Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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It seems evident that the main or at least one of the main human motivating forces is to insatiably try to gain more respect/praise/fame. It leads soldiers to make heroic (or foolish) acts of bravery, would-be girl friends in the USA alone to spend more each year on cosmetics than the GDPs of 2/3 of the world’s countries (World Watch Institute), would-be boyfriends to lie, cheat, steal, betray; and, when these efforts for more fame become thwarted, feelings of deep despair, anger, and suicide. Embarrassing mistakes from the past become indelibly imprinted on our memories evoking shame decades after they occurred. The search for fame and positive regard imprison creativity and chain us to a conservative status quo. For this reason, Schopenhauer said his only prayer was that he not become famous before he died. Though so often ruling over both the details and main efforts of our lives, this desire is really a paper-tiger, easily seen though. As Eleanor Roosevelt pointed out, if we only realize how seldom other people think about us or care about what we do and say, we wouldn’t worry so much about it and let it be such a huge factor in our decision-making.

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Quotes (81)

“How vain, without the merit, is the name.”

Homer 850 BCE - ?
Primogenitor of Western culture
from Iliad

Themes: Fame

“The smaller the mind, the greater the conceit.”

Aesop 620 – 546 BCE
Hero of the oppressed and downtrodden
from Aesop's Fables, the Aesopica

77. Stringing a Bow

“Less fame, less fighting, less praise, less competition”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #3
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

Themes: Fame Competition

“Because he lays claim to no credit, the credit cannot be taken away from him.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Lin Yutang

Themes: Fame

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Chasing fame, fortune, pleasure and power only drives us crazy.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter 12
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“I consider the positions of kings and rulers as that of dust motes. I observe treasure of gold and gems as so many bricks and pebbles.”

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

Themes: Fame Wealth

44. Fame and Fortune

“Even as a solid rock is unshaken by the wind, so are the wise unshaken by praise or blame.”

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

77. Stringing a Bow

“Don’t chase after fame, fortune, pleasure and power; but instead, find true joy.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE via Shan Dao
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth
from Dhammapada धम्मपद

Themes: Power Fame Pleasure

“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

“A man loses his character through the desire for fame... in the struggle for fame, men crush each other”

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

Themes: Fame

“He advances yet does not seek fame,
He retreats yet does not avoid blame.
He seeks only to preserve the people.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist

9. Know When to Stop

“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

“People that seem so glorious are all show; underneath they're just like everybody else.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Andromach (426 BCE)

Themes: Fame

“Aren't you ashamed to care so much to make all the money you can, and to advance your reputation and prestige -while for truth and wisdom and the improvement of your soul you have no care or worry?”

Socrates 469 – 399 BCE
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization

53. Shameless Thieves

“Alexander the Great found the philosopher looking attentively at a pile of human bones. Diogenes explained, ‘I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave.’”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE via Will Durant
(of Sinope)
from Life of Greece

13. Honor and Disgrace
4. The Father of All Things

“The man of spirit hates to see people gather around him. He avoids the crowd… There is nothing to be gained from the support of a lot of half-wits who are doomed to end up in a fight with each other.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

Themes: Hate Fame

51. Mysterious Goodness

“Fame destroys virtue and easily becomes an evil weapon, only something to beat people down with—not anything that can bring true success.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Burton Watson, Shan Dao

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Success Fame

“Achievement is the beginning of failure. Fame is the beginning of disgrace.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Thomas Merton

Themes: Fame Success Failure

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Reputation is only a visitor, but reality is here to stay.”

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

Themes: Fame Reality

“those who are capable of leading the world are those who have no ambition to use the world; those who are capable of sustaining fame are those who do nothing excessive to seek it.”

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

67. Three Treasures

“The world has known innumerable princes and worthies who enjoyed fame and honor in their day but were forgotten after death, while Confucius, a commoner, has been looked up to by scholars for ten generations and more. From the emperor, princes and barons downwards, all in China who study the Six Arts take the master as their final authority. Well is he called the Supreme Sage!”

Sima Qian 司馬遷 145 – 86 BCE
(Ssu-ma Ch'ien)
Father of Chinese historians

Themes: Fame Confucianism

“The top of a pinnacle now, firewood soon.”

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Burmese proverb

Themes: Fame

“Fame is a magnifying glass.”

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from English proverb

Themes: Fame

“The lofty pine is oftenest shaken by the winds; High towers fall with a heavier crash; And the lightning strikes the highest mountain.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

66. Go Low

“Why rely on forms and titles? These are like games, stunts and tricks—entertaining but unimportant and meaningless.”

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

“Or is it your reputation that's bothering you? But look at how soon we're all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows it all. The emptiness of those applauding hands.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE

Themes: Fame

44. Fame and Fortune

“Do everything as a disciple of Antoninus. Remember his constancy in every reasonable act, his evenness in all things, his piety, and the serenity of his countenance, and his disregard of empty fame... with how little he was satisfied, how laborious and patient, how religious without superstition.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE
from Meditations Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν

Themes: Fame

“For I am one who strives for freedom. I must not be caught by wealth and honors.”

Shantideva ཞི་བ་ལྷ།།། 685 – 763 CE
(Bhusuku, Śāntideva)
from Bodhisattva Way of Life, Bodhicaryavatara

Themes: Fame Wealth Freedom

44. Fame and Fortune

“go to places where men have no chance of seeking fame and wealth because there only can you look for disciples who are either wholly or at least half bent on the quest of truth.”

Huating Decheng 華亭德誠 820 – 858 CE via Charles Luk

Themes: Fame Integrity

“I shall not die, these seeds I've sown will save
My name and reputation from the grave,
And men of sense and wisdom will proclaim,
When I have gone, my praises and my fame.”

Ferdowsi فردوسی 940 – 1020 CE
(Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi Tusi)
"undisputed giant of Persian literature"
from Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings (977–1010 CE)

“Heroes seek fame and merchants seek wealth, even to the point of giving up their lives… But the more wealth they amass, the more they harm what they would truly enrich… The wise know the most precious thing is within themselves so they seek no wealth and encounter no trouble.”

Lu Huiqing 1031 – 1111 CE

Themes: Wealth Fame

44. Fame and Fortune

“Aren't you ashamed to care so much to make all the money you can, and to advance your reputation and prestige—while for truth and wisdom and the improvement of your soul you have no care or worry?”

Machig Labdrön མ་གཅིག་ལབ་སྒྲོན། 1055 – 1149 CE

“Life is short but fame is everlasting.”

Genghis Khan 1162 – 1227 CE via Jack Weatherford

Themes: Fame

“Nobody is further from true wisdom than those people with their grand titles, learned bonnets, splendid sashes and bejeweled rings, who profess to be wisdom’s peak”

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

Themes: Fame Wisdom

“People raise themselves up on their tiptoes to see over the heards of others,but they cannot stand like ths for long.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“The more you seek esteem, the less you obtain it... those who insist on the dignity of their office show they have not deserved it, and that it is too much for them.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #106
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Fame

“Let no one ask a stronger mark of an excellent love to God than that we are insensible to our own reputation.”

Madame Guyon Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon 1648 – 1717 CE via Thomas Taylor Allen
from Autobiography of Madame Guyon

Themes: Anonymity Fame

“What a heavy burden is a name that has become too famous.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

Themes: Fame

“If you wish to obtain a great name or to found an establishment, be completely mad; but be sure that your madness corresponds with the turn and temper of your age.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE
from Philosophical Dictionary

Themes: Crazy Wisdom Fame

“The deed is everything; the fame is nothing.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

Themes: Fame

44. Fame and Fortune

“I’ve never bothered about getting ahead… What use is there in fame and fortune? In my hut, I listen to the evening rain and stretch my legs without a care in the world.”

Ryokan 良寛大愚 1758 – 1758 CE
(Ryōkan Taigu,“The Great Fool”)

44. Fame and Fortune

“We imagine that the admiration of the works of celebrated men has become common because the admiration of their names has become so.”

William Hazlitt 1778 – 1830 CE
One of the English languages best art and literature critics of all time

from Round Table (1817)

Themes: Fame

“Riches are like sea water: the more you drink, the thirstier you become; and the same is true of fame.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via T. Bailey Saunders
from Wisdom of Life

Themes: Wealth Fame

44. Fame and Fortune

“Pride works from within; it is the direct appreciation of oneself. Vanity is the desire to arrive at this appreciation indirectly, from without.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via T. Bailey Saunders
from Wisdom of Life

“Glory is the sunshine of the dead.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

Themes: Fame

“Fame is proof that people are gullible.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

Themes: Fanaticism Fame

“What wretched doings come from the ardor of fame; the love of truth alone would never make one many attack another bitterly.”

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 CE
from Letter to J. D. Hooker (1884)

Themes: Fame

“You could construe abandoning all hope of results as being to your welfare. For example fame, renown, comfort, and happiness in this life, later happiness among gods or men, even the desire to achieve the transcendence of misery itself.”

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

77. Stringing a Bow

“A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

67. Three Treasures

“Fame is a bee
It has a song -
It has a sting -
Ah, too, it has a wing.”

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886 CE

Themes: Fame

“No public character has ever stood the revelation of private utterance and correspondence.”

Lord Acton 1834 – 1902 CE
(John Dalberg-Acton)
Prolific historian and politician

Themes: Fame

“Praise is the shipwreck of historians.”

Lord Acton 1834 – 1902 CE
(John Dalberg-Acton)
Prolific historian and politician
from Lecture, Cambridge 1895

“Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

Themes: Fame Ambition

44. Fame and Fortune

“The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.”

Nikola Tesla Никола Тесла 1856 – 1943 CE

Themes: Fame

“No one wins his greatest fame in that to which he has given most of his time; it's the side issue, the thing he does for recreation, his heart's play-spell that gives him immortality.”

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

Themes: Immortality Fame

“The only cure for vanity is laughter, and the only fault that is laughable is vanity.”

Henri-Louis Bergson 1859 – 1941 CE
from Laughter

9. Know When to Stop

“Distrustful of that popular eye
Whether it be bold or sly”

W.B. (William Butler) Yeats 1865 – 1939 CE via "The Apparitions"

“Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”

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

44. Fame and Fortune

“Fame is the sum of misunderstanding that gathers about a new name.”

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

Themes: Fame

“Fame, that pubic destruction of one in process of becoming, into whose building-ground the mob breaks, displacing his stones.”

Rainer Maria Rilke 1875 – 1926 CE via Norton
Profound singer of universal music
from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910)

Themes: Fame

“What has praise and fame to do with poetry? Was not writing poetry a secret transaction, a voice answering a voice… what could be more secret, more slow, and like the intercourse of lovers?”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE via Shan Dao
from Orlando: A Biography

Themes: Fame Poetry

“You bowed to yourself in the mirror, stepping forward to applause earnestly”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from Ulysses

“I will not be ‘famous,’ ‘great.’ I will go on adventuring, changing, opening my mind and my eyes, refusing to be stamped and stereotyped.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

“While fame impedes and constricts, obscurity wraps about a person like a mist. Dark, ample and free, obscurity lets the mind make its way unimpeded. They alone are free, they alone are truthful, they alone are at peace.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE via Shan Dao
from Orlando: A Biography

“A man should never read his reviewers, nor be too curious about the verdict of posterity.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time, 1968

Themes: Curiosity Fame

“Though surely the greatest martyr of philosophy, Socrates is half a myth, and only half a man. He owes his fame as a philosopher to the creative imagination of Plato who used him as the mouthpiece of his views. How much of Platos's Socrates was Socrates, and how much of it was Plato, we shall probably never know.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE via Shan Dao
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time, 1968

Themes: Fame

“Praise out of season, or tactlessly bestowed, can freeze the heart as much as blame.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from To My Daughters, With Love (1967)

“To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

53. Shameless Thieves

“No man can stand prominence these days. It's the surest path to obscurity. People get sick of hearing the same name over and over.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940 CE
Prototype of "Jazz Age" exuberance
from This Side of Paradise (1920)

Themes: Fame

“Fame is a form—perhaps the worst form—of incomprehension.”

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

Themes: Confusion Fame

“[Taoists] not exalting worthy men of superior talent and virtue is directly opposed to that of the Confucianists who honor them”

Wing-tsit Chan 陳榮捷 1901 – 1994 CE
from Way of Lao Tzu

Themes: Confucianism Fame

“A celebrity is a person known for his well-knownness. Celebrities intensify their celebrity images simply by being well known for relations among themselves. Bu a kind of symbiosis, celebrities live off each other.”

Daniel J. Boorstin 1914 – 2004 CE
American intellectual Paul Revere

Themes: Fame

“I had already learned from more than a decade of political life that I was going to be criticized no matter what I did, so I might as well be criticized for something I wanted to do.”

Rosalynn Carter 1927 CE –
Insightful and compassionate politician

Themes: Fame

“I don't care about honor. I want to be free.”

Ursula Le Guin 1929 – 2018 CE
from Matter of Seggri

“Almost everyone struggles for fame, praise, respect; few realize the price in suffering they have to pay for these.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Anonymity Fame

“I know I had no understanding of anything. Something had just gone haywire in the country and they were applauding the song. And I couldn't understand why they were clapping, or why I wrote the song. I couldn't understand anything. For me, it was just insane.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –

Themes: Fame

36. The Small, Dark Light

“Don't gain the world and lose your soul; wisdom is better than silver or gold.”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE

Themes: Wealth Wisdom Fame

“In Western secular societies such a craving for fame and the approval of posterity has largely replaced the afterlife as the way to fill up our lack.”

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

“Once you’re considered a legend, you can only trace the pattern of your rise for the rest of your life… it could be a real nightmare… I can’t think of anything more boring that that.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –
from Killing Commendatore

Themes: Fame Anonymity

“Fame molds itself onto you face. Then it molds your face. Fame brings you immunity from the usual rules. Problem is, if fame is a drug, its hard to kick... When I had fame, fame was killing me. Not it's gone, anonymity is killing me.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Utopia Avenue

Themes: Anonymity Fame

“People who have invested a sincere effort in exploring their inner wealth naturally tend to develop a certain kind of fame, respect, and credibility... Their success in the world has nothing to do with personal ambition... It stems, rather, from a spacious and relaxed state of well-being, which allows them to see people and situations more clearly, but also to maintain a basic sense of happiness regardless of their personal circumstances.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from Joy of Living (2007)

Themes: Fame Success

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