Sometimes in life, when we look back to ancient teachings we can find infinite wisdom that still rings true today. This collection from the great Lao Tzu proves that some of the wisest words ever written or spoken came centuries before our time.
Lao Tzu was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer who’s believed to be the author of the Tao Te Ching (a collection of sayings describing the principal Taoist teachings), and the father of Chinese Taoism (a philosophy that advocates living a simple life.) Also known as Laozi, Lao Tzu existed in the 6th century B.C and is considered a central figure in Chinese culture.
Although very little is known about his life, Lao Tzu’s teachings have been passed down through the centuries and have influenced many different people, regardless of culture.
Below are some amazing Lao Tzu quotes to instill his timeless wisdom and inspire you to be the best you can be.
Remember to also read our selection of thoughtful quotes by Confucius and Diogenes of Sinope quotes. We also have a collection of inspirational courage quotes that will inspire you to fight for your dreams. Be sure to read that as well.
Top Lao Tzu Quotes
“From wonder into wonder existence opens.”
“The best fighter is never angry.”
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
“The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.”
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”
“Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.”
“To a mind that is still the whole universe surrenders.”
“Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.”
“Be like water.”
“To understand the limitation of things, desire them.”
“Be still. Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity.”
“Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.”
“There is a time to live and a time to die but never to reject the moment.”
“To know that you do not know is the best.
To think you know when you do not is a disease.
Recognizing this disease as a disease is to be free of it.”
“Because of a great love, one is courageous.”
“An over sharpened sword cannot last long. “
“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.”
“When you accept yourself, the whole world accepts you.”
“Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere.”
“The way of heaven is to help and not harm.”
“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”
“He who talks more is sooner exhausted.”
“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
“As soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it.”
“A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.”
“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.”
“One who is too insistent on his own views finds few to agree with him.”
“A bad man is a good man’s job.”
“Love is of all the passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the senses.”
“When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready… The teacher will disappear.”
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
“Take care with the end as you do with the beginning.”
“The further one goes, the less one knows.”
“When goodness is lost there is morality.”
Lao Tzu on Letting Go
“To hold, you must first open your hand. Let go.”
“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
“Stop thinking, and end your problems.”
“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.”
“When there is no desire, all things are at peace.”
“The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.”
“If you try to change it, you will ruin it. Try to hold it, and you will lose it.”
“Stop leaving and you will arrive. Stop searching and you will see. Stop running away and you will be found.”
“He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.”
“If you want to lead them you must place yourself behind them.”
“Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.”
“Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.”
“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.”
“He who acts, spoils; he who grasps, lets slip.”
“If you wish to be out front, then act as if you were behind.”
“To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”
“Become totally empty.
Quiet the restlessness of the mind
only then will you witness everything unfolding from emptiness.”
“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.”
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”
“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.”
“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.”
Laozi on Living The Tao
“The Tao is nowhere to be found. Yet it nourishes and completes all things.”
“When men lost their understanding of the Tao, intelligence came along, bringing hypocrisy with it.”
“Manifest plainness, Embrace simplicity, Reduce selfishness, Have few desires.”
“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.”
“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.”
“The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.”
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
“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.”
“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”
“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.”
“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.”
“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”
“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.”
“Colors blind the eye
Sounds deafen the ear.
Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts weaken the mind.
Desires wither the heart.” – Tao Te Ching
“Respond to anger with virtue. Deal with difficulties while they are still easy. Handle the great while it is still small.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“A leader is best
When people barely know he exists
Of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, ‘We did this ourselves.’”
“Accomplish but do not boast, accomplish without show, accomplish without arrogance, accomplish without grabbing, accomplish without forcing.”
“Love is a decision – not an emotion!”
Perspectives on Existence
“Go to the people. Live with them, learn from them, love them.”
“Your own positive future begins in this moment. All you have is right now. Every goal is possible from here.”
“If lightning is the anger of the gods, then the gods are concerned mostly about trees.”
“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.”
“Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.”
“If you do not value rare treasures, you will stop others from stealing.”
“A violent wind does not last for a whole morning; a sudden rain does not last for the whole day.”
“There is no disaster greater than not being content; there is no misfortune greater than being covetous.”
“Water is the softest thing, yet it can penetrate mountains and earth. This shows clearly the principle of softness overcoming hardness.”
“The reason why the universe is eternal is that it does not live for itself; it gives life to others as it transforms.”
“Ordinary men hate solitude. But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.”
“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”
“Do you imagine the universe is agitated? Go into the desert at night and look at the stars. This practice should answer the question.”
“The flexible are preserved unbroken. The bent become straight. The empty are filled. The exhausted become renewed. The poor are enriched. The rich are confounded. Therefore the sage embraces the one. Because he doesn’t display himself, people can see his light. Because he has nothing to prove, people can trust his words. Because he doesn’t know who he is, people recognize themselves in him. Because he has no goal in mind, everything he does succeeds. The old saying that the flexible are preserved unbroken is surely right! If you have truly attained wholeness, everything will flock to you.”
“So the unwanting soul
sees what’s hidden,
and the ever-wanting soul
sees only what it wants.”
“When wealth and honors lead to arrogancy, this brings its evil on itself.”
than the silent balance
between yin and yang.”
“Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish – too much handling will spoil it.”
“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.”
“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?”
“I do not concern myself with gods and spirits either good or evil nor do I serve any.”
“He who defends with love will be secure; Heaven will save him, and protect him with love.”
“Just remain in the center; watching. And then forget that you are there.”
“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.”
“The Wise Man is square but not sharp, honest but not not malign, straight but not severe, bright but not dazzling.”
“The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world. Through this I know the advantage of taking no action.”
“The hard and mighty lie beneath the ground
While the tender and weak dance on the breeze above.”
“Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“If the people must be ever fearful of death, then there will always be an executioner.”
“Our enemies are not demons, but human beings like ourselves.”
“When you are at one with loss, the loss is experienced willingly.”
“Is it not through her selflessness that she is able to perfect herself?”
“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.”
“If I had just a little bit of wisdom I should walk the great path and fear only straying from it.”
“Composure is the ruler of instability.”
“With few there is attainment. With much there is confusion.”
“Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.”
“He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.”
“There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.”
“To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; not to realize that you do not understand is a defect.”
“Not seeking, not expecting, she is present, and can welcome all things.”
“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.”
“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.”
“The wise man does not lay up his own treasures.
The more he gives to others,
the more he has for his own.”
“When pure sincerity forms within, it is outwardly realized in other people’s hearts.”
“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.”
“The difficult problems in life always start off being simple. Great affairs always start off being small.”
“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.”
“If you are untrustworthy, people will not trust you.”
“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.”
“Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretches her fingers to touch the heavens.”
“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”
“Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline; simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this huge collection of Lao Tzu quotes! May they bring you peace and show you the Way