A Discussion On The Tao Te Ching

Discussion in 'Religion, Beliefs and Spirituality' started by Twistedd, May 31, 2013.

  1. #1 Twistedd, May 31, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2013
    I've searched around for some topics and discussions about Taoism and the Tao Te Ching, but they were all older threads that have been dead for a while. I'd like to use this thread to discuss each chapter and further understand the book of Tao better.

    I'm using the translation by Lin Yutang from the book, "The Wisdom of China and India."

    I. On the Absolute Tao
    The Tao that can be told of
    Is not the Absolute Tao;
    The Names that can be given
    Are not the Absolute Names.
    The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;
    The Named is the Master of All Things.
    Oftentimes, one strips oneself of passion
    In order to see the Secret of Life;
    Oftentimes, one regards life with passion,
    In order to see its manifest results.
    These two (the Secret and its manifestations)
    Are (in their nature) the same;
    They are given different names
    When they become manifest.
    They may both be called the Cosmic Mystery:
    Reaching from the Mystery into the Deeper Mystery
    Is the Gate to the Secret of All Life.
  2. Good stuff:) The first 16 verses or so are based on Buddhism, which influenced the Tao heavily in later years.
    Do you know that the Yin-Yang symbol is actually older than Taoism itself by about 2000 years, and can be found on artefacts and the side of huts in the east European Cucuteni culture? There's also some evidence that Taoism originated with the Cucuteni and Vinca culture before them, spreading along the Silk Road into China, where it mixed with local animist cults.
  3. The connection of Buddhism and Taoism is interesting to me, this is why I've picked up studying both rather than just one of them. I still don't know too much about the history of them both (I know more buddhist history) as I'm still trying to get a better understanding of the philosophies.
  4. I can discuss it from Hindu perspective. I lean towards the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy. It's not much different from Buddhism.
  5. Arguably Lao Tzu said everything anyone needed to know about the Tao in the first line... "The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao."

    In this case, Tao means the nature of Enlightenment, so he is saying Enlightenment/Nirvana cannot be transmitted which means the true nature of the Tao can only be understood by looking within. And if it cannot be transmitted or learned, then the Tao must always be present within.
  6. #6 ChillFave, Jun 16, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 16, 2013
    yes awesome thread. my favorite verse from Stephen Mitchell's translation:
    the heavy is the root of the light
    the unmoved is the source of all movement
    thus the master travels all day
    without leaving home.
    however splendid the views,
    she stays serenely in herself.
    why should the lord of the country
    flit about life a fool?
    if you let yourself be blown to and fro,
    you lose touch with your root.
    if you let restlessness move you,
    you lose touch with who you are.
  7. I agree. That which can be told imo also refers to actual speaking, i.e., verbal language (or written). So he is saying that no human description of Tao can ever fully express its true nature. So it leads to what you said, to know the true Tao is to know it within, not by reading about it or having intellectual knowledge of it, but by direct experience. The next lines I find very interesting.

    This imo is referring to the Tao (insert God or Spirit or whatever in place of Tao and it's the same) in its 2 forms. Manifest and unmanifest. The "named" is the equivalent of the Hindu Om concept. The nameless is the equivalent of Brahman, the unmanifest spirit beyond vibratory worlds. Anything that is manifest, or "created" is "named" because it was made through the power of Om, which is the "name" of Tao/God. It's called a name because it's the first vibration that comes out of still spirit. It's the first sound and first manifestation of energy and power that creates everything. Beyond that is vibrationless spirit, the Ultimate and nameless Tao. This is why the nameless is the origin (of creation) and the named is the master, or active, part of creation.

    I've never studied Taoism so this might be far off the orthodox explanation, but that's what I got out of it.
  8. #8 DDV, Jun 17, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 17, 2013
    From a Buddhist perspective, the Tao refers to something more like the Dharmakaya rather than nirvana itself. The Tao is the body of all things in the same way the Dharmakaya is the body of all things, or the natural order of things. But still - it cannot be expressed in symbols that we call language. Language is the vehicle, not the destination. The pencil, not the meaning behind the words.

    Interestingly enough similar writings can be found in many different sutras in Buddhist literature. For example, in the Lankavatara Sutra:

    "O Mahamati, it is because the Sutras are preached to all beings in accordance with their modes of thinking, and do not hit the mark as far as true sense is concerned; words cannot reinstate the truth as it is. It is like a mirage, deceived by which the animals make an erroneous judgment as to presence of water where there is really none; even so, all the doctrines in the Sutras are intended to satisfy imagination of the masses they do not reveal the truth which is the object of the noble understanding. Therefore O Mahamati, conform yourself to the sense, and do not be engrossed in words and doctrines."

    In other words, do not look at the finger when it is pointing to the moon.
  9. 2

    When people see some things as beautiful,
    other things become ugly.
    When people see some things as good,
    other things become bad.

    Being and non-being create each other.
    Difficult and easy support each other.
    Long and short define each other.
    High and low depend on each other.
    Before and after follow each other.

    Therefore the Master
    acts without doing anything
    and teaches without saying anything.
    Things arise and she lets them come;
    things disappear and she lets them go.
    She has but doesn't possess,
    acts but doesn't expect.
    When her work is done, she forgets it.
    That is why it lasts forever.
  10. 3

    If you overesteem great men,
    people become powerless.
    If you overvalue possessions,
    people begin to steal.

    The Master leads
    by emptying people's minds
    and filling their cores,
    by weakening their ambition
    and toughening their resolve.
    He helps people lose everything
    they know, everything they desire,
    and creates confusion
    in those who think that they know.

    Practice not-doing,
    and everything will fall into place.

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