177 Thought provoking Lao Tzu quotes

the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step

Lao Tzu, also known as Laozi and Lao-Tze, was an ancient Chinese philosopher and author of Tao Te Ching. Centuries after his death, Lao Tzu quotes remain important because he is believed to be the founder of Taoism and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions. 

Lao Tzu Philosophy

taoism quotes

As a way to bring peace and harmony to the world, Lao Tzu encouraged us to have deep, connected empathy for each other. He said that this empathy could only happen if people knew that the cosmic force of the Tao had made all things, bound them all together, moved them, and then let them go back to their original state. Lao-Tzu believed that aligning oneself with the Tao was the best way to live because it brought people into harmony with the universe and made their lives better. Opposing the Tao made people angry and frustrated.

Lao Tzu quotes from the Tao Te Ching

  1. The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth.
  2. There is no illusion greater than fear.
  3. To know that you do not know is the best.
  4. The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.
  5. Because of a great love, one is courageous.
  6. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.
  7. To a mind that is still the whole universe surrenders.
  8. Respond to anger with virtue. Deal with difficulties while they are still easy. Handle the great while it is still small.
  9. 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.
  10. If the people must be ever fearful of death, then there will always be an executioner.
  11. He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.
  12. Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
Watch your thoughts quote
  1. When wealth and honors lead to arrogancy, this brings its evil on itself.
  2. Trying to control the future is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place. When you handle the master carpenter’s tools, chances are that you’ll cut your hand.
  3. When men lost their understanding of the Tao, intelligence came along, bringing hypocrisy with it.
  4. 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.
  5. There is a time to live and a time to die but never to reject the moment.
  6. When you are at one with loss, the loss is experienced willingly.
  7. Some lose yet gain, others gain and yet lose.
  8. Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretches her fingers to touch the heavens.
  9. I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.
  10. Every step is on the path.
  11. Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
  12. As soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it.
  13. If you are untrustworthy, people will not trust you.
  14. The way of heaven is to help and not harm.
  15. Colors blind the eye. Sounds deafen the ear. Flavors numb the taste. Thoughts weaken the mind. Desires wither the heart.
  16. To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; not to realize that you do not understand is a defect.
  17. People in their handling 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.
  18. The road you can talk about is not the road you can walk on.
  19. When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready, the teacher will disappear.
  20. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
The journey of a thousand miles tao quotes
  1. Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.
  2. 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.
  3. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline; simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength.
  4. Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.
  5. Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.
  6. If lightning is the anger of the gods, then the gods are concerned mostly about trees.
  7. Countless words count less than the silent balance between yin and yang.
  8. He who defends with love will be secure. Heaven will save him, and protect him with love.
  9. To bear and not to own; to act and not lay claim; to do the work and let it go: for just letting it go is what makes it stay.
  10. Take care with the end as you do with the beginning.
  11. Love is of all the passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the senses.
  12. Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?
  13. The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.
  14. The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world. Through this I know the advantage of taking no action.
  15. To think you know when you do not is a disease.
  16. To be worn out is to be renewed.
  17. He who acts, spoils; he who grasps, lets slip.
  18. A violent wind does not last for a whole morning; a sudden rain does not last for the whole day.
  19. Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.
  20. When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.
tao quotes
  1. Do not conquer the world with force, for force only causes resistance. Thorns spring up when an army passes. Years of misery follow a great victory. Do only what needs to be done without using violence.
  2. The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
  3. Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
  4. A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.
  5. Be still. Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity.
  6. The heart that gives, gathers.
  7. Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
  8. The master observes the world but trusts his inner vision. He allows things to come and go. He prefers what is within to what is without.
  9. Not seeking, not expecting, she is present, and can welcome all things.
  10. If you want to lead them you must place yourself behind them.
  11. When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
  12. It is better to leave a vessel unfilled, than to attempt to carry it when it is full.
  13. Silence is a source of great strength.
  14. A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.
  15. Water is the softest thing, yet it can penetrate mountains and earth. This shows clearly the principle of softness overcoming hardness.
  16. Go to the people. Live with them, learn from them, love them.
  17. To see things in the seed, that is genius.
  18. There is no disaster greater than not being content; there is no misfortune greater than being covetous.
  19. Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.
  20. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
  21. A good traveler leaves no tracks.
  22. When there is no desire, all things are at peace.
Lao Tzu quotes
  1. The difficult problems in life always start off being simple. Great affairs always start off being small.
  2. Love is a decision – not an emotion!
  3. The further one goes, the less one knows.
  4. The wise man is square but not sharp, honest but not malign, straight but not severe, bright but not dazzling.
  5. The way to do is to be.
  6. Would you like to save the world from the degradation and destruction it seems destined for? Then step away from shallow mass movements and quietly go to work on your own self-awareness. 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.
  7. Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.
  8. One who is too insistent on his own views finds few to agree with him.
  9. Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
  10. Nature is not human hearted.
  11. Stop thinking, and end your problems.
  12. Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.
  13. If I had just a little bit of wisdom I should walk the great path and fear only straying from it.
  14. When pure sincerity forms within, it is outwardly realized in other people’s hearts.
  15. Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.
  16. When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty, there arises the recognition of ugliness. When they all know the good as good, there arises the recognition of evil.
  17. The wise man does not lay up his own treasures.
  18. 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.
Lao Tzu quotes
  1. If you do not value rare treasures, you will stop others from stealing.
  2. Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.
  3. Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.
  4. If you want to know me, look inside your heart.
  5. A bad man is a good man’s job.
  6. If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations. If there is to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities. If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbors. If there is to be peace between neighbors, there must be peace in the home. If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.
  7. The wise man is one who knows what he does not know.
  8. The reason why the universe is eternal is that it does not live for itself; it gives life to others as it transforms.
  9. If a person seems wicked, do not cast him away. Awaken him with your words, elevate him with your deeds, repay his injury with your kindness. Do not cast him away; cast away his wickedness.
  10. 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.
  11. If you understand others, you are smart. If you understand yourself, you are illuminated. If you overcome others, you are powerful. If you overcome yourself, you have strength. If you know how to be satisfied, you are rich. If you can act with vigor, you have a will. If you don’t lose your objectives, you can be long-lasting. If you die without loss, you are eternal.
  12. He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.
  13. If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.
  14. By letting go it all gets done.
  15. Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.
  16. 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.
  17. The world belongs to those who let go.
  18. Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.
Lao Tzu quotes
  1. 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?
  2. Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
  3. Great acts are made up of small deeds.
  4. To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.
  5. Loss is not as bad as wanting more.
  6. Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.
  7. If you wish to be out front, then act as if you were behind.
  8. Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere.
  9. From caring comes courage.
  10. 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. Know that it too is a vessel of perfection. Just as you breathe in and breathe out, there is a time for being ahead and a time for being behind; a time for being in motion and a time for being at rest; a time for being vigorous and a time for being exhausted; a time for being safe and a time for being in danger.
  11. Accomplish but do not boast, accomplish without show, accomplish without arrogance, accomplish without grabbing, accomplish without forcing.
  12. Just remain in the center; watching, and then forget that you are there.
  13. He who talks more is sooner exhausted.
  14. The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.
  15. So the unwanting soul sees what’s hidden, and the ever-wanting soul sees only what it wants.
  16. Act without expectation.
  17. To hold, you must first open your hand. Let go.
  18. Be like water.
  19. Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
  20. He who tries to shine dims his own light.
Lao Tzu quotes
  1. Become totally empty.
  2. He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.
  3. New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.
  4. From wonder into wonder existence opens.
  5. The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”
  6. Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.
  7. Our enemies are not demons, but human beings like ourselves.
  8. Do you imagine the universe is agitated? Go into the desert at night and look at the stars. This practice should answer the question.
  9. 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.
  10. The Tao is nowhere to be found. Yet it nourishes and completes all things.
  11. Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.
  12. Composure is the ruler of instability.
  13. Your own positive future begins in this moment. All you have is right now. Every goal is possible from here.
  14. What is firmly rooted cannot be pulled out.
  15. 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.
taoism quotes
  1. At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.
  2. He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
  3. Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.
  4. He who knows he has enough is rich. Perseverance is a sign of will power. He who stays where he is endures. To die but not to perish is to be eternally present.
  5. Chanting is no more holy than listening to the murmur of a stream, counting prayer beads no more scared than simply breathing, religious robes no more spiritual than work clothes.
  6. Recognizing this disease as a disease is to be free of it.
  7. Fame or integrity: which is more important? Money or happiness: which is more valuable? Success or failure: which is more destructive? If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. 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.
  8. The hard and mighty lie beneath the ground, while the tender and weak dance on the breeze above.
  9. Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish – too much handling will spoil it.
  10. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
  11. A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.
  12. Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.
  13. An over sharpened sword cannot last long.
  14. I do not concern myself with gods and spirits either good or evil, nor do I serve any.
  15. The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
  16. Stop leaving and you will arrive. Stop searching and you will see. Stop running away and you will be found.
  17. Ordinary men hate solitude. But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.
  18. Men are born soft and supple; dead they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.
Tao te ching quotes
  1. When you accept yourself, the whole world accepts you.
  2. The best fighter is never angry.
  3. If you try to change it, you will ruin it. Try to hold it, and you will lose it.
  4. Is it not through her selflessness that she is able to perfect herself?
  5. Shape clay into a vessel; it is the space within that makes it useful. Cut doors and windows for a room; it is the holes which make it useful. Therefore benefit comes from what is there; usefulness from what is not there.
  6. Knowing how to yield is strength.
  7. To understand the limitation of things, desire them.
  8. 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.
  9. What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.
  10. 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.
  11. With few there is attainment. With much there is confusion.
  12. If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
  13. Quiet the restlessness of the mind. Only then will you witness everything unfolding from emptiness.
  14. There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.