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Quotes and Sayings of Lao Tzu

  1. My words are easy to understand and easy to put into practice. Yet no one under heaven understands them or puts them into practice.
  2. Greatness has its source in the little. The low is the foundation of the high.
  3. Develop the strength of a man, but live as gently as a woman.
  4. If the people are simple and free from desire, then the clever ones never dare to interfere.
  5. The Tao is like an empty bowl, yet it may be used without ever needing to be filled. It is the deep and unfathomable source of the ten thousand things.
  6. Good words are appreciated. Good deeds are accepted as gifts.
  7. When desires are restrained there will be peace, and then all under heaven will be at rest.
  8. Handle the difficult while it is still easy. Cultivate the great while it is still small.
  9. Giving life without claiming authority, benefiting without demanding gratitude, guiding without control. This is called hidden Virtue.
  10. Better to stop in time than to fill to the brim. Hone a blade to the sharpest point, and it will soon be blunt. Fill your house with gold and jade, and no one can protect it. Be prideful about wealth and position, and you bring disasters upon yourself. Retire when the work is done. This is the way of heaven.
  11. The True Person is detached and humble and to the world appears confusing. The people all strain their eyes and ears, yet the True Person remains childlike.
  12. Whoever wishes to take over the world will not succeed. The world is a sacred vessel and nothing should be done to it. Whoever tries to tamper with it will mar it. Whoever tries to grab it will lose it.
  13. Though the Uncarved Block is small, it is not inferior to anything under heaven.
  14. If you are content, You will always have enough.
  15. Give up shrewdness, discard gain, and thieves and robbers will disappear.
  16. A truly good person functions without ulterior motive. A moralist acts out of private desires.
  17. The True Person does not have an individual heart but uses the heart of the people.
  18. There is no disaster greater than attacking and finding no enemy.
  19. The way of heaven is to benefit and not to harm. The way of the True Reason is to assist without striving in the unfolding of the story of the earth.
  20. The best leader is one whose existence is barely known by the people. Next comes one whom they love and praise. Next comes one they fear. Next comes one they defy.
  21. A skilled warrior does not rush ahead of others A skilled fighter does not make a show of anger.
    A skilled victor does not seek revenge. A skilled employer does not act superior.
  22. A tree as big as a person’s embrace begins as a tiny shoot. A terrace nine stories high rises from a shovelful of earth. A journey of a thousand miles begins under your feet.
  23. The hoarder will suffer great loss. Be content with what you have and you will not be disgraced. Know when to stop and you will be preserved from danger. Only in this way will you long endure.
  24. Those who look only at themselves see little. Those who justify themselves are not distinguished. Those who brag have no merit. The work of prideful people will not endure.
  25. A great country is like the low lands where all the streams unite.
  26. Practice action without striving and all will be in order.
  27. Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.
  28. Trying to fill life to the brim invites a curse. For the mind to make demands upon the breath of life brings strain.
  29. Those who delight in the slaughter of people will never thrive among all that dwell under heaven.
  30. Everyone knows that the yielding overcomes the stiff, and the soft overcomes the hard. Yet no one applies this knowledge.
  31. Whatever has been forced to a peak of vigour approaches its decay. This is not the way of Tao.
    And that which goes against the Tao will quickly pass away.
  32. The True Person governs by emptying the heart of desire and filling the belly with food,
    weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.
  33. The Tao is hidden and nameless; yet, it is the Tao alone that supports all things
    and brings them to completion.
  34. I have three treasures that I cherish and hold fast. The first is gentleness, the second is simplicity, the third is daring not to be first among all things under heaven.
  35. The Tao never strives, yet nothing is left undone. If leaders were able to adhere to it the ten thousand things would develop of their own accord.
  36. Do not look only at yourself, and you will see much. Do not justify yourself, and you will be distinguished. Do not brag, and you will have merit. Do not be prideful, and your work will endure.
  37. That which goes against the Tao will quickly pass away.
  38. All under heaven will return to the Tao as brooks and streams flow home to the sea.
  39. A person of high virtue is not conscious of virtue and therefore possesses Virtue. A person of little virtue tries to be virtuous and therefore lacks Virtue.
  40. To know that you have enough is to be rich.
  41. The True Person benefits yet expects no reward, does the work and moves on. There is no desire to be considered better than others.
  42. Why are the people starving? Because their leaders eat up too much of the tax-grain; that is why the people are starving.
  43. There is no greater offence than harbouring desires.There is no greater disaster than discontent.
    There is no greater misfortune than wanting more.
  44. The wise student on hearing the Tao diligently puts it into practice. The average student on hearing the Tao keeps it one minute and loses it the next.
  45. Those who hold fast to the Tao do not try to fill themselves to the brim. Because they do not try to be full they can be worn out and yet ever new.
  46. Returning is the direction of the Tao. Yielding is the way of the Tao. The ten thousand things are born of Being and Being is born of Nonbeing.
  47. The ten thousand things flourish and then each returns to the root from which it came. Returning to the root is stillness. Through stillness each fulfils its destiny.
  48. The True Person avoids extremes, self-indulgence, and extravagance.
  49. If you would assist leaders of people by way of the Tao, you will oppose the use of armed force to overpower the world.
  50. Few things under heaven bring more benefit thanthe lessons learned from silence and the actions taken without striving.
  51. The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
  52. True Persons do not hoard. Using all they have for others, they still have more. Giving all they have to others, they are richer than before.
  53. In all things under heaven the female overcomes the male by her stillness, and because she is still she lies below.
  54. What is well rooted cannot be pulled up. What is firmly grasped will not slip loose. It will be honoured from generation to generation.
  55. The True Person does not harm the people. Whenever there is no harm done, that power flows into the common Virtue.
  56. Weapons are not proper instruments for gentle people; they use them only when they have no other choice. Peace and quiet are what they value. They do not glory in victory.
  57. How did the sea gain kingship of a hundred streams? Because it takes the lower position. Hence, it is king of a hundred streams.
  58. Help the people live! Nourish the people! Help them live yet lay no claim to them. Benefit them yet seek no gratitude. Guide them yet do not control them. This is called the hidden Virtue.
  59. The Tao is forever nameless.
  60. In the pursuit of learning, every day something is added. In the pursuit of the Tao, every day something is dropped.
  61. Many words lead to exhaustion. Better to hold fast to your centre.
  62. Fish are best left in deep waters. And, weapons are best kept out of sight.
  63. Surrender your self-interest. Love others as much as you love yourself. Then you can be entrusted with all things under heaven.
  64. Act without striving. Work without interfering. Find the flavour in what is flavourless.
  65. The True Person does not wish to be great and therefore becomes truly great.
  66. Heaven and earth last forever. The reason why heaven and earth last forever is that they do not live for themselves. Hence, they last forever.
  67. The ancients who practised the Tao did not use it to enlighten the people, but rather to assist them in gaining simplicity. The reason people are difficult to govern is because they are too clever.
  68. People often ruin their ventures when they are on the verge of success. So, be as careful at the end as at the beginning,  and your work will not be ruined.
  69. Knowing others is to be clever. Knowing yourself is to be enlightened. Overcoming others requires force. Overcoming yourself requires strength.


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