Asian Quotes to Guide Us Through Life

Buddha sculpture, Marble Mountain, Da Nang, Vietnam.

The vast continent of Asia gave us such wise characters as Confucius, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Lao Tzu… as well as religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Taoism. No wonder there are so many wise and inspiring Asian quotations!

Whether you’re looking for spiritual wisdom in times of need or just some practical words to help in your daily life, these wise Asian quotes will surely offer you some guidance, no matter where you are right now…

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Asian Quotes about Life, Love and Travel

Quotes by Lao Tzu (China)

Lao Tzu was a Chinese philosopher who is believed to have lived during the 6th century. He is the author of the famous spiritual book, the Tao Te Ching and considered to be the father of Taoism.

His philosophy is surely close to the heart of many backpackers as it can be summed up as ‘going with the flow’ or ‘being at one with nature’ (the way of the Dao). He proposed a state of ‘wu wei’ which means ‘non action’, one where you are completely free of desires and living entirely in the present moment. Below are some of Lao Tzu’s most memorable quotes…

You can read more about Lao Tzu here.

Statue of Lao Tzu in Quanzhou, China.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ― Lao Tzu

“If you do not change direction, you might end up where you are heading” ― Lao Tzu

“Stop leaving and you will arrive. Stop searching and you will see. Stop running away and you will be found.” ― Lao Tzu

“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.” ― Lao Tzu

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” ― Lao Tzu

“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.” ― Lao Tzu

“A good traveler leaves no tracks.” ― Lao Tzu

“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.” ― Lao Tzu

“Stop thinking, and end your problems.” ― Lao Tzu

“There is a time to live and a time to die but never to reject the moment.” ― Lao Tzu

“The Sage travels all day yet never leaves his inner treasure or peace.” ― Lao Tzu

Quotes by the Buddha (India)

The principal religion of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Tibet, Nepal and Myanmar, Buddhism began over 2,500 years ago in India after a young prince by the name of Siddhartha Guatama became the ‘enlightened one’ or the ‘Buddha’.

With its focus on ‘living in the present moment’ as well as ‘freedom from desires’ it is the Asian religion that is the most exported to the West, along with mindful meditation practises. You will find statues of the Buddha across Asia. Here are some of his most famous quotes below…

Buddha Statues Seen Side On At Sukhothai
Statues of the Buddha in Sukhothai, Thailand.

“The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live.” ― The Buddha

“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” ― The Buddha

“It is better to travel well than to arrive.” ― The Buddha

“If you are quiet enough, you will hear the flow of the universe. You will feel its rhythm. Go with this flow. Happiness lies ahead. Meditation is key.” ― The Buddha

“The root of suffering is attachment.” ― The Buddha

“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” ― The Buddha

“If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.” ― The Buddha

“Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” ― The Buddha

“All we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” ― The Buddha

“If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.” ― The Buddha

“In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?” ― The Buddha

“When you realise how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” ― The Buddha

Quotes by the 14th Dalai Lama (Tibet)

The Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader and the head of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. The current Dalai Lama (the 14th) is well known for his humour, kindness and quick-wittedness.

He is a contributing author of several books including The Art of Happiness, Beyond Religion and The Book of Joy, which he co-wrote with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Below are several of the Dalai Lama’s most revered quotes…

The 14th Dalai Lama.
The 14th Dalai Lama in his Buddhist robes.

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” ― The Dalai Lama

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” ― The Dalai Lama

“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ― The Dalai Lama

“Love is the absence of judgment.” ― The Dalai Lama

“What surprises me most is “Man”, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present; The result being he doesn’t live in the present or the future; He lives as if he’s never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.” ― The Dalai Lama

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” ― The Dalai Lama

“Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.” ― The Dalai Lama

“Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.” ― The Dalai Lama

“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” ― The Dalai Lama

“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.” ― The Dalai Lama

Quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnam)

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk and Zen Master born in 1926 in Vietnam. He is the founder of the Plum Village Tradition of Buddhism and lived much of his later life in the Plum Village Monastery in France. He was an activist of peace and non-violence and coined the phrase ‘Engaged Buddhism’ in his book; Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire.

During the 1960s, he was an opponent of the Vietnamese War and questioned America’s involvement. Below are some of his best quotes about peace, life and happiness…

Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist Monk
Thich Nhat Hanh in Vietnam.

“There is no way to happiness – happiness is the way.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

“Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

“We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

“Be Yourself. Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just Be.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

“My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh  

“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

“Impermanence and selflessness are not negative aspect of life, but the very foundation on which life is built. Impermanence is the constant transformation of things. Without impermanence, there can be no life. Selflessness is the interdependent nature of all things. Without interdependence, nothing could exist.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Quotes by Confucius (China)

Confucius was an ancient Chinese philosopher, politician and educator born in 551 BC. His philosophy, Confucianism, formed the basis of Chinese society and government and his ideas became hugely influential the world over, still today.

His philosophy, which can be found in the Lunyu or Analects, focuses on harmony, self-discipline and virtue in order to create a benevolent and functioning society that benefits everybody. He wanted to make education available to everyone with a thirst for knowledge.

His quotes are famous for being short and simple. Some of his most thought-provoking ones are below…

Confucius – Taken from Britannica Encyclopedia of world religions (2006).

“Roads were made for journeys not destinations.” – Confucius

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

“The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.” – Confucius

“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” – Confucius

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” – Confucius

“If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for 10 years plant trees. If your plan is for 100 years educate children.” – Confucius

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

“I want you to be everything that’s you, deep at the center of your being.” – Confucius

Quotes by Gandhi (India)

Mahatma Gandhi was a peace activist who lived 1869-1948 (when he was assassinated). He was a lawyer and anti-colonialist who led the civil rights movement against the rule of the British Empire in India which was eventually successful in 1947.

His non-violent protest methods inspired civil rights movements across the world and he is considered a hero in India today and the ‘Father of the Nation’. Check out some of his inspiring quotes below…

Graffiti Image of Gandhi, India.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Gandhi

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” – Gandhi

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Gandhi

“The future depends on what you do today.” – Gandhi

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” – Gandhi

“In doing something, do it with love or never do it at all.” – Gandhi

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” – Gandhi

“Speak only if it improves upon the silence.” – Gandhi

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever.” – Gandhi

Zen Quotes, Sayings and Proverbs

Zen Buddhism is derived from Mahayana Buddhism and the Taoist philosophy which originated in China during the Tang Dynasty. Today, Zen is popular in Japan, South Korea and many a Western yoga class. The wisdom was popularised during the 1960s by British philosopher and writer, Alan Watts, who was one of the first interpreters of Eastern religions to the Western world.

“Let go, or be dragged.” – (Anon)

“One must be deeply aware of the impermanence of the world.” ― Dogen Zenji

“The true purpose of zen is to see things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes.” ― Shunryu Suzuki

“Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” ― Zhuangzi

“Wherever you are, you are one with the clouds and one with the sun and the stars you see. You are one with everything. That is more true than I can say, and more true than you can hear.” ― Shunryu Suzuki

“In zazen (sitting meditation), leave your front door and your back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.” ― Shunryu Suzuki

“If you want to travel the Way of Buddhas and Zen masters, then expect nothing, seek nothing, and grasp nothing.” ― Dogen Zenji

“Before we were born we had no feeling; we were one with the universe. This is called “mind-only,” or “essence of mind,” or “big mind,” After we are separated by birth from this oneness, as the water falling from the waterfall is separated by the wind and rocks, then we have feeling. You have difficulty because you have feeling. You attach to the feeling you have without knowing just how this kind of feeling is created. When you do not realize that you are one with the river, or one with the universe, you have fear. Whether it is separated into drops or not, water is water. Our life and death are the same thing. When we realize this fact we have no fear of death anymore, and we have no actual difficulty in our life.” ― Shunryu Suzuki

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” ― Alan Watts

“If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” ― Dogen

“The only zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the zen you bring up there.” ― Robert M. Pirsig from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Nikki Scott - Founder South East Asia Backpacker
Nikki Scott | Founder & Editor

Nikki is the founding editor of South East Asia Backpacker and The Backpacker Network. In her early twenties, she left her home in the North of England on a solo backpacking adventure and never returned! After six months on the road, she founded a print magazine that became legendary on the Banana Pancake Trail. The rest is history.

Find me: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

10 thoughts on “Asian Quotes to Guide Us Through Life”

  1. max neumegen

    “the overland traveller goes around the corner to see who there is to meet around the next corner”, max neumegen.

    “the hitch hiker is there to give you the opportunity to do your good deed for the day”, max neumegen.

    “try an ultimate way of travel, hitch hike with a bicycle”, max neumegen.

  2. I had this on the first page of my travel diary:
    “A life lived in fear… is a life half-lived”
    Spanish proverb

  3. “If you always do what you’ve always done, then you will always get what you’ve always got”

    “It’s about taking that leap, getting out of your comfort zone, opening yourself up to new expriences and cultures. LIVING your life rather than just existing.”

    1. “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
      Jack Kerouac

      “I often look at birds and wonder why they choose to stay in one place when they can go anywhere in the world… Then I ask myself the same question.”
      -Harun Yahya

  4. Better to love like a madman, to wander aimlessly and soak up experience indiscriminately, to love whomever comes along, to find use in useless things–beauty in a tattered shack– to dance across the lily pads of castle moats, through deep water do a do-si-do with a great white shark. This is me that dances alone just now, because no one can see me singing and dancing fee. -Rick Clark

  5. “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routinne. It’s deadly.” Paulo Coelho

    “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein

    “Life is not measured by the numbers of breaths we take but by the places and moments that take our breath away”

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