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Quotations from Lao-tzu

6th century BC

A great thing done is never perfect -- but that does not mean that it fails: it does what it is.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 45

A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 64

A noble person with sufficient inner virtue may give the appearance of a fool.

To Confucius, quoted in the Shih-chi (Historical Records)

Act calmly, not coldly. Peace is greater than anger. Tranquility and harmony are the true order of things.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 45

All things are held in yin and carry yang: and they are held together in the ch'i of teeming energy.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 42

Always we hope
someone else has the answer.
Some other place will be better,
some other time it will all turn out.


This is it.
No one else has the answer.
No other place will be better,
and it has already turned out.

Tao-te ching

Be true to yourself, and all will go well with you.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 22

Beauty and mercy are only recognized by people because they know the opposite, which is ugly and mean.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 2

Difficulty and ease are all part of work.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 2

Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?

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Even if a person is bad, neither the sage nor the Tao will desert him. They accept him.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 62

Everything has both yin and yang in it -- and from their rise-and-fall coupling comes new life.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 39

Feel your lightness and let it merge with others. This, we say, is our basic oneness.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 56

Follow the nothingness of the Tao, and you can be like it, not needing anything, seeing the wonder and the root of everything.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 1

Give up your arrogance, your desires, your vanity and your zeal--for they are of no use to you.

To Confucius, quoted in the Shih-chi (Historical Records)

Good fortune, we say, can come from disaster: and the reverse is true as well.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 58

He who tiptoes cannot walk easily; he who strides on ahead is bound to tire.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 24

I am kind to people when they are kind to me. I am kind to them even if they hate me. Virtue (te) is its own reward.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 49

I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.

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I trust those who trust me. I also trust those who have no faith in me: What I give, I receive.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 49

If life can't be itself, then life will be nothing.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 39

If the people are not afraid, it is useless to try and scare them with death.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 74

If the sage could abandon his wisdom and skill, then everyone would be a hundred times better off.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 19

If the true Tao is lost, then morality takes its place. If that fails, we have 'conscience'. When that fades, we get 'justice'. When that disappears, we have the status quo.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 38

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.

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If you follow the Tao without pretension, you will never burn yourself out.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 15

If you know what it is, don't talk it away: if you do, then you don't understand.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 56

If you live violently, that is how you will die.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 43

If you mould a cup, you have to make a hollow: it is the emptiness within that makes it useful.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 11

If you pour all your energy into one thing, you're sure to harm the rest of your being.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 44

Is it not because the sage wants nothing that he is able to achieve everything?

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 7

Is there really any difference between a yes and a no said insincerely? Is there really much of a difference between being angry and pretending not to be?

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 20

It is stupid to rush around. When you fight against yourself, it shows in your face. But if you draw your sap from your heart, then you will be truly strong. You will be great.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 55

Just as a fish cannot be seen when he stays down in the deep, don't show your power to anyone.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 36

Learn to yield and be soft if you want to survive. Learn to bow and you will stand your full height.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 22

Let go, when your work is done:
That is the Way of Heaven.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 9

Like a lake the heart must be calm and quiet, having great depth beneath it.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 8

Like water, the sage should wait for the moment to ripen and be right: water, you know, never fights: it flows around without harm.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 8

Look at someone else as you would yourself, and treat other families as you would your own. See your community in other communities, think of all countries as part of your being, and treasure the world as the round center of everything. How can I see the world like this? Because I have eyes.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 54

Losing the weight of the Tao means you lose your root. And when you can't sit still, you lose the source.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 26

Meditate on the virtue within yourself, and you will find the benefit of virtue. Use it as the ground for the family, and your virtue will last for generations.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 54

Neither future nor past can exist alone.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 2

Oneness generates everything… a wise man never tries to break up the Whole.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 28

People usually fail when they are on the verge of success. So give as much care to the end as to the beginning. Then there will be no failure.

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Simplicity comes from letting go of what you want.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 59

Take on the largest things when they are still small. Start the hardest things while they are still easy.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 63

Tao exists, Tao is, but where It came from I do not know.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 4

The best way to run the world is to let it take its course -- and to get yourself out of the way of it!

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 48

The Great Tao goes everywhere, past your left hand and your right -- filling the whole of space. It is the breath to every thing, and yet it asks for nothing back. It feeds and creates everything, but it will never tell you so.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 34

The greatest virtue is to be empty like a valley.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 41

The Heavenly Tao takes from those who have too much, and it gives to those who have little or nothing.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 77

The highest kind of man has innate goodness, and that is what he rules with. The lesser man brags about how good he is -- and isn't much good, I can tell you.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 38

The kind of person who always insists on his way of seeing things can never learn anything from anyone.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 24

The more rules you have, the more unhappy people are; and the more weapons there are, the worse things happen. The more we want luxuries, the more we abandon simplicity -- and the more laws you pass, the more we will break them.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 57

The sage needs to know like water how to flow around the blocks and how to find the way through without violence.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 8

The sage never calculates what profit he can make from what he does.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 27

The sage's greatness lies in taking no credit.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 2

The Tao gives birth to the One. The One gives birth to the Two. The Two give birth to the Three. The Three give birth to every living thing.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 42

The Tao goes on forever doing nothing (wu-wei), and yet everything gets done. How? It does it by being, and by being everything it does.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 37

The Tao that can be talked about is not the true Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 1

The universe can live forever because it does not live for itself.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 7

There are too many laws, when all you have to do is to hold on to the center.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 5

These are the four great things, and the ruler is the least of them. Humanity is schooled by the Earth, Earth is taught by Heaven, and Heaven is guided by the Tao. And the Tao goes with what is absolutely natural.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 25

This quiet, light-hearted silence is the key to being free from emotion.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 26

Those who always want to be seen will never help others to be.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 24

Those who think that the Way is easy will find it extremely hard.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 41

Those who think they are perfect never are.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 41

To act as if you know it all is catastrophic: and if you try to control it, you will stare into your empty hand.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 64

To bend like a reed in the wind -- that is real strength.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 52

Understand the thrust of the yang -- but be more like the yin in your being.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 28

Weapons are terrible things -- and no sage will have anything to do with them, unless there is no alternative.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 31

What is held lightly can never be lost.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 54

What is yielding and weak overcomes what is hard and strong.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 36

What you want and what you say should be the same.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 2

Whatever you want to weaken must first be convinced of its strength.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 36

When a war kills many, we must mourn for them. And if you win the war, you must grieve it.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 31

When the wisest student hears about the Tao, he follows it without ceasing. When the average student hears about it, he follows too, but not all of the time. And when the poor student gets wind of it, he laughs at it like an idiot! And if he didn't, then it wouldn't be the Tao!

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 41

Without going anywhere, you can know the whole world. Without even opening your window, you can know the ways of Heaven. You see, the further away you go, the less you know.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 47

You may amass gold and jade in plenty, but then the more you have, the less safety.

Tao-te ching, book 1, chapter 9

You win by losing -- and you lose by succeeding.

Tao-te ching, book 2, chapter 39



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