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27 Timeless Tao Te Ching Quotes That Speak to the Soul

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27 Timeless Tao Te Ching Quotes That Speak to the Soul

Brief and brimming with timeless wisdom, each of these Tao Te Ching quotes pulled me right in. Since this classic text has been inspiring people all over the world for centuries, I thought it appropriate to share my favorite poetic passages with you here.

The foundation of my spiritual practice: swim with the mysteries.

Credited to the sage Lao Tzu, the Tao Te Ching is “one of the true classics of world literature” that sums up the spiritual essence of life and has left countless people wondering how they can follow the rhythm of nature.

Uncovering the true meaning of the passages—that were written thousands of years ago in classical Chinese on bamboo, silk, and paper manuscripts using intentionally vague wording—is sort of like piecing together a puzzle.

There are more than 250 translations floating around today.

Tao or Dao literally means “way” and implies the essential, unnamable process of the universe. Teh or Te means “virtue” or “integrity” and Ching or Jing in this context means “great book” or “classic.”

The Tao Te Ching can be translated as the “Book of the Way and of Virtue” or “The Classic of the Way’s Virtue(s).”

Here is how the Tao is described in the book:

Silent and boundless,

Standing along without change,

Yet pervading all without fail,

It may be regarded as the Mother of the world.

I do not know its name;

I style it “Tao”;

And, in the absence of a better word, call it

“The Great.”

 

The Tao is to the world what a great river or an ocean is to the streams and brooks.

I cherish my copy of the Tao Te Ching and highly recommend this gem be on everyone’s nightstand for reflection and reconnection to the very essence of life.

Here are the quotes from the classic that really spoke to me.

27 Tao Te Ching Quotes That Speak to My Soul

1. “Between Heaven and Earth, / There seems to be a Bellows: / It is empty, and yet it is inexhaustible; / The more it works, the more comes out of it. / No amount of words can fathom it: / Better look for it within you.” — Tao Te Ching

2. “How do I know the way of all things at the Beginning? By what is within me.” — Tao Te Ching

3. “Indeed, the hidden and the manifest give birth to each other.” — Tao Te Ching

4. “The Mystery of mysteries is the Door of all essence.” — Tao Te Ching

5. “Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub; / It is on the hole in the center that the use of the cart hinges. / We make a vessel from a lump of clay; / It is the empty space within that makes it useful. / We make doors and windows for a room; / But it is these empty spaces that make the room livable. / Thus, while the tangible has advantages, / It is the intangible that makes it useful.” — Tao Te Ching

6. “To return to the root is to find peace. / To find peace is to fulfill one’s destiny.” — Tao Te Ching

7. “Only simple and quiet words will ripen of themselves. For a whirlwind does not last a whole morning. Nor does a sudden shower last a whole day.” — Tao Te Ching

8. “To be great is to go on, / To go on is to be far, / To be far is to return.” — Tao Te Ching

7. “Heaviness is the root of lightness. / Serenity is the master of restlessness.” — Tao Te Ching

10. “The world is a sacred vessel, which must not be tampered with or grabbed after. To tamper with it is to spoil it, and to grasp it is to lose it.”— Tao Te Ching

11. “He who knows men is clever;  / He who knows himself has insight. / He who conquers men has force; / He who conquers himself is truly strong.” — Tao Te Ching

12. “Truly, humility is the root from which greatness springs, / And the high must be built upon the foundation of the low… / Truly, too much honor means no honor.”— Tao Te Ching

13. “All the myriad things carry the Yin on their backs and hold the Yang in their embrace, / Deriving their vital harmony from the proper blending of the two vital Breaths.”— Tao Te Ching

14. “Few things under heaven are as instructive as the lessons of Silence.”— Tao Te Ching

15. “To know when you have enough is to be immune from disgrace. / To know when to stop is to be preserved from perils. / Only thus can you endure long.”— Tao Te Ching

16. “There is no calamity like not knowing what is enough. / There is no evil like covetousness. / Only he who knows what is enough will always have enough.”— Tao Te Ching

17. “To be frugal is to return before straying.”— Tao Te Ching

18. “Bad fortune is what good fortune leans on, / Good fortune is what bad fortune hides in. / Who knows the ultimate end of this process?”— Tao Te Ching

19. “Use the lights, but return to your insight.”— Tao Te Ching

20. “If only the ruler and his people would refrain from harming each other, all the benefits of life would accumulate in the kingdom.”— Tao Te Ching

21. “Nip troubles in the bud. / Sow the great in the small.”— Tao Te Ching

22. “Big things of the world / Can only be achieved by attending to their small beginnings.”— Tao Te Ching

23. “Tackle things before they have appeared. / Cultivate peace and order before confusion and disorder have set in.”— Tao Te Ching

24. “A tree as big as a man’s embrace springs from a tiny sprout. / A tower nine stories high begins with a heap of earth. / A journey of a thousand leagues starts from where your feet stand.”— Tao Te Ching

23. “Only when we are sick of our sickness / Shall we cease to be sick.”— Tao Te Ching

26. “Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water; / But, for attacking the hard and strong, there is nothing like it! / For nothing can take its place. / That the weak overcomes the strong, and the soft overcomes the hard, / This is something known by all, but practiced by none.”— Tao Te Ching

27. “When a great wound is healed, / There will still remain a scar.”— Tao Te Ching

. . .

Tell me:

Which of these quotes is your favorite?

Tell me in the comments. I read every single one, and I'd love to know!

My wise words: keep reading.

With love,

Jen

P.S. Interested in more spiritual books that I love? Here are 5.

Comments on this post (8)

  • Jul 31, 2020

    There is one verse in there that I happened to read as if by accident in my formative years when I was firmly under the sway of a very absolutist and dualistic ideology.

    “It is the wise man’s treasure, and the bad man’s refuge”.

    This was light a sliver of light shining through a darkened window to me. It cut through my carefully acquired judgmentalism and arrogance and opened me to the possibility that whoever you are, we all share in an intrinsic spiritual validity that we are never seperate from.

    <3

    — Simon

  • Jul 14, 2020

    Thank you for sharing this. I have loved the Tao Te Ching (with very little true study of it) for decades. The lines you have chosen are the very essence of what struck me when I first came across it. I believe there is such an essential understanding of life as expressed in understanding the TAO that I am saddened it isn’t more well known.
    I came across your site as I was searching for a quote from the T.T.C. and wonder if you might be familiar with it? It is related to the quote you have about water. My ageing memory is that it’s something like “be like the woman, the water, take the lower place”. I know this isn’t it exactly and of course I can understand how it can easily be seen as completely wrong from a feminist point of view . But despite my wrong quote, the blending of the power of water and the feminine principle have for me, been a core understanding of how to get through life with relative joy!! I would be interested to know if you know where about it is….or did I make it up? :-(
    Thanks again. william

    — William

  • Jan 26, 2020

    Wilfredo, you inspire me. Thank you for leaving such a thoughtful comment. I’m grateful these words, this book and these quotes, speak so clearly to you and your life. It really is a piece of art and a source of profound wisdom.

    — Jennifer Williamson

  • Jan 26, 2020

    I have read this book and it has given me so much insight. Aside from this i have other spiritual books i came across as well. I am going through a difficult time but the words of wisdom provided to me have given me the strength to push forward in life, not just for me but for my daughter and the mother of my child. Clarity is what i needed in my life and these quotes gave me the much answers i needed. I thank you for the much needed wisdom.

    — Wilfredo

  • Aug 09, 2019

    Preston, it’s so true <3 Jen

    — Jennifer Williamson

  • Aug 09, 2019

    “Few things under heaven are as instructive as the lessons of Silence.”

    — Preston

  • Jun 13, 2019

    Hi Russell, one at a time is usually the best way :) So glad you enjoyed this collection. It only touches on the wisdom of one interpretation, but I just love this little book and look forward to reading more translations! ~ Jen

    — Jennifer Williamson

  • Jun 13, 2019

    Jen.
    I didn’t like any one of them.
    I loved the lot of them.
    To like any one of them more is to
    Like the others less.
    They are all like the facets of the diamond of consciousness.
    They all make up the radiance of the Tao Te Ching.
    It is OK to give ONE your whole hearted attention for a day
    Then the next
    Then the next.
    Then let the season of reading repeat like spring follows summer.

    Thank you for the initial sharing.
    Russell

    To

    — Russell Plunkett

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