Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
Search Quotes Search Sages Search Chapters

Sandro Botticelli, 1486

Basic Goodness

During the hunter-gatherer stage of civilization’s evolution, the men were seldom at home, goddesses were worshipped, children belonged to their mothers, and matriarchy prevailed. When agriculture became dominant, biology’s choice became the male who was physically stronger and more adept at fighting to protect the home where men began to stay. For men to take over, the feminine principle needed to be degraded and the myth of Eve eating the devil’s apple, ensnaring men, and causing expulsion from paradise was born. An unfortunate collateral damage from this process was “Basic Badness” replacing the previous attitude of “Basic Goodness” in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim traditions. The assumption that people are deeply and sinfully flawed justifies the despotic positions of political, cultural, and religious leaders as well as genocide, imperialism, racism, and misogyny. Because so deeply flawed, humans need priests-imams-rabbis-gurus to tell them what they should believe; tyrannical politicians to control their external lives; and cultural icons telling them how to experience their personal lives.

A foundation in Basic Goodness contrarily builds a foundation for democracy, personal choice, and individual liberation. The main Eastern Traditions—Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism—all start from this premise, that humans are basically good. When this attitude came into Western Civilization, it became the bedrock for the Enlightenment, Humanism, Science, and the Age of Reason.

Rousseau took this idea to an extreme describing agriculture and technology for "ruining humanity" (On the Origin of Inequality) and separate, personal property as the foundation and cause of war, murder, and the major cause of the majority of human suffering. This argument—although easily refuted by the long list of innovations that have made human life longer, less painful, and more comfortable—has its own deep truth that sees through the seductions of consumerism, the soul-selling of the many versions of materialism, and nurtures artistic, social, and political creativity.

Read More

Quotes (70)

“When you stop trying to be kind and just, you will discover basic goodness.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #19
(Lǎozǐ)
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Basic Goodness

“When impressed by an image of goodness, we create badness. If this becomes good, that becomes bad.”

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

Themes: Basic Goodness

“Beans have a soul.”

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

Themes: Basic Goodness

“How wonderful! How wonderful! All things are perfect, exactly as they are.”

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

Themes: Basic Goodness

25. The Mother of All Things

“If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?”

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

Themes: Basic Goodness

63. Easy as Hard

“Numberless are the world’s wonders, but none more wonderful than man.”

Sophocles Σοφοκλῆς 497 – 405 BCE
“The Wise and Honored One”
from Antigone, 442 BCE

Themes: Basic Goodness

“No intelligent man believes that anybody ever willing errs or willingly does base and evil deeds.”

Protagoras 490 – 420 BCE
“The wisest man alive”—Socrates

62. Basic Goodness

“The way of great learning is keeping clear our original, clear, basic goodness.”

Zisi 子思 481 – 402 BCE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
(Kong Ji or Tzu-Ssu)
Confucius' grandson and early influence on Neo-Confucianism

Themes: Basic Goodness

“The sage honors his inborn, basic goodness rising in influence when sanity reigns in society; enduring protected by silence when the Way does not prevail.”

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

“The Tao is the way things are which you can't depart from even for one instant.”

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

“In the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen...to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE
from Republic Πολιτεία

Themes: Basic Goodness

“All people have a mind-and-heart that cannot bear to see the suffering of others... to be without compassion is not to be human.”

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

“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

“It is the function of the historian to prolong the memory of goodness by preserving its record for all ages to see.”

Sima Qian 司馬遷 145 – 86 BCE via Burton Watson
(Ssu-ma Ch'ien)
from Shiji, Records of the Grand Historian, 太史公書

“If our deeds don’t influence others, we should look into ourselves and cultivate a greater goodness.”

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

“the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE

33. Know Yourself

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE

Themes: Basic Goodness

21. Following Empty Heart

“Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE

62. Basic Goodness

“It is called, ‘consummation of incomparable enlightenment.’ attained by freedom from separate personal selfhood and by cultivating all kinds of goodness… though there is no goodness; such is merely a name.”

Nagarjuna नागर्जुन c. 150-250 CE

54. Planting Well

“Withdraw into yourself and look. If you do not find yourself beautiful, act as does the creator of a statue who cuts away here, smooths there, makes this line lighter, the other purer until a lovely face has grown upon his work... never cease chiseling your statue until you see the perfect goodness established in the stainless shrine.”

Plotinus 204 – 249 CE via MacKenna, Shan Dao

“‘Good’ refers to our original nature before our parents were born. Before anything develops within us, we possess this goodness. ‘Good’ means natural.”

Lü Dongbin 呂洞賓 796 CE - via Richard Wilhelm
(Lü Tung-Pin)

from Secret of the Golden Flower 太乙金華宗旨; Tàiyǐ Jīnhuá Zōngzhǐ

Themes: Basic Goodness

62. Basic Goodness

One who returns to his nature and adheres to it is worthy of all things.”

Zhou Dunyi 周敦頤 1017 – 1073 CE via Wing-Tsit Chan and Shan Dao
(Chou Tun-i)
from Penetrating the Book of Changes

Themes: Basic Goodness

“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world—everything is hidden in you.”

Hildegard of Bingen 1098 – 1179 CE

Themes: Basic Goodness

80. A Golden Age

“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)

“Though man is not an immortal animal, like the universe, he is nonetheless reasonable, and with his intelligence, his imagination and his soul, he can act upon and transform the whole world.”

Agrippa 1486 – 1535 CE via Kurt Seligmann
(Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim)
Historian of the occult and early, important influence on science
from Three Books of Occult Philosophy or Magic

Themes: Basic Goodness

“The Tao is in us all. Though good and bad might differ, our nature is the same. How then, can we abandon anyone?”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE
(Te-Ch’ing)

Themes: Basic Goodness

62. Basic Goodness

“The world is fine as it is.”

Giordano Bruno 1548 – 1600 CE via Gosselin and Lerner

Themes: Basic Goodness

“And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. I would not change it.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from As You Like It

51. Mysterious Goodness

“How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that hath such people in it!”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from The Tempest

“The moon’s the same old moon, the flowers exactly as they were;
Yet I’ve become the thingness of all the things I see!”

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

“Man was a 'noble savage' when in the state of nature, before the creation of civilization. He has been corrupted by the social interdependence of society.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Basic Goodness

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“The way you see people is the way you treat them and the way you treat them is what they become.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Basic Goodness

49. No Set Mind

“Just trust yourself and you'll learn the art of living.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE

33. Know Yourself

“Surely something resides in this heart that is not perishable - and life is more than a dream.”

Mary Wollstonecraft 1759 – 1797 CE
Seminal feminist

“Luminosity is the nature of one's mind that aeons of confusion cannot darken.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། 1781 – 1851 CE via Erik Pema Kunsang
from Flight of the Garuda

32. Uncontrived Awareness

“Right makes might.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

Themes: Basic Goodness

“The primordial purity of the ground completely transcends words, concepts, and formulations.”

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས། 1813 – 1899 CE via Kunhyab Choling committee
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
from Myriad Worlds

Themes: Basic Goodness

“Both [Church and State] have the same principle as their point of departure: that of the natural wickedness of man... Both strive to transform men, the one into a saint, the other into a citizen. But the natural man must die.”

Mikhail Bakunin 1814 – 1876 CE
Romantic rebel, revolutionary anarchist, founding father of modern socialism
from Le Progrés (1869)

“Life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we refuse to see it.”

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

“I always prefer to believe the best of everybody; it saves so much trouble”

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

Themes: Basic Goodness

“the historical truth that man is by nature oppressor and oppressed, and that it is only slowly by law, education, and the spirit of love in the world that men can be made happy and free.”

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

Themes: Basic Goodness

“Our heart always transcends us.”

Rainer Maria Rilke 1875 – 1926 CE
Profound singer of universal music

Themes: Basic Goodness

“We dare to appeal to the whole man, to his capacity to think and feel, exhorting him to know himself and to be true to himself. We reaffirm our trust in the profound qualities of his nature. And our living. experiences are proving us right.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE
from Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

“Create an ocean from a dewdrop. Do not beg for light from the moon, obtain it from the spark within you.”

Muhammad Iqbal محمد اقبال 1877 – 1938 CE

“The law of the dignity of human personality beyond castes and outer distinctions creates a continuous rainbow of joy for humanity.”

Helena Roerich Елéна Ивáновна Рéрих 1879 – 1955 CE

“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Basic Goodness

“that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and the silences of night.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Basic Goodness

“In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Basic Goodness

“What has for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel but an inward music: the irresistible power of unarmed truth, the powerful attraction of its example.”

Boris Pasternak Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к 1890 – 1960 CE
Russia's greatest poet

“We all derive from the same source… We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE

1. The Unnamed

“When I reflect that one man was able to bring forth out of the desert this land of Canaan, I can't help feeling the human condition in general is admirable, in spite of everything.”

Jean Giono 1895 – 1970 CE via Barbara Bray
from Man Who Planted Trees

Themes: Basic Goodness

“If we have not found the heaven within, we have not found the heaven without.”

James Hilton 1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

Themes: Basic Goodness

56. One with the Dust

“So to be a human being is to be a Buddha… the most important thing is to express your true nature in the simplest, most adequate way and to appreciate it in the smallest existence.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

35. The Power of Goodness

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

Albert Camus 1913 – 1960 CE

Themes: Basic Goodness

“As the Chinese Taoists have seen, there is really no alternative to trusting man's nature. It is the most practical of practical politics.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

“Having been created in the image God, all human beings have a God-shaped vacuum built into their hearts. Since nature abhors a vacuum, people keep trying to fill the one inside them.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE
from World's Religions

“Give people what they need: food, medicine, clean air, pure water, trees and grass, pleasant homes to live in, some hours of work, more hours of leisure. Don't ask who deserves it. Every human being deserves it”

Howard Zinn 1922 – 2010 CE
Historian of the oppressed and defeated

from Marx in Soho

Themes: Basic Goodness

“We are actually fourth dimensional beings in a third dimensional body inhabiting a second dimensional world!”

Neal Cassady 1926 – 1968 CE

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”

Jane Goodall 1934 CE –

Themes: Basic Goodness

“when we say that human beings are basically good, we mean that they have every faculty they need, so that they don’t have to fight with their world.”

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

10. The Power of Goodness

“Before any kind of perception occurs, wakefulness is already thre—beyond concept, beyond limitation, beyond anything measurable.”

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

Themes: Basic Goodness

“The key to warriorship and the first principle of Shambhala vision is not being afraid of who you are… If we are willing to take an unbiased look, we will find that, in spite of all our problems and confusion, all our emotional and psychological ups and downs, there is something basically good about our existence.”

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

51. Mysterious Goodness

“When you meet a person with authentic presence, you find he has an overwhelming genuineness, which might be somewhat frightening because it is so true and honest and real. You experience a sense of command radiating from the person of inner authentic presence. Although that person might be a garbage collector or a taxi driver, still he or she has an uplifted quality, which magnetizes you and commands your attention. This is not just charisma.”

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

“The result of letting go is that you discover a bank of self-existing energy that is always available to you – beyond any circumstance. It actually comes from nowhere, but is always there. It is the energy of basic goodness.”

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

Themes: Basic Goodness

62. Basic Goodness

“They did not tell us that we were born as whole, and that no-one in our lives deserve to carry on his back such responsibility of completing what is missing on us: we grow through life by ourselves. If we have a good company it’s just more pleasant.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Basic Goodness

62. Basic Goodness

“You special, miraculous, unrepeatable, fragile, fearful, tender, lost, sparkling ruby emerald jewel, rainbow splendor person.”

Joan Baez 1941 CE –

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

Michelle Obama 1964 CE –

“Your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean… yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from The Bone Clocks

“Meditation is about learning to recognize our basic goodness in the immediacy of the present moment, and then nurturing this recognition until it seeps into the very core of our being”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

Themes: Basic Goodness

Comments (0)

Please log in or create an account to comment.