– Extracts from the book by Bruce Lee –
Introduction by opa.


For many, Bruce Lee represents a male stereotype that many grew up idolising for his cool temper and honed martial arts ability. He was, and still is, a martial arts hero who inspired millions of people the world over.

What is little known about the man were his foundations in philosophy, spiritual understanding, and utter devotion to his art. At just 32, Lee had written the manual of an entirely new martial art, Jeet Kune Do, plus many other projects, and had begun to take the form of a potent and inspirational leader.

His life was prematurely cut short, but he left behind the beginnings of what would have been an unbelievable pool of knowledge and wisdom. The following lines are taken from his book “Striking Thoughts”; a collection of almost 1,000 angles and ideas covering a broad range of subjects including perception, knowledge, will, fear, love, adversity, goals, and so forth.

The interdependency of thought and existence.

If thought exists, I who think and the world around which I think also exist; the one exists but for the other, having no possible separation between them. Therefore, the world and I are both in active correlation; I am that which sees the world, and the world is that which is seen by me. I exist for the world, and the world exists for me. If there were no things to be seen, though about, and imagined, I would not see, think, or imagine. That is to say, I would not exist. One sure and primary and fundamental fact is the joint existence of a subject and its world. The one does not exist without the other. I acquire no understanding of myself except as I take account of objects, of the surroundings. I do not think unless I think of things – and there I find myself.

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 wholeheartedly, the answer is life simply is.

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 not.

Acceptance of death.

The round of summer and winter becomes a blessing the moment we give up the fantasy of eternal spring.

Talking and listening.

Most people can talk without listening. Very few can listen without talking. It is very rare that people can talk and listen.

The necessity for acting on our beliefs.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.

The point is the doing.

The point is the doing of them rather than the accomplishments. There is no actor but the action – there is no experience but experience.

Do not expend power prematurely.

Wait in the calm strength of patience – he that is strong should guard it with tenderness. One need not fear lest strong will should not prevail; the main thing is not to expend ones powers prematurely in an attempt to obtain by force something for which the time is not ripe.

The qualities of mind.

To be one thing and not change is the climax of STILLNESS. To have nothing in one that resists is the climax of EMPTINESS. To remain detached from all outside things is the climax of FINENESS. To have in oneself no contraries is the climax of PURITY.

You are the commander of your mind.

Ive always been buffeted by circumstances because I thought of myself as a human being affected by outside conditioning. Now I realise that I am the power that commands the feeling of my mind from where the circumstances grow.

A limited mind cannot think freely.

The mind must be wide open in order to function freely in thought. For a limited mind cannot think freely.

Liberate yourself from concepts and see the truth with your own eyes.

It exists HERE and NOW; it requires only one thing to see it: openness, freedom – the freedom to be open and not tethered by any ideas, concepts, etc. We can go on rehearsing, analysing, attending lectures, etc., until we are all blue in the face; all this will not be of the slightest avail – it is only when we stop thinking and let go that we can start seeing, discovering. When our mind is tranquil, there will be an occasional pause to its feverish activities, there will be a let-go, and it is only then in the interval between two thoughts that a flash of UNDERSTANDING – understanding, which is not thought – can take place.

Concepts prevent feeling.

Don+t think, FEEL. Feeling exists here and now when not interrupted and dissected by ideas and concepts. The moment we stop analysing and let go, we can start really seeing, feeling – as one whole. There is no actor or the one being acted upon but the action itself. It stayed with my feeling then – and I felt it to the full without naming it that. At last the I and the feeling merged to become one. The I no longer feels the self to be separated from the you, and the whole idea of taking advantage of getting something out of something becomes absurd. To me, I have no other self (not to mention thought) than the oneness of things of which I was aware at that moment.

On developing the creative attitude.

To develop the creative attitude, analyse, focus on the wanted SOLUTION; seek out and fill your mind with the FACTS; write down IDEAS, both sensible and seemingly wild; let the facts and ideas SIMMER in your mind; evaluate, recheck, settle on the CREATIVE IDEAS.

Perception is the way of truth.

Not conviction, not method, but perception is the way of truth. It is a state of effortless awareness, pliable awareness, choiceless awareness.

To be a calm beholder.

Be a calm beholder of what is happening around you.

Lose the attitude.

Do not have an attitude, open yourself and focus yourself and express yourself. Reject external form that fails to express internal reality.

On humbleness.

To be humble to superiors is duty; to equals is courtesy; to inferiors is nobleness; and to all, safety!

To be unconsciously conscious is the secret of Nirvana.

To be consciously unconscious or to be unconsciously conscious is the secret of Nirvana.

The act is so direct and immediate that intellection finds no room here to insert itself and cut it to pieces.

Seeing through ourselves.

We can see through others only when we see through ourselves.

There is fear and insecurity in pride

Pride emphasises the importance of the superiority of ones status in the eyes of others. There is fear and insecurity in pride, for when one aims at being highly esteemed, and having achieved such status, he is automatically involved in the fear of losing ones status. Then protection of his status appears to be his most important need, and this creates anxiety.

The will is spiritual.

The spiritual power of a mans will removes all obstacles.

The aim of the self-willed man is growth.

A self-willed man has no other aim than his own growth. He values only one thing, the mysterious power in himself which bids him to live and helps him to grow. His only living destiny is the silent, ungainsayable law in his own heart, which comfortable habits make it so hard to obey but which to the self-willed man is destiny and godhead.

Watch what you say.

Diseases enter by the mouth, misfortune issues from it.

Love and respect.

Without respect, love cannot go long.

On seeking the divine within.

Whether it is the godhead or not, I feel this great force, this untapped power, this dynamic something within me. This feeling defies description, and there is no experience with which this feeling may be compared. It is something like a strong emotion mixed with faith, but a lot stronger.

On the divisiveness of organised religion.

Religions divide people, just as styles divide people. If all the religions of the world were one, the world would be united in brotherhood. Some people fight with others because they believe in different religions. If, however, they only gave the matter a bit of thought, they would never fight such a foolish cause.

The spirit controls the body.

The active is controlled by the inactive – the active being form or matter, and the inactive being spirit or mind.

Absence in love.

Absence in love is like water upon a fire; a little quickens, but much extinguishes it.

The value of self education.

Self-education makes great men.

The teacher cannot be fixed in a routine.

A good teacher cannot be fixed in a routine. He must not impose his student to fit a lifeless pattern, a pre formulation.

The spiritually deficient search for external securities.

The poorer we are inwardly, the more we try to enrich ourselves outwardly.

There is no fixed teaching.

There is no fixed teaching. All I can provide is an appropriate medicine for a particular ailment. I present a possible direction, nothing more. It is like a finger pointing away to the moon; dont concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.

Enrich your understanding.

Enrich your understanding. Don’t be in a hurry to “fix” things, rather, enrich your understanding in the ever going process of discovery and finding more the cause of your ignorance.

Under the heavens there is but one family.

Basically, human traits are the same everywhere. I don’t want this to sound like “As Confucius say”, but under the sky, there is but one family.

To be able to do the things we want sometimes requires the performance of a few we dont.

Just as the maintaining of good health may require the taking of unpleasant medicine, so the condition of being able to do the things we enjoy often requires the performance of a few we dont. Remember my friend that it is not what happens that counts, it how you react to them. Your mental attitude determines what you make of it, either a stepping stone or a stumbling block.

Sorrow as educator.

Sorrows are our best educator. A man can see further through a tear than a telescope.


Anxiety is the gap between the NOW and the THEN. So if you are in the NOW, you cant be anxious, because your excitement flows immediately into ongoing spontaneous activity.

The critic.

Empty heads have long tongues. Commonly they, whose tongue is their weapon, use their feet for defence.

Do not anticipate the outcome.

The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat.

The parable of the butcher.

There was a fine butcher who used the same knife year after year, yet it never lost its delicate, precise edge. After a lifetime of service, it was still as useful and effective as when it was new. When asked how he had preserved his knifes fine edge, he said “I follow the line of the hard bone. I do not attempt to cut it, nor to smash it, nor to contend with it in any way. That would only destroy my knife.” In daily living, one must follow the course of the barrier. To try to assail it will only destroy the instrument. And no matter what some people will say, barriers are not the experience of any one person, or any one group of persons. They are the universal experience.

Adapt like water.

Be like water; water has form and yet it has no form. It is the softest element on earth, yet it penetrates the hardest rock. It has no shape of its own, yet it can take any shape in which it is placed. In a cup, it becomes the cup. In a vase, it takes the shape of the vase and curls about the stems of flowers. Put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Please observe the adaptability of water. If you squeeze it fast, the water will flow out quickly. If you squeeze it slowly, it will come out slowly. Water may seem to move in contradiction, even uphill, but it chooses any way open to it so it may reach the sea. It may flow swiftly or it may flow slowly, but its purpose is inexorable, its destiny sure.

The disease of philosophy.

Philosophy is itself the disease for which it pretends to be the cure:  the wise man does not pursue wisdom but lives his life, and therein precisely does his wisdom lie.

Philosophy often strives to convert reality into a problem.

In life, we accept naturally the full reality of what we see and feel in general with no shadow of a doubt. Philosophy, however, does not accept what life believes, and strives to convert reality into a problem. Like asking such questions as: “Is this chair that I see in front of me really there?” “Can it exist by itself?” thus, rather than making life easy for living by living in accord with life, philosophy complicates it by replacing the worlds tranquillity with the restlessness of problems.

Something for something.

There is only something for something, never something for nothing.

Your mind determines the effect.

Everyone – no matter who he is or where – must know from childhood that whatever occurs, does not happen if the occurrence isn’t allowed to come into the mind. It is not what happens in our life that is important; it’s how we react to what happens. Failure is what your mind acknowledges.

Defeat is a state of mind.

Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.

Daily progress.

Make at least one definite move daily towards your goal.

One rarely reaches the goal in one step.

The control of our being is not unlike the combination of a safe. One turn of the knob rarely unlocks the safe. Each advance and retreat is a step toward one’s goal.

Faith maintains the soul.

Faith is the maintaining of the soul through which ones aims may be translated into their physical equivalent.

The price of success.

He who wants to succeed should learn how to fight, to strive, and to suffer. You can acquire a lot in life, if you are prepared to give up a lot to get it.

The nature of money.

Money of itself has no explicit nature. Money is what one makes of it.

The six diseases (of excessive self-consciousness)

– The desire for victory
-The desire to resort to technical cunning
– The desire to display all that he has learned
– The desire to overawe the enemy
– The desire to play a passive role
– The desire to get rid of whatever disease he is likely to be infected with

Art is the expression of the self.

Art is really the expression of the self. The more complicated and restricted the method, the less opportunity for the expression of one’s original sense of freedom.

Forget your mind and become one with the work.

If one has any idea at all of displaying his art well, he ceases to be a good artist, for his mind “stops” with every movement he goes through. In all things, it is important to forget you “mind” and become one with the work at hand.

Art requires creativity and freedom.

Art lives where absolute freedom is, because where it is not, there can be no creativity – art has no ego rigidity.

Artistic skill must radiate from the human soul.

Artistic skill, therefore, does not mean artistic perfection. It remains rather a continuing medium or reflection of some step in psychic development, the perfection of which is not to be found in shape and form, but must radiate from the human soul. The artistic activity does not consist in art itself as such; it penetrates into a deeper world in which all art forms of things inwardly experienced flow together, and in which the harmony of the soul and cosmos in the nothing has its outcome in reality.

Art reflects the soul.

It is the art of the soul at peace – like moonlight mirrored in a deep lake.

The four postulates of effective art.

Adequate form in art requires:
– Individuality rather than imitative repetitiousness.
– Brevity rather than bulkiness.
– Clarity rather than obscurity.
– Simplicity of expression rather than complexity of form.

Be ‘born afresh’.

Drop and dissolve inner blockage. A conditioned mind is never a free mind. Wipe away and dissolve all its experience and be “born afresh”.

Keep your mind unconditioned by past conditioning.

The more and more youre aware, the more and more you shed from day to day what you have learned so that your mind is always fresh, uncontaminated by previous conditioning.

Remove all psychic obstruction.

In order to display its native activities to the utmost limit, remove all psychic obstruction.

Empty your mind and expand your life.

When there is a particle of dust in your eye, the world becomes a narrow path – have your mind completely free from objects – and how much this life expands.

The limitation of having a set way of doing things.

Use no way as way. When there is a “Way”, therein lays the limitation. And where there is a circumference, it traps. And if it traps, it rots. And if it rots, it is lifeless.

Float in emptiness without obstruction.

The knowledge and skill you have achieved are after all meant to be “forgotten” so you can float in emptiness without obstruction and comfortably.

Remove all psychic hindrances.

One can never be the master of his technical knowledge unless all his psychic hindrances are removed and he can keep the mind in a state of emptiness (fluidity), even purged of whatever technique he has obtained – with no conscious effort.

To be detached is to be free of positive and negative.

To Desire is an attachment. “To desire not to desire” is an attachment. To be unattached then means to be free at once from both statements, positive and negative. In other words, this is simultaneously both “yes” and “no”, which is intellectually absurd.

The art of detachment.

Give up thinking as though not giving it up. Observe the techniques as though not observing.

Wu-hsin is making oneself empty.

I must give up my desire to force, direct, strangle the world outside of me and within me in order to be completely open, responsible, aware, alive. This is often called “to make oneself empty” – which does not mean something negative, but means the openness to receive.

Zen has no metaphysics.

Zen wishes to escape the pointless endeavour to trap life in a metaphysical net instead of simply living it.

Zen reveals that there is no problem – and no solution.

Zen reveals that there is nowhere for man to go out of this world; no tavern in which he can overcome anxiety; no jail in which he can expiate guilt. So instead of telling us what the problem is, Zen insists that the whole problem is just our failure to realize that there is no problem. And, of course, there is no solution, either.

Real meditation puts you in the Now.

Zen is not “attained” by mirror-wiping meditation, but by “self-forgetfulness in the existential present of life here and now”. We do not “Come”, we “are”. Don’t strive to become, but BE.

Freedom is self-knowledge.

Freedom lies in understanding yourself from moment to moment.

The second-hand artist (the conformer).

The second hand artist, in blindly following the teacher, accepts his pattern and, as a result, his action and, above all his thinking becomes mechanical, his responses automatic according to his pattern – and thereby he ceases to expand or grow. He is a mechanical robot, a product of thousands of years of propaganda and conditioning. The second-hand artist seldom learns to depend upon himself for expression; instead, he faithfully follows an imposed pattern. So what is nurtured is the dependent mind rather that independent inquiry.

The Mirror Person.

A mirror-person is one who always wants to know how he looks to others. Instead of being critical, he projects the criticism and feels criticized and feels onstage.

The most poignant sense of insecurity comes from standing alone.

We tend to have more faith in what we imitate rather than what we originate. We often feel that we cannot derive a sense of absolute certitude from anything which has its root in us. The most poignant sense of insecurity comes from standing alone; we are not alone when we imitate.

Do not look for a successful personality to duplicate.

When I look around, I always learn something and that is to be always yourself. And to express yourself. To have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it, which seems to me to be the prevalent thing happening in Hong Kong. Like they always copy mannerisms, but they’ll never start from the very root of his being, which is “how can I be me?”

The need to be real.

In life, what more can you ask for but to be real? To fulfil ones potential instead of wasting energy on actualising ones dissipating image, which is not real, and the expenditure of one’s vital energy. We have great work ahead of us, and it needs devotion and much, much, energy.

Perform your own mission in life.

If you look within yourself and are sure that you have done right, what do you have to fear or worry about? You are required only to perform your own mission in life without any thoughts of aggressiveness or competition.

Most of us see ourselves as instruments in the hands of others.

There is a powerful craving in most of us to see ourselves as instruments in hands of others and thus free ourselves from the 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 instrument of a higher power – God, History, fate, nation, or humanity.

On the light within.

No matter what, you must let your inner light guide you out of the darkness.

The statement of the self-actualized.

I am what I am here and now.

The self-actualized seek freedom and purity.

Those who distrust the life giving force within them, or who have none, are driven to compensate through such substitutes as money. When a man has confidence in himself, when all he wants is to live out his destiny in freedom and purity, he comes to regard all those vastly overestimated and far too costly possessions as mere accessories, pleasant perhaps to have and make use of, but never essential.

The sacred journey is taken alone.

Each man must seek out realization himself. No master can give it to him.

The medicine for suffering is within.

The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning, but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, but I did not observe it – until this moment. Now I see that I will never find the light unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, consuming myself.

The continuous peeling of self.

My life it seems is a life of self – examination: a peeling of myself, bit by bit, day by day. More and more it’s becoming simple to me as a human being as more and more I search within myself. And more and more the questions become listed.  And more and more I see clearly. It is not a question of developing what has already been developed but of recovering what has already been left behind. Though this has been with us, in us, all the time and has never been lost or distorted except for our misguided manipulation of it.

Learning to truly see.

We possess a pair of eyes, but most of us do not really see in the true sense of the word. I must say that when the eyes are used externally to observe the inevitable faults of other beings, most of us are rather quick with readily-equipped condemnation. True seeing, in the sense of choiceless awareness, leads to new discovery, and discovery is one of the means to uncovering our potentiality.

Self-knowledge is true mastery.

True mastery transcends any particular art. It stems from mastery of oneself – the ability, developed through self-discipline to be calm, fully aware, and completely in tune with oneself and the surroundings. Then, and only then, can a person know himself.

The importance of self-expression.

Self-expression is important. Only the self-sufficient stand alone – most people follow the crowd and imitate.

Express the truth of your vision.

One must not merely copy but try to convey the significance of what you see.

The nature of growth.

Growth is the constant discovery and understanding in ones process of living.

The need to progress.

Do not hold to what you have. It is like a ferry boat for people who want to get across waters. One you have got across, never bear it on your back. You should head forward.

Growth is constant.

Man is constantly growing, and when he is bound by a set pattern of ideas, or “way” of doing things, that’s when he stops growing.

Profound simplicity = common sense.

A profound simplicity of common sense; the straightest, most logical way.

The semi-actualized talk to impress.

False teachers of the way of life use flowery words.

The etymology of yang.

The yang (whiteness) principle represents positiveness, firmness, masculinity, substantiality, brightness, day, heat, etc.

The etymology of yin.

The yin (blackness) principle represents negativeness, softness, femininity, insubstantiality, darkness, night, coldness, and so forth.

The basic theory underlying yin-yang.

The basic theory in yin-yang is that nothing is so permanent as never to change. In other words, when activity (yang) reaches the extreme point, it becomes inactivity, and inactivity forms yin. Extreme inactivity will, in the same way, return to become activity, which is yang. Activity then is the cause of inactivity, and vice versa. This system of complementary increasing and decreasing of the principle is continuous. From this, one can see the two forces (yin-yang), although they appear to conflict, in reality are mutually interdependent; instead of opposition, there is cooperation and alternation.

Yin-yang and chatterboxes.

The more volubly one talks, the quicker will come his exhaustion.

Do not cling to partiality.

Do not cling to partiality, however fantastic – see things from TOTALITY.

There is no effective segment of a totality.

There is no such thing as an effective segment of a totality, how can one respond to the totality with a partial, fragmentary pattern? In the greater the lesser is, but in the lesser the greater is not.

The Tao and emptiness.

The assimilation of the Tao has its foundation in “meekness”, “tenderness”, poverty of spirit, and quietness. These are expressed sometimes by one word, “emptiness”. An aggressive spirit will be brought low, pride leads to a fall, violence will end in defeat, all of which come from misunderstanding the real use of Tao.

Truth in nature.

There is an element of truth in everything. Nature teaches, although it can sometimes be misleading.

The man who seeks truth lives in what is.

The man who is really serious, with the urge to find out what the truth is, has not style at all. He lives only in what is.

The realization of truth.

Truth comes when your mind and heart are purged of all sense of striving and you are no longer trying to become somebody; it is there when the mind is very quiet, listening timelessly to everything.

Truth cannot be limited.

Truth cannot be structured or confined. When there is no centre and no circumference, then there is truth.

First rate philosophers practice truth in order to understand it.

According to Tao, a first rate philosopher practices truth in order to understand it. Krishnamurti pointed out that in order to see truth, one cannot be fragmented, but must see the totality.

There is a pathless road.

Truth is a pathless road. A road that is not a road. It is total expression that has no before or after. How can there be methods and systems by which to arrive at something that is living? To that which is static, fixed, dead, there can be a way, definite path, but not to that which is living.

A finger pointing to the moon.

These few paragraphs at best are merely “a finger pointing towards the moon”. Please do not take the finger to be the moon or fix your intense gaze on the finger and thus miss all the beautiful sight of heaven. After all, the usefulness of the finger is in pointing away from itself to the light that illuminates finger and all.

The end is the beginning.

The beginning and the end thus turn into next door neighbours. On the musical scale, one may start with the lowest pitch and gradually ascend to the highest. When the highest is reached one finds it located next to the lowest. To know, but be as though not knowing, is the height of wisdom.

Bruce Lees Striking Thoughts is available through Waterstones UK.

ISBN-13: 978-0-8048-3471-1

O.N. 9/12/2009

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