The following are excerpts from The Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee:


The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action.

To see a thing uncolored by one's own personal preferences and desires is to see it in its own pristine simplicity.

Freedom discovers man the moment he loses concern over what impression he is making or about to make.

If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst disease.

Wisdom does not consist of trying to wrest the good from the evil but in learning to "ride" them as a cork adapts itself to the crests and troughs of the waves.

The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement.

Intuitive or instinctive directness, unlike the intellect or the complicated ego, does not divide itself, blocking its own freedom. Move onward without looking back or to the side.

The mind must be emancipated from old habits, prejudices, restrictive thought processes and even ordinary thought itself.

Accumulation is self-enclosing resistance.

A conditioned mind is never a free mind. Conditioning limits a person within the framework of a particular system. To express yourself in freedom, you must die to everything of yesterday. From the old you derive security; from the new you gain the flow.

Die inwardly of "pro" and "con". There is no such thing as doing right or wrong when there is freedom.

When one is not expressing himself, he is not free. Thus, he begins to struggle and the struggle breeds methodical routine.

If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow - you are not understanding yourself.

To that which is static, fixed, dead, there can be a way, a definite path, but not to that which is living. Do not reduce reality to a static thing and then invent methods to reach it.

Classical forms dull your creativity, condition and freeze your sense of freedom. You no longer "be", but "do", without sensitivity.

When you are uninfluenced, when you die to the conditioning of classical responses, then you will know awareness and see things totally fresh, totally new.

Awareness is without choice, without demand, without anxiety; in that state of mind, there is perception.

Understanding requires not just a moment of perception, but a continuous awareness, a continuous state of inquiry without conclusion.

Effort within the mind further limits the mind, because effort implies struggle towards a goal and when you have a goal, a purpose, and end in view, you have placed a limit on the mind.

Newness is experienced by the mind, but tomorrow that experience becomes mechanical if I try to repeat the sensation, the pleasure of it. The description is never real. What is real is seeing the truth instantaneously, because truth has no tomorrow.

Thinking is not freedom - all thought is partial; it can never be total. Thought is the response of memory and memory is always partial, because memory is the result of experience. So, thought is the reaction of a mind controlled by experience.

Self-expression is total, immediate, without conception of time, and you can only express that if you are free, physically and mentally, from fragmentation.

There is "what is" only when there is no comparing and to live with "what is" is to be peaceful.

If there is any secret, it is missed by seeking.

Leave sagehood behind and enter once more into ordinary humanity. After coming to understand the other side, come back and live on this side.

Learning is important but do not become its slave. Any technique, however worthy and desirable, becomes a disease when the mind is obsessed with it.

Nirvana is to be consciously unconscious or unconsciously conscious. The act is so direct and immediate that intellectualization finds no room to insert itself and cut the act to pieces.

It is the ego that stands rigidly against influences from the outside, and it is this "ego rigidity" that makes it impossible for us to accept everything that confronts us.

Truth, becoming a law or a faith, places obstacles in the way of knowledge.

Method, which is in its very substance ignorance, encloses truth within a vicious circle.

Because one's self-consciousness or ego-consciousness is too conspicuously present over the entire range of his attention, it interferes with his free display of whatever proficiency he has so far acquired or is going to acquire. One should remove this obtruding self or ego-consciousness and apply himself to the work to be done as if nothing particular were taking place at the moment.

The deluded mind is the mind affectively burdened by intellect. Thus, it cannot move without stopping and reflecting on itself. This obstructs its native fluidity.

The wheel revolves when it is not too tightly attached to the axle. When the mind is tied up, it feels inhibited in every move it makes and nothing is accomplished with spontaneity.

If one is isolated, he is dead; he is paralyzed within the fortress of his own ideas.


These are from the last section, called It's Just a Name:

There is a powerful craving in most of us to see ourselves as instruments in the hands of others and, thus, free ourselves from responsibility for acts which are prompted by our own questionable inclinations and impulses. Both the strong and the weak grasp at this alibi. The latter hide their malevolence under the virtue of obedience. The strong, too, claim absolution by proclaiming themselves the chosen instruments of a higher power - God, history, fate, nation or humanity.

Similarly, we have more faith in what we imitate than in what we originate. We cannot derive a sense of absolute certitude from anything which has its roots in us. The most poignant sense of insecurity comes from standing alone and we are not alone when we imitate. It is thus with most of us; we are what other people say we are. We know ourselves chiefly by hearsay.

To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are. Whether this being different results in dissimulation or a real change of heart, it cannot be realized without self-awareness. Yet, it is remarkable that the very people who are most self-dissatisfied, who crave most for a new identity, have the least self-awareness. They have turned away from an unwanted self and, hence, never had a good look at it. The result is that most dissatisfied people can neither dissimulate nor attain a real change of heart. They are transparent and their unwanted qualities persist through all attempts at self-dramatization and self-transformation. It is the lack of self-awareness which renders us transparent. The soul that knows itself is opaque.

Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or our worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear. Thus, a feeling of utter unworthiness can be a source of courage. Everything seems possible when we are absolutely powerful - and both states stimulate our gullibility.

Pride is a sense of worth derived from something that is not organically part of us, while self-esteem is derived from the potentialities and achievements of self. We are proud when we identify ourselves with an imaginary self, a leader, a holy cause, a collective body or possessions. There is fear and intolerance in pride; it is sensitive and uncompromising. The less promise and potentiality in the self, the more imperative is the need for pride. The core of pride is self-rejection. It is true, however, that when pride releases energies and serves as a spur to achievement, it can lead to a reconciliation with the self and the attainment of genuine self-esteem.

The autonomous individual is stable only so long as he is possessed of self-esteem. The maintenance of self-esteem is a continuous task which taxes all of the individual's power and inner resources. We have to prove our worth and justify our existence anew each day. When, for whatever reason, self-esteem is unattainable, the autonomous individual becomes a highly explosive entity. He turns away from an unpromising self and plunges into the pursuit of pride, the explosive substitute for self-esteem. All social disturbances and upheavals have their roots in crises of individual self-esteem, and the great endeavor in which the masses most readily unite is basically a search for pride.

So, we acquire a sense of worth either by realizing our talents, or by keeping busy or by identifying ourselves with something apart from us - be it a cause, a leader, a group, possessions or whatnot. The path of self-realization is the most difficult. It is taken only when other avenues to a sense of worth are more or less blocked. Men of talent have to be encouraged and goaded to engage in creative work. Their groans and laments echo through the ages.

The propensity to action is symptomatic of an inner unbalance. To be balanced is to be more or less at rest. Action is at the bottom - a swinging and flailing of the arms to regain one's balance and keep afloat.

The times of drastic change are times of passions. We can never be fit and ready for that which is wholly new. We have to adjust ourselves and every radical adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem: we undergo a test; we have to prove ourselves. A population subjected to drastic change is, thus, a population of misfits, and misfits live and breathe in an atmosphere of passion.

That we pursue something passionately does not always mean that we really want it or have a special aptitude for it. Often, the thing we pursue most passionately is but a substitute for the one thing we really want and cannot have. It is usually safe to predict that the fulfillment of an excessively cherished desire is not likely to still our nagging anxiety. In every passionate pursuit, the pursuit counts more than the object pursued.

It is compassion rather than the principle of justice which can guard us against being unjust to our fellow men. It is doubtful whether there is such a thing as impulsive or natural tolerance. Tolerance requires an effort of thought and self-control. Acts of kindness, too, are rarely without deliberation and "thoughtfulness". Thus, it seems that some artificiality, some posing and pretense, is inseparable from any act or attitude which involves a limitation of our appetites and selfishness. We ought to beware of people who do not think it necessary to pretend that they are good and decent. Lack of hypocrisy in such things hints at a capacity for a more depraved ruthlessness. Pretense is often an indispensable step in the attainment of genuineness. It is a form into which genuine inclinations flow and solidify.