Sunday, June 24, 2012

“Your Tao is different from mine!”

“Your Tao is different from mine!” exclaimed the German (?) out of exasperation over the inability by his fellows ‘Zhuangzists’ (a term coined by them) and him in Tao Speaks to effectively counter my substantiated assertions that their icon, Zhuangzi, had indeed defamed the Confucian paragons of virtue – Yao and Shun, King Ji (father of King Wen), King Wu, and Zhougong (the Duke of Zhou) in one of his texts, Tao Kih or The robber Kih.

But I liked his honesty in saying that his Tao is different from mine. Ardent followers of Zhuangzi would probably share his sentiments.

There is nothing really wrong in following a follower of Laozi and Huangdi (the Yellow Emperor) to learn about Tao. Most would be more than impressed by the elaborate oratory skills and the fluent expressions of Zhuangzi, an eminent orator during the Warring States era according to Sima Qian, the noted Han Grand Historian. Only Tsou Yen, his peer, who wrote a very long treatise on Yin Yang, could match his oratory skills, according to Sima.

But no one needs oratory skills to cultivate Tao.

From observations over the past decade, people have had hindered their own progress in the learning of Tao, neidan, and/or the Book of Changes, when they adopt the bias and prejudices of Zhuangzi against all things Confucian. While even rulers of the Warring States found the theories of Zhuangzi difficult to put into practice, we find many of his modern followers on the Web trying to do the impossible.

Over the past few years, more and more Westerners who learn Tao have wizened up to the fact that most Daoists cultivate Tao and Te in line in with the Tao Te Ching (and not that of Zhuangzi).

Therefore, if the German ever visit his Daoist friends in the East, it would be unsurprising if his friends in all honesty tell him that, “Your Tao is different from ours!”

This would probably also explain why the Tao Speaks forum has become defunct in recent years.


Zac said...

Some Westerners attracted to Eastern religion and philosophy are at the same time running from Western morality, including religious morality.
It's not easy to escape one's cultural baggage; talk of 'virtue' might strike the wrong chord, reminding people of 'empty rules' and moral principles.

Confucianism has a very bad image in those circles. It is viewed as legalist, promoting rules and morality to keep the masses in order. So, of those Westerners attracted to Taoism, some will definitely take comfort in Zhuangzi's apparent disdain for Confucian virtue.

Allan said...

Your perception is indeed correct, Zac. The animosity shown by some of them towards the term, virtue, in forums can be particularly overwhelming.

Stringing the Confucian doctrine together with Legalism by many of them is a matter of right or wrong perception.

Are there any similarity between the respective doctrines of Confucius and Lord Shang, one would ask? And my answer is a resounding no:

The cruelty of Legalism against humanity was well spelt out by Sima Qian in his Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji); although some noted legalists (who were Han Judges or equivalent) have meted out justice without fear or favor.

Going in a bit deeper, according to the holy sages, the Way of Man is benevolence (Ren) (humanity / kindness) and justice (Yi). Are these not the same virtues taught in the four Confucian books?

Zac said...

It is ironic, since the traditional Western concept of virtue is, at heart, quite profound. 'Virtue' implies the qualities that make us what we are; our ideal form. A virtuous man is more fully human: a 'true man' perhaps. It is definitely not some kind of arbitrary social construct.

Would you agree though, that the Dao De Jing is more 'advanced' than the Confucian texts? (I am thinking especially of the Doctrine of the Mean and the Great Learning).

The Confucian texts seem much more straightforward, while the DDJ is more mysterious. Perhaps, as one studies the Confucian books, the DDJ becomes more approachable?

Allan said...

A virtuous person if considered good will have Heaven on his or her side. (Refer the DDJ) A true man or Zhen Ren is usually an adept.

Any ancient Chinese classic (including the DDJ) is usually considered more advanced or in-depth than books or texts.

Your perception is again correct. However, in addition to the studies, practice or cultivation is also required. From experience, it would take decades, before one could begin to truly understand what is written in the DDJ.