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Author Topic: MasterMischief Explores Taoism  (Read 14495 times)

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Offline MasterMischiefTopic starter

MasterMischief Explores Taoism
« on: July 01, 2010, 08:44:18 PM »
EDIT: I changed the title since I intend to use this thread for more than just the Tao Te Ching.


So we can never fully understand the Tao?
Is the Tao different for each individual?  It seems that it would have to be.
If you think you know, you don't know?  Does this mean you should always question what you think you know?
Is there a point to attempting something that can not be achieved?  I have often heard it say we should strive for perfection knowing full well that we can never achieve it.  However, I could argue that it is not perfection we are striving for, but improvement.  Improvement is possible and surely it is worth striving for.  Is it the same with the Tao?
Is this an easy out?  Should anyone say Taoism is about any one thing in particular, you could always point back to this first line and say, "No, not quite."

Anyone feel like guiding a foolish llama?   ;D
« Last Edit: September 04, 2010, 11:41:01 AM by MasterMischief »

Offline Paladin

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Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2010, 08:46:38 PM »
The Tao, just is. Its alot like Zen from what I understand. Its purity within and without. Meditate with me on this.

Offline MasterMischiefTopic starter

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2010, 08:53:36 PM »
If it just is, then it really does not need any help from me.

I do not think purity can just be.  Does not purity require 'protection' from 'contaminants'?  If I wish to be pure, do I not need to take action?  Or perhaps inaction.  Something to cleanse me of my current impurities.  Something that requires me to alter my current being.

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Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2010, 08:57:11 PM »
If it just is, then it really does not need any help from me.

I do not think purity can just be.  Does not purity require 'protection' from 'contaminants'?  If I wish to be pure, do I not need to take action?  Or perhaps inaction.  Something to cleanse me of my current impurities.  Something that requires me to alter my current being.

Not nessarily. Purity can come in many forms. You can be someone who works every day with dirt and dung in fields and yet still have purity of soul/ Theres Purity of heart, mind, body ect.

Tao is just a way of thinking. the thing id its words of wisdome that everyone interprits diffrently to acieve an understanding. Its always going to be diffrent to each person.

Offline MasterMischiefTopic starter

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2010, 09:14:02 PM »
Its always going to be diffrent to each person.

I suspected as much.  I think I can accept that.

Not nessarily. Purity can come in many forms. You can be someone who works every day with dirt and dung in fields and yet still have purity of soul/ Theres Purity of heart, mind, body ect.

I did not mean physical dirt.  If my soul is already pure, do I really need to do anything?  Surely we can agree that for the majority of us, our soul is not pure.  Is that not why we seek out some form of spirituality?

That is an assumption and maybe that is my stumbling block.  I feel that my soul is not pure.  I am not saying I am completely corrupted, but I know I can be a better person.  I do not believe I can be a better person without making some change in myself.  Therefore, I can not continue to just be who I am.  I want to change.  I want to purify myself.  Is that against the Tao?

Tao is just a way of thinking. the thing id its words of wisdome that everyone interprits diffrently to acieve an understanding.

I am exploring, out loud, my interpretations hoping others might chime in with different perspectives.  Exactly as you have done.  Thank you.  Bows.

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Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2010, 09:21:27 PM »
Yet I have done nothing but shopw what enlightenment I got from the Tao, and from Sun Tzu, and from Bushido. I read many things and try to understand them, it is only after many tries do I realize that I already understsood it somehow.

Offline MasterMischiefTopic starter

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2010, 09:31:42 PM »
It occurred to me earlier today that I should practice hating nothing.  That everything in the human experience has its place.  This was a bit alien to me as I have long felt there are things worth hating.  Hate itself.  Osama bin Laden.

As I continued to explore this idea, I thought about the concept that there can not be light without darkness.  Can love exists without hate?  Does that mean that hate has its place?  Surely Osama bin Laden has reasons for doing the things he does.  Without being in his place, how can I know his true reasons and therefore, how can I truly judge him?

I do not know that I could ever get to that level.  But it does seem like I could find a lot more peace in my life if I could set aside my own ego and really listen to others.  Instead of trying to show people my perspective, if I embrace theirs.  Also, if I also learn to embrace other things I hate, dislike or which annoy me.  For example, boredom.  Does it have a place in the human experience and, if so, why spend so much energy resisting it.  Find a way to enjoy it for what it is.  Find beauty instead of frustration.

Anyway...just a llama rambling.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2010, 09:37:34 PM »
I have always wondered about the use of the second 'dao' in that first line. I tend to read it as:
"The way that can be spoken/taught/expressed is not the eternal way."

If the way could truly not be trodden, then Laozi's entire effort is in vain. What would be the point of all the rest of the Dao De Jing if one could truly not walk in the way? Rather the way cannot be defined, named, etc. Laozi cannot just say 'X' is the way. Instead he has to talk around it, and express the qualities of the way in an attempt to guide the student to it.

This is the way of ineffable things. It is rather similar to the Greek concept of ataraxia.

I do not think that the Dao is variable, again it would call into question the entire purpose of the text. We can have different experiences of Dao, but at the same time it is not infinitely flexible and there are flat out wrong interpretations (e.g. the violent Daoist cults of the later Han).

Offline MasterMischiefTopic starter

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2010, 09:54:14 PM »
How does one know if one has a wrong interpretation?

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Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2010, 10:01:22 PM »
Thats just it, there is no wrong interpretation.

Offline MasterMischiefTopic starter

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2010, 10:04:28 PM »
Thats just it, there is no wrong interpretation.

So violent interpretations are o.k.?




What is the difference between Tao and Dao?

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2010, 11:01:03 PM »
What is the difference between Tao and Dao?

Just the romanization systems. Chinese is poorly and non-uniformly romanized.

Offline Starlequin

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2010, 01:22:28 AM »
Actually, violent interpretations of the Tao are perfectly fine. The only problem with them is one that humans have; the universe has no problem with it. It is called 'violent', so humans view it as 'bad'. The Tao is not about 'good' and 'bad'. There is no 'pure' and 'impure'. There is no 'right' and 'wrong'. There is only 'is' and 'is not'.

Your earlier view of striving for improvement vs. striving for perfection is much the same. One who strives for improvement can eventually look back upon his journey and think to himself, "OK. I have improved enough. I can feel comfortable with stopping now." However, one who strives for perfection never takes that moment to look back. His journey is an eternal one, and so he never stops. You could say he stops at the point of death, but again, 'death' is a human concept, a counter to 'life'; 'life' is seen as 'good', while 'death' is seen as 'bad'. It is the duality of the human experience that keeps many from reaching enlightenment, and it is this duality that must be transcended to truly begin walking the path of Way and No way.

A simple way to view the Tao is this: Observe a block of wood. Within the wood may sit a cup, a bowl, an ornament, or a chair. The wood is uncarved, and so has no form but its form, and so can take any form.

A simple way to view the Tao is this: Observe a doorway. The door is made of wood. The door frame is made of wood. The hinges are made of metal. But the doorway is made of nothing, and it is the nothing that makes the doorway useful.

A simple way to view the Tao is this: Observe water. On its own, water simply is. Pour the water into a cup, and the water becomes the shape of the cup. Pour the water into a pitcher, and the water forms to the pitcher. Pour the water into the ocean, and the water becomes the ocean.

These ways are not the Way. But like a traveler lost in the forest, if he takes the wrong path often enough, eventually it will lead him to the right path.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2010, 09:39:41 AM »
I have two stories that seem to apply here - one fairly well known, the other told to me by a man I greatly respect.

Quote
Once, a long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. Many would come and ask him to teach them, enlighten them in the way of Zen. He seldom turned any away.

One day an important man, a man used to command and obedience came to visit the master. “I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment.” The tone of the important man’s voice was one used to getting his own way.

The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man. Finally the visitor shouted, “Enough. You are spilling the tea all over. Can’t you see the cup is full?”

The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.

The other story was told to me by someone with a Tsalagi life-view (and a wicked sense of humor).

Quote
As we go through life on our Path, we learn a lot, and we discard the waste right there on the Path behind us.  So, as you go through life, it's important to seek out your own Path.  But if you must follow someone else's Path - strap on the hipwaders, because I can guarantee you, it's piled high and deep.

Offline Jude

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2010, 11:40:13 AM »
GREATER POOP: Are you really serious or what?
MAL-2: Sometimes I take humor seriously. Sometimes I take seriousness humorously. Either way it is irrelevant.

GP: Maybe you are just crazy.
M2: Indeed! But do not reject these teaching as false because I am crazy. The reason that I am crazy is because they are true.

GP: Is Eris true?
M2: Everything is true.
GP: Even false things?
M2: Even false things are true.
GP: How can that be?
M2: I don't know man, I didn't do it.

GP: Why do you deal with so many negatives?
M2: To dissolve them.
GP: Will you develop that point?
M2: No.

GP: Is there an essential meaning behind POEE?
M2: There is a Zen Story about a student who asked a Master to explain the meaning of Buddhism. The Master's reply was "Three pounds of flax."
GP: Is that the answer to my question?
M2: No, of course not. That is just illustrative. The answer to your question is FIVE TONS OF FLAX!

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #15 on: July 02, 2010, 11:45:16 AM »
Actually, violent interpretations of the Tao are perfectly fine. The only problem with them is one that humans have; the universe has no problem with it. It is called 'violent', so humans view it as 'bad'. The Tao is not about 'good' and 'bad'. There is no 'pure' and 'impure'. There is no 'right' and 'wrong'. There is only 'is' and 'is not'.

How do you reconcile that with this:
Quote
Fine weapons are none the less ill-omened things. (people despise them, therefore, those in possession of the Tao do not depend on them.) That is why, among people of good birth, in peace the left-hand side is the place of honour, but in war this is reversed and the right-hand side is the place of honour. (Weapons are ill-omened things, which the superior man should not depend on. When he has no choice but to use them, the best attitude is to retain tranquil and peaceful.) The Quietist, even when he conquers, does not regard weapons as lovely things. For to think them lovely means to delight in them, and to delight in them means to delight in the slaughter of men. And he who delights in the slaughter of men will never get what he looks for out of those that dwell under heaven. (Thus in happy events, the left-hand side is the place of honour, in grief and mourning, the right-hand is the place of honour. The lieutenant general stands on the left, while the supreme general stands on the right, which is arranged on the rites of mourning.) A host that has slain men is received with grief and mourning; he that has conquered in battle is received with rites of mourning.

Quote
He who by Tao purposes to help a ruler of men
Will oppose all conquest by force of arms;
For such things are wont to rebound.
Where armies are, thorn and brambles grow.
The raising of a great host
Is followed by a year of dearth.
Therefore a good general effects his purpose and then stops; he does not take further advantage of his victory.
Fulfils his purpose and does not glory in what he has done;
Fulfils his purpose and does not boast of what he has done;
Fulfils his purpose, but takes no pride in what he has done;
Fulfils his purpose, but only as a step that could not be avoided.
Fulfils his purpose, but without violence;
For what has a time of vigour also has a time of decay.
This is against Tao,
And what is against Tao will soon perish.

The concept of individual truth plays heavily into many post-modern philosophies, and perhaps it plays into Zen as well (I know basically nothing about Zen). Tao is not Zen. Tao is not expressed in koans. Laozi wrote an excellent text in pursuit of a specific state he called Tao with specific guidelines. To say that a violent interpretation of Tao is acceptable is rubbish, it is an attempt that flies in the face of the Tao te Jing. Just as anyone who said that Tao was 'pulling back to fullness' would be at direct odds with Tao. There is clearly a correct and incorrect way in Taoism, to say otherwise is absurd.

Offline Starlequin

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #16 on: July 02, 2010, 03:28:02 PM »
<shrugs> OK.

Offline MasterMischiefTopic starter

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #17 on: July 02, 2010, 11:49:05 PM »
Quote from: Starlequin
These ways are not the Way. But like a traveler lost in the forest, if he takes the wrong path often enough, eventually it will lead him to the right path.

So if I just ignore all this philosophizing and get back to doing what I was doing, I have found my Tao?  Or, at the very least, I will end up in the same spot anyway.

Quote from: Oniya
But if you must follow someone else's Path - strap on the hipwaders, because I can guarantee you, it's piled high and deep.

This strikes a cord with me.  As I have explored, I have begun to think I must find my own way.  That is not to say I can not find guidance from others, but when I meet the Buddha on the path, kill him.

Quote from: Jude
MAL-2: Sometimes I take humor seriously. Sometimes I take seriousness humorously. Either way it is irrelevant.

I take humor seriously and seriousness humorously, however, I do not believe either to be irrelevant.  I find a great deal of truth in humor and that humor can be a great aid in dealing with truth.

Of course, do not ask me to define 'truth'.

Quote from: DarklingAlice
To say that a violent interpretation of Tao is acceptable is rubbish, it is an attempt that flies in the face of the Tao te Jing.

I certainly do not consider myself pro-violence.  However, violence does exist.  Surely, if something exists, it has its place.  Many animals eat other animals.  This is violent.  Are these animals 'wrong'?

When I was younger, the world was black and white.  Now that I am older, the world is full of grey.  It seems to me that truth (remember, I asked you not to make me define it) is often a matter of perception.  Perhaps, like everything else, violence too has a yin and yang, a 'good' and 'bad'.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2010, 02:22:50 PM »
So if I just ignore all this philosophizing and get back to doing what I was doing, I have found my Tao?  Or, at the very least, I will end up in the same spot anyway.

Mmm...Tao is a state of 'effortless effort' as they like to say, but ironically it seems that it requires practice and discipline to get to that state. You can ask any Tai Chi master, and will be told that you do not achieve Wu Wei through laziness.

There is a parable: Once upon a time there was an artist who painted horses. However, try as he might he could never capture them fully. The foam around the mouth of a running horse had always eluded him. So he tried everything he knew. He went to every great artist and tried to learn their ways. He followed all the instructions, but again and again he failed. Only when he had exhausted all other options he despaired and gave up. He tossed his sponge at the painting...and lo the droplets that spattered against the mouth made the foam he had so long tried to produce through his effort.

Tao is like this. Tao cannot be taught. You cannot learn it as you learn academic philosophies. But if you do not strive to begin with, you will never reach it. If you do not paint at all, you can never make so much as a poor portrait, much less one that captures the real. If you do not pull back the bow, you will never learn the difference between pulling back to fullness and reaching the opportune balance. If you do nothing you will accomplish nothing, rather than accomplishing without effort.

I certainly do not consider myself pro-violence.  However, violence does exist.  Surely, if something exists, it has its place.  Many animals eat other animals.  This is violent.  Are these animals 'wrong'?

When I was younger, the world was black and white.  Now that I am older, the world is full of grey.  It seems to me that truth (remember, I asked you not to make me define it) is often a matter of perception.  Perhaps, like everything else, violence too has a yin and yang, a 'good' and 'bad'.

I think the confusion here is being caused by the word 'violence' which is here translated form the character 'qiáng'. In context however I do not believe that it is referring to killing or hunting. Rather to the attitude with which it is done. This is the character used to form the compounds that represent (in its most negative interpretations) things like robbery, rape, intimidation, etc. It implies and intensity, force, and anger to actions that are not in accordance with the Taoist concepts of imperturbability and respecting balance. The tiger that kills a deer to eat is not violent and is not acting in discord with Tao. The tiger that rampages through a village slaughtering needlessly and killing for its own sake? I believe that is the kind of violence Laozi refers to.

Quote
Therefore a good general effects his purpose and then stops; he does not take further advantage of his victory.
Fulfills his purpose and does not glory in what he has done;
Fulfills his purpose and does not boast of what he has done;
Fulfills his purpose, but takes no pride in what he has done;
Fulfills his purpose, but only as a step that could not be avoided.
Fulfills his purpose, but without violence;

It is also notable that putting the terms good and bad (or evil) into play re: Taoism is usually unproductive. Right and wrong are more productive. And neither Yin nor Yang corresponds to good nor bad. Things that are right and in accordance with the Tao are balanced in their yin and yang. Things that are wrong are unbalanced.

Offline MasterMischiefTopic starter

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #19 on: July 04, 2010, 12:34:47 PM »
Thank you very much, DarklingAlice.  This is something I have been struggling with.  Part of me understands wei wu wei.  I have seen it in my own life where things fall into place.  But taking to its extreme seems absurd.

Offline MasterMischiefTopic starter

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #20 on: July 08, 2010, 07:25:17 PM »
Somewhat related...I found the following quote which I put on my whiteboard at work.  Someone asked me about it and wanted some more context.  I could not find the source of the quote.  The best I found stated it was attributed to Chuang-tzu.  Does anyone know which writing I can find the full context in?

Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #21 on: July 08, 2010, 07:33:05 PM »
http://www.vl-site.org/taoism/cz-text2.html

I'm not sure if that precise quote is in here - I did a search on the quote, found a couple spellings of the author's name (damned inconsistent romanization!) and then looked through Wiki for sources and related works.

Offline MasterMischiefTopic starter

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #22 on: July 08, 2010, 07:38:19 PM »
Thank you.  I found that site as well, but a quick search through the text did not reveal the quote.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #23 on: July 08, 2010, 07:40:29 PM »
There were a couple of dead-tree sources listed in the footnotes of the Wikipedia article.  Might be worth a peek, especially if your local library can order them for you.

Offline MasterMischiefTopic starter

Re: Tao Te Ching
« Reply #24 on: July 11, 2010, 04:18:26 PM »
Getting back to my original post...

The explanation I like the best so far is, "The map is not the territory."  I do not remember where I saw it, but as an ex-soldier, it certainly rang true for me.