
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from The Basic Space of Phenomena

Themes: Magic Mind

“The wonderful nature of your mind, unchanging through countless ages, is the essence of all the sutras.”

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

Themes: Mind

“There are names like Buddha, God, or Heavenly Way but they all point to the mind which is nothingness.”

Bunan 至道無難 1603 – 1676 CE
(Shido Bunan Zenji Munan)

“Illuminate original mind and no other understanding is necessary.”

Bankei 盤珪永琢 1622 – 1693 CE
(Bankei Yōtaku)

Themes: Mind

16. Returning to the Root, Meditation

“Think of the profit of all as being the real profit and the mind of the whole country as being the real mind.”

Kāngxī 康熙帝 1654 – 1722 CE
from Emperor of China, Self-Portrait of K'ang-hsi

77. Stringing a Bow

“While the intellectual horizon of the normal man is wider than that of the animal—one continual present with no consciousness of past or future—it is not so immeasurably wide as generally supposed.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via R.J. Hollingdale
from Parerga and Paralipomena, "Appendices" and "Omissions"

Themes: Mind

“so much subtler is a human mind than the outside tissues which make a sort of blazonry or clock-face for it”

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Mind

“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.”

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Mind

“If you want to realize immortality you must realize the deathless nature of your mind.”

Jetsun Rinpoche, Shugsep ལོ་ཆེན་ཆོས་ཉིད་བཟང་མོ། 1852 – 1953 CE

“The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE

Themes: Mind

“All knowledge that the world has ever received comes from the mind; the infinite library of the universe is in our own mind.”

Swami Vivekananda ʃami bibekanɔnd̪o 1863 – 1902 CE
"The maker of modern India"

Themes: Mind

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 CE

Themes: Mind

“Our mind lets the chain of the past slip away clinging only to the extreme end, which is often made of a very different metal from that of the links lost in the night of time.”

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

Themes: Mind

“Everyone knows that 'mind' is what an idealist thinks there is nothing else but, and 'matter' is what a materialist thinks the same about... the 'mind' to which a given mental event belongs is the group of events connected with the given event by memory-chains, backwards or forwards... a mind and a piece of matter are, each of them, a group of events.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from History of Western Philosophy

Themes: Mind

“When dealing with the insane, the best method is to pretend to be sane.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE

Themes: Mind

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Mind

“I had no confidence in the mind, for this can discern nothing but the body. It does not see the flame which shimmers around the body and leaps from the scalp and is battered by the wind like a banner This, precisely this, is the soul.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE via P. A. Bien
from Report to Greco

Themes: Mind

“The only real revolution is in the enlightenment of the mind... the only real revolutionists are philosophers and saints.”

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

“Matter as known to us, is but a form of mind [and] the supreme figure in this idealistic development was Immanuel Kant, perfect archetype of the abstract philosopher who brought back to life, magician-wise, the dear beliefs of the ancient faith. Even Schopenhauer and Nietzsche accepted his reduction of the world to mere appearance as the indispensable preliminary to every possible philosophy. And then Darwin came…”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE via Shan Dao
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time, 1968

Themes: Mind

“The mind was dreaming. The world was its dream.”

Jorge Luis Borges 1899 – 1986 CE
Literary Explorer of Labyrinthian Dreams, Mirrors, and Mythologies

Themes: Dream Mind

“All of our decisions about what is and is not are just decisions made in accordance with how it appears to our mind; they have no other basis whatsoever.”

Gendün Chöphel དགེ་འདུན་ཆོས་འཕེལ། 1903 – 1951 CE

Themes: Mind Reality

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

12. This Over That

“when we don't understand anything, then our mind is very great, very wide”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE via David Chadwick

Themes: Mind Paradox

“As the full moon rises / The swan sings in sleep / On the lake of the mind.”

Kenneth Rexroth 1905 – 1982 CE
"Father of the Beats”

Themes: Mind Moon

“This mind, unlike enlightened mind, is always being carried away by one delusion after another.”

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

Themes: Mind Delusion

12. This Over That

“Mind in its natural state is radiantly void. The sense of a permanent ego dims this inner light.”

Freda Bedi, Sister Palmo 1911 – 1977 CE

“To think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral you down into ever-increasing unhappiness. To think good thoughts, however, requires effort. This is one of the things that need discipline –training… So train your mind”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from Shōgun, 1975

“When your body vanishes... there remains what does not below to self but was only 'loaned' to it, a universal mind”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE
from Some of the Dharma

“What difference does it make after all?--anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven, for what’s heaven? what’s earth? All in the mind.”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE

Themes: Mind Anonymity

“The most powerful, smallest and largest thing in the universe is the mind.”

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

Themes: Mind

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Even though mind is not touchable, even though you cannot see mind, even though you cannot show what it is, it is obvious that if there were no mind, there could be no phenomena even in this life.”

Thinley Norbu གདུང་སྲས་ཕྲིན་ལས་ནོར་བུ 1931 – 2011 CE
(Kyabjé Dungse)

Themes: Mind

“‘Mind’ is a tool invented by the universe to see itself; but it can never see all of itself, for much the same reason that you can’t see your own back…

Robert Anton Wilson 1932 – 2007 CE

Themes: Mind

14. Finding and Following the Formless Form

“It is through the essence of mind, which is unborn, indestructible, calm and clear, that we deliver ourselves within ourselves.”

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

Themes: Mind

“Our mind is the basis of everything, and from our mind everything arises”

Namkhai Norbu ཆོས་རྒྱལ་ནམ་མཁའི་ནོར་བུ་ 1938 – 2018 CE via John Shane
Dzogchen Master
from Dzogchen: The Self-Perfected State

Themes: Mind

“The whole world is mind's world, the product of mind”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Heart of the Buddha

Themes: Mind

“Every movement of the mind becomes bliss and emptiness”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Nalanda Translation Committee
from Sadhana of Mahamudra

Themes: Mind Happiness

“We deal with our mind from morning till evening, and it can be our best friend or our worst enemy.”

Matthieu Ricard माथ्यु रिका 1946 CE –
"The happiest person in the world”

Themes: Enemy Mind

“Despite centuries of modern philosophical and scientific research into the nature of the mind, at present there is no technology that can detect the presence or absence of any kind of consciousness.. there is no objective, scientific evidence even for the existence of subjective experience!”

B. Alan Wallace 1950 CE –
(Bruce Alan Wallace)
from Contemplative Science

Themes: Mind

“Natural selection didn’t design your mind to see the world clearly; it designed your mind to have perceptions and beliefs that would help take care of your genes.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Why Buddhism is True

Themes: Mind Belief

“Our ego-mind and emotions are a dramatic illusion… we create elaborate scenarios and then react to them but there is nothing really happening outside our mind.”

Dzigar Kongtrül Rinpoche ཛི་གར་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ། 1964 CE –

Themes: Mind Illusion

20. Unconventional Mind

“Is the past tense a trick of the mind? Is sanity a matrix of these tricks?”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Utopia Avenue

Themes: Mind

“The mind is always moving, always processing new ideas, new perceptions, and new sensations. That’s its job… There’s no difference between what is seen and the mind that sees it.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

Themes: Mind

“The mind itself—not a 'thing' but an event—and the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that arise, abide and disappear in the mind are equal expressions of emptiness, that is, the open-ended possibility for anything to occur.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from The Joy of Living (2007)

Themes: Mind

“The mind is not the subject that freely shapes historical actions and biological realities; the mnd is an object this is being shaped by history and biology... the mind is never free of manipulation.”

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

from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Themes: Mind

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