Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Returning to destiny (2)

In the first entry of the topic, a reader came up with a few good questions about what came before Tao; immortals and deities; dual cultivation; and whether by consulting the Yi, we are in fact approaching Tao.

Since my answers could be relevant to fellow travelers of the Way and students of the Yi, and/or other readers still trying to figure out what chapter 16 of the Tao Te Ching really means, I include them in this second entry. Here goes.

According to Laozi, Tao the mother of Heaven and Earth existed before all things including that of god(s). (Refer to TTC chapters 4, 21 and 25 etc) If Tao is the mother of Heaven and Earth, what existed before it?

According to ancient Chinese history, Heaven and Earth were in existence before humans became immortals and deities.

There is a subtle difference between Daoist immortals and deities, in case readers have not noticed in previous Yi entries related to divinities. Daoist immortals like Buddhas are learned and cultivated, while some deities may face difficulty in discussing the Yi.

Consulting the Yi can be a way to approach Tao, if we follow what the Junzi do. Like fellow travelers of the Way, the Junzi also cultivate.

And what do they cultivate?

The ancients said that they cultivate Tao and Te (refer TTC chapters 23 and 54). To make it simpler for the multitude, the Neo Daoists wrote down for posterity, the dual cultivation of essence and of bodily life.

If we do not even know about this dual cultivation, it would prove difficult to understand what Laozi indicated in TTC 16. Since we need to cultivate Tao and Te to achieve utmost emptiness and guard assured stillness. Only from there can fellows of the Way proceed further to returning to destiny.

At the end of this magical far journey, we may come to realize that Tao last forever, without body, no death.

‘Immortality!’ exclaimed my learned Daoist friend when I reached the final verse of the simple translation of TTC 16. And he is right, in case you had not seen it that way. My recent verse-by-verse discussion with him included references to Confucian thoughts and the Yi.

With this further explanation, perhaps fellow Tao cultivators and Yi students can come to the same conclusions?


Zac said...

Hi Allan,

Thanks for your reply. Your explanation makes things much clearer to me!

What interests me is that both Daoist and Christian philosophers are trying to describe the same reality. That is why I am looking at Tao and comparing it with the Christian concept of God.

So for example, I can see that there is a great difference between the Christian God and the Daoist deities, because the latter are created beings, while the former is uncreated. Hence, the Christian God plays a role more similar to the Tao.
ie. God is also before Heaven and Earth.

May I ask you another question?

In TTC 40:
有生於無。 "
Does this mean that Tao is wu(無)? Logic says that nothing can come from nothing...but is wu really 'nothing'? Or is it something more subtle?

This interests me because the Christian philosophy also identifies that created things (萬物) cannot have come from other created things. In the beginning, there must be something un-created.

The same concept of wu shows up in the Zhuangzi: 庚桑楚 - (11)


To me, this '無有' seems like '無為', where it is said that wuwei does not simply mean 'not acting' but is a more subtle meaning. So in the same way '無有' doesn't mean literally 'not existing'.


Allan said...


According to Laozi, one of the best ancient teachers, Tao exists before the concept of God (Ti).

Tao can be and has been attained by cultivators down the millennia. I doubt anyone of sound mind dare to claim that they have become God.

If you wish to learn more about Tao, it could be better if you approach the study relying more on Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist doctrines.

While academics and scholars propound and argue over various Daoist concepts, cultivators of Tao have to experience being (Yu), non-being (Wu), and Wu Wei in their practice before proceeding further on the Way.

As long as no misleading claims are made, one usually enjoys reading the ‘cuts and thrusts’ between academics and technicians, as a spectator.


Zac said...

Hi Allan,

As you know, Tao and God are just words, pointing at something real. Personally, it intrigues me that in the west there is no concept of 'Tao'. However, there are other concepts that may point to the same thing as Tao.
But that's my personal interest, and I respect your position. Thank you for your considered responses.


nathalie said...

Hi Allan,

"According to ancient Chinese history, Heaven and Earth were in existence before humans became immortals and deities."

Tibetan Buddhists have something similar in the idea that eons before men appeared, there were other forms of beings of more subtle essence. The story goes that they took a liking to earthly pleasures of various natures and progressively lost their subtle nature, gained more and more materiality in shape and time passing and craving increasing went losing the mere souvenir of their (heavenly?) primary nature.

As to what there was before there
was something: Zac's and Allan's comments bring back to memory this one chapter in Sefer Ha Zohar where ayn sof/the unending, not yet manifested, plays with the letters for a long time until he decides "one day" to create the world.

Immortals and deities: some of the delities could be likened to devas and immortals those who have walked the path sucessfully?
In Tibetan buddhism it is considered that the human condition is more enviable than that of the devas. Some of the reasons for this is that devas live in a pleasurable environment, not propitious to walking the path to enlightenment. Whereas man living in a cruder condition have the opportunity to walk the way. No path, no fruition.