Taoism and Minimalism

Recently, I re-read the book Tao Te Ching (also known as Dao De Jing) by Lao Tsu (or Lao Zi). It is the quintessential text of Taoism (or Daoism). The translation that I read is the one by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, which I think is among the best translations of this ancient text originated from China.


Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu

The book has 81 short chapters consisting only of a few paragraphs in most cases. The topics range from leadership to how to live a good life.

As I was reading it, I noticed that many chapters dealt with the idea of living well and knowing what is enough. While this is the core of the modern day minimalism movement, the ancient Chinese had already figured out how to live a fulfilling life back in the sixth century BC!

I’m going to share some of my favorite chapters and passages from the book (along with my commentary) as they relate very well to minimalism.


Better stop short than fill to the brim.

Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt.

Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it.

Claim wealth and titles, and disaster will follow.

Retire when the work is done.

This is the way of heaven.

(This is my favorite chapter in the book. It’s just right on point!)


...the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.

(Of course he does! Or else he wouldn’t be a sage.)



He who knows he has enough is rich.


(So damn true!)



He who is attached to things will suffer much.


He who knows when to stop does not find himself in trouble.

He will stay forever safe.

(As it relates to Buddhism as well!)



There is no greater sin than desire,

No greater curse than discontent,

No greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself.

Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.

(I just love the last sentence.)


In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.

In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.

Less and less is done

Until non-action is achieved.

When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course.

It cannot be ruled by interfering.

(Yes and yes! Learning and dropping... The more we learn the more we should let go. So much wisdom in this passage!)


... the sage seeks freedom from desire.

He does not collect precious things.

He learns not to hold on to ideas.


(I wish everyone can take something away from these three lines.)



Having little to live on, one knows better than to value life too much.

(Wow. Is this the meaning of life or what!)

These passages are life reminders to live a simple life. I view them as guide posts, but they ring so true to me that they are a set of life laws to follow.

I hope you’ve also found wisdom in these passages. Also check out the book in its entirety as it also talks about leadership, which is a great asset to any business person. I can’t recommend this book enough!