Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Lao Tzu, ne Li Urh, also Laotse, Lao Tse, Lao Tse, Lao Zi, Laozi, Lao Zi, La-tsze

Chinese Philosopher, Founder of Taoism, Author of Tao Te Ching (The Book of the Way and Its Power) and Hua Hu Ching

"All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power. If you want to govern people, you must place yourself below them. If you want to lead the people, you must learn how to follow them."

"Banish wisdom, throw away knowledge, and the people will benefit a hundredfold! Banish “humanity,” throw away righteousness, and the people will become conscientious and full of love! Banish skill, throw away profit and thieves and robbers will disappear!"

"As he succeeds, he takes no credit and just because he does not take it, credit never leaves him."

"As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear, and the next the people hate. When the best leader's work is done, the people say, 'We did it ourselves.’"

"Be the chief but never the lord."

"By accident of fortune a man may rule the world for a time, but by virtue of love how may rule the world forever."

"Creating without possessing, acting without expecting, guiding without interfering. That is why love of the Tao is in the very nature of things."

"The sage does not display himself, therefore he shines. He does not approve himself therefore he is noted. He does not praise himself, therefore he has merit. He does not glory in himself, therefore he excels."

"All things in nature work silently. They come into being and possess nothing. They fulfill their function and make no claim. All things alike do their work, and then we see them subside. When they have reached their bloom, each returns to its origin… This reversion is an eternal law. To know that law is wisdom."

"Be humble, and you will remain entire. Be bent, and you will remain straight. Be vacant, and you will remain full. Be worn, and you will remain new. He who has little will receive. He who has much will be embarrassed. Therefore the sage keeps to One and becomes the standard for the world."

"Be really whole and all things will come to you."

"Fame or integrity: which is more important? Money or happiness: which is more valuable? Success or failure: which is more destructive? If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be truly fulfilled. If you happiness depends on money you will never be happy with yourself. 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."

"Everything in the universe is created from something, which in turn is created from nothing."

"God’s Way is gain that works no harm."

"Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work, then step back. It’s the only path to serenity."

"Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations."

"Going back to the origin is called peace; it means reversion to destiny. Reversion to destiny is called eternity. He who knows eternity is called enlightened."

"Greed for enlightenment and immortality is no different than greed for material wealth."

"Good men are bad men’s instructors, and bad men are good men’s materials."

"For governing a country well thee is nothing better than moderation. The mark of a moderate man is freedom from his own ideas. Tolerant like the sky, all-pervading like sunlight, firm like a mountain, supple like a tree in the wind, he has no destination in view and makes use of anything life happens to bring his way. Nothing is impossible for him. Because he has let go, he can care for the people’s welfare as a mother cares for her child."

"He who defends with love will be secure; Heaven will save him, and protect him with love."

"He who by Tao purposes to help a ruler of men will oppose all conquest by force of arms; for such things are wont to rebound."

"He who regards many things easy will find many things difficult. Therefore the sage regards things difficult, an consequently never has difficulties."

"How can the divine Oneness be seen? In beautiful forms, breathtaking wonders, awe-inspiring miracles? The Tao is not obliged to present itself in this way. If you are willing to be lived by it, you will see it everywhere, even in the most ordinary things."

"He who is able to conquer others is powerful; he who is able to conquer himself is more powerful."

"I find good people good. And I find bad people good – if I am good enough."

"I have just three thins to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world."

"If you don’t trust the people, you make them untrustworthy."

"I observe myself and I come to know others."

"If you want to shrink something you must first allow it to expand. If you want to get rid of something, you must first allow it to flourish. If you want to take something, you must first allow it to be given. This is called the subtle perception of the way things are. The soft overcomes the hard. The slow overcomes the fast. Let your workings remain a mystery. Just show people the results."

"Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize you have enough, you are truly rich."

"Lay plans for the accomplishment of the difficult before it becomes difficult; make something big by starting with it when small."

"Knowledge creates doubt, and doubt makes you ravenous for more knowledge. You can’t get full eating this way. The wise person dines on something more subtle: he eats the understanding that the named was born from the unnamed, that all being flows from non-being, that the describable world emanates from an indescribable source. He finds this subtle truth inside his own self, and becomes completely content."

"On the one hand, loss implies gain; on the other hand, gain implies loss."

"Purity and stillness are the correct principles for mankind."

"The greatest wisdom seems like stupidity. The greatest eloquence like stuttering. Movement overcomes cold, but staying overcomes heat. So he by his limpid calm puts everything right under heaven."

"Of the best rulers the people (only) know that they exist; the next best they love and praise; the next they fear; 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.”"

"Requite anger with virtue."

"The chaff from winnowing will blind a man’s eyes so that he cannot tell the points of the compass. Mosquitoes will keep a man awake all night with their biting. And just in the same way this talk of charity and duty to one’s neighbor drives me nearly crazy. Sir! strive to keep the world to its own simplicity. And as the wind bloweth where it listeth, so let virtue establish itself. Wherefore such undue energy, as though searching for a fugitive with a big drum?"

"The highest good is like that of the water. The goodness of water is that it benefits the ten thousand creatures, yet itself does not scramble, but is content with the places that all men disdain."

"The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment. Not seeking, not expecting, she is present, and can welcome all things."

"The highest truth cannot be put into words. Therefore the greatest teacher has nothing to say. He simply gives himself in service, and never worries."

"The Master gives himself up to whatever the moment brings. He knows that he is going to die, and he has nothing left to hold on to: no illusion in his mind, no resistances in his body. He doesn’t think about his actions; they flow from the core of his being. He holds nothing back from life; therefore he is ready for death, as a man is ready for sleep after a good day’s work."

"The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be. The more weapons you have, the less secure the people will be. The more subsidies you have, the less self-reliant people will be."

"The more you know, the less you understand."

"The more law and orders are multiplied, the more theft and violence increase."

"The true master understands that enlightenment is not the end but the means. Realizing that virtue is her goal, she accepts the long and often arduous cultivation that is necessary to attain it. She doesn’t scheme to become a leader, but quietly shoulders whatever responsibilities fall to her. Unattached to her accomplishments, taking credit for nothing at all, she guides the whole world by guiding the individuals who come to her. she share her divine energy with her students, encouraging them, creating trials to strengthen them, scolding them to awaken them, directing the streams of their lives toward the infinite ocean of the Tao."

"The sage does not accumulate for 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 sufficiency of contentment is an enduring and unchanging sufficiency."

"The world is ruled by letting things take their course."