75+ Best Tao Te Ching Quotes: Exclusive Selection

The Tao Te Ching, also known as Lao Tzu or Laozi, is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi. Profoundly inspirational Tao Te Ching quotes will challenge the way you think, change the way you live and transform your whole life.

Famous Tao Te Ching Quotes

Yet mystery and reality emerge from the same source. This source is called darkness.

As Lao Tzu hints in those words, describing what the Tao is can be tricky, to say the least. To me, however, it represents the life force that flows between and through all things in the Universe. The Tao Te Ching is a book of wisdom with simple lessons for us to let go and trust so that we can allow the Tao to do its thing.

The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth; the Named is the mother of all things.

While some interpret the Tao Te Ching as a commentary meant for the violent despots and rulers of the Warring States Period, it also is sound advice for how we rule ourselves  not overtaxing or over regulating our lives, and wasting our times on endless, draining debates.

Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery. By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.

The Tao Te Ching provides helpful wisdom for me each morning. Here are ten quotes from the Lao Tzu’s classic that can help you live your life in freedom and flow:

Darkness born from darkness. The beginning of all understanding.

Yield and remain whole; Bend and remain straight.

If you overly esteem talented individuals, people will become overly competitive. If you overvalue possessions, people will begin to steal.

Know the masculine, hold to the feminine. Be the watercourse of the world

Practice not doing and everything will fall into place.

Myriad things, backed by yin and embracing yang; Achieve harmony by integrating their energy.

Do not display your treasures or people will become envious.

Those who hold an abundance of virtue are similar to newborn infants. Poisonous insects do not sting them. Wild beasts do not claw them. Birds of prey do not attack them. Their bones are weak, tendons are soft, but their grasp is firm.

The Tao is like an empty container: it can never be emptied and can never be filled. Infinitely deep, it is the source of all things. It dulls the sharp, unties the knotted, shades the lighted, and unites all of creation with dust.

Plan difficult tasks through the simplest tasks. Achieve large tasks through the smallest tasks. The difficult tasks of the world must be handled through the simple tasks. The large tasks of the world must be handled through the small tasks.

It is better not to speak of things you do not understand.

I have three treasures I hold on to them and protect them. The first is called compassion. The second is called conservation. The third is called not daring to be ahead in the world.

Heaven and Earth are impartial; they treat all of creation as straw dogs. The Master doesn’t take sides; she treats everyone like a straw dog.

That the weak overcomes the strong and the soft overcomes the hard;

The spirit of emptiness is immortal. It is called the Great Mother because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.

Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habit.

It is like a vapor, barely seen but always present.Use it effortlessly.

Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.

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.

Keep your mouth shut, and close up the doors of sight and sound, and as long as you live you will have no vexation. But open your mouth, or become inquisitive, and you will be in trouble all your life long.

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.

For all things difficult to acquire, the intelligent man works with perseverance.

Countless words count less than the silent balance between yin and yang

Surrender your self interest. Love others as much as you love yourself. Then you can be entrusted with all things under heaven.

Some say that my teaching is nonsense. Other call it lofty but impractical. But to those who have looked inside themselves, this nonsense makes perfect sense. And to those who put it into practice, this loftiness has roots that go deep.

Leadership is your ability to hide your panic from others.

Not knowing is true knowledge. Presuming to know is a disease. First realize that you are sick; then you can move toward health.

The moment truth is asserted, it becomes false.

Failure is an opportunity. If you blame someone else, there is no end to the blame. Therefore the Master fulfills her own obligations and corrects her own mistakes. She does what she needs to do and demands nothing of others.

Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.

True perfection seems imperfect, yet it is perfectly itself. True fullness seems empty, yet it is fully present. True straightness seems crooked. True wisdom seems foolish.True art seems artless.

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 negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self transformation.

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.

When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

So the unwilling soul sees what’s hidden, and the ever wanting soul sees only what it wants.

You cannot receive what you don’t give. Outflow determines inflow.

A sage traveling all day is never far from the supplies in his cart, and however spectacular the views he remains calm and composed.

Whatever is flexible and living will tend to grow; whatever is rigid and blocked will wither and die.

Heaven and earth begin in the unnamed: name’s the mother of the ten thousand things.

Let your workings remain a mystery. Just show people the results.

Misery and fortune share a trust. Happiness hides in misery.

If you search everywhere, yet cannot find what you are seeking, it is because what you seek is already in your possession.

A tree too big to embrace Is born from a slender shoot. A nine storey tower Rises from a pile of earth. A thousand mile journey Begins with a single step.

Perfection is the willingness to be imperfect.

They were careful as someone crossing an frozen stream in winter. Alert as if surrounded on all sides by the enemy. Courteous as a guest. Fluid as melting ice. Whole as an uncarved block of wood. Receptive as a valley. Turbid as muddied water.

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.

The supreme good is like water, which benefits all of creation without trying to compete with it. It gathers in unpopular places. Thus it is like the Tao.

In order to eliminate the negative influences, simply ignore them.

Water is the softest and most yielding substance. Yet nothing is better than water, for overcoming the hard and rigid, because nothing can compete with it.

Excellent warriors are not violent.

A large country should take the low place like a great watershed, which from its low position assumes the female role. The female overcomes the male by the power of her position. Her tranquility gives rise to her humility. If a large country takes the low position, it will be able to influence smaller countries. If smaller countries take the lower position, then they can allow themselves to be influenced. So both seek to take the lower position in order to influence the other, or be influenced.

The world is won by those who let it go.

Just as fish remain hidden in deep waters, it is best to keep weapons out of sight

Solve it before it happens. Order it before chaos emerges.

Know the masculine, but keep to the feminine: and become a watershed to the world. If you embrace the world, the Tao will never leave you and you become as a little child.

True words are not pleasing. Pleasing words are not true.

Who can be still until their mud settles and the water is cleared by itself? Can you remain tranquil until right action occurs by itself?

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

Why is the sea king of a hundred streams? Because it lies below them. This is why the sea is king of a hundred streams.

Loss is not as bad as wanting more.

The supreme goodness is like water. It benefits all things without contention. In dwelling, it stays grounded. In being, it flows to depths. In expression, it is honest. In confrontation, it stays gentle. In governance, it does not control. In action, it aligns to timing.

One who believes in himself has no need to convince others.