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Taoist Quotations

Daoist Quotes, Sayings, Poems, Wisdom, Lore, Songs


Research by
Michael P. Garofalo
Red Bluff, California

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Daoist Quotations

Poems, Sayings, Scriptures, Quotes, Wisdom, Lore, Songs

Compiled by Michael P. Garofalo

Valley Spirit Center, Red Bluff, California


Daoist Scriptures



"Students of the Way should have their minds on the Way at all times, no matter what they are doing.
When they walk, they set foot on the path of evenness.
When they stand still, they freeze their feelings in cosmic space. 
When they sit, they tune the breathing in the nose. 
When they recline, they embrace the jewel below the navel. 
Eventually the tune of the breathing is unbroken, and you are like a quiet fool all day long.
This is the correct practice - it has nothing to do with contrived observances."
-  Taoist Master Danyang, circa 1850
Found in "Taoist Meditation," translated by Thomas Cleary, Shambhala, 2002, p. 110. 



"The Way has its reality and its signs
but is without action or form.
You can hand it down but you cannot receive it,
you can ignore it but you cannot see it.
It is its own source, its own root.
Before heaven and earth existed it was there,
from the ancient times.
It gave spirituality to the spirits and to God,
it gave birth to heaven and to earth.
It exists beyond the highest point,
and yet you cannot call it lofty;
it exists beneath the limit of the six directions,
and yet you cannot call it deep.
It was born before heaven and earth,
and yet you cannot say it has been there for long,
it is earlier than the earliest time,
and yet you cannot call it old."
The Crookbacked Woman and the Sage
    Chuang Tzu, Translated by Burton Watson, 1964
    Crone Taoism


Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu






"The Supreme Medicine has three distinctions:
Ching [essence], Qi [vitality]. and Shen [spirit],
Which are elusive and obscure.  

Keep to nonbeing, yet hold on to being.
And perfection is yours in an instant.

When the distant winds blend together,
In one hundred days of spiritual work
And morning recitation to the Shang Ti,
Then in one year you will soar as an immortal.

The sages awaken through self-cultivation;
Deep, profound, their practices require great effort.

Fulfilling vows illumines the Heavens.

Breathing nourishes youthfulness.

Departing from the Mysterious, entering the Female,
It appears to have perished, yet appears to exist.
Unmovable, its origin is mysterious.

Each person has Ching.
The Shen unites with the Ching,
The Shen unites with the Qi,
The breath then unites with the true nature.
Before you have attained this true nature,
These terms appear to be fanciful exaggerations.  

The Shen is capable of entering stone;
The Shen is capable of physical flight.
Entering water it is not drowned;
Entering fire it is not burned.

The Shen depends on life form;
The Ching depends on sufficient Qi.
If these are neither depleted nor injured
The result will be youthfulness and longevity.

These three distinctions have one principle,
Yet so subtle it cannot be heard.

Their meeting results in existence,
Their parting results in nonexistence.

The seven apertures interpenetrate
And each emits wisdom light.

The sacred sun and sacred moon
Illuminate the Golden Court.
One attainment is eternal attainment.

The body will naturally become weightless.
When the supreme harmony is replete,
The bone fragments become like winter jade.

Acquiring the Elixir results in immortality;
Not acquiring it results in extinction.

The Elixir is within yourself,
It is not white and not green.

Recite and hold ten thousand times.
These are the subtle principles of self-illumination."

-  The Jade Emperor's Mind Seal Classic.  The Taoist Guide to Health, Longevity, and Immortality.

Translated with commentary by Stuart Alve Olson.  Rochester, Vermont, Inner Traditions, 2003. 



"The whole cosmic body turns and changes, conforming to the process of the Tao.  The third law of Chinese physics (which one could also call the first law of its metaphysics) states that every body that goes through a prolonged and repeated cyclical action is transmuted and purified.  This is true even of the most humble and inert organisms and objects; trees, stones, and long-lived animals like the tortoise or the stork can become spontaneously spiritual by the simple action of the cycle of the seasons and the years.  All creatures of exceptionally advanced age can manifest their power and thus influence their environment.  ...  For the human being, a normal, peaceful, regulated life is a major factor in his accumulation of spiritual power.  Living according to the calendrical cycles, the ever-renewed passing of the seasons, and participating in these through everyday religion, leads one naturally to that marvelous old age which is the greatest happiness on earth before one joins the ranks of the ancestors.  ...  The virtue which confers divine power is obtained by cultivating oneself through hsiu-yang, a practice which enables us to acquire, on the basis of our natural dispositions, exceptional qualities.  Hsiu-yang means to arrange, to smooth down any roughness or irregularities by repeating an action many times in harmony with the cosmic order, until perfection is achieved.  The perfect and complete body is thereby nurtured, its energies strengthened; it thus becomes totally integrated into the natural and cosmic environment.  From there, the way is led, by repeated, cyclical movements, to spontaneity, which is the essence of the Tao.  ...   It takes daily practice and endless repetition of the same gesture, the same discipline and ritual procedure, to achieve the mastery that finally allows one to create perfect forms without any apparent effort.  It is nature retrieved, spontaneous creation, the secret stolen from the Tao."
-   The Taoist Body.  By Kristofer Schipper.  Translated by Karen C. Duval.  Foreword by Norman Girardot.  Berkeley, California, University of California Press, 1993, p. 41.   


Taoist and Zen Poetry, Sayings, Quotations





"At the higher stages of energy continuation, one will find his movements are now being governed by the movement of his internal energy.  This is the Qi of energy, not breath, to which I refer.  There are essentially three basic ingredients for higher accomplishment: 1.  Mental tranquility and physical relaxation.  2.  Application of the integrated supple strength of the whole body.  3.  Continuity of the internal energy without interruption from movement to movement and moment to moment throughout the entire form."
-  Wu, Ta-yeh, 1989



"Daoism is fundamentally a religion that has to do with the whole of one's body.  To be sure beliefs and attitudes are important, but they are only one aspect of our embodied being.  The operations of the mind and the spirit are understood in Daoism as organic functions of the energy systems of our bodies.  Daoists are thus concerned with what they do with their bodies just as much as what they believe in minds for feel in their hearts.
    Daoism is unusual in that it makes our entire human physiology from brains to livers, a central theme of its spirituality.  The body in fact is the pre-eminent space in which Daoism operates.  The body is the object of many Daoist practices and also the means by which Daoists engage in spiritual life and cultivate their nature.
    The Daoists took the view that human nature is to be understood as the vitality that flows throughout the body and that could be cultivated in a variety of ways from simple physical exercise, to subtle forms of meditation, to elaborate communal rituals.  Thus it is not surprising that Daoism developed in close concert with Chinese medicine: both are based on similar understandings of the body.  In order to understand Daoist practices it is essential, therefore, to have good understanding of the way in which Daoists understand the functioning of the human body."
-  James Miller, Daoism: A Short Introduction, pp. 53-54



Mysterious Pearly Mirror of the Mind
Xuanshu Xinjing Zhu
By Jiao Shaoxuan, 817 CE

Attainment of the Prime of the One
Is not a gift from Heaven.
Realization of the Great Nonbeing
Is the state of highest immortality.

Light restrained, a hidden brilliance,
The body one with nature:
There is true peace, won but not pursued.
Spirit kept forever at rest.

In serenity and beauty: this is perfection!
Body and inner nature, hard and soft,
All is but cinnabar vapor, azure barrens.
One of the highest sages–

Only after a hundred years
The tomb is discovered empty. 

The Daoist Experience: An Anthology.  Edited by Livia Kohn.  New York, State
Univesity of New York (SUNY), SUNY Series in Chinese Philosophy
and Culture, 1993, p. 215. 



"The perfect man has no self;
the spiritual man has no achievement;
the sage has no name."
-   Chauang Tzu


Classics of Taijiquan





“Put everything into the initial connexion.
The posture thereafter must spring from that connexion.
The initial connexion has to be whole-hearted.
What happens thereafter must not be a distraction.
In other words, the heart keeps pumping out that connexion.
The technique is a whisper.
What is completed between you has the feeling of an entirety – of a being.
The responsibility is to be open.

The working of the mind is too slow to deal with real life.
To be sincere in this matter is not a question of thinking about it.
Sufficient practice must be undertaken so that basic body usage is not a grinding problem.
It is impossible to describe how thorough going your dedication needs to be.
What bit of you has the wisdom to know what is unknowable?
There is no mind to deliberate or be backwards.
If there isn’t a feeling of coming home and finding a lively peace within then you are missing the point.

If there is a way of life or living it has to be joining from the heart.
The eyes are so quick to translate your heart feelings.
The ground is a heart platform.
Although important the eyes have to take second place to the heart.
Be open to the connecting of your heart with the other person’s heart.
If the other person wants information about you let them open their heart.
Connecting is not a personal matter.
In any real interchange it is the Third Heart that counts.
Light and embracing, but embracing as a giving from the heart rather than capturing.
And the inspiration of the Third Heart is nutrition for your becoming.
The spirit must be allowed freedom to dart about and tempt the heart at the right moment.
To be a believer is to be a positive being – a believer is someone who is becoming.
Becoming leaves no imprint.
Becoming swallows what is commonly known as destiny.
Spirit is the effervescence of real interest in something other than yourself.

The essence of true destiny is yielding.
The essence of yielding is softness.
The essence of softness is entering.
The essence of entering is welcoming openness.
The essence of openness is heart.”
Grandmaster John Kells, British Tai Chi Chuan Association


Clouds Hands: Taijiquan




"Because self-actualizing people ordinarily do not have to abstract need-gratifying qualities nor see the person as a tool, it is much more possible for them to take a non-valuing, non-judging, non-interfering, non-condemning attitude towards others, a desirelessness, a 'choiceless awareness.' "  ... This kind of detached, Taoist, passive, non-interfering awareness of all the simultaneous existing aspects of the concrete, has much in common with some descriptions of the aesthetic experience and of the mystic experience."
-   Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being, 1962, p. 38



"The focus of most religious Taoism is attaining immortality. This can have various 
meanings: eternal life, longevity of life, or attainment of superhuman physical abilities. 
Taoists have sought longevity by a variety of methods, such as:

* Focusing attention on the body through diet, exercises, and mindfulness
* Regulating the breath (ch'i), circulating its power deliberately to all parts of the body
* Harnessing sexual energy, especially by retaining semen and sending its power 
throughout the body
* Exploring alchemy with the goal of finding the elixir of immortality
* Behaving in a moral way that is in harmony with the Tao
* Searching for the Isles of the Blessed, where the Immortals dwell and may be 
persuaded to share their secrets of immortality."
Taoist Beliefs



"Do (Tao in Chinese), the way, is the method, the teaching that enables you to understand perfectly the nature of your own mind and self. It is the way… that
leads you to discover your own original nature, to awaken from the numbness of the sleeping ego (the little self, the limited "me") and accede to higher,
fuller personhood.”
-   Taisen Deshimaru






"Look, it cannot be seen - it is beyond form.
Listen, it cannot be heard - it is beyond sound.
Grasp, it cannot be held - it is intangible.
These three are indefinable, they are one.

From above it is not bright;
From below it is not dark:
Unbroken thread beyond description.
It returns to nothingness.
Form of the formless,
Image of the imageless,
It is called indefinable and beyond imagination.

Stand before it - there is no beginning.
Follow it and there is no end.
Stay with the Tao, Move with the present.

Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Tao."
-  Lao Tzu,
Tao Te Ching




"Nuturing energy, forget words and guard it.
Conquer the mind, do nondoing.
In activity and quietude, know the source progenitor.
There is no thing; whom else do you seek?
Real constancy should respond to people;
In responding to people, it is essential not to get confused.
When you don't get confused, your nature is naturally stable;
When your nature is stable, energy naturally returns.
When energy returns, Elixir spontaneously crystallizes,
In the pot pairing water and fire.
Yin and yang arise, alternating over and over again,
Everywhere producing the sound of thunder.
White clouds assemble on the summit,
Sweet dew bathes the polar mountain.
Having drunk the wine of longevity,
You wander free; who can know you?
You sit and listen to the stringless tune,
You clearly understand the mechanism of creation.
The whole of these twenty verses
is a ladder straight to heaven."

-   Master Chang San-Feng, 100 Character Tablet, Translated by Thomas Cleary



Bai Zi Bei
The Hundred Character Tablet

By Lu Dongbin

Translated by Jill Gonet, MFA
Qi Magazine, 2017, Volume 27, No. 3, p.44-51

"Guidance and Instruction on Internal Cultivation by Lu Donbin"


"To nourish the vital breath, keep watch in silence;
In order to subdue the mind, act with non-action.
Of movement and stillness, be aware of their origin;
There is no work to do, much less someone to seek.
The true and consistent must respond to phenomena;
Responding to phenomenon, you must be unconfused.
When unconfused, the nature will stabilize by itself;
When the nature stabilizes, energy returns by itself.

When energy returns, the elixir crystallizes by itself;
Within the pot, the trigrams of water and fire are joined.
Yin and yang arise, alternating over and over again;
Every transformation comes like a clap of thunder.
White clouds form and com to assemble at the peak;
Sweet nectar sprinkles down Mount Sumeru.
Swallowing for yourself this wine of immortality,
You wander so freely - who is able to know you?
Sit and listen to the tune played without strings,
Clearly understanding the mechanism of creation.
It comes entirely from these twenty lines;
A true ladder going straight to Heaven!"





Standing at the Mysterious Pass
Centered in the Eternal Now,
Balanced in Body and Open in Mind,
Rooted into the Sacred Space,
Motionless as the Golden Mountain,
Fingers around the Primeval Sphere.
Dragons and Tigers are still dreaming -
Ready for Rebirth.

I breathe in, the World Breathes Out.
The Gate of Space opens;
Heaven moves and Yang is born.
The hands move out, embracing the One.
The mind settles and is clear.
The Dragon Howls,
Ravens fill the Vast Cauldron,
Mind forms melt like mercury,
Spirit rises in the Clouds of Eternity.
Yin appears like the moon at dusk.

I breathe out, the World Breathes In.
The Doors of Emptiness close;
Earth quiets and Yin is born.
The hands move in, entering the One.
The body settles and becomes whole.
The Tiger Roars,
The Great Ox is nourished by the Valley Spirit,
Substances spark from flaming furnaces,
Essence roots in the Watery Flesh.
Yang appears like the sun at dawn.

Dragons and Tigers
Transformed within the Mysterious Pass -
Chanting and Purring.
-   Michael P. Garofalo, Opening at the Mysterious Pass


Above the Fog: Taoist and Zen Poems by Mike Garofalo





Qingjing Jing
Canon of Purity and Tranquility

"Laozi says, 
The Great Tao has no form;
It brings forth and raises heaven and earth.
The Great Tao has no feelings;
It regulates the course of the sun and the moon.

The Great Tao has no name;
It raises and nourishes the myriad beings.
I do not know its name, 
So I call it Tao.

The Tao can be pure or turbid, moving or tranquil.
Heaven is pure, earth is turbid;
Heaven is moving, earth is tranquil.
The male is moving, the female is tranquil.

Descending from the origin,
Flowing toward the end,
The myriad beings are being born.

Purity - the source of turbidity,
Movement - the root of tranquility.

Always be pure and tranquil;
Heaven and earth
Return to the primordial.

The human spirit is fond of purity,
But the mind disturbs it.
The human mind is fond of tranquility,
But desires meddle with it.

Get rid of desires for good,
And the mind will be calm.
Cleanse your mind,
And the spirit will be pure.

Naturally the six desires won't arise,
The three poisons are destroyed.
Whoever cannot do this
Has not yet cleansed his mind,
His desires are not yet driven out.

Those who have abandoned their desire:
Observe your mind by introspection;
And see there is no mind.

Then observe the body,
Look at yourself from without;
And see there is no body.

Then observe others by glancing out afar;
And see there are no beings.

Once you have realized these three,
Your observe emptiness!

Use emptiness to observe emptiness,
And see there is no emptiness.
When even emptiness is no more,
There is no more nonbeing either.

Without even the existence of nonbeing
There is only serenity,
Profound and everlasting.

When serenity dissolves in nothingness -
How could there be desires?
When no desires arise
You have found true tranquility.

In true tranquility, go along with beings;
In true permanence, realize inner nature.
Forever going along, forever tranquil-
This is permanent purity, lasting tranquility.

In Purity and tranquility,
Gradually enter the true Tao.
When the true Tao is entered,
It is realized.

Though we speak of "realized,"
Actually there is nothing to attain.
Rather, we speak of realization
When someone begins to transform the myriad beings.

Only who has properly understood this
Is worthy to transmit the sages' Tao.

Laozi says:
The highest gentleman does not fight;
The lesser gentleman loves to fight.
Highest Virtue is free from Virtue;
Lesser Virtue clings to Virtue.

All clinging and attachments
Have nothing to do with the Tao or the Virtue.

People fail to realize the Tao
Because they have deviant minds.
Deviance in the mind
Means the spirit is alarmed.

Spirit alarmed,
There is clinging to things.
Clinging to things,

Searching and coveting,
There are passions, afflictions, deviance, and imaginings;
These trouble and pester body and mind.

Then one falls into turbidity and shame,
Ups and downs, life and death.
Forever immersed in the sea of misery,
One is in eternity lost to the true Tao.

The Tao of true permanence
Will naturally come to those who understand.
Those who understand the realization of the Dao
Will rest forever in the pure and tranquil." 
-  Translated and commentary by Livia Kohn, "The Taoist Experience: An Anthology." Albany, State University of New York Press, 1993, pp.24-29.


Daoist Scriptures



"Knowing is not enough, we must apply.  Willing is not enough, we must do."
Bruce Lee



The Song of Ch'an Tao Chia
The Twenty Seven Precepts of Taoism
Stan Rosenthal (Shi-tien Roshi) of the British School of Zen Taoism

Have compassion for all sentient beings causing them no unnecessary hurt nor needless harm.
Refrain from needless competitiveness, from contriving for self-advantage and from subjugating others.
When accepting authority over others know also that you accept responsibility for their wellbeing.
Value true friendship and fulfill your obligations rather than striving with egotistical motive.
Seek liberation from the negative passions of hatred, envy, greed and rage, and especially from delusion, deceit and sensory desire.
Learn to let go of that which cannot be owned or which is destroyed by grasping.
Seek the courage to be; defend yourself and your convictions.
Accept transience, the inevitable and the irrevocable.
Know that change exists in everything.
Negate the barriers to your awakening. Discover the positive in the negative and seek a meaningful purpose in what you do.
Be just and honorable. Take pride in what you do rather than being proud of what you have accomplished.
Having humility and respect, give thanks to those from whom you learn or who have otherwise helped you.
Act in harmony with your fellow beings, with nature and with inanimate objects. 
Know that a thing or an action which may seem of little value to oneself may be a priceless treasure to another. 
Help those who are suffering or disadvantaged and as you yourself become awakened help those who seek to make real their own potential.
Know that there is no shame in questioning.
Be diligent in your practice and on hearing the music of the absolute do not be so foolish as to try to sing its song.
Remember to renew the source in order to retain good health.
Seek neither brilliance nor the void; just think deeply and work hard.
When still, be as the mountain. When in movement be as the dragon riding the wind. Be aware at all times like the tiger, which only seems to sleep and at all times let the mind be like running water.
When you are required to act remember that right motive is essential to right action, just as right thought is essential to right words.
Beware of creating burdens for yourself or others to carry.
Act with necessary distinction being both creative and receptive and transcending subject/object dichotomy.
Know that you are not the center of the universe but learn to put the universe at your center by accepting the instant of your being.
Seek security within yourself rather than in others.
Know that even great worldly wealth and the accumulation of material things are of little worth compared with the priceless treasures: love, peace and the freedom to grow.
Allow yourself to be so that your life may become a time of blossoming.










Green Way Research, Valley Spirit Center, Red Bluff, California, 2006-2012
First posted on the Internet in June of 2006

This webpage was last changed or updated on January 20, 2012

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