Quotes by Lao Tzu

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The journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath your feet. 

Let there be a small country with few people… Though neighboring communities overlook one another and the crowing of cocks and barking of dogs can be heard, Yet the people there may grow old and die without ever visiting one another. 

Don’t think you can attain total awareness and whole enlightenment without proper discipline and practice. This is egomania. Appropriate rituals channel your emotions and life energy toward the light. Without the discipline to practice them, you will tumble constantly backward into darkness. 

Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding. 

Favor and disgrace are like fear. Favor is in a higher place, and disgrace in a lower place. When you win them you are like being in fear, and when you lose them you are also like being in fear. So favor and disgrace are like fear. 

Of the best rulers, The people only know that they exist; the next best they love and praise the next they fear; and the next they revile. When they do not command the people’s faith, some will lose faith in them, and then they resort to oaths! But of the best when their task is accomplished, their work done, the people all remark, We have done it ourselves. 

A tree trunk the size of a man grows from a blade as thin as a hair. A tower nine stories high is built from a small heap of earth. 

He who knows others is clever; He who knows himself has discernment. 

I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men. 

It is the Vague and Elusive. Meet it and you will not see its head. Follow it and you will not see its back. 

The sage does not hoard. Having bestowed all he has on others, he has yet more; having given all he has to others, he is richer still. 

See simplicity in the complicated. Achieve greatness in little things. 

A violent wind does not outlast the morning; a squall of rain does not outlast the day. Such is the course of Nature. And if Nature herself cannot sustain her efforts long, how much less can man! 

Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water. Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it. So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful. Everyone knows this, but no one can do it. 

He who gains a victory over other men is strong; but he who gains a victory over himself is all powerful. 

The supreme excellence is not to win a hundred victories in a hundred battles. The supreme excellence is to subdue the armies of your enemies without even having to fight them. 

Water flows humbly to the lowest level. Nothing is weaker than water, Yet for overcoming what is hard and strong, Nothing surpasses it. 

He who knows he has enough is rich. 

When the superior scholar hears of Tao, he diligently practises it. When the average scholar hears of Tao, he sometimes retains it, sometimes loses it. When the inferior scholar hears of Tao, he loudly laughs at it. Were it not thus ridiculed, it would not be worthy of the name of Tao. 

Empty your mind of all thoughts. 

The net of heaven is very wide in its meshes, and yet it misses nothing. 

Misfortune is the root of good fortune; good fortune gives birth to misfortune. 

The Way (Dao) that can be described with words is not the eternal Way. 

Virtue in its grandest aspect is neither more nor less than following reason. 

The more we give to others, the more are we increased. 

Love the whole world as if it were your self; then you will truly care for all things. 

Seek not happiness too greedily, and be not fearful of happiness. 

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 

He who loves the world as his body may be entrusted with the empire. 

I have three treasures. Guard and keep them: The first is deep love, The second is frugality, And the third is not to dare to be ahead of the world. Because of deep love, one is courageous. Because of frugality, one is generous. Because of not daring to be ahead of the world, one becomes the leader of the world. 

People are difficult to govern because they have too much knowledge. 

The best [man] is like water. Water is good; it benefits all things and does not compete with them. It dwells in [lowly] places that all disdain. This is why it is so near to Tao. 

The Way of Heaven is to benefit others and not to injure. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete. 

There is no calamity greater than lavish desires. There is no greater guilt than discontentment. And there is no greater disaster than greed. 

To be worn out is to be renewed. 

To have little is to possess. To have plenty is to be perplexed. 

To know that you do not know is the best. To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease. 

To produce things and to rear them, To produce, but not to take possession of them, To act, but not to rely on one’s own ability, To lead them, but not to master them – This is called profound and secret virtue. 

When armies are mobilized and issues are joined, The man who is sorry over the fact will win. 

When the highest type of men hear Tao, They diligently practice it. When the average type of men hear Tao, They half believe in it. When the lowest type of men hear Tao, They laugh heartily at it. Without the laugh, there is no Tao. 

When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty, There arises the recognition of ugliness. When they all know the good as good, There arises the recognition of evil. 

Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river. 

The greater the number of laws and enactments, the more thieves and robbers there will be. 

He who knows others is learned; He who knows himself is wise. 

The Tao [Way] that can be told of is not the eternal Tao. 

Heaven and earth are not humane They regard all things as straw dogs. The sage is not humane, He regards all people as straw dogs. 

The best [rulers] are those whose existence is [merely] known by the people. The next best are those who are loved and praised. The next are those who are feared. And the next are those who are reviled… [The great rulers] accomplish their task; they complete their work. Nevertheless their people say that they simply follow Nature. 

Let people hold on to these: Manifest plainness, Embrace simplicity, Reduce selfishness, Have few desires. 

Reversion is the action of the Tao. Weakness is the function of the Tao. All things in the world come from being. And being comes from non-being. 

One may know the world without going out of doors. One may see the Way of Heaven without looking through windows. The further one goes, the less one knows. 

The more laws and orders are made prominent, The more thieves and bandits there will be. 

The journey of a thousand li starts from where one stands. 

Heaven’s net is indeed vast. Though its meshes are wide, it misses nothing. 

There is nothing softer and weaker than water. And yet there is nothing better for attacking hard and strong things. For this reason there is no substitute for it. All the world knows that the weak overcomes the strong and the soft overcomes the hard. But none can practice it. 

The sage does not accumulate for himself. The more he uses for others, the more he has himself. The more he gives to others, the more he possesses of his own. The Way of Heaven is to benefit others and not to injure. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete. 

He who stands on tiptoe does not stand firm. 

Stretch a bow to the very full, And you will wish you had stopped in time. 

He who accounts all things easy will have many difficulties. 

The slaying of multitudes should be mourned with sorrow. A victory should be celebrated with the funeral rite. 

The wicked leader is he who the people despise. The good leader is he who the people revere. The great leader is he who the people say, ‘We did it ourselves. 

When the best leader’s work is done the people say, “We did it ourselves. 

As soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it. 

A journey of a thousand miles starts in front of your feet. A tower nine stories high is built from a small heap of earth. A journey of a thousand miles starts in front of your feet. 

Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. (Don’t overdo it.) 

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. 

Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. 

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

To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders. 

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. 

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. 

When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you. 

Treat those who are good with goodness, and also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained. Be honest to those who are honest, and be also honest to those who are not honest. Thus honesty is attained. 

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

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. 

Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment. 

Music in the soul can be heard by the universe. 

In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present. 

Nature is not human hearted. 

The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself. 

Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power. 

The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness. 

Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses. 

Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides. 

Of all that is good, sublimity is supreme. Succeeding is the coming together of all that is beautiful. Furtherance is the agreement of all that is just. Perseverance is the foundation of all actions. 

Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy. 

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. 

If the Great Way perishes there will morality and duty. When cleverness and knowledge arise great lies will flourish. When relatives fall out with one another there will be filial duty and love. When states are in confusion there will be faithful servants. 

Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires. 

Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge. 

Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Non-being is the greatest joy. 

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want. 

If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve. 

By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning. 

Be the chief but never the lord. 

Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it. 

When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’ 

Truthful words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not truthful. Good words are not persuasive; persuasive words are not good. 

Man’s enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself. 

The words of truth are always paradoxical. 

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. 

For the wise man looks into space and he knows there is no limited dimensions. 

Without stirring abroad, One can know the whole world; Without looking out of the window One can see the way of heaven. The further one goes The less one knows. 

People in their handlings of affairs often fail when they are about to succeed. If one remains as careful at the end as he was at the beginning, there will be no failure. 

The career of a sage is of two kinds: He is either honored by all in the world, Like a flower waving its head, Or else he disappears into the silent forest. 

Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretch her fingers to touch the heavens. 

One who is too insistent on his own views, finds few to agree with him. 

It is better to do one’s own duty, however defective it may be, than to follow the duty of another, however well one may perform it. He who does his duty as his own nature reveals it, never sins. 

The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world. 

He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know. 

The higher the sun ariseth, the less shadow doth he cast; even so the greater is the goodness, the less doth it covet praise; yet cannot avoid its rewards in honours. 

To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; Not to realize that you do not understand is a defect. 

The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days. 

When a nation is filled with strife, then do patriots flourish. 

He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still. 

If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence. 

In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it. 

Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Do not overdo it. 

The wicked leader is he who the people despise. The good leader is he who the people revere. The great leader is he who the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’ 

To see things in the seed, that is genius. 

Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish – too much handling will spoil it. 

He who conquers others is strong; He who conquers himself is mighty. 

The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own. 

Great acts are made up of small deeds. 

He who is contented is rich. 

When virtue is lost, benevolence appears, when benevolence is lost right conduct appears, when right conduct is lost, expedience appears. Expediency is the mere shadow of right and truth; it is the beginning of disorder. 

One can not reflect in streaming water. Only those who know internal peace can give it to others. 

He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened. 

An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox. 

The people are hungry: It is because those in authority eat up too much in taxes. 

The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be. 

Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself. 

From wonder into wonder existence opens. 

I do not concern myself with gods and spirits either good or evil nor do I serve any. 

Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline; simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength. 

A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar. 

He who talks more is sooner exhausted. 

He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much. 

To lead people walk behind them. 

He who knows himself is enlightened. 

Great indeed is the sublimity of the Creative, to which all beings owe their beginning and which permeates all heaven. 

All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small. 

To know yet to think that one does not know is best; Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty. 

How could man rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men? 

The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself, The more he gives to others, the more he gets himself. The Way of Heaven does one good but never does one harm. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete. 

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. 

Silence is a source of great strength. 

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. 

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. 

From caring comes courage. 

Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment. 

He who does not trust enough, Will not be trusted. 

He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough. 

Because of a great love, one is courageous. 

If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present. 

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