24 Pieces Of Wisdom From Lao Tzu

ISBN: 1479262897

My re-entry into Eastern philosophy has put Lao Tzu’s seminal work in my hand. It’s an introduction to Tao, a metaphysical Chinese philosophy. Here are my favorite quotes:

1. “To desire fame, wealth, and honor is to bring about a downfall of your own doing. When your work is done, then retire. The Sage seeks neither fame nor fortune. Withdrawing once the work is done in a natural manner. This is the way of the Tao.”

2. “Excessive desires will madden the mind. Excessive possessions preoccupy the mind with fear. The more you desire, the more you’ll be discontented from what you have. The Sage fills his belly, not his eyes. The Sage satisfies his inner desires with what cannot be seen, not with the external temptations of the world.”

3. “Meet failure or success with grace, honor and kindness.  Accept misfortune or fortune with grace, honor and kindness…  Accept all that comes your way”

4. “Clarity comes to muddy waters by being stilled. In being tranquil in the stillness brings about peace from the chaos.”

5. “Allow the ten thousand things to come and go while just observing. See how one ending is just another beginning.”

6. “More important is living in a simple manner within one’s own nature and keeping the well-being of others at heart. Living an unpretentious life with compassion and keeping your desires tempered is to live in your own true nature.”

7. “To have little leaves room for more.”

8. “He doesn’t compete therefore no one can compete with him.”

9. “High winds do not last the morning. Thunderstorms do not last all day.”

10. “The way of nature is the way of the Tao. Therefore you cannot improve upon nature. Those who try to change it in the end destroy it. Those who try to grasp it cannot hold it.”

11. “The wise only uses weapons when it cannot be avoided. The wise practice restraint and caution in the use of them. Never does the wise see glory in their use.”

12. “By not showing greatness is truly great.”

13. “The foolish man who is always trying to do, leaves much undone.”

14. “…being humble is the foundation of greatness.”

15. “For in gaining, one loses. For in losing, one gains.”

16. “The man attached to fame and wealth will suffer. By gaining the man will still lose.”

17. “The greatest sin for man is desire. The greatest misfortune for man is discontentment. The greatest violation for man is coveting that of others. Therefore the man being in a state of contentment is always contented.”

18. “Exhaustion is caused by doing too much. Whoever behaves in this manner will have their years reduced for it is not natural.”

19. “In nature the difficult things are done in an easy manner, great things are made up by the acts of small things. This is the nature of nature, achieving greatness with no effort. This is the law of natural progression. The Sage is like nature in achieving greatness by practicing the law of natural progression in doing small acts to obtain greatness.”

20. “From not putting oneself ahead of others come leadership.”

21. “When you realize that death is nothing more than an illusion then your fear of death disappears. Men who live in fear of death are afraid of breaking the laws that result in death.”

22. “Keeping balance and harmony by taking from an overabundance and giving to where there is a deficiency.”

23. “Therefore the Sage gives without needing recognition, serves without bringing attention to his actions, he achieves without the need of reward. Once his work is accomplished he moves on. He shows no desire except to help others for this is his wisdom.”

24. “The wise do not argue to prove a point. The men that argue their point are not wise.”

This brief book leverages observations of nature for guiding humans on how to live. Many analogies use streams, trees, or animals. If you want more explanation into the concepts of Tao, I highly recommend The Empty Boat by Osho.

Read More: “Tao Te Ching” on Amazon

79 thoughts on “24 Pieces Of Wisdom From Lao Tzu”

  1. This seems like a way for a harmonious society and is in opposition to our current malaise of fame-seeking, selfishness-based and posession-orientated excuse of a society. I think some of our current issues may be slightly beyond the Tao as feminism and its attendent problems are only a recent phenomenon.
    This was a key paraphrase ;“When you realize that death is nothing more than an illusion then your fear of death disappears. Men who live in fear of death are afraid of breaking the laws that result in death.”
    We will be surely tested for this one day, as our rights disappear to appease the gynocentric police state.

    1. Hm. There’s a difference between what is preached and what is practiced. East Asians countries revel in materialism and selfishness, it’s this same drive that makes us the only economically successful sphere outside the West. There was a poll just last year showing that Chinese, Japanese and Koreans valued money far more than any other country in the world. We just put a nice moral coating on it.
      What is meant by “harmony” is something more like conflict avoidance, as long your complaint isn’t too serious. The concept was designed to keep a large and diverse Chinese population stable, whereas the West seems to agitate over every little minority complaint while telling themselves they’re ‘making the world a better place’.

  2. Some of that seems wise, other aspects of this philosophy look like a way of ending up a passive door mat that everyone walks over. I suppose at least you end up at peace with being a door mat.

    1. The greatest sin for man is desire.
      Including the desire not to be a doormat. Be a doormat. Since most men linger at the entrance of “being someone or something,” the door to humility is one that is rarely passed through, and the doormat is rarely stepped on.
      Better a doormat to the portal of humility than a tread on the stairway of success that many men trample as they walk over you on their way to the top.

    2. For me its mambo jambo too. Makes you weak and passive. You become invisible that way and what the fucking life is that? Pffft

  3. Tauism is reason that the ancient Asian civilizations did not achieve what the west did. They only want to not feel pain.

    1. I think it’s more complex than that. Also, bear in mind that Asiatic civilization was far more advanced then European Civilization until the 16th century…

      1. *than. European Civilization blew the doors off other empires in terms of the caliber of men it milled out. They built ships of wood able to dare oceans, then conquered lands on the other side of oceans. English, Spanish, etc. those guys had balls.

        1. What happened to those empires and how long did they last? Their best genes were wiped out in senseless wars and in a generation they will be enslaved by muslim savages. The Chinese keep chugging along

    2. East asian culture takes a less confrontational perspective. Makes sense looking at western empires, america included, who spend on weapons/warfare and subsequently burn themselves out after 100, 200 years vs. an asian focus on culture/economy. Chinese GPD pre 1600’s was way ahead of western countries for hundreds of years before industrialisation. Looking at the western vs. Chinese economy now it makes sense

  4. Im sure a lot of people will say that these quotes are un-alpha or whatever because they want you to accept your fate, be kind and set little stock in worldly possessions. One thing people should always keep in mind when reading eastern philosophy is not to take everything they say exactly the way its first presented.

    1. also either im having a moment or disqus is messing up because it says I typed this up 15 hours ago. I typed it maybe 5 minutes ago.

  5. Eh… I guess either I desire too much or I’m just not thinking about these concepts as clearly, but these are not particularly useful.

    1. I think this is one of those “It’s not the thoughts; it’s the thinking.”

  6. The philosophy seems to repeatedly come back to desire being the root of all misfortune, but, without desire, aren’t we just empty shells?
    I would think desire is essential, especially for men like us.

    1. Fill the belly, not the eyes. Desire only that which you really need. Fuck the rest. Philosophy is a more natural fit with MGTOW than is it with PUA.

      1. Ah, good insight! I think you nailed it there. And now that you mention it, this does sound a lot like MGTOW.

  7. Nietzschean slave morality for the downtrodden and powerless. Much of Daoism was a response to Confucius and the Chinese Classics, which were thoroughly imbedded in Chinese culture and politics- if you weren’t a good Classicist, then you were nothing. Rather than knowledge of the rigid customs that dominated Chinese life, Daoism emphasized the ever changing nature of life, the inanity of rules-based living, and the transience of worldly possessions such as power and wealth. Daoism is a radical push for equality in the face of Aristocracy by bald assertion that “the Way” booty plays us no matter what and the wise man knows how to accept loss and pain without too much clinging to comfort, life, possessions, health, you name it. This transposition of values is textbook salve morality.

    1. Daoism is not a push for equality. Daoism does not push or pull for anything. That would be a contradiction of its own principles.
      Daoism was approved and promoted by the powerful since it was a philosophy presented in the form of symbols and analogies and a rather obscure language.
      Philosophies of this kind can be repackaged for the illiterate masses easily. Just like Nietzche’s sister did with Thus Spoke Zarathustra and the Nazi movement.
      Lao Zi is essentially an Anarchist. Just like Nietzsche and Subcomandante Marcos and Rage Against The Machine.

      1. The thrust of Doaism seems to be that suffering is the product of an unwillingness to accept change- i.e. we are clingy. We cling to such things as glory, wealth, power, pleasure, and life. No doubt, these things are fleeting for the individual, but they have a way of going on after the individual perishes (through children and annals). It is pernicious to teach that this stuff does not matter, that it only adds suffering upon suffering, and that the true path to happiness is to quash any desire in these worldly pursuits. “With no desire/At rest and still/All things go right/As of their will” (Translation: James Legge; my favorite Orientalist). This quote from Laozi is still framed and on display in my old room at my parents’ house. At the time it was a reminder that my desire meant nothing since shit would happen to me and around me whether I gave my blessings or not, and the only way for me to be happy would be to learn how to accept the forces bearing down upon me, and learn how to call this acceptance “good.” Also by implication, any struggle against these forces would be fruitless, egomaniacal, and bad. The lesson I drew was summed up quite nicely by a fellow commenter here, StochasticFacts: “this philosophy look[s] like a way of ending up a passive door mat that everyone walks over. I suppose at least you end up at peace with being a door mat.” If I’m going to be walked over no matter what, then happiness must be some shred of contentment with the fact. The “no matter what” is problematic, unless you are a slave. Anyone with the power to create for themselves has little need for the power of accepting their own destruction. Accepting death and change and the things one cannot control is de rigeur, but then what? Does our contentment to “go with the flow” really suffice, or are we just pretending? The pretending is the trick that grants power to the slave, much in the way that the tortured man pretends to not care about his pain as an insidious ploy to gain power over his torturer. If you could have real power over the torturer, the kind you might fantasize about rather than resigning yourself to, then you would take that power in a heart beat and become the master. If your constitution and efforts in life have built the capacity for such power, then you are not only doing yourself a disservice by degrading your existence with self-flagellation (over the thoughts of achieving control over the things within your power, however fleeting), but you are also cheating history. All around you- nature, things, people are begging to be mastered; if you can, then you should, otherwise you’ll be miserable and constantly wondering when the “happiness” bit, or “contentment,” comes about. You will be struggling with yourself if not something else, and you will suffer all the more for the disingenuous self-estimation that relegates you to the lower depths rather than exalted heights. While I’m not well read in Anarchist literature, it does strike me as exactly what you’re denying- a radical equalization of humans, which denies the existence of Natural Slaves and thus the need for the powers that be to control them. My apologies for the one-paragraph format, for some reason Disqus won’t allow indentation when I’m replying to a comment.

  8. Materialism is beta. I actually see a lot of parallels to
    Christianity here. Humble yourself before God as it were. Not slave
    morality in the slightest. God is hierarchy. Taoism and Confucianism
    shouldn’t be looked at as oppositional. This was a rookie mistake I made
    when first studying my heritage. When the two are synthesized you get
    the reason for China’s successes in history. It’s the same spirit and
    ideas held by Christianity that led the West to glory.

    1. I could make the argument that christianity was the major cause of the downfall of the roman empire and the church created by it started and kept europe in the dark ages until the renaissance when people had the means to think outside of it.

      1. If you do make that argument you’d just be a dirty liberal. God is dead and that’s caused all our problems. It caused Feminism. The roots can be traced all the way back to that Enlightenment you so admire. Dark Ages is a misnomer. At least there they had patriarchy.

        1. ‘They’ had patriarchy? Only the barons with the magna carta and slowly expanding. Most men were serfs = accessory property attached to real estate. The king theoretically owned everything, then the grip weakened. Napolean was a breath of fresh air in a stagnate blueblood pall. Christianity thrived in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire another 1000 years, and what has come out of that place since Rome fell. Not much. Patriarchy of free men is a relatively recent phenomenon associated with weath and disposable time. Religion is old and not. Think forward. (Not like a progressive but like a man.) Conservatives play the losers who never go on offense. Left-right paradigm is a lie. Mercantile revolution caused feminism.

        2. I’m no Conservative. I’m a Reactionary. Right-Wing Progressive. Just because they were serfs doesn’t mean they weren’t patriarchs. This site is even called Return of Kings ffs, so I don’t know what you’re doing here.

        3. here is something simple to look at then: the history of concrete. the romans perfected it, but it was lost in “the fall” and was not rediscovered until the 1700’s. god isnt dead, just middle eastern superstitions

        4. Cut the sarcasm; we wouldn’t be able to read Tacitus or any of the other histories if Annals and the like weren’t stored in abbeys watched over by Christian monks.

        5. The Eastern Roman Empire was actually the more advanced half (to my knowledge) until Turks came a plundering.
          During the Middle Ages the Venetian Republic was the most advanced part of the West, and it had many trading connections and colonies in the East.

        6. Inevitably though, the East would have been on the decline while the West began its upswing, Turk or no Turk.

        7. uh if you think monasteries were the only repositories of knowledge in the world during those times then you are truly misguided

        8. Our founding fathers had it right, too bad country is hardly based on that wisdom any longer.

      2. Stefan Molyneux makes a great argument for the downfall of Rome and doesn’t include the church as even part of the reason. He draws so many parallels with today, it is a good video.
        I would ask you, if it did lead to the fall, why was America doing so well until we basically abandoned Christianity? 18th and 19th century American Christians weren’t a bunch of weak pascifist pussies. But most modern atheists and fem Christians both are pretty noodley armed. In today’s non religious feminized matriarch we are falling.

  9. Or, as Phil Robertson would say, “Happy happy happy.”
    All things in moderation, including contentment. We’ll never explore the stars if we just be content and let things naturally progress. Our greatest achievement as a species was due to competition between the two superpowers of the time. And barring a meteor strike, those footprints will last forever.

  10. Lao Tzu shows the problems with premodern views of wealth. In today’s world, wealth just buys you a whole lot of options which our ancestors couldn’t even have imagined, like the ability to get yourself and your family out of harm’s way.
    For example, in Lao Tzu’s time, when the local river flooded, you just had to accept the death and devastation and philosophize about the vanity of earthly values, because you couldn’t do anything about the disaster any way. In today’s world, by contrast, your society could build flood controls to manage the risks, and if the river flooded regardless, you could put the family in the car, on the train, or even in an aircraft and move them to a hotel with a decent restaurant on higher ground to wait it out.

  11. Many of these quotes seem similar to the doctrines taught in Stoicism, especially those of Seneca.

  12. Perhaps the deepest philosophy of all is moral and ethical philosophy. What is so interesting in studying comparative philosophy is to see the commonalities between the ancient Chinese sages and other similar systems. Buddhism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Cynicism, etc. all share common mantras.
    If wise men from widely disparate cultures are saying similar things, then you know it’s a good idea.

    1. Agree, also the best philosophers were elitists. Plato, Confucius, Epicurius, Diogenes, forgive me because I’ve sinned.

    2. I find it especially fascinating that so many sages recommend sex only for procreation or even not at all—though perhaps this is merely convergent evolution in a hard-to-fake show of devotion.

      1. “I find it especially fascinating that so many sages recommend sex only for procreation or even not at all”
        Yeah… but men still need to dump their loads for the sake of dumping their loads; it is necessary.

    3. “What is so interesting in studying comparative philosophy is to see the commonalities between the ancient Chinese sages and other similar systems. Buddhism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Cynicism, ”
      Agreed. In fact some of these are taught in Christianity – supposed Christ himself went to India and no doubt got his influence from there.

      1. Only people who know nothing of Christianity, Judaism, or Indians religions spew the “Jesus went to India and became Buddhist xDDD” meme.
        The commonalities in ancient ethical systems exist because they all reflect natural law.

        1. “The commonalities in ancient ethical systems exist because they all reflect natural law”
          I’ll buy that.

        2. I currently benefit around $6 thousand-$8 thousand every month for freelance tasks i do at home. So if you are ready to work simple computer-based task for 2h-5h /a day from your sofa at home and gain decent benefit while doing it… This is an opportunity for you… http://2.gp/G8zm

  13. I remember reading something along the lines of “He who knows, does not speak; and he who speaks, does not know.”
    The tragedy is someone had to speak to tell us this.

  14. I’m a fan of the Eastern stuff too, however i think the best individual book is Tat Tvam Asi (That Thou Art). A must read.

  15. Look at you guys. Qouting Nietzche, Osho, Lao Tzu. The greatness of mankind WHO shaped the reality of our universe through the indulgement of sacred words that are meant to heal humanity from the lack of compliance which is suffocated by the present of our time on the surface of our existence which none of you would even understand. You guys seriously believe that Qouting a genius makes yourselve a genius? You seriously believe that you all are walking In the same footsteps as Napeolonr did? Grace yourselve for the longexisted foolishness which is fallen over you. I pitty this so called alpha mentality which have corrupted the mantra of simplicity of our own human existence. Raskolnikov was right. Beliving in greatness without acheving it is the fundamental reason of mediocrity disguised in the reflection of your own corrupted ego. So what the hell do you think Roosh, that Those philosphical statements are Applied to you? Is so. Then this page wouldn’t even existed.

    1. Should we judge you as well? What am I to make of that name and that questionable typing?

      1. You lack compliance, which is suffocated by the present of our time on the surface of our existence. Of course, none of us understand this.

      2. Yeah. I’m reluctant to take the intellect of someone seriously if they can’t proofread their shit for spelling and syntax errors. It kinda undermines the whole “I’m smarter than you” sentiment of his post.

    2. Man, I really believe that all of these great people you mention had/stilll have their vices: women and narcotics mostly.
      Nietzsche: prostitutes and opium
      Lao Zi: cannabis or 麻。 The cannabis plant has its own Chinese logogram and an extensive history of use as medicine and as a form of intoxication. I mean, seriously, you have to be high to come up with philosophical thoughts like those.
      Osho: This dude parties a lot. No doubt about it. Women and narcotics.
      Those guys who achieve genius know what they want from life. Pussy and drugs. Why? Because every normal guy wants the same stuff.
      Do you like to get drunk and fuck girls you find attractive? Nietzsche, Lao Zi and Osho like exactly the same stuff.
      Honestly man, this site is pretty cool. Everyone here has something interesting to share. Try to read some more and go with the flow, like Lao Zi does.
      Sex, drugs and rock n roll are always fresh.

  16. Teaching no. 11 is about political power. Being fond of it, definitely unwise.
    Lao Zi is one of the fathers of philosophical Anarchism.
    Teaching no. 24 is about the imposition of ideas on others, both by force and manipulation. Unwise, no doubt about it.
    People do not enjoy being afraid of submitting their will to others.

  17. Read teaching no. 10. Now think about Monsanto.
    By the way, fuck overtime work. Fucking up one’s health is not worth and end of year bonus or more social recognition (Teaching no. 18).

  18. Taoism is probably the Eastern philosophy that is most aligned with the manosphere. It emphasizes individuality and letting go of petty things. Unfortunately, like most ideas that have spread widely and into popular consciousness, most of its practitioners don’t really walk the walk.

  19. Following this stuff in today’s age will likely get you fired and killed. I would have to believe that skid row is not an ideal in any world to be at peace. Look around. We all compete and like it or not that is how the world works. Tao smoking his pipe and sitting around the campfire is long gone.

  20. 10. “The way of nature is the way of the Tao. Therefore you cannot improve upon nature. Those who try to change it in the end destroy it. Those who try to grasp it cannot hold it.”
    Wait!! I thought Nature was invented by George Soros to justify his carbon tax?
    /Sarcasm off.
    It’s good to see at least someone around here is developing some ecological consciousness.
    And #22 sounds like socialism.

  21. I read, in the magnificent Jane English translation, which is more lyrical and less pedestrian, the following:
    Therefore when Tao is lost, there is goodness.
    When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
    When kindness is lost, there is justice.
    When justice is lost, there is ritual.
    Now ritual is the husk of faith
    When I first read that, I thought it meant that when a society devolves to ritual, the husk is empty of faith, and it’s just a sham, like when Obama or Clinton (or Bush or Reagan) go to church.
    But it’s also true, that for the spiritually lost, the ritual is the husk that protects and nurtures the growing faith, just as in nature the corn’s husk protects the ear. In my battle against alcohol, I have found the rituals of AA useful in guiding me through my denials, and leading me to a spot where, even if I still am not sure about a ‘loving, caring god’, there is still a metaphysical set of rules, just as there are physical ones. To those who denounce spiritualism because it does not yield to ‘scientific’ measurement, I ask: what about magnetism or electricity 3,000 years ago? We couldn’t explain or quantify them then, but they certainly existed.
    There is a great deal of practical wisdom in the Tao!

Comments are closed.