Isn’t it crazy how just a few words strung together in a certain order can inspire us to change our lives and become better versions of ourselves?
It’s even crazier that the words of an ancient (6th century B.C.) Chinese philosopher would be relevant and compelling today in the 21st century.
But the wisdom of Lao Tzu, the father of Chinese Taoism and the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, has as much power now as during his lifetime.
49 of the Best Lao Tzu Quotes
1. “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.”
2. “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.”
3. “The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.”
4. “Someone must risk returning injury with kindness, or hostility will never turn to goodwill. So the wise always give without expecting gratitude. One with true virtue always seeks a way to give. One who lacks true virtue always seeks a way to get. To the giver comes the fullness of life; to the taker, just an empty hand.”
5. “Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.”
6. “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
7. “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.”
8. “Make your heart like a lake with a calm still surface and great depths of kindness.”
9. “Returning to the source is serenity. If you don’t realize the source, you stumble in confusion and sorrow. When you realize where you came from, you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king.”
10. “All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a previous state in which they were easy, and all great things from one in which they were small.”
11. “One who is too insistent on his own views, finds few to agree with him.”
12. “Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretches her fingers to touch the heavens.”
13. “He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.”
14. “Do your work, then step back: the only path to serenity.”
15. “A knower of the truth travels without leaving a trace, speaks without causing harm, gives without keeping an account. The door he shuts, though having no lock, cannot be opened. The knot he ties, though using no cord, cannot be undone. Be wise and help all beings impartially, abandoning none. Waste no opportunities. This is called following the light.”
16. “One who understands others has knowledge; one who understands himself has wisdom. Mastering others requires force; mastering the self needs strength.”
17. “Use the light that is within you to revert to your natural clearness of sight.”
18. “To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”
19. “Empty your mind of all thoughts. Let your heart be at peace.”
20. “He who talks more is sooner exhausted.”
21. “Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the senses.”
22. “Should you want to contain something, you must first let it expand. Should you want to weaken something, you must first let it grow strong. Should you want to take something, you must first allow it to be given. The lesson here is called the wisdom of obscurity. The gentle outlasts the strong. The obscure outlasts the obvious. The soft overcomes the hard. The slow overcomes the fast. Let your workings remain a mystery. Just allow people to see the results.”
23. “When life is simple, pretences fall away; our essential natures shine through. By not wanting, there is calm, and the world will straighten itself.When there is silence, one finds the anchor of the universe within oneself.”
24. “From caring comes courage.”
25. “Act without striving. Work without interfering. Find the flavor in what is flavorless.”
26. “He, who rushes ahead, does not go far. He, who tries to shine, dims his own light. He, who defines himself, can’t know who he really is. He, who knows, does not speak. He, who speaks, does not know.”
27. “Which means more to you, you or your renown? Which brings more to you, you or what you own? I say what you gain is more trouble that what you lose. Love is the fruit of sacrifice. Wealth is the fruit of generosity. A contented man is never disappointed.”
28. “Few things under heaven bring more benefit than the lessons learned from silence and the actions taken without striving.”
29. “Magnify the small, increase the few. Reward bitterness with care. See simplicity in the complicated. Achieve greatness in little things. Take on difficulties while they are still easy; do great things while they are still small.”
30. “True words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not true. Good men do not argue; those who argue are not good. Those who have virtue do not look for faults; those who look for faults have no virtue. Sages do not accumulate anything but give everything to others; having more, the more they give.”
31. “The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.”
32. “An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox.”
33. “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.”
34. “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.”
35. “Be still like a mountain, and flow like a great river.”
36. “Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”
37. “Great acts are made up of small deeds.”
38. “Do not limit the view of yourself. Do not despise the conditions of your birth. Do not resist the natural course of your life. In this way, you will never have cause to be bored with life as you recognise all the wonder around you. Thus the sage knows who he is without being egotistical. He loves himself, but does not exalt himself. He prefers what is within to what is without.”
39. “Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water. But for attacking the hard, the unyielding, nothing can surpass it. There is nothing like it. The weak overcomes the strong; the soft surpasses the hard.”
40. “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.”
41. “To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; Not to realize that you do not understand is a defect.”
42. “To lead people, walk behind them.”
43. “He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.”
44. “Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.”
45. “The Sage acts without action and teaches without talking. All things flourish around him, and he does not refuse any of them. He gives but not to receive. He works but not for reward. He completes but not for results. He does nothing for himself in this passing world, so nothing he does ever passes.”
46. “Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.”
47. “Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.”
48. “A leader is one who serves.”
49. “In dwelling, be close to the land. In meditation, go deep in the heart. In dealing with others, be gentle and kind. In speech, be true. In ruling, be just. In daily life, be competent. In action, be aware of the time and the season.”
Which Lao Tzu quote inspired or motivated you?
All of these quotes are little jewels that teach important and life-altering lessons. There is something valuable to be taken from each and every one of them.
But perhaps you’re experiencing something in your life that has drawn you to these quotes.
Maybe you’re searching for an answer or for some direction to help you move forward.
I hope you found what you were seeking in this list of quotes and that you take away something today that uplifts you.
May your self-reflection and thirst for knowledge inspire everything you do today.