The Daoist school of thought is one of the oldest and most complex in the world. Daoism is a Chinese philosophical and religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the Dao (the “way” of the universe). This tradition profoundly influenced Chinese culture and philosophy for centuries.
Daoist thinkers have been exploring the nature of existence for centuries, and their insights can help us see life in a new light. They’re known for their unique insights into life and the universe. And they’ve said many insightful things about life, happiness, and success. That’s why we want to share 10 quotes from Daoist philosophers that will change the way you look at life.
Wisdom Comes Not From Studying Others
Laozi (老子) was a philosopher who lived in ancient China and is traditionally credited with writing the Daodejing (道德經, The Classic of the Dao and of Virtue), a key text in the philosophy of Daoism. There, he lays out the principles of Daoism.
“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” — Laozi
This quote highlights that wisdom comes not from studying others but from understanding oneself. According to Laozi, this requires understanding one’s nature and following it. By doing so, we can achieve a state of enlightenment.
Laozi’s philosophy provides a different perspective on wisdom and enlightenment than other philosophical traditions. Rather than seeing wisdom as something that comes from without, Laozi suggests that it comes from within. This quote encourages us to turn inward in search of wisdom and enlightenment.
“A journey of a thousand li begins with the first footfall.” — Laozi
In this quote, Laozi accentuates that life isn’t about reaching a specific goal or destination. But it’s about the journey itself. This standpoint can help us to appreciate the present moment and find meaning in everyday experiences. Laozi’s philosophy stresses the importance of living in the moment and being present. This quote reminds us that the journey is more important than the destination. It’s a reminder to enjoy the ride rather than fixate on the end goal.
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“Nothing in the world is more weak and soft than water, yet nothing surpasses it in conquering the hard and strong – there is nothing that can compare.” — Laozi
This quote speaks to the power of water. It’s one of the most essential elements of life. It’s also one of the weakest and softest things in the world. And yet, it can conquer anything that stands in its way.
This quote highlights the Daoist principle of Wu wei (無為), which means “non-action” or “effortless action.” Wu wei is the idea that we should flow with the Dao, rather than swim against it. This quote reminds us to follow the flow and let things happen naturally.
Happiness Comes Not From Actively Pursuing It
Zhuangzi (莊子) was another Daoist philosopher who lived in ancient China. He’s known for his writings on Daoism, collected in a text known as the Zhuangzi.
“The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror—going after nothing, welcoming nothing, responding but not storing.” — Zhuangzi
This mindset can help us to live in the present moment and not get bogged down by the past. Living in harmony with the Dao means being spontaneous, going with the flow, and not getting attached to things, as they’re constantly changing. The perfect man is someone who embodies these qualities and thus doesn’t get attached to the past.
“Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.” — Zhuangzi
In this quote, Zhuangzi suggests that those who know don’t need to speak because their actions will speak for themselves. And those who talk don’t know because they’re just repeating what they’ve heard. This perspective can help us focus on our actions instead of getting caught up in words. Another way of living harmoniously with the Dao is acting instead of speaking. So, next time you want to speak, ask yourself if it’s necessary. Chances are, it’s not.
“Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.” — Zhuangzi
This quote goes hand in hand with the Daoist principle of Wu wei. Zhuangzi conveys that happiness comes not from actively pursuing it but from letting go of the desire for it. Letting go of our attachment to things and ideas leads to true contentment. This quote is a reminder to live in the moment, be aware of the happiness that surrounds us already and not strive for something that’s always out of reach.
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Our Thoughts and Conceptions Prevent Us From Truly Knowing Anything
Apart from Laozi and Zhuangzi, Liezi (列子) was also one of the most significant Daoist thinkers who lived in ancient China. He’s known for his writings on Daoism, collected in a text known as the Liezi.
“To be truly happy and contented, you must let go of the idea of what it means to be truly happy or content. ” – Liezi
In this quote, Liezi points out that the key to happiness is letting go of the idea of what happiness is. That reminds us of not being caught up in our preconceived notions of what happiness should look like. Living in harmony with the Dao means being open-minded and flexible. If we’re too rigid in our thinking, we’ll miss out on all the possibilities life offers. So, the next time you find yourself caught up in what happiness should look like, remember to take a step back and be present.
“A person with a mind is bound to be filled with conceptions. These conceptions prevent him from knowing things directly, so a person with a mind shall never really know.” — Liezi
In this quote, Liezi suggests that our thoughts and conceptions prevent us from truly knowing anything. That’s because we’re filtering our experiences through our biases and preconceptions. So, to truly understand something, we must let go of our thoughts and conceptions. Too caught up in our minds, we’ll miss out on all the beauty and wonder life offers. So, next time you find yourself caught up in your conceptions, remember that you miss out on the authentic experience of something.
“If a branch is too rigid, it will break. Resist, and you will perish. Know how to yield, and you will survive.” — Liezi
In this quote, Liezi talks about the importance of flexibility. He compares rigidity to breaking and resistance to perishing. So, it’s better to yield and be flexible. That doesn’t mean we should be doormats or always give in to others. But it does mean we should know when to compromise and go with the flow. Flexibility helps us avoid unnecessary conflict and find more harmony in our lives.
“To solve a problem, you need to remove the cause, not the symptom.” — Liezi
This quote is about problem-solving. Decoding a problem demands handling the root cause and not just the symptoms. That’s a Daoist way of thinking that you can apply to many areas of your life. For example, if we’re trying to lose weight, we shouldn’t just focus on dieting and exercising. We should also look at the underlying causes, such as our eating habits and lifestyle. By addressing the root cause, we can find a more lasting solution.
These Daoist quotes can help us change our perspective on life and find more happiness and contentment. Daoism is a philosophy that emphasizes living in harmony with the Dao. It’s about being open-minded and flexible and not getting caught up in our thoughts and preconceptions. Daoist thinkers suggest that happiness comes from letting go of our desire for happiness.
Daoism is a great philosophy to live by because it emphasizes being present and content with what we have instead of constantly striving for more. It also teaches the importance of being flexible and looking at things from different outlooks. Applying these Daoist principles to our lives can lead to more happiness.