Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Masculine Principle

ཐབས་ or 方便
In Buddhist literature, the masculine principle is described as upaya, the seventh bhumi, the accomplishing skillful means that develops after the inquisitive, discriminating wisdom of the feminine principle sets us in a positive direction. It brings a realization of sacredness within our thought streams, how our experience is both extraordinarily real and empty at the same time, a vast vision full of goodness. It also acts as a way of bringing about wisdom by practicing virtues like generosity, discipline, patience, and meditation. As Chogyam Trungpa taught, first we practice and then "you figure out what you are doing afterward."

People are created equal in terms of value and intrinsic worth but confusing this with equality of skill, intelligence, and capacity completely flies in the face of reality. We’re all so different. And when we’re true to who and what we really are, the notion of “equality” appears superficial at best. As Carl Jung described, men have an anima, a feminine side and women have an animus, masculine dimension. Appreciating and celebrating the diversity brings more inclination to accept and be ourselves rather than striving for an obscure and false persona. Like Taoism’s yin-yang symbol, the ancient myth Plato described as masculine and feminine being two halves of a complete whole helps bring into focus the value and possibilities of opposites becoming complementary rather than in conflict.

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Quotes (81)

“Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life.”

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

59. The Gardening of Spirit

“Generals who advance with no thought of fame, who retreat with no fear of punishment, who think only of protecting their country and helping their king are the treasures of the realm.”

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

69. No Enemy

“The difference between men and women is mainly that men beget and women bear children. The pursuits of men are the same as the pursuits of women, the gifts of nature are alike diffused in both so there should be no difference in the kind of education they receive and little difference in the roles of both in the state's administration... a woman's talent is not at all inferior to a man's.”

Socrates 469 – 399 BCE via Shan Dao, et alia
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization

“Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth.”

Archimedes 287 – 212 BCE
(of Syracuse)

“Heaven gives, earth transforms and man nurtures.”

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

42. Children of the Way

“Woe to the house where the hen crows and the rooster keeps still.”

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

“To what extremes won't you compel our hearts, you accursed lust for gold?”

Virgil 70 – 19 BCE via Robert Fagles
(Publius Vergilius Maro)
from Aeneid

“The gates of hell are open night and day;
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way:
But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
In this the task and mighty labor lies.”

Virgil 70 – 19 BCE via John Dryden
(Publius Vergilius Maro)
from Aeneid

“He has half the deed done who has made a beginning.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

64. Ordinary Mind

“Seeing what is great is not vision. Seeing what is small is vision. Protecting the strong is not strength. Protecting the weak is strength.”

Wang Bi 王弼 226 – 534 CE

52. Cultivating the Changeless

“the concepts of the creative and the receptive that originate in the I Ching are symbolized by Heaven and Earth. Through the union of heaven and Earth, there develop the 'ten thousand things', that is, the outer world.”

Lü Dongbin 呂洞賓 1 via Richard Wilhelm
(Lü Tung-Pin)

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

“The wooden man starts to sing, the stone woman gets up dancing.”

Dongshan Liangjie 洞山良价 807 – 869 CE
(Dòngshān Liángjiè; Tōzan Ryōkai)
from Song of the Precious Mirror Samadhi

“Heaven produces the ten thousand things through yang and brings them to completion through yin.”

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

“My wives, daughters-in-law, and daughters are as colorful and radiant as red fire. It is my sole purpose [...] to have all harmful brambles and thorns cleared from the roads and paths upon which they travel”

Genghis Khan 1162 – 1227 CE via Jack Weatherford
from Secret History of the Mongols, Монголын нууц товчоо, 元朝秘史

“A man who does not like to picture himself standing beneath the clouded moon on a night when the plum blossom smells sweet, or brushing at daybreak through the dewy moor—such a man had better have nothing to do with women at all.”

Yoshida Kenkō 兼好 1284 – 1350 CE via Sir George Bailey Sansom
Inspiration of self-reinvention
from Essays in Idleness

“People of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. They go out and happen to things.”

Leonardo da Vinci 1452 – 1519 CE

“Women – can’t live with them or without them.”

Erasmus 1466 – 1536 CE
(Desiderius Roterodamus)
"Greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance"

“Only when yang descends and yin rises does everything flourish… When sages are above the people, and their hearts are below, we call this uniting with Heaven.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“All good things are difficult to achieve but bad things are very easy to get.”

René Descartes 1596 – 1650 CE

“Never take things against the grain… Everything has a smooth and a seamy side. The best of weapons wounds if taken by the blade, while the enemy’s spear may be our best protection if taken by the staff.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE

69. No Enemy

“When I could have used a wife, I could not support one; and when I could support one, I no longer needed any.”

Immanuel Kant 1724 – 1804 CE

“Remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could.”

Abigail Adams 1744 – 1818 CE
One of the most exceptional women in American history

“He only earns his freedom and existence who daily conquers them anew.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE
from Faust, part II

“The more I see of men, the more I admire dogs.”

Madame Roland 1754 – 1793 CE via Mémoires de Madame Roland (1795)
(Marie-Jeanne Phlippon)
Revolutionary heroine

“...men endeavor to sink us still lower, merely to render us alluring objects for a moment; and women, intoxicated by the adoration which men, under the influence of their senses, pay them, do not seek to obtain a durable interest in their hearts, or to become the friends of the fellow creatures who find amusement in their society… Weakness may excite tenderness, and gratify the arrogant pride of man; but the lordly caresses of a protector will not gratify a noble mind that pants for, and deserves to be respected. Fondness is a poor substitute for friendship.”

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

“The man's desire is for the woman; but the woman's desire is rarely other than for the desire of the man.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 – 1834 CE
from Table Talk, 1827

“'twixt the Negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.”

Sojourner Truth 1797 – 1883 CE
(Isabella (“Bell”) Baumfree)

“The majority of husbands remind me of an orangutan trying to play the violin.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

There is only one sex. A man and a woman are so entirely the same thing, that one hardly understands the mass of distinctions and of subtle reasons with which society is nourished concerning this subject.”

George Sand 1804 – 1876 CE
(Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin)
from Gustave Flaubert letter

“All human beings have the same interest in good government. Gender is as entirely irrelevant to political rights as differences in height or hair color.”

John Stuart Mill 1806 – 1873 CE via Shan Dao
from Representative Government

“with mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, insects, and even crustaceans, the differences between the sexes follow almost exactly the same rules; the males are almost always the wooers”

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 CE
from Decent of Man (1871)

“Man is more courageous, pugnacious, and energetic than woman, and has a more inventive genius.”

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 CE
from Descent of Man

“a king overpowered by self-interest is not worthy of being the protector of the kingdom”

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས། 1813 – 1899 CE via Judith Hanson
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
from Torch of Certainty

17. True Leaders

“[A man] can admire, and he can like, and he can fondle and be fondled. He can admire and approve, and perhaps worship. He can know of a woman that she is part of himself, the most sacred part, and therefore will protect her from the very winds. But all that will not make love. It does not come to a man that to be separated from a woman is to be dislocated from his very self. A man has but one center, and that is himself. A woman has two. Though the second may never be seen by her, may live in the arms of another, may do all for that other that man can do for woman, -- still, still, though he be half the globe asunder from her, still he is to her the half of her existence. If she really love, there is, I fancy no end of it.”

Anthony Trollope 1815 – 1882 CE
Novelist as teacher

from The Duke's Children

“Men and women represent two completely different kinds of consciences and therefore don't understand each other. They merit different kinds of moral law but in practice women are judged by the male rules as if they were a man.”

Henrik Ibsen 1828 – 1906 CE via Shan Dao
"The world's 2nd most-performed playwright"
from A Doll's House

“Judge not a people by the ferocity of its men, but by the steadfastness of its women.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. 1841 – 1935 CE
Game-changing Supreme Court Justice

“The exemption of women from military service is founded not on any natural inaptitude that men do not share, but on the fact that communities cannot reproduce themselves without plenty of women. Men are more largely dispensable, and are sacrificed accordingly.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Saint Joan, 1923

“When men and women meet only to lovey-dovey, society is essentially barbaric; and where the males monopolize, or think, or pretend to think, that they monopolize wisdom, there is small hope for progress.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE
from A Thousand and One Epigrams

“In human beings there is no such thing as pure masculinity or femininity either in the psychological or the biological sense.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex (1910)

“Women represent the interests of the family and sexual life; the work of civilization has become more and more men's business; it confronts them with ever harder tasks, compels them to sublimations of instinct that women are not easily able to achieve.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from Civilization and It's Discontents (1930)

“In human beings, there is no such thing as pure masculinity or femininity, either in the psychological or the biological sense.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex (1910)

“The human race, in its intellectual life, is organized like the bees: the masculine soul is a worker, sexually atrophied, and essentially dedicated to impersonal and universal arts; the feminine is queen, infinitely fertile, omnipresent in its brooding industry, but passive and abounding in intuitions without method and passions without justice... There is something mysterious and oracular about a women’s mind which inspires a certain deference and puts it out of the question to judge what she says by masculine standards.”

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

“Love's greatest deceit is that—replacing the real woman—it makes us toy with a doll that lives in our brain, the only woman whom we have always at hand and can ever really possess. And gradually, to our own sorrow, we force the real woman to resemble this facetious creation.”

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

“in the past as well as in the present, an... increase of skill has not, of itself, insured any increase of human happiness or well-being.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from Unpopular Essays

“The step to higher consciousness leads away from all shelter and safety.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

27. No Trace

“the psychological relationship between the sexes… the real domain of woman. Woman's psychology is founded on the principle of Eros, the great binder and loosener, whereas from ancient times the ruling principle ascribed to man is Logos.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

42. Children of the Way

“If you are a boy, your God is a woman. If you are a woman, your God is a boy. If you are a man, your God is a maiden. The God is where you are not. A maiden is the pregnant future. A boy is the engendering future. A woman is having given birth. A man is having engendered.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE via Sonu Shamdasani
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Red Book, Liber Novus

“in order to attain any definite goal it is imperative that one person should do the thinking and commanding.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

42. Children of the Way

“Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

“I detest the masculine point of view. I am bored by his heroism, virtue, and honor. I think the best these men can do is not talk about themselves anymore.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

“But we did not allow women, even the dearest, to lead us astray. We did not follow their flower-strewn road, we took them with us. No, we did not take them, these dauntless companions followed our ascents of their own free will.”

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

“the ideal man: handsomely well built, taciturn, freed from superfluous wealth; powerful, but capable on the other hand of restrianing this power and imposing limits on his imagination... All is finely balanced and measured. Even its virtues do not run to excess, do not break the human mean”

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

“The advance from the hoe to the plough put a premium upon physical strength and enabled the man to assert his supremacy leading to the sexual subordination of woman… mother-right yielded to father-right… The gods, who had been mostly feminine, became great bearded patriarchs… the man was lord, the woman was servant.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Our Oriental Heritage

“in the world of life, the male is a tributary incident, usually subordinate, sometimes superfluous... No biologist could think of God except in feminine terms”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Fallen Leaves

“No language has ever had a word for a virgin man.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Our Oriental Heritage

“Let woman out of the home, let man into it, should be the aim of education. The home needs man, and the world outside needs woman.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“She knew that he was a man who knew what he did and why he did it, and before such a man a woman may keep silence and know that it will be well with her.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from Dragon Seed

“Both men and women love to exaggerate the differences.. a sort of covert war between the sexes... women are extraordinarily like the male... apart from a plus and a minus here and there, women are extraordinarily like the good, glorious, cocksure, and vain male animal.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE
from On the Wisdom of America, 1950

“So instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers, plant your own gardens and decorate your own soul.”

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

“Many societies have educated their male children on the simple device of teaching them not to be women.”

Margaret Mead 1901 – 1978 CE

“Next to the striking of fire and the discovery of the wheel, the greatest triumph of what we call civilization was the domestication of the human male.”

Max Lerner 1902 – 1992 CE
(Maxwell Alan)

“wisdom is represented by the divine female form, compassionate action by the divine male. Both symbolize the lunar and solar psychic faculties in human beings, which must be integrated in the process of enlightenment.”

Li Gotami Govinda 1906 – 1988 CE
(Ratti Petit)
Pioneering, fearless, artistic woman of wisdom
from Tibet in Pictures

“To symbolize the ego—which misleads people into believing that they are permanent and separate beings—a small figure was made of tsampa... the dancers stabbed this figure of evil with daggers.”

Li Gotami Govinda 1906 – 1988 CE
(Ratti Petit)
Pioneering, fearless, artistic woman of wisdom
from Tibet in Pictures

“In agricultural communities, male leadership in the hunt ceased to be of much importance… the comparatively tight personal subordination to a leader necessary to the success of a hunting party could be relaxed in proportion as grain fields became the center around which life revolved… Among predominantly pastoral peoples, however, religious-political institutions took a quite different turn… pastoralists were likely to accord importance to the practices and discipline of war.”

William Hardy McNeill 1917 – 2016 CE

“He who is aware of the Male but keeps to the Female... has the Eternal power which never fails.”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE
from Some of the Dharma

“The average man acts only if there is a chance for profit. Warriors act not for profit but for the spirit.”

Carlos Castaneda 1925 – 1998 CE

44. Fame and Fortune

“It reflected light. Fire. Not heavy and weary, but pulsing with life—the high realm aspect of yang: empyrean, ethereal. That is the artist’s job: taking mineral rock from dark silent earth and transforming it into a shining light reflecting from from sky.”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE via Shan Dao
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Man in the High Castle,

“[Discussions about] gender bring us right up face-to-face with sex, as well as love… the functioning of society and the conditions of freedom.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE
from Matter of Seggri

“Tell us what it is to be a woman so that we may know what it is to be a man. What moves at the margin. What it is to have no home in this place. To be set adrift from the one you knew. What it is to live at the edge of towns that cannot bear your company.”

Toni Morrison 1931 – 2019 CE
(Chloe Ardelia Wofford)
Story-telling voice of American wisdom
from Nobel Prize Lecture (1993)

“The masculine principle proves best at innovation, action, beginning new things; the feminine principle best at maintaining and nurturing the newly created. Genghis Khan was a genius at creating a new world culture of religious, ethnic, and gender equality but his sons could not maintain it, modern civilization was saved by his daughters.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“Here's all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid. ("And the reason men are stupid is that women are crazy." - Shan Dao)”

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

“He subdues what needs to be subdued, he destroys what needs to be destroyed and he cares for whatever needs his care.”

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

“We are not saying that the feminine principle belongs to women and the masculine principle belongs to men. Realization does not belong to either sex. Wherever there is a perceiver, that is the masculine principle; wherever there is a perception, that is the feminine principle.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa

“Men are run ragged by female sexuality all their lives. From the beginning of his life to the end, no man ever fully commands any woman. It's an illusion. Men are pussy-whipped. And they know it. That's what the strip clubs are about; not woman as victim, not woman as slave, but woman as goddess.”

Camille Paglia 1947 CE –
Fearless and insightful status quo critic

“A woman simply is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved by a revolt from woman, and is confirmed only by other men. Feminist fantasies about the ideal 'sensitive' male have failed. Manhood coerced into sensitivity is no manhood at all.”

Camille Paglia 1947 CE –
Fearless and insightful status quo critic
from Sex, Art and American Culture : New Essays (1992)​

“always there are people who know how to gather the essence of life and hold it safely, protect it and nurture it until the next seeding”

Peter Kingsley 1953 CE –
from A Story Waiting to Pierce You

“If those who make history were like those who write it, nothing would ever happen.

Peter Kingsley 1953 CE –
from A Story Waiting to Pierce You

“The minds of men are an evolutionary record of the past behavior of women. And vice versa.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Moral Animal — Why we are the Way we Are

“Each of us is descended from innumerable generations of men who lied, cheated, charmed, bullied, or killed their way to sexual intercourse, and from innumerable generations of women who charmed, seduced, lied, or manipulated their way to extracting economic privileges in return for access to their bodies.”

Paul Seabright 1958 CE –
Author and British Professor of Economics
from War of the Sexes

“Many well-meaning people have told me in all earnestness that nothing in Islamic culture incites abuse of women, that this is just a terrible misunderstanding. Men all over the world beat their women, I am constantly informed. In reality, these Westerners are the ones who misunderstand Islam. The Quaran mandates these punishments. It gives a legitimate basis for abuse, so that the perpetrators feel no shame and are not hounded by their conscience or their community… I want secular, non-Muslim people to stop kidding themselves that ‘Islam is peace and tolerance.’”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali 1969 CE –
Powerful voice for Islamic reform
from Infidel

“Taoism is unique among the major schools of Chinese thought in emphasizing the priority of the feminine principle (yin) over the masculine principle (yang).”

Yi-Ping Ong 1978 CE –
from Tao Te Ching - Introduction and Notes

Comments (1)

  1. Shan Dao
    Shan Dao 5 years ago
    Marshall McLuhan's insight that "every new technology requires a revolution" applies poignantly and disruptively to the balance of power between male and female. In this case, the new technology is birth control. Before easy to find and use, socially-acceptable birth control, women were severely hampered in the political, social, and familial balance of power struggles. Being pregnant much of their productive years and needing to take care of very needy babies of necessity extremely limited their ability to excel in the political, business, and in almost all income-generating realms. In terms of various kinds of evolution, this almost doubles the capacity; but, at the same time, it threatens masculine roles, creates a heightening of the "war of the sexes," and necessitates a revolution in all cultures around the world.