About Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu (5th century BC) was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of philosophical Taoism, and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions.  Wikipedia

References:   Encyclopaedia Britannica    |    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Lao Tzu (quotes)

Be content with what you have


Contentment is the truest wealth

  • Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
  • Contentment is the greatest treasure. Health is the greatest possession. Confidence is the greatest friend.
  • He who is contented is rich.
  • He who knows he has enough is rich.
  • If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.
  • If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself.
  • When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
  • He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.

Knowledge, understanding and wisdom


Know yourself

  • He who knows others is learned; he who knows himself is wise.  
  • Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.
  • He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.
  • Without stirring abroad, one can know the whole world; Without looking out of the window One can see the way of heaven. The further one goes, the less one knows.

To know, look within

  • At the centre of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.  
  • If you want to know me, look inside your heart. 

To know that you don’t know is wisdom

  • The further one goes, the less one knows.
  • Those who have knowledge don’t predict. Those who predict don’t have knowledge.  
  • Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.
  • To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.
  • To know that you do not know is the best. To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease.   
  • To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; not to realize that you do not understand is a defect.

Flow with life, letting go of the need for control


Flow with life

  • Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow.  Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.  
  • Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.  
  • If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
  • Everything under heaven is a sacred vessel and cannot be controlled. Trying to control leads to ruin. Trying to grasp, we lose. Allow your life to unfold naturally.  

By letting it go, it all gets done

  • By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning.  
  • He who grasps, lets slip.  
  • In 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-    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.   
  • In the end, the treasure of life is missed by those who hold on and gained by those who let go.  
  • To hold, you must first open. Let go.
  • When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

Relinquish all attachment

  • Loving, hating, having expectations: all these are attachments. Attachment prevents the growth of one’s true being.
  • To manage your mind, know that there is nothing, and then relinquish all attachment to nothingness.  

Self-mastery and transformation


Gain freedom from the false sense of self

  • Hope and fear are both phantoms that arise from thinking of the self. When we don’t see the self as self, what do we have to fear?
  • Most of the world’s religions serve only to strengthen attachments to false concepts such as self and other, life and death, heaven and earth, and so on. Those who become entangled in these false ideas are prevented from perceiving the Integral Oneness.  
  • When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.  

Gain self-mastery

  • He who controls others may be powerful but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.
  • Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.
  • If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.

Self-transformation is your greatest gift

  • If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself, if you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self- transformation.

Be truly yourself …

  • When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.
  • The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.

… and follow your own path

  • It is better to do one’s own duty, however defective it may be, than to follow the duty of another, however well one may perform it. He who does his duty as his own nature reveals it, never sins.

Heal yourself

  • Before healing others, heal thyself.

More values to embrace


Accept yourself and let go of the need for external approval

  • Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.
  • Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.
  • Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.
  • Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.  
  • The wise shine, because they don’t want to impress. They achieve great things, because they don’t look for recognition.   

Be like water

  • A man’s excellence is like that of water; It benefits all things without striving; It takes to the low places shunned by men. Water is akin to Tao. . . . In all the earth nothing weaker than water, Yet in attacking the hard, nothing superior, Nothing so certain in wearing down strength: There is no way to resist it. Note then: The weak conquer the strong, The yielding outlast the aggressors.
  • Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water. Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it. So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful.  
  • Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.  
  • The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world.
  • In the world, there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.

Have courage

  • A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.  
  • Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
  • From caring comes courage.
  • Because of deep love, one is courageous.
  • If you aren’t afraid of dying, there is nothing you can’t achieve.

Embrace kindness

  • Kind words elicit trust. Kind thoughts create depth. Kind deeds bring love.

Embrace patience and non-haste

  • Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?    
  • I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.  
  • Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

Embrace love

  • Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses.  
  • There are many paths to enlightenment. Be sure to take one with a heart.
  • Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
  • Marriage is three parts love and seven parts forgiveness of sins.

Embrace a sense of unity and oneness

  • From of old the things that have acquired unity are these: Heaven by unity has become clear; Earth by unity has become steady; The Spirit by unity has become spiritual; The Valley by unity has become full; All things by unity have come into existence.
  • Simply see that you are at the centre of the universe, and accept all things and beings as parts of your infinite body. When you perceive that an act done to another is done to yourself, you have understood the great truth.   
  • The wise stand out, because they see themselves as part of the Whole.  

Become deeply awareness

  • Integral wisdom involves a direct participation in every moment: the observer and the observed are dissolved in the light of pure awareness, and no mental concepts or attitudes are present to dim that light.
  • The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.
  • The new life created by the final integration is self-aware yet without ego, capable of inhabiting a body yet not attached to it, and guided by wisdom rather than emotion. Whole and virtuous, it can never die.
  • Those who are highly evolved, maintain an undiscriminating perception. Seeing everything, labelling nothing, they maintain their awareness of the Great Oneness.  Thus they are supported by it.

Embrace action

  • Act without expectation.  
  • Good words shall gain you honor in the marketplace, but good deeds shall gain you friends among men.
  • Great acts are made up of small deeds.
  • The way to do… is to be.
  • Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small.
  • The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
  • An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox.
  • Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.

Embrace intuition

  • The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.

Accomplish without show

  • Accomplish but do not boast, accomplish without show, accomplish without arrogance, accomplish without grabbing, accomplish without forcing.  

Embrace the present

  • If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.
  • The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that. What is grievance?  The baggage of old thought and emotion.

Embrace giving

  • The sage never tries to store things up. The more he does for others, the more he has. The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance.
  • The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.
  • If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence.
  • He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.
  • The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself, The more he gives to others, the more he gets himself. The Way of Heaven does one good but never does one harm. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete.  

Embrace being

  • All things in the world come from being. And being comes from non-being.
  • Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
  • The way to do… is to be.

Embrace your potential

  • We are all capable of much more than we think we are.

Embrace trust

  • He who does not trust enough, Will not be trusted.

Embrace truth …

  • The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth.
  • The words of truth are always paradoxical.
  • Truthful words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not truthful. Good words are not persuasive; persuasive words are not good.

… especially the truth beyond words

  • I confess that there is nothing to teach: no religion, no science, no writings which will lead your mind back to Spirit. Today I speak this way, tomorrow that, but always the Path is beyond words and beyond mind.   

Embrace the journey

  • A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.  
  • A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

Embrace simplicity and frugality

  • I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.  
  • Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.
  • with few there is attainment. With much there is confusion.  
  • Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
  • A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.

Embrace serenity and inner stillness

  • Do you imagine the universe is agitated? Go into the desert at night and look at the stars. This practice should answer the question.
  • Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.
  • Empty yourself of everything. Let the mind rest at peace. The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return. They grow and flourish and then return to the source. Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.  
  • Muddy water, let stand becomes clear.
  • No thought, no action, no movement, total stillness: only thus can one manifest the true nature and law of things from within and unconsciously, and at last become one with heaven and earth.
  • One cannot reflect in streaming water. Only those who know internal peace can give it to others.
  • Silence is a source of great strength.  
  • Stop thinking, and end your problems.
  • Who can wait quietly until the mud settles? Who can remain still until the moment of action?
  • The inner is foundation of the outer. The still is master of the restless. The Sage travels all day yet never leaves his inner treasure.

Embrace goodness and honesty

  • Treat those who are good with goodness, and also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained. Be honest to those who are honest, and be also honest to those who are not honest. Thus honesty is attained.

Embrace wonder

  • From wonder into wonder existence opens.

Human shortcomings and challenges


Excessive desire

  • Free from desire, you realize the mystery caught in the desire, you see only the manifestations.
  • So the unwanting soul sees what’s hidden, and the ever-wanting soul sees only what it wants.
  • Through return to simple living comes control of desires. In control of desires, stillness is attained. In stillness, the world is restored.
  • When there is no desire, all things are at peace.
  • Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.


  • Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.


  • Pride attaches undue importance to the superiority of one’s status in the eyes of others; And shame is fear of humiliation at one’s inferior status in the estimation of others. When one sets his heart on being highly esteemed, and achieves such rating, then he is automatically involved in fear of losing his status.


  • A foolish man is always doing, Yet much remains to be done.
  • Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.  


  • Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved.

Face problems head on and deal with difficulties while they are still easy

  • Confront the difficult while it is still easy; accomplish the great task by a series of small acts.
  • Deal with difficulties while they are still easy. Handle the great while it is still small.  
  • Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.
  • All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.

More thoughts


The Tao

  • There was something undifferentiated and yet complete, which existed before Heaven and Earth. Soundless and formless, it depends on nothing and does not change. It operates everywhere and is free from danger. It may be considered the mother of the universe. I do not know its name; I call it Tao.
  • Man takes his law from the Earth; the Earth takes its law from Heaven; Heaven takes its law from the Tao. The law of the Tao is its being what it is.
  • The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; the name that can be named is not the eternal name. The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth; the Named is the mother of all things.
  • Great indeed is the sublimity of the Creative, to which all beings owe their beginning and which permeates all heaven.
  • Chanting is no more holy than listening to the murmur of a stream, counting prayer beads no more sacred than simply breathing. If you wish to attain oneness with the Tao, don’t get caught up in spiritual superficialities.


  • A good manager is best when people barely know that he exists. Not so good when people obey and acclaim him. Worse when they despise him.
  • A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
  • Advise the ruler to govern the state as one cooks a small fish – that is, don’t turn it so often in the pan that it disintegrates.
  • Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish – too much handling will spoil it.
  • To lead people, walk behind them.
  • When the effective leader is finished with his work, the people say it happened naturally.
  • Because of not daring to be ahead of the world, one becomes the leader of the world.  
  • Be the chief but never the lord.


  • Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.  

More advice for living

  • In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.
  • As soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it.
  • Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.

More desirable virtues

  • I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.  
  • Because of deep love, one is courageous. Because of frugality, one is generous. Because of not daring to be ahead of the world, one becomes the leader of the world.  
  • Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.  Simple in actions and 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.   

Qualities of the wise

  • For the wise man looks into space and he knows there is no limited dimensions.
  • The wise stand out, because they see themselves as part of the Whole. They shine, because they don’t want to impress.  They achieve great things, because they don’t look for recognition.  Their wisdom is contained in what they are, not their opinions.  They refuse to argue, so no-one argues with them.

Ingredients for success

  • People in their handlings of affairs often fail when they are about to succeed. If one remains as careful at the end as he was at the beginning, there will be no failure.
  • Of all that is good, sublimity is supreme. Succeeding is the coming together of all that is beautiful. Furtherance is the agreement of all that is just. Perseverance is the foundation of all actions.


  • Meandering leads to perfection.
  • Perfection is the willingness to be imperfect.

More thoughts

  • Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretch her fingers to touch the heavens.
  • Going back to the origin is called peace; it means reversion to destiny. Reversion to destiny is called eternity. They who know eternity are called enlightened.   
  • How could man rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men?
  • One who is too insistent on his own views finds few to agree with him.
  • Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
  • The best fighter is never angry.
  • I do not concern myself with gods and spirits either good or evil nor do I serve any.
  • Man’s enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.
  • The career of a sage is of two kinds: He is either honoured by all in the world, Like a flower waving its head, Or else he disappears into the silent forest.
  • Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.
  • The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.
  • The reason why the universe is eternal is that it does not live for itself; it gives life to others as it transforms.
  • When virtue is lost, benevolence appears, when benevolence is lost right conduct appears, when right conduct is lost, expedience appears. Expediency is the mere shadow of right and truth; it is the beginning of disorder.
  • The world is a sacred vessel. It should not be meddled with. It should not be owned. If you try to meddle with it you will ruin it. If you try to own it you will lose it.
  • Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.
  • The higher the sun ariseth, the less shadow doth he cast; even so the greater is the goodness, the less doth it covet praise; yet cannot avoid its rewards in honours.
  • If you keep feeling a point that has been sharpened, the point cannot long preserve its sharpness.
  • Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
  • We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.  
  • The people are hungry: It is because those in authority eat up too much in taxes.
  • When a nation is filled with strife, then do patriots flourish.
  • Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline; simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength.
  • Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere.
  • Nature is not human hearted.
  • Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.
  • To see things in the seed, that is genius.
  • If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
  • He who talks more is sooner exhausted.