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Taoism
Taoist philosophy, yin and yang, the five elements; and their relationships to tai chi

The Taoist Philosophy

 

"Tao is both simple and complex. It is complex when we try to understand it, and simple when we allow ourselves to experience it". Stanley Rosenthal

Taoism was perhaps the first 'belief system' of the ancient indigenous Chinese people and may thus be regarded as that of the 'aboriginal' population of this, one the oldest civilisations on this planet. What we now call Taoism was therefore intrinsic to the spiritual, social and political development of those people and contributory to the systematising of fundamental 'rules' for "governing the country and the self". By today's standards these rules would be considered as, at one extreme, a leaderless Anarchy, and at the other extreme, an unattainably retrogression to a simplistic rustic idle. The Tao Teh Ching is in fact undeniably 'radical', if only for the fact that it projects forward to us the innermost thoughts or aspirations of peoples not then burdened with the existential dilemmas which occupy or even posses most us these days. In this respect - we can't un-invent all that we have invented since I don't know when; and we cannot rewrite history, pretending that wars were not waged, borders redrawn, rulers imposed ... wars waged, borders redrawn, rulers imposed ... Yes, compared to this 'way' the Tao that is spoken of in the Tao Teh Ching is radical. It is radical now as it was then when it was urged in its third verse/chapter.

verse 3.
If you do not adulate the worthy, you will make others non-contentious.
If you do not value rare treasures, you will stop others from stealing.
If people do not see desirables, they will not be agitated.

Therefore, when the sage governs, He clears peoples minds,
Fills their bellies, Weakens their ambition and
Strengthens their bones.

If the people are kept without cleverness and desire
It will make the intellectuals not dare to meddle.
Acting without contrivance, there is no lack of manageability.

So perhaps, whilst it is (by me) agreed that Taoism and the Tao Teh Ching is radical in concept, the sympathetic ear may hear that at the same time that it is no more an observation of the way things are (now) - rather that the way we would like them to be (now).


Back at chapter/verse 1, The Tao Teh Ching began begins with the words:

verse 1.
Tao can be talked about, but not the Eternal Tao.
Names can be named, but not the Eternal Name.

Commentary
The philosophy or 'spirit' Taoism as handed down by the Masters does not claim to have any answers to any questions at all, and indeed perhaps the only certainty proposed is that any man made and imposed order is "rivers and mountains" away from 'the truth'. In the Tao, discriminatory views thinly veiled as dubious self assertion or as 'certain' are cautiously avoided.

The second verse of the Tao Teh Ching continues:

verse 2.
When all the world recognises beauty as beauty,
this in itself is ugliness.
When all the world recognises good as good,
this in itself is evil.

Commentary
Take for instance apparent fundamentals such as "good" and "bad" or "right" and "wrong". As far as Taoism is concerned all of these are erroneous or misleading. In Taoism everything is just 'as it is' or 'what it is' and therefore "right" or "good" is simply the opposite of "wrong" and "bad" based upon those afore mentioned preconceived concepts, conditioned behaviour and cultural expectations. This also applies to 'the way', the 'good way' or the 'right way'. Right and good are, like names, just words, human constructs that state an opinion - not what it is, but what we call it.

It is not that beauty cannot be appreciated, however Taoism asserts that the natural world is incapable anyway of producing 'wrong' or 'bad' - and that all apparitions of 'ugly' are again only those man made - those conceptualized and/or constructed.


A 'way' (tao) of seeing without conceptualizing is suggested in the Tao Teh Ching as early as the third verse, which begins:

verse 3.
By not exalting the talented you will cause the people to cease from rivalry and contention.
By not prizing goods hard to get, you will cause the people to cease from robbing and stealing.
By not displaying what is desirable, you will cause the people's hearts to remain undisturbed.

Commentary
Taoism proposes that to act spontaneously and without desire of gain (or loss) is the way to become (at) one with the Universe. This is deduced by non-discriminate observation of nature and the natural world.
The 'as it is - ness' of nature is that it is in a state of permanent flux and forever moving effortlessly, without purpose and without a goal. Once again, the only calculation and constructions over and above plain survival ... are human.


This summary of Taoism began with the admonition that it should not be talked about; and that despite being ancient in origin the ideas contained within the Tao Teh Ching are in fact highly radical. If some of the statements made herewith have caused you to raise your eyebrows, or wrinkle your forehead and think 'that can't be right', is this not confirmation enough that "The Eternal Tao cannot (should not) be talked about". By speaking of it ... I have destroyed it. By trying to conceptualize it into words I proven no more than what Stanley Rosenthal said is true: "Tao is both simple and complex. It is complex when we try to understand it, and simple when we allow ourselves to experience it".

There are another 78 of these short verses that I have not yet made commentary on, but I think that this is as far as I need to go for now and I shall bring this to an end here now with a few personal impressions of this 'way' that may only be understood through experience ... and not words.

Tao is non-violence, non-aggression, non-competition, and compassion is the essence, and Harmony the basic principle.

Tao is composed of all things and all people, and If even one piece is rejected, the Tao is no more.

Things in their original simplicity contain natural/pure power - an innate virtue. This power is easily spoiled/diluted and lost when the simplicity is changed or complicated by desire and calculations of personal (material and emotional) loss.

The way of Tao is therefore to empty yourself of ego, ambition, attachment and fixed ideas about the way of the world. When that is accomplished, you can then face life with tranquillity and be able to see the world as it truly is and be a part of it.

Be aware that anything collected or considered valuable, must eventually be lost.
But anyway, If you collect objects of value you will only cause envy and people will seek to take that which you protect.
Accumulate a lot and you will stop.

It is human nature to have desires, but you must not become attached to the desire. The Taoist simply takes care of that which is necessary - no more and no less - and without ado.

The Universe (the Tao) simply moves by following its nature according to its own principles. It flows effortlessly, without purpose and without a goal. Therefore, to move and act spontaneously from your nature and without purpose is the only way that you too can become one with the Universe.

Change is the only constant in the Tao.

The Tao possess nothing.

 

 


 

Taoism was perhaps the first 'belief system' of the ancient indigenous Chinese people and may thus be regarded as that of the 'aboriginal' population of this, one the oldest civilisations on this planet. What we now call Taoism was therefore intrinsic to the spiritual, social and political development of those people.

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