Favourites on Friday - Eastern Philosophy Quotes: Lao Tzu

I’ve saved my favourite for last.  Laozi, or as he is more commonly known, Lao Tzu, was a poet philosopher.  

Reputedly the author of theTao Te Ching, he is also the founder of Taosim.  As such, he was worshipped as a religious figure, with the nameTàishàng Lǎojūn, which means ‘Supreme Old Lord’.  It is now believed, however, that theTao was ‘ a compilation of Taoist sayings by many hands’. 

It is not known exactly when he lived; historians put him between the 6th and 4th century BC.  Traditionally, it is believed that Laozi was a scholar who worked as the Keeper of the Archives for the royal court of Zhou.  Some accounts say he was married.  Others say he grew weary of the declining morality and increasing corruption, and ventured to the wild and unsettled west to live as a hermit.  According to this story, he was recognised by the guard, Yinxi, at the western gate of the kingdom.  The guard would not let him pass until he had agreed to record his wisdom for the good of the country.  The text that Laozi wrote was the Tao Te Ching.  Some say Yinxi became a disciple of Laozi and journeyed with him.  There are those who believe Laozi travelled to India where he became the teacher of the prince Siddharta, who became the Buddha.

Laozi leaving for the west on a water buffalo

During the Han dynasty, as Taoism grew in strength and popularity, Laozi began to be worshipped as a god, and the first organised religious Taoist sect, the Way of the Celestial Master, was formed.

I love his sayings, and would happily list as many as I can find … but shall limit myself :)

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

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

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

‘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.’

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

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

‘When you are content to be simply yourself, and do not compare or compete, everybody will respect you.’

‘Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.’

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

‘At the centre of your being, you have the answer; you know who you are, and you know what you want.’

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

‘Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.’

‘Silence is a source of great strength.’

‘If you realise 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.’

(Pictures taken at ingston Lacy House April 2010)

Favourites on Friday - Eastern Philosophy Quotes: Sun Tzu

His birth name was Sun Wu, but he is famously known as Sun Tzu, an honorific which means ‘Master Sun’.  

Sun Tzu - statue in Tottori, Japan

Even though it is not known when, exactly, he lived, it is generally believed that this Chinese general, strategist and philosopher lived from 544 – 496BC.  Sun Tzu was also the author of the ancient Chinese book on military strategy and tactics, ‘The Art of War’, with each of the 13 chapters focusing on one aspect of warfare.  

'The Art of War' - classic bamboo book from the reign of the Qianlong Emperor

Its fame and impact was such that even the common people knew it by name, and it has influenced, not only the military thinking of the East and West, but also business tactics and legal strategy, among other things.

‘War’ quotes these may be, but I think a case can be made for their relevance to living a courageous, honourable life, whether one is a soldier or not.

‘The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.’

‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.’

‘He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.’

‘The general who advances without coveting fame, and retreats without facing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.’

‘Pretend inferiority, and encourage his arrogance.’

‘The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.’

‘Confront them with annihilation, and they will then survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will then live.  When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory.’

‘A good commander is benevolent and unconcerned with fame.’

‘There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefitted.’

‘The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.’

( Pictures aken Mar 2010 at Old Sarum)

Favourites on Friday - Eastern Philosophy Quotes: Mencius

Following on from the great Confucius, we have one of the principal interpreters of Confucianism, Mencius, who is also known by his birth name, Meng Ke (or Meng Ko).  

A Chinese philosopher and sage, he travelled China, like Confucius before him, offering advice to rulers in the hopes they would reform.  Unlike Confucius, Mencius focussed more on human nature, especially the inherent goodness of the individual; he believed a person was not born with bad moral character, but developed it because of society’s failure to provide a positive cultivating influence.

‘Kindly words do not enter so deeply into men as a reputation for kindness’

‘The way of learning is none other than finding the lost mind’

Oct 2009 - Tank Museum

‘Friends are the siblings God never gave us’

‘He who exerts his mind to the utmost knows his nature’

Oct 2009 - Tank Museum

‘Let men decide firmly what they will not do, and they will be free to do vigorously what they ought to do’

‘The root of the kingdom is in the state.  The root of the state is in the family.  The root of the family is in the person of its head’

‘The people are the most important element in a nation; the spirits of the land and grain are the next; the sovereign is the least’

‘Let not a man do what his sense of right bids him not to do, nor desire what it forbids him to desire.  This is sufficient.  The skilful artist will not alter his measures for the sake of a stupid workman’

‘Evil exists to glorify the good.  Evil is negative good.  It is a relative term.  Evil can be transmuted into good.  What is evil to one at one time, becomes good at another time to somebody else’

‘… I like life, and I also like righteousness.  If I cannot keep the two together, I will let life go, and choose righteousness’

Favourites on Friday - Eastern Philosophy Quotes: Confucius

Came across a couple of inspiring quotes during the week, which inspired today’s post.  As the first one I came across was by Confucius, thought I’d start with him.  

And a joke that was one of my aunt’s staples – ‘During a lively party, the lights went out, and people started to get worried until someone spoke up.  He told them not to worry, and for everyone to hold their hands up.  They did, at which point the lights came back on.  When they asked him how he’d managed that, he said, ‘Confucius, he say, many hands make light work.’’  I know, it’s a bit of a groan-inducer, but she loved it.  As to whether Confucius ever said that … However he did say …

‘Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall’

‘You cannot open a book without learning something’

‘Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it’

‘Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire’

‘Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous’

‘Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage’

‘To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge’

‘To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue.  These five are gravity, generosity of spirit, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness’

'The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools’

‘I want you to be everything that is you, deep at the centre of your being’

[Pictures are mine]