51 Enlightening Quotes From the Tao Te Ching By Lao Tzu

51 Enlightening Quotes From the Tao Te Ching By Lao Tzu

Last Updated on March 27, 2024 by The Unbounded Thinker

The Tao Te Ching, a guide to living a peaceful life, is an ancient Chinese text written thousands of years ago. Many scholars disagree on the text’s authorship, but it is commonly agreed that the Tao Te Ching was written by Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher.

Regardless of who wrote the Tao Te Ching, this Chinese classic text has enlightening nuggets of wisdom important to those who want to understand the Tao – the core principle that underpins the universe – align themselves to it, and live a better life.

The Tao Te Ching is the foundational work of Taoism: a philosophy and religion that stresses the importance of going with the flow of life.

I read the Tao Te Ching and I collected 51 amazing quotes.

  1. “Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.”
  2. “The Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and he lets them come; things disappear and he lets them go. He has but doesn’t possess, acts but doesn’t expect. When his work is done, he forgets it. That is why it lasts forever.”
  3. “Practise action without striving and all will be in order.”
  4. “The Tao doesn’t take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil.”
  5. “The Tao is called the Great Mother: empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds. It is always present within you. You can use it any way you want.”
  6. “The master is detached from all things; that is why he is one with them.”
  7. “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”
  8. “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. The only path to serenity.”
  9. “Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.”
  10. “Have faith in the way things are.”
  11. “The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment. Not seeking, not expecting, she is present, and can welcome all things.”
  12. “When you realize where you come from, you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king. Immersed in the wonder of the Tao, you can deal with whatever life brings you, and when death comes, you are ready.”
  13. “Stop thinking, and end your problems.”
  14. “He who clings to his work will create nothing that endures. If you want to accord with the Tao, just do your job, then let go.”
  15. “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving.”
  16. “There is a time for being ahead, a time for being behind; a time for being in motion, a time for being at rest; a time for being vigorous, a time for being exhausted; a time for being safe, a time for being in danger.”
  17. “The Master sees things as they are, without trying to control them. He lets them go their own way, and resides at the center of the circle.”
  18. “The Master does his job and then stops. He understands that the universe is forever out of control, and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao.”
  19. “Because the master believes in himself, he doesn’t try to convince others. Because he is content with himself, he doesn’t need others’ approval. Because he accepts himself, the whole world accepts him.”
  20. “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”
  21. “The great Tao flows everywhere. All things are born from it, yet it doesn’t create them. It pours itself into its work, yet it makes no claim. It nourishes infinite worlds, yet it doesn’t hold on to them. Since it is merged with all things and hidden in their hearts, it can be called humble. Since all things vanish into it and it alone endures, it can be called great. It isn’t aware of its greatness; thus, it is truly great.”
  22. “If you want to take something, you must first allow it to be given.”
  23. “Let your workings remain a mystery. Just show people the results.”
  24. “The Tao never does anything, yet through it all things are done.”
  25. “When there is no desire, all things are at peace.”
  26. “The path into the light seems dark, the path forward seems to go back, the direct path seems long, true power seems weak.”
  27. “Ordinary men hate solitude. But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.”
  28. “If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled.”
  29. “The Master allows things to happen. He shapes events as they come. He steps out of the way and lets the Tao speak for itself.”
  30. “The more you know, the less you understand.”
  31. “In the pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added. In the practice of the Tao, every day something is dropped. Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action. When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way. It can’t be gained by interfering.”
  32. “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.”
  33. “Every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao.”
  34. “The Tao gives birth to all beings, nourishes them, maintains them, cares for them, comforts them, protects them, takes them back to itself, creating without possessing, acting without expecting, guiding without interfering. That is why love of the Tao is in the very nature of things.”
  35. “If you close your mind in judgments and traffic it with desires, your heart will be troubled. If you keep your mind from judging and aren’t led by the senses, your heart will find peace.”
  36. “Whoever is planted in the Tao will not be rooted up. Whoever embraces the Tao will not slip away. Her name will be held in honor from generation to generation.”
  37. “The Master’s power is like this. He lets all things come and go effortlessly, without desire. He never expects results; thus, he is never disappointed.”
  38. “Those who know don’t talk. Those who talk don’t know.”
  39. “If you want to be a great leader, you must learn to follow the Tao. Stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and concepts, and the world will govern itself.”
  40. Try to make people happy, and you lay the groundwork for misery. Try to make people moral, and you lay the groundwork for vice. Thus, the Master is content to serve as an example and not to impose her will. She is pointed, but doesn’t pierce. Straightforward, but supple. Radiant, but easy on the eyes.”
  41.  “A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake, he realizes it. Having realized it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers. He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts.”
  42. “Accomplish the great task by a series of small acts.”
  43. “The Master never reaches for the great; thus, he achieves greatness. When he runs into a difficulty, he stops and gives himself to it. He doesn’t cling to his own comfort; thus, problems are no problem for him.”
  44. “Rushing into action, you fail. Trying to grasp things, you lose them. Forcing a project to completion, you ruin what was almost ripe. Therefore, the Master takes action by letting things take their course. He remains as calm at the end as at the beginning.”
  45. “If you want to govern the people, you must place yourself below them. If you want to lead the people, you must learn how to follow them.”
  46. “I have just three things 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.”
  47. “Not-knowing is true knowledge. Presuming to know is a disease. First realize that you are sick; then you can move toward health.”
  48. “If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you aren’t afraid of dying, there is nothing you can’t achieve. Trying to control the future is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place. When you handle the master carpenter’s tools, chances are that you’ll cut yourself.”
  49. “Men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus, whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.”
  50. “The Master has no possessions. The more he does for others, the happier he is. The more he gives to others, the wealthier he is. The Tao nourishes by not forcing. By not dominating, the Master leads.”
  51. What the master desires is non-desire; what he learns is to unlearn.”

You must read the Tao Te Ching to access more nuggets of wisdom from Lao Tzu. It is an enlightening ancient text that encourages you to practice amor fati by not resisting life and accepting whatever happens.  

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