Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Our biological proclivity for self-deception reaches remarkable heights of accomplishment when issues effect our pleasure, power, fame, or fortune. This skill may represent the heart of Goethe’s paradigm, “selling our souls to the devil.” Deception brings obvious gains in each of these four most common human motivations. These payments in slivers of our souls, however, become costly in terms of happiness, goodness, and integrity. The depth of our allegiance to these kinds of deception quickly rise to the surface of awareness when we try to do something anonymously, when we help someone who cannot give anything in return, when no one can see or know. Although probably the least common kind of human activity, it may epitomize the essence of integrity.

Most of us, most of the time stay busy trying to impress people looking for approval, praise and fame. This enslaves and sells our souls to the tyrants of public opinion, the status quo, and to external personal whim. As an antidote to this, the cloak of anonymity opens wide doors of personal expression, creativity, and innovation. In ancient times, perhaps less personal ego fostered this approach, perhaps names were just eroded away by time as is surely the case with many of the quotations that comes to us through the annals of history, perhaps people needed to avoid religious or political persecution. The venerable tradition of using pseudonyms exemplifies both the need and benefit of freeing ourselves from the narrow boxes defined by our personal histories.

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Quotes (99)

“Badness can be got easily and in shoals; the road to her is smooth, and she lives very near us. But between us and Goodness the gods have placed the sweat of our brows”

Hesiod 846 – 777 BCE
“History’s first economist”
from Works and Days

“Those with outer courage dare to die, those with inner courage dare to live.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Witter Bynner, Shan Dao #73
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Integrity

“Do not worry that people do not know you. Worry that you may not be worth knowing.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE via Lin Yutang
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

Themes: Integrity Fame

“Those who govern with virtue are like the North Star, which remains in its place while the myriad stars revolve around it.”

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

17. True Leaders

“If there were an honorable way to get rich, I’d do it, even if it meant being a stooge standing around with a whip. But there isn’t an honorable way, so I just do what I like.”

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

Themes: Integrity Wealth

75. Greed

“In their dealings with the world, great people are neither for nor against anyone. They follow whatever is right.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE via Red Pine
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

Themes: Integrity

“One skilled at battle takes a stand in the ground of no defeat… the victorious military is first victorious and after than does battle… And so one who is skilled cultivates Tao and preserves method.”

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

Themes: Integrity

60. Less is More

“For the wise, the whole earth becomes their tomb—an unwritten memorial commemorated in the hearts of humanity.”

Pericles 495 – 429 BCE via Thucydides, Shan Dao
Disprover that all power corrupts

Themes: Fame Integrity

“Use oneness [truthfulness] to put the 3 universal world virtues—wisdom, goodness, and courage—into practice.”

Zisi 子思 481 – 402 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner, Shan Dao
(Kong Ji or Tzu-Ssu)
Confucius' grandson and early influence on Neo-Confucianism
from Doctrine of the Mean, Maintaining Perfect Balance, Zhongyong 中庸

“Completion of the self is true goodness…the Way that unites external and internal.”

Zisi 子思 481 – 402 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner
(Kong Ji or Tzu-Ssu)
Confucius' grandson and early influence on Neo-Confucianism
from Doctrine of the Mean, Maintaining Perfect Balance, Zhongyong 中庸

“Educated men condemn murders and call them wrong but do not realize that a war of aggression against another country is wrong praising it and giving it their support… therefore it is clear they do not know the difference between right and wrong.”

Mozi 墨子 470 – 391 BCE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
Chinese personification of Newton, da Vinci, and Jesus

“There are three classes of men; lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor, and lovers of gain.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE

Themes: Integrity

44. Fame and Fortune

“Why must Your Majesty use the word ‘profit’? Surely, it is true goodness and righteousness alone that matter.”

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

“To act without needing a reason… to ride the current of what is – this is the primal virtue.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Do not let the artificial obliterate the natural; do not let will obliterate destiny; do not let virtue be sacrificed to fame”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Jack Kerouac

“No evil can happen to a good man either in life or after death.”

Zeno Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς 334 – 262 BCE via Edith Hamilton
(of Citium)

Themes: Integrity Evil

“When the approval and disapproval of others become important, the honest and sincere expression of thoughts and feelings is lost.”

Lie Yukou 列圄寇/列禦寇/列子 4th C. BCE via Eva Wong, Shan Dao
(Liè Yǔkòu, Liezi)
from Liezi "True Classic of Simplicity and Perfect Emptiness”

Themes: Integrity

20. Unconventional Mind

“We cultivate the Tao in the world by letting things change without giving orders Lao-tzu asks how we know that those who cultivate the Tao prosper and those who ignore the Tao perish. We know by comparing those who don’t cultivate the Tao with those who do.”

Heshang Gong 河上公 202 – 157 BCE
(Ho-shang Kung or "Riverside Sage”)

Themes: Integrity

54. Planting Well

“Yielding is being free of self-interest. Being free of self-interest is ruling the world. Ruling the world is merging personal virtue with that of Heaven and doing this is being one with the Way.”

Heshang Gong 河上公 202 – 157 BCE
(Ho-shang Kung or "Riverside Sage”)

Themes: Integrity

16. Returning to the Root, Meditation

“Those who trust themselves cannot be swayed by slander or flattery. Those whose knowledge is sufficient cannot be enticed by power or profit.”

Liú Ān 劉安 c. 179–122 BCE
from Huainanzi

“There are 3 dangers in the world: To have many privileges but few virtues… To be high in rank but low on ability… To receive a large salary without personally accomplishing much… So ‘people may gain by loss and may lose by gain.”

Liú Ān 劉安 c. 179–122 BCE via Thomas Cleary
from Huainanzi

Themes: Integrity Virtue

46. Enough

“Cultivating ourselves is like a bow, straightening our thoughts like arrow.”

Yang Xiong 揚雄 53 BCE – 18 CE via Michael Nylan, Shan Dao
from Fayan 法言, Exemplary Figures or Model Sayings

Themes: Integrity

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Saint Mark
from New Testament Διαθήκη

“Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE
from Meditations Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν

“I am striving to give back the Divine in myself to the Divine in the All.”

Plotinus 204 – 249 CE

Themes: Integrity

7. Lose Yourself, Gain Your Soul

“They are satisfied with their food because they taste the Tao. They are pleased with their clothing because they are adorned with virtue. They are content with their homes because they are content wherever they are.”

Chéng Xuanying 成玄英 631 – 655 CE
(Ch'eng Hsuan-ying)

80. A Golden Age

“Put your trust in the man who feeds the people after finishing his work.”

Lakshmincara ལཀྵྨཱིངྐ་རཱ།། c. 8th Century CE via Keith Dowman
(“The Princess of Crazy wisdom”)
from Masters of Mahamudra

Themes: Integrity

67. Three Treasures

“First, eliminate the diseases of being chaotic and contrary, resolute and strong, brutal and overbearing, enraged, extravagant, profligate, boastful, ambitious, courageous, licentious, favored or favoring; then, grounded in noncontention, warfare will cease.”

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

“First improve yourself, then reach out to others and to later generations bequeath the noble, pure, and kindly Tao. Thus blessings reach your descendants, virtue grows, beauty lasts, and worship never ends.”

Cao Daochong 道寵 fl. 960 - 1268
(​Daochong or Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung)
from Lao-tzu-chu, Red Pine Translation

Themes: Integrity

54. Planting Well

“How shall one take vengeance on an enemy? By increasing one's good qualities.”

Solomon ibn Gabirol שלמה בן יהודה אבן גבירול 1021 – 1070 CE via Marcus

“Those concerned with taxes cannot avoid making claims on others and thus cannot prevent disputes. This is why they lack virtue.”

Wang Anshi 王安石 1021 – 1086 CE

Themes: Integrity

79. No Demands

“What does it matter how the world sees you?”

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

“The truly holy person welcomes all that is earthly.”

Hildegard of Bingen 1098 – 1179 CE

66. Go Low

“The world is divided into men who have wit and no religion and men who have religion and no wit.”

Averroes, Ibn Rushd ابن رشد‎‎ 1126 – 1198 CE

“The most important thing to learn is how to discriminate between Righteousness and Profit.”

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

“Outside, we govern others. Inside, we care for Heaven. In both, nothing surpasses the gardening of spirit… Only if we are still does virtue have a place to collect.”

Li Xizhai 12th century CE via Red Pine
(Li Hsi-Chai)
from Tao-te-chen-ching yi-chieh

Themes: Integrity Virtue

59. The Gardening of Spirit

“Like a firebrand pointing downward but continuing to blaze up, the wise keep their integrity even when impoverished and maligned.”

Sakya Pandita ས་སྐྱ་པཎྜ་ཏ་ཀུན་དགའ་རྒྱལ་མཚན། 1182 – 1251 CE via John T. Davenport, Shan Dao #36
(Kunga Gyeltsen)
from Ordinary Wisdom, Sakya Legshe (Jewel Treasury of Good Advice)

Themes: Virtue Integrity

“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)

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

Petrarch 1304 – 1374 CE

61. Lying Low

“What is a holy person? The one who is aware of others' suffering.”

Kabīr कबीर 1399 – 1448 CE

Themes: Integrity

67. Three Treasures

“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”

Joan of Arc Jeanne d'Arc 1412 – 1431 CE
Mystical, visionary warrior

“Be thine own palace, or the world's thy jail.”

John Donne 1572 – 1631 CE

Themes: Integrity

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“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

“The chief characteristic of highminded integrity is speaking well of an enemy.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via John Blofeld, Shan Dao
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

“You may be obliged to wage war but not to use poisoned arrows.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #166
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Integrity

“Thought makes the whole dignity of man; therefore, endeavor to think well, that is the only morality.”

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

“Every man has his dignity. I'm willing to forget mine, but at my own discretion and not when someone else tells me to.”

Diderot 1713 – 1784 CE

Themes: Forget Integrity

“Moderation in temper is always a virtue, but moderation in principle is always a vice.”

Thomas Paine 1737 – 1809 CE
from The Rights of Man, 1792

“The first duty of man is to take none of the principles of conduct upon trust; to do nothing without a clear and individual conviction that it is right to be done.”

William Godwin 1756 – 1836 CE
Provocative and influential social, political, and literary critic
from Enquiry Concerning Political Justice

Themes: Integrity

“this homage to women’s attractions has distorted their understanding to such an extent that almost all the civilized women of the present century are anxious only to inspire love, when they ought to have the nobler aim of getting respect for their abilities and virtues.”

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

Themes: Integrity

“Politeness is the art of choosing among your thoughts.”

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

Themes: Integrity

“Our own heart, and not other men's opinions, forms our true honor.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 – 1834 CE

Themes: Integrity

13. Honor and Disgrace

“All religion is antagonistic to culture... genuine morality is dependent on no religion”

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

Themes: Integrity Culture

“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.”

Lord Byron 1788 – 1824 CE
(George Gordon Byron)
The first rock-star style celebrity

“The main quality that goes into a Man of Achievement is ‘Negative Capability’—the capacity for staying with uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”

John Keats 1795 – 1821 CE via Shan Dao
Writer of "poems as immortal as English"

Themes: Integrity

“A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives—approving of some and disapproving of others... I ought or I ought not, constitute the whole of morality.”

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 CE
from Descent of Man

“Message to his son’s teacher: 'Teach him the wonder of books but also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and the flowers on a green hillside. Teach him it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat.'”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

“I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”

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

Themes: Integrity

21. Following Empty Heart

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation… the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity… he has no time to be anything but a machine.”

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

Themes: Integrity

72. Helpful Fear

“A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me.”

Frederick Douglass 1818 – 1895 CE
International symbol of social justice

Themes: Integrity

36. The Small, Dark Light

“Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

Themes: Integrity

“Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

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

Themes: Integrity Lies

“the will to a system is a lack of integrity”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Twilight of the Idols

Themes: Integrity

21. Following Empty Heart

“The true basis of morality is utility; that is, the adaptation of our actions to the promotion of the general welfare and happiness; the endeavor so to rule our lives that we may serve and bless mankind.”

Annie Besant 1847 – 1933 CE

“I used to think meanly of the plumber; but how he shines beside the politician!”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

75. Greed

“If, in the present chaotic and shameful struggle for existence, when organized society offers a premium on greed, cruelty, and deceit, men can be found who stand aloof and almost alone in their determination to work for good rather than gold.”

Lucy Parsons 1853 – 1942 CE
(Eldine Gonzalez)
Political activist “more dangerous than a thousand rioters”

“But it is a great happiness in life to meet a person of quite different construction, different bent, completely dissimilar views who, while always remaining himself and in no wise echoing us nor currying favor with us and not trying to insinuate his soul into our psyche, into our muddle, into our tangle, would stand as a firm wall, as a check to our follies and our irrationalities, which every human being has.”

Vasily Vasilievich Rozanov Васи́лий Васи́льевич Рóзанов 1856 – 1919 CE

Themes: Integrity

“The good man is the man who, no matter how morally unworthy he has been, is moving to become better.”

John Dewey 1859 – 1952 CE
The "Second Confucius"

Themes: Integrity

“If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies, or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,… Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”

Rudyard Kipling 1865 – 1936 CE
Greatest—in-English—short-story writer

from If—

Themes: Integrity

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 CE

“It is difficult but not impossible to conduct strictly honest business. what is true is that honesty is incompatible with the amassing of a large fortune.”

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 CE
from Non-Violence in Peaace and War (1948)

“A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

“I knew that in this laughter were courage and integrity. Both the old man and my brother turned pale, awed by my courage and integrity.”

Lǔ Xùn 鲁迅 1881 – 1936 CE
(Zhou Shuren; Lusin)
Insightful satirist representing the "Literature of Revolt"

from A Madman's Diary

“Die every day. Be born again every day. Deny everything you have every day. The superior virtue is not to be free but to fight for freedom.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from The Saviors of God, 1923

Themes: Integrity Virtue

“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

“They who define their conduct by ethics imprison their song-bird in a cage.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

“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

“You could attach prices to thoughts. Some cost a lot, some a little. And how does one pay for thoughts? The answer, I think, is: with courage.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889 – 1951 CE
One of the world's most famous philosophers

Themes: Integrity

“The supreme quality of leadership is integrity.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower 1890 – 1969 CE

“religious in the only way that is becoming by... extracting the utmost of life from every passing minute.”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE
from The Colossus of Maroussi

“Laziness in doing stupid things can be a great virtue.”

James Hilton 1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

Themes: Integrity

29. Not Doing

“The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane.”

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE
from The Sane Society

Themes: Virtue Integrity

71. Sick of Sickness

“Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.”

Anais Nin 1903 – 1977 CE

26. The Still Rule the Restless

“We watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints… which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.”

Victor Frankl 1905 – 1997 CE

from Man's Search for Meaning

Themes: Integrity

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE via Korn
from One Straw Revolution

Themes: Integrity

52. Cultivating the Changeless

“Ultimately, it is not the growing technique which is the most important factor, but rather the state of mind of the farmer.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE via Larry Korn
from One Straw Revolution

Themes: Integrity

“The goal of spiritual life is not altered states, but altered traits.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE

Themes: Integrity

“The essence of morality consists, as in art, of drawing the line somewhere.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE
from World's Religions

Themes: Integrity Virtue

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. 1922 – 2007 CE
“A darkly humorous social critic and the premier novelist of the counterculture"

“My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014 CE

Themes: Integrity

“It was more than dignity. Integrity? Wholeness? Like a block of wood not carved. The infinite possibility, the unlimited and unqualified wholeness of being of the uncommitted, the nonacting, the uncarved: the being who, being nothing but himself, is everything.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE

Themes: Integrity

50. Claws and Swords

“In many if not most cases, the more success, the less integrity. The cost of most success is our integrity.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Integrity Success

“Avoid teams at all cost - there is no ‘I’ in team… but there is an ‘I’ in independence, individuality and integrity.”

George Carlin 1937 – 2008 CE
One of the most influential social commentators of his time

Themes: Integrity

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Devotion is building oneself up without kleshas, it makes you smile and in whatever we do with appreciation makes us feel wholesome.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

Themes: Integrity

“If you have awareness... you do not cheat, you do not do things just because they are traditional, and you don't just do something this year simply because you did it last year... honesty and genuineness begin to hurt.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Judith Lief, editor
from Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion

Themes: Integrity

“Damn the money. Damn the heavyweight championship... I will die before I sell out my people for the white man's money.”

Muhammad Ali 1942 – 2016 CE
(Cassius Clay)
from Esquire magazine interview, 1968

Themes: Integrity

“The history of ethics is a sad tale of wonderful ideals that nobody can live up to. Most Christians did not imitate Christ, most Buddhists failed to follow Buddha, and most Confucians would have caused Confucius a temper tantrum. In contrast, most people today successfully live up to the capitalist–consumerist ideal.”

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

from Sapiens


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