Striking Thoughts - Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living

How much do I want to read more? 8/10

Love all Lee's aphorisms. I knew a few popular ones. But I didn't expect there were so many, and I didn't expect them to be all good.
Lee obviously took a great care with thinking about all this. Self-inquiry, introspection, meaning of life, self-actualization, thoughts, actions…

HE WAS A TEACHER first of all. He taught philosophy and tried to spread knowledge and wisdom… The integrity with which Bruce lived his life and tried to uphold what he believed to be right-that is a clear example of how it ought to be done. No matter what it is you're doing, do it with total honesty and total dedication. He definitely influenced me.

-- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Bruce's philosophy seemed always to be going back to the Zen origins, where contradictory advice states the simplest of all truths. Bruce's lessons were lessons without being lessons; he was not a teacher, yet he was the greatest teacher I've ever known.

-- Stirling Silliphant

For every question you asked him he would never have to think about it, he would just blurt it right out. Bruce would cover every point with a little saying. If he would see that you were having trouble with something, he would always know just what to tell you. It would seem like he was always dusting off your "bogie man." Like if there was something that you were scared of, Bruce would notice and then say, "Ah, scared of that, well look at it this way." He would change your whole idea about it. Bruce had sayings for everything.

-- Bob Bremer, student of Bruce Lee

I thought Bruce was a brilliant, fine philosopher about everyday living. He was very much into finding out who he was. His comment to people was "Know yourself." The good head that he acquired was through his knowing himself. He and I used to have great long discussions about that. No matter what you do in life, if you don't know yourself, you're never going to be able to appreciate anything in life. That, I think, is today's mark of a good human being-to know yourself.

-- Steve McQueen

We'd work out for an hour, then we'd talk for an hour about a lot of things. He didn't separate life from the extension in his arm. And he is the only one I know of that carried it to the point of real art.

-- James Coburn

PREFACE - The Philosophy of Bruce Lee - Linda Lee Cadwell

He did not confine him self to any particular culture or philosophical era. Instead, he collected and avidly studied hundreds of books on all types of philosophy-Western, Eastern, ancient, and modern-in an attempt to glean those tenets that would contribute to his own spiritual growth.

Bruce evolved a personal philosophy, the central theme of which was the liberation of the spirit through greater self-knowledge. To free one's self from preconceived notions, prejudices, and conditioned responses is essential to understanding truth and reality.

He often said, "A teacher is never a giver of truth; he is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself. A good teacher is merely a catalyst."

"Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions," replied the Zen teacher. "If you do not first empty your cup, how can you taste my cup of tea?"

His main message was to keep one’s mind, attitude, and senses pliable and receptive, and, at the same time, develop the ability to think critically.


Self-actualisation is the important thing. And my personal message to people is that I hope they will go toward self-actualisation rather than self-image actualisation. I hope that they will search within themselves for honest self-expression.

-- Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee rejected blind obedience to external authority. He urged human beings to hold themselves and their lives as their highest values and wrote in praise of "the artist of life" who lives by his own judgment and who is willing to stand alone against tradition and popular opinion.
Lee pointed out that "We have more faith in what we imitate than in what we originate,”
we are encouraged to look to anyone but ourselves for the answers to our most unsettling questions.

The title "Striking Thoughts" is taken from a heading that Bruce Lee created for a series of maxims he wrote down after reading the philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti's book First and Last Freedom.

Lee grasped the point that in the realm of philosophy "less is more,"
The end of man is action and not thought, though it be of the noblest.

Lee always challenged his students (both in the classroom and through his writings) not to agree or disagree-but to grow.
Lee was firmly insistent that even if he were to know the answers, and even if he were to tell them to us, they wouldn't do us any good. In other words, it's in the nature of Lee's statements on life that you have to puzzle out their validity for yourself.

Lee held that if there is a "way" then it most assuredly is somebody else's-not yours-with the result that following it would lead you further away from the truth that resides within you. It is for this reason, as Lee indicates below, that it is imperative that the free spirit not mistake any book-including this one-or its contents for the truth, for then it will simply become yet another external authority:
"Independent inquiry is needed in your search for truth, not dependence on anyone else’s view or a mere book."
"It is like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory."

The objective of this volume, then, is two-fold; to have Bruce Lee communicate with you and to have you communicate with yourself.
"To live is a constant process of relating, so come on out of that shell of isolation and conclusion) and relate DIRECTLY to what is being said. Bear in mind I seek neither your approval nor to influence you. So do not make up your mind as to “this is this'' or “that is that.” I will be more than satisfied if you begin to learn to investigate everything yourself from now on."

Part One - On first principles


Emptiness the starting point. – In order to taste my cup of water you must first empty your cup. My friend, drop all of your preconceived fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is so useful? Because it is empty.

Flow in the process of life. - You can never step in the same water twice, my friend. Like flowing water, life is perpetual movement. There is nothing fixed. Whatever your problems happen to be in the future, remember well that they cannot remain stationary but must move together with your living spirit. Otherwise, you will drift into artificiality or attempt to solidify the ever-flowing. To avoid that, you must change and be flexible. Remember, the usefulness of a cup is in its emptiness.

Life has no frontier. - Life is wide, limitless. There is no border, no frontier.

To live is a constant process of relating, so come on out of that shell of isolation and conclusion, and relate DIRECTLY to what is being said. Bear in mind I seek neither your approval nor to influence you. So do not make up your mind as to "this is this" or "that is that." I will be more than satisfied if you begin to learn to investigate everything yourself from now on.

Life simply is. - Living exists when life lives through us - unhampered in its flow, for he who is living is not conscious of living and, in this, is the life it lives. Life lives; and in the living flow, no questions are raised. The reason is that life is a living now! So, in order to live life whole-heartedly, the answer is life simply is.

Life-for its own sake. - Realise the fact that you simply "live" and not "live for."

The meaning of life. - The meaning of life is that it is to be lived, and it is not to be traded and conceptualised and squeezed into a pattern of systems.

Life is the effect of feelings.- Life is simply what our feelings do to us.

The meaning in life. - All in all, the goal of my planning and doing is to find the true meaning in life - peace of mind. In order to achieve this peace of mind, the teaching of detachment of Taoism and Zen proved to be valuable.

The secret of life. - The aphorism "as a man thinketh in his heart so is he" contains the secret of life. James Allen further added "A man is literally what he thinks." This might be a shocking statement, but everything is a state of mind.

Meaning is found in relationship. - Meaning is the relationship of the foreground figure to the background.

Manipulation and control are not the ultimate joy of life. to become real, to learn to take a stand, to develop one's center, to the support of our total personality, a release to spontaneity-yes, yes, yes!

The essence of life. - The essence: free movement of spirit. Original essence.

Violence is a part of life. - It should be remembered that violence and aggression is part of everyday life now. You see it over the TV. You can't just pretend that it does not exist.

The principle of life. - Life is never stagnation. It is a constant movement, unrhythmic movement, as well as constant change. Things live by moving and gain strength as they go.

Life is sometimes unpleasant. - Life is an ever-flowing process and somewhere on the path some unpleasant things will pop up-it might leave a scar, but then life is flowing, and like running water, when it stops it grows stale. Go bravely on, my friend, because each experience teaches us a lesson. Keep blasting because life is such that sometimes it is nice and sometimes it is not.

The pendulum of life must have balance.- Only sober moderation lasts, and that persists through all time. Only the midpart of anything is preserved because the pendulum of life must have balance, and the midpart is the balance.

Pliability is life. - Be pliable. When a man is living, he is soft and pliable; when he is dead, he becomes rigid. Pliability is life; rigidity is death, whether one speaks of man's body, his mind, or his spirit.

Life as educator. - Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning.

To live is to create.- To live is to express, and to express you have to create. Creation is never merely repetition. To live is to express oneself freely in creation.

The process of life. - Since life is an ever-evolving process, one should flow in this process and discover how to actualise and expand oneself.

The oneness of life. - The oneness of all life is a truth that can be fully realised only when false notions of a separate self-whose destiny can be considered apart from the WHOLE-are forever annihilated.

The life of perfection is the simple life. - A simple life is one of plainness, in which profit is discarded, cleverness abandoned, selfishness eliminated, and desires reduced. It is the life of perfection which seems to be incomplete, and of fullness which seems to be empty. It is the life which is as bright as light, but does not dazzle. In short, it is a life of harmony, unity, contentment, tranquility, constancy, enlightenment, peace, and long life.

Life must be understood from moment to moment. - Life is something for which there is no answer; it must be understood from moment to moment - the answer we find inevitably conforms to the pattern of what we think we know.

Enjoy yourself - Remember my friend to enjoy your planning as well as your accomplishment, for life is too short for negative energy.


What is the opposite of existence? The immediate answer would be "nonexistence," but this is incorrect. The opposite would be anti-existence, just as the opposite of matter is antimatter.

The primary reality is not what I think, but that I live, for those also live who do not think. Although this living may not be a real living.

Is pure thought possible, without consciousness of self, without personality? Can there exist pure knowledge without feeling, without that species of materiality which feeling lends to it?

To doubt is to think, and thought is the only thing in the universe whose existence cannot be denied, because to deny is to think. When one says that thought exists, it automatically includes saying that one exists because there is no thought that does not contain as one of its elements a subject who thinks.


My friend, do think of the past in terms of those memories of events and accomplishments which were pleasant, rewarding, and satisfying. The present? Well, think of it in terms of challenges and opportunities, and the rewards available for the application of your talents and energies. As for the future, that is a time and a place where every worthy ambition you possess is within your grasp.

The “moment" has no yesterday or tomorrow. It is not the result of thought and therefore has no time.

Knowledge, surely, is always of time, whereas knowing is not of time. Knowledge is from a source, from an accumulation, from a conclusion, while knowing is a movement.

To realise freedom the mind has to learn to look at life, which is vast movement, without the bondage of time, for freedom lies beyond the field of consciousness-care for watching, but don't stop and interpret “I am free," then you're living in a memory of something that has gone.

To spend time is to pass it in a specified manner. To waste time is to expend it thoughtlessly or carelessly. We all have time to either spend or waste, and it is our decision what to do with it. But once passed, it is gone forever.

Time means a lot to me because, you see, I, too, am also a learner and am often lost in the joy of forever developing and simplifying. If you love life, don't waste time, for time is what life is made up of.

My only problem these days is time. I find myself dashing back and forth between Los Angeles and Hong Kong four and five times a year. It is a very schizophrenic way to make a living, but then, that's what University of Washington philosophy courses prepare you for, I suppose.

The Root

Be aware of doing your best to under-rand the ROOT in life and realise the DIRECT and the INDIRECT are in fact a complementary WHOLE. It is to see things as they are and not to become attached to anything - to be unconscious means to be innocent of the working of a relative (empirical) mind - when there is no abiding of thought anywhere on anything - this is being unbound. This not abiding anywhere is the root of our life.

Concentration is the ROOT of all the higher abilities in man.

It is futile to argue as to which single leaf, which design of branch, or which attractive flower you like; when you understand the root, you understand all its blossoming.

What we are after is the ROOT and not the branches. The root is the real knowledge; the branches are surface knowledge. Real knowledge breeds "body feel" and personal expression; surface knowledge breeds mechanical conditioning and imposing limitation and squelches creativity.

Be at once absorbingly open and rootily relaying your captivating total presence with appropriate inward time.

The root is the fulcrum on which will rest the expression of your soul; the root is the "starting point" of all natural manifestation. If the root is right so will be all its manifestation. It cannot be, when the root is neglected, that what should spring from it will be well-ordered.

The Now