Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Letting Go

In the old Uncle Remus Tar-Baby tale, the more Br’er Rabbit fought with the Tar-Baby, the more stuck he became. The less he could let go of the past, the less he could move forward into the future. In a similar way, our old memories, resentments, beliefs, loves and hates all ensnare and trap us in conceptual prisons. Paper tiger powers we fear and so easily and willingly cower and surrender to; their phantom strength easily disappears, their iron prison easily dissolve into dust, their emotional influence easily falls away. All we need do is let go.

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Quotes (75)

“How can a man's life keep its course if will not let it flow?”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Witter Bynner
(Lǎozǐ)
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Letting Go

15. Inscrutability

“Nature does not have to insist... why should man?”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Witter Bynner, #23
(Lǎozǐ)
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Letting Go

“What arises lasts forever because letting go makes it stay.”

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

Themes: Letting Go

“Take everything that happens as it comes, as something to animate, not to appropriate”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Witter Bynner
(Lǎozǐ)
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

2. The Wordless Teachings

“To insist on a spiritual practice that served you in the past is to carry the raft on your back after you have crossed the river.”

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

Themes: Letting Go

19. All Methods Become Obstacles
38. Fruit Over Flowers

“You only lose what you cling to.”

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

Themes: Letting Go

10. The Power of Goodness

“Waste not fresh tears over old griefs.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today

Themes: Letting Go

“Sail with the stream, and follow fortune’s tack, steer not your ship of life against the tide, since chance must guide thy course.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Trojan Women

Themes: Letting Go

57. Wu Wei

“If things do not turn out as we wish, we should wish for them as they turn out.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης 382 – 322 BCE

Themes: Desire Letting Go

46. Enough

“The wise of old thought nothing about loving life or hating death... They accepted what was given with delight and when it was gone, gave it no more thought.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE
(Zhuangzi)

Themes: Letting Go

46. Enough

“don't meddle with Babylonian horoscopes. How much better to accept whatever comes”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE
from Ode XI

Themes: Letting Go

“By yielding you may obtain victory.”

Ovid oʊvɪd 43 BCE – 18 CE
(Publius Ovidius Naso)
Great poet and major influence on the Renaissance, Humanism, and world literature

“Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.”

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

Themes: Letting Go

73. Heaven’s Net

“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། 3rd C. CE
(Kannadeva)
from Four Hundred Verses on the Yogic Deeds of Bodhisattvas

Themes: Letting Go Mind

51. Mysterious Goodness

“Not holding on to reality, not getting stuck in the void, you are neither holy nor wise, just an ordinary person”

Layman Pang 龐居士 740 – 808 CE

“If useless things do not hang in your mind, any season is a good season for you.”

Nansen, Nanquan Puyuan 南泉普願 749 – 835 CE

Themes: Letting Go

“Fools bogged down in a multiplicity of methods endlessly spin in circles. Instead, practice only letting go. This leads to perfection.”

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

Themes: Letting Go

“Don’t cultivate virtue and renounce vice - accept all things as they arise.”

Ghaṇṭāpa གྷ་ཎྚཱ་པ། early 9th century via Keith Dowman, Shan Dao
(“The Celibate Bell-Ringer”)
Mahasiddha #52

Themes: Letting Go

“At the heart of all understanding is realizing what is and what cannot be, accepting what is not in our power to change.”

Solomon ibn Gabirol שלמה בן יהודה אבן גבירול 1021 – 1070 CE via Shan Dao
(Avicebron)
from Choice of Pearls

Themes: Letting Go

27. No Trace

“Moving straight ahead, totally let go... respond with brilliant light to such unfathomable depths as the waters of autumn or the moon stamped in the sky.”

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

“Stay with this just as this, stay with that just as that… freely let go not following conditions, not falling into classifications.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE via Dan Leighton and Shan Dao
(Shōgaku)
from Cultivating the Emplty Field

Themes: Letting Go

“Like a lightening bolt that strikes one's head, what can be done once it has hit?”

Sakya Pandita ས་སྐྱ་པཎྜ་ཏ་ཀུན་དགའ་རྒྱལ་མཚན། 1182 – 1251 CE via John T. Davenport, #418
(Kunga Gyeltsen)
from Ordinary Wisdom, Sakya Legshe (Jewel Treasury of Good Advice)

Themes: Letting Go

“I haven't got any Buddhism. I live by letting things happen.”

Dōgen Zenji 道元禅師 1200 – 1253 CE

“Unchanging and ever-present, the embodiment of the kayas and timeless awareness is the conferral of the supreme, naturally occurring empowerment... there is no need for concerted effort, for it is spontaneously present by nature.”

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

Themes: Letting Go

“Let’s open all the locked doors upon our eyes…
Let’s turn loose our golden falcons so that they can meet in the sky
Let’s hold hands and get drunk near the sun”

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

Themes: Letting Go

“Whatever thoughts arise, do not do anything contrived, such as deliberately abandoning or adopting them — look at their very essence.”

Wangchuk Dorje 1556 – 1603 CE
(9th Gyalwa Karmapa)

Themes: Letting Go

“Leave things before things leave you... Wise trainers put racehorses out to pasture before they arouse derision by falling”

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

Themes: Letting Go

“Much that would be something has become nothing by being left alone, and what was nothing has become of consequence by being made much of… Often the remedy causes the disease. It is by no means the least of life’s rules to let things alone.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE

Themes: Letting Go Travel

47. Effortless Success

“Muddy fountain water doesn't get clear from our meddling but from us leaving it alone and likewise, often the best remedy for a disturbance is to let it run its course.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, Shan Dao, chapter #138
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Letting Go Water

“The first great rule of life… is to put up with things.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE

Themes: Letting Go

29. Not Doing

“The art of being happy though poor consists in one phrase, to think ‘it could be worse.’ The same situation can look like hell to one person and like paradise to another.”

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

“Enlightened awareness is within each one of us, right at this moment… without effort rest naturally as the Unborn Mind, as a living Buddha.”

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

57. Wu Wei

“Since, after all this floating world is unreal, instead of holding onto things in your mind, go and sing!"”

Bankei Yōtaku 盤珪永琢 1622 – 1693 CE via Peter Haskel
Zen Master of the unborn

from Song of Original Mind

Themes: Letting Go Music

“Only original mind exists... Instead of holding onto things in your mind, let them go!”

Bankei Yōtaku 盤珪永琢 1622 – 1693 CE via Peter Haskel
Zen Master of the unborn

from Song of Original Mind

“Self-nature is empty and illuminating, so let things take care of themselves”

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

Themes: Letting Go

51. Mysterious Goodness

“The safest way of not being very miserable is not to expect to be very happy.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Letting Go

67. Three Treasures

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

Themes: Wealth Letting Go

46. Enough
67. Three Treasures

“She had that rare sense which discerns what is unalterable and submits to it without murmuring.”

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Letting Go

“A marriage based on full confidence, based on complete and unqualified frankness on both sides; they are not keeping anything back; there's no deception underneath it all. If I might so put it, it's an agreement for the mutual forgiveness of sin.”

Henrik Ibsen 1828 – 1906 CE
"The world's 2nd most-performed playwright"
from The Wild Duck (1884​)

“It is easy to get everything you want, provided you first learn to do without the things you cannot get.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE

Themes: Letting Go

46. Enough

“If you don't cling, whatever arises is naturally freed. Simply remain in the great equal taste without rejecting or accepting.”

Shechen Gyaltsap 1871 – 1926 CE via Matthieu Ricard

“When you get a thing the way you want it, leave it alone.”

Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 CE

Themes: Letting Go

46. Enough

“We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

“One must be able to let things happen which is quite different from doing nothing... a way is only the way when one finds it and follows it oneself.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

Themes: Letting Go

“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

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong but sometimes it is letting go.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE

Themes: Letting Go

57. Wu Wei

“The universe... is always emptying, always full; the more it yields, the more it holds.”

Witter Bynner 1881 – 1968 CE
(Emanuel Morgan)

5. Christmas Trees

“There is not anything one should not be ready to tolerate,and there is nobody whom one should not forgive.”

Inayat Khan 1882 – 1927 CE

Themes: Letting Go

63. Easy as Hard

“A voice cannot carry the tongue and the lips that gave it wings.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Letting Go

“We still wanted, as we always had, to create a new and better world, but we saw that we could not do so. I admitted this, but my friend kept it hidden all his life. That was why he secretly writhed and suffered more than I did.”

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

Themes: Letting Go

“break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

“We must, at the start, clear our minds of all preconceptions, prejudices, assumptions, and theories.”

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

Themes: Letting Go

“Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other.”

Reinhold Niebuhr 1892 – 1971 CE

Themes: Letting Go

27. No Trace

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Island

“There is trouble only when you cling to something. When you hold on to nothing, no trouble arises... Give up all and you gain all.”

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

Themes: Letting Go

“individuality can be transformed in a process of growth, but retains its character. It becomes wider and more all-encompassing and transparent until it reflects the whole universe and becomes one with it.”

Anagarika​ (Lama) Govinda 1898 – 1985 CE
(Ernst Hoffmann)
Pioneer of Tibetan Buddhism to the West

from Inner Structure of the I Ching

“When you try to do something, you lose it because you are concentrated on one out of 1000 hands - you lose 999.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE via David Chadwick

57. Wu Wei

“The power of life causes the snake to shed its skin, just as the moon sheds its shadow. The serpent sheds its skin to be born again, as the moon its shadow to be born again. They are equivalent symbols.”

Joseph Campbell 1904 – 1987 CE
Great translator of ancient myth into modern symbols

Themes: Power Letting Go

“Open yourself and give up everything”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE
from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

“The true purpose of Zen is to see things as they are and to let everything go as it goes.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE via Trudy Dixon
from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

“one is a great deal less anxious if one feels perfectly free to be anxious”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

“We live on the brink of disaster because we do not know how to let life alone. We do not respect the living and fruitful contradictions and paradoxes of which true life is full.”

Thomas Merton 1915 – 1968 CE

“I'm not an object to be changed, I'm a person to be accepted”

R. D. Laing 1927 – 1989 CE

Themes: Letting Go Change

“when we do let go, how wonderful. We discover that the darkness is actually full of light.”

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

Themes: Letting Go

57. Wu Wei

“Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior's world.”

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

52. Cultivating the Changeless

“The Buddha’s principal message that day was that holding on to anything blocks wisdom. Any conclusion that we draw must be let go.”

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

57. Wu Wei

“You have to recover from the hangover of the previous medicine you were taking.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

19. All Methods Become Obstacles

“Death can be regarded as a way of extending ourselves into the next life… as some kind of invitation to allow this thing we cherish so very much called our body, to perish.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Carolyn Rose Gimian
from The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa

Themes: Letting Go

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“You don’t have to try to catch the universe in the same way that you would try to catch a grasshopper or a flea. You don’t have to do something with what you have experienced, particularly… If you actually want to use something, you have to let it be.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

Themes: Letting Go

61. Lying Low

“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE
from Magical Mystery Tour

“Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Letting Go

61. Lying Low

“It’s getting dark, too dark to see
A big black cloud is coming down
I feel like I’m knocking on heaven’s door.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

Themes: Letting Go

22. Heaven's Door

“Death is linked with love because death, like love, symbolizes our fear of letting go of ourselves as well as our desire to let go of ourselves—which is the only way to overcome lack”

David Loy 1947 CE –
from A Buddhist History of the West (2002)

Themes: Letting Go

“It is not about how much you give, it is about how much you can let go with your mind.”

Dzogchen Pönlop 1965 CE –

Themes: Letting Go

“The mind of letting go has the capacity to cut the root of ego-clinging; the activity of letting go accumulates merit. And by letting go, we gain access to our own immense inner wealth,”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

Themes: Letting Go

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