Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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When we made our Translator lineage, we realized that everyone on our lists was at least on some level a translator “standing on the shoulders of giants.” Almost all quotes and ideas attributed to a particular person are a rephrasing of older concepts and can be traced back through the centuries. Similar to Suzuki Roshi’s image of the Buddhist teachings being like a bread recipe, insipid and worthless unless re-baked, re-translated into the modern culture and mindset; the great ideas of history and civilization all need to be re-understood and translated into the modern idiom. Music represents another form of translation. Bob Dylan and John Lennon epitomize this process with words but instrumental-only music does the same thing on a less rational, more emotional level.

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Quotes (83)

“My lyre must always play. For without music we are nothing. We knead the shapes out of nothing. Tunes out of silence, love out of hate. Music that lasts forever.”

O​rpheus /ˈɔːrfiəs 1
"Greatest poet and musician of all time"

Themes: Music

“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1

Themes: Music

“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.”

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

Themes: Music Science

41. Distilled Life

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"
from Book of Rites

Themes: Music

“listen to people's music and you know their manners, observe them at play and you know their customs.”

Wenzi 文子 1 via Thomas Cleary
"Authentic Presence of Pervading Mystery.”
from The Wenzi, Wénzǐ 文子

Themes: Music

“There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist
from Art of War 孙子兵法

Themes: Music

“If you ask what it is that has caused the ruler to neglect the affairs of government and the humble man to neglect his tasks, the answer is music... if the rulers, ministers, and gentlemen of the world truly desire to promote what is beneficial to the world and eliminate what is harmful, they must prohibit and put a stop to this thing called music!”

Mozi 墨子 470 – 391 BCE via Burton Watson
Chinese personification of Newton, da Vinci, and Jesus
from Against Music

Themes: Music Pleasure

“I would teach children music,physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE
from Republic Πολιτεία

Themes: Education Music

27. No Trace

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE

Themes: Music

“The sound of water says what I think.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

Themes: Music Water

8. Like Water

“If a man cannot dance, he cannot pray. Angels have mouths but lack the power of speech. The speak to God by dancing... dancing kills the ego, and once the ego has been killed there is no further obstacle to prevent you from joining with God”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Sufi proverb

Themes: Music Egolessness

“Nature itself seems to have given us music as a way to lighten the strain of labor; even the rower in the galleys is cheered to effort by song.”

Quintilian 35 – 100 CE
from Institutio Oratoria

Themes: Music

“no human things
guitar or flute
quite match up
to nature's music.”

Du Fu 杜甫 杜甫 712 – 770 CE via David Young
from Qiang Village Poems

Themes: Music

“find the sound of silence where sound and the hearer of sound reveal all-embracing space.”

Godhuripa གོ་དྷུ་རི་པ། 700 – 800 CE via Keith Dowman, Shan Dao
(“The Bird-Catcher”)
Mahasiddha #55

Themes: Music

“Every single sight and sound is but the Buddha’s Eye of Wisdom.”

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

Themes: Music

45. Complete Perfection

“On the whirling wheel of habitual actions, the music and dance of existence takes form.”

Kumbharipa ཀུམྦྷ་རི་པ། 1 via Keith Dowman, Shan Dao
(“The Eternal Potter”)
Mahasiddha #63

“As the master touched his lute so lovingly and slow—when the sound of music broke the stillness of the night—a rapture swayed me without bounds as I listened to the sounds.”

Su Shi 苏轼 1037 – 1101 CE via Listening to a Lute in a Boat (tr: Charles Budd, Shan Dao)
(Dongpo, Su Tungpo)
"pre-eminent personality of 11th century China"

Themes: Music

“Confucius relied on kindness and justice, ritual and music to order the kingdom. Lao-tzu’s only concern was to open people’s minds”

Su Che 呂洞 1039 – 1112 CE via Red Pine
(Su Zhe)
Great writer of the Tang and Sung dynasties
from Tao-te-chen-ching-chu

19. All Methods Become Obstacles

“Every detail clearly appears before you. Sound and form, echo and shadow, happen instantly without leaving traces.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE

Themes: No Trace Music

27. No Trace

“I don't want learning, or dignity, or respectability. I want this music, and this dawn, and the warmth of your cheek against mine”

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”

Themes: Education Music

44. Fame and Fortune

“Where there is music, there can be no evil.”

Miguel de Cervantes 1547 – 1616 CE
One of the world's best novelists
from Don Quixote (1605)

Themes: Music Evil

“When words fail, music speaks.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE

Themes: Music

“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: Music Letting Go

“It's not those who write the laws that have the greatest impact on society. It's those who write the songs.”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time

Themes: Poetry Music

“Music is the hidden arithmetical exercise of a mind unconscious that it is calculating.”

Leibniz 1646 – 1716 CE
(Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz)

Themes: Music

“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

Themes: Music

“Every creature is only a tone, a modification in a mighty harmony.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Music

13. Honor and Disgrace

“Music revives the recollections it would appease.”

Madame de Staël 1766 – 1817 CE
(Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein)
"The greatest woman of her time"
from Corinne (1807)

Themes: Music

“Music is the voice that tells us that the human race is greater than it knows.”

Napoleon Bonaparte 1769 – 1821 CE

Themes: Music

“Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows like harmony in music; there is a dark inscrutable workmanship that reconciles discordant elements, makes them cling together In one society.”

William Wordsworth 1770 – 1850 CE

“The man that has no music in his soul can indeed never be a genuine poet.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 – 1834 CE
from Biographia Literaria, 1817

Themes: Music

“Without music, life would be a blank to me.”

Jane Austen 1775 – 1817 CE

Themes: Music

“Away, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs, -
To the silent wilderness,
Where the soul need not repress
Its music.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE

“Without the music of some inspired Orpheus was no city ever built, no work that man glories in ever done.”

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

Themes: Music Inspiration

“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter;
Therefore, ye soft pipes, play on.”

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

Themes: Music

“Where words leave off, music begins”

Heinrich Heine 1797 – 1856 CE

Themes: Music

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”

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

Themes: Music

“The oldest, truest, most beautiful organ of music, the origin to which alone our music owes its being, is the human voice.”

Wilhelm Richard Wagner 1813 – 1883 CE
from Opera and Drama (1851)​

Themes: Music

“Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it. It would not leave them narrow-minded and bigoted.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Journal (1851)

Themes: Music

“The strongest and sweetest songs yet remain to be sung.”

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

Themes: Music

“It is always fatal to have music or poetry interrupted.”

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

from Middlemarch

Themes: Music Poetry

“Life is like music, it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule.”

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

Themes: Music

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Twilight of the Idols

Themes: Mistakes Music

27. No Trace

“To produce music is also in a sense to produce children... Without music, life would be a mistake.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

Themes: Music

“God Respects Me When I Work, He Loves Me When I Sing”

Rabindranath Tagore 1861 – 1941 CE

Themes: Music Livelihood

“Music is essentially useless, as life is... Music is a means of giving form to our inner feelings without attaching them to events or objects in the world.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet
from The Life of Reason (1905)

Themes: Music

“If all the arts aspire to the condition of music, all the sciences aspire to the condition of mathematics.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet
from Some Turns of Thought, 1933

Themes: Music Science

“Everything is music for the born musician.”

Romain Rolland 1866 – 1944 CE
“The moral consciousness of Europe”
from Jean Christophe

Themes: Music

“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

Themes: Music

“There is something suspicious about music, gentlemen. I insist that she is, by her nature, equivocal. I shall not be going too far in saying at once that she is politically suspect.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author

Themes: Music

“Music quickens time, she quickens us to the finest enjoyment of time.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE via Lowe-Porter
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from The Magic Mountain (1924)

Themes: Music

“No doubt the root idea behind all of these dances is more or less one and the same, the manifestation of primal rhythmic energy. Whatever the origins of Shiva's dance, it became in time the clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of.”

Ananda Coomaraswamy குமாரசுவாமி 1877 – 1947 CE
Perennial philosophy's Citizen of the World
from The Dance of Shiva (1918)

Themes: Music

“Whoever wants music instead of noise, joy instead of pleasure, soul instead of gold, creative work instead of business, passion instead of foolery, finds no home in this trivial world of ours.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE
from Bäume: Betrachtungen und Gedichte

“I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Music Dream

“Gifts from the singers and dancers - though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your soul”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Music

“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Music

“The minor virtues, I reflected, are much more dangerous than the minor vices. If these two did not sing and play so well, they would not be invited to pafties, would not get drunk, would not fritter away their time, and they might be saved. As it was, singing beautifully, playing the guitar beautifully, they had started along the downgrade.”

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

Themes: Virtue Music

“your body is the harp of your soul... [you] bring forth sweet music from it or confused sounds.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Health Music

“Poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music.”

Ezra Pound 1885 – 1972 CE

Themes: Poetry Music

“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 Shambhala

“Music is a beautiful opiate, if you don't take it too seriously.”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE
from The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (1945)

Themes: Music

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

“There is nothing in the world that is not mysterious, but the mystery is more evident in certain things than in others: in the sea, in the eyes of the elders, in the color yellow, and in music.”

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

Themes: Music

“Music... will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906 – 1945 CE

Themes: Music

“Song itself is a slowing down of speech... There is no melody in primiteive or Oriental music because the road of song is a continuum known only to literate man.”

Marshall McLuhan 1911 – 1980 CE via Jerome Agel
from War and Peace in the Global Village

Themes: Music Continuity

“We are only saved by music from being overwhelmed by nonsense... [by] great quantities of small talk.”

Lewis Thomas 1913 – 1993 CE
Gestaltist of science and art
from Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher

Themes: Music

“‘We have nothing on which to dine, Splendid, we shall have more time to sit outside and enjoy the moonlight, with music provided by the wind in the pines.”

John Blofeld 1913 – 1987 CE

56. One with the Dust

“Music and pure mathematics are closer to life than are languages which point to meanings beyond themselves. Ordinary language refers to life, but music is living.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

“Our present linearly and hierarchically structured languages are likely to transform into a music-language, capable of communicating subtle differentiations and simultaneities of experience, reasoning and feeling.”

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

Themes: Music

“The only truth is music.”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE

Themes: Music

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”

Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014 CE

Themes: Music

“Only art and music have the power to bring peace.”

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

Themes: Music

“When I cannot sing my heart, I can only speak my mind.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Music

79. No Demands

“music has the power to transform people, and in doing so… to transform situations”

Joan Baez 1941 CE –

Themes: Music Power

“Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die.”

Paul Simon 1941 CE –
Prolific planter of musical, cultural wisdom seeds

Themes: Music

“Songs, to me, were more important that just light entertainment. They were my preceptor and guide into some altered consciousness of reality, some different republic, some liberated republic.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –
from Chronicles

“Music - when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE

Themes: Music

“If you want to know yourself better, you have to bring in something different from someplace else… that’s why we need pictures or literature, or music”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –
from Killing Commendatore

“Music has that power to revive memories, sometimes so intensely that they hurt.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –
from Men Without Women (2017)

Themes: Music

“Music was the first human language, and still is the language of animals and birds.”

Kim Stanley Robinson 1952 CE –

Themes: Music

“'Ah, music,' he said, wiping his eyes. 'A magic beyond all we do here!'”

J.K. Rowling 1965 CE –

Themes: Music Magic

“Music frees the soul from the cage of the body. Music transforms the Many to a One.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Utopia Avenue

Themes: Oneness Music

“Songs, like dandelion seeds, billowing across space and time. Who knows where they'll land? Or what they'll bring? Where will all these song seeds land... If a song plants an idea or a feeling in a mind, it has already changed the world.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Utopia Avenue

Themes: Music


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