“If thoughts do not lead to practices, are we really cultivating Tao? If a lengthy practice does not produce what the sages and wise described in the texts and books did we practise the correct methods? Perhaps only those sincere and discerning can find the Way?”
In a previous entry, the above questions were asked to generate further thoughts and ideas from students, scholars and practitioners with a view to share experiences. It has led to further questions in a forum; therefore one posts the same comments (with minor amendments) here in case readers may have similar questions on their minds:
There is actually no right or wrong as to whether individuals want to practise or not. It is all up to the individual. Even Daoist immortals can do nothing if their disciple (s) persists on curtailing the practice, not unlike martial arts masters if their students want to leave the art. But in a Tao forum, one finds that most are earnest to learn Tao, therefore the leading question. Since one has heard from an elderly man (in his seventies) in another forum who left ‘Taojia’ and reverted to his former religion after several years of studies with the comment that Tao is cold. If we follow the correct practices one is certain it will not be cold as we can improve our health, perhaps longevity, from meditation and become better persons from the cultivation of virtues; even if we could not attain Tao at the end of the far journey. Furthermore by walking the right path, we can also share more of our experiences with like-minded fellows of the Way (?).
The words, “to cultivate Tao”, a collective term are often quoted by learned Daoists and Immortals to signify the way to attain Tao. Perhaps the misconception lies with the thoughts that like Qi, Tao is available to and in everyone. Such thoughts may have arisen through instincts or various translations, but the mystery work rests with the acquiring of Qi and Tao. Therefore it comes back full circle to a question on practice. A good doctrine or idea remains on the drawing board until a need arises to implement it.
In dual cultivation, just like in studying the Zhouyi, we learn to emulate Heaven and Earth and not the ancients, to get to the Center. The ancient sages just point out the Way. According to them, Sincerity is a way of Heaven and it emanates from the heart. From their explanations and TTC 38, it appears that sincerity is very close to Tao. Thus perhaps only the sincere can endure the far journey and those discerning identify the correct path or practice.
It was not for nothing that Laozi lamented that his Tao was easy to follow yet many like to follow the by paths. A point one emphasized to my learned Daoist friend, who once wanted to participate in a lengthy discussion on Te in the Tao Forum, that even if Laozi himself goes there to explain his Tao and Te, Laozi might not be believed.
So there you go. Enjoy your own practice and thoughts just as the others enjoy theirs.
Relevant entries: A simple note on the Three Doctrines and Thoughts on TTC 38.