Stigweard

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS CONCERNING DAOISM (TAOISM)

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Very interesting Stig!

"The Yiing 鏄撶稉 (Book of Changes) is not a Daoist text. It pre-dates distinct, indigenous cultural traditions like Confucianism and Daoism."

Very interesting indeed!

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How static or plastic is traditional "Daoism" seen from the inside view? If Taoists have been influenced from pre-existing folk animism and shaman rituals, and went on to influence Ch'an philosophy and Shugendo mysticism, what can be called authentic... if only measured by distance or Occidental/Oriental palates?

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While I appreciate the commitment to historical and factual accuracy, I sense a dryness and self-righteousness in this person's writing that I find common in academia. One who observes and studies but does not practice. Additionally, I don't know anyone who pronounces Taoism with a hard "t".

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While I appreciate the commitment to historical and factual accuracy, I sense a dryness and self-righteousness in this person's writing that I find common in academia. One who observes and studies but does not practice. Additionally, I don't know anyone who pronounces Taoism with a hard "t".

I agree.

Edited by InfinityTruth

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For those that may be wondering, besides being a professor, Louis Komjathy is also a practicing Taoist.

From his website:

"In 2006, he received ordination into the Huashan lineage of Quanzhen Daoism and lived as a visiting Daoist monk in the Daoist monasteries of Laoshan 宥楀北 (Mount Lao; near Qingdao, Shandong) and Huashan 鑿北 (Mount Hua; Huayin, Shaanxi)."

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Here is a somewhat different academic take, with a longer view of the changes in what is considered "Daoist" or even "Daoism." Very interesting stuff. By Chad Hansen of the University of Hong Kong, who has a strong interest in Chuang Tzu as a philosopher of language. Also, unlike many of the academics of Daoism, he is himself a practicing Daoist.

Taoism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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One example of Komjathy's brittleness (or sort of, I know more than you naah naah naah attitude):

He puts down people who consider the I Ching to be Daoist as ignorant and cites it as an example of Western misunderstanding of true Chinese Taoism. Except, as Chad Hansen notes, the I Ching was first called Daoist by Wang Bi in the 3rd Century AD, about the same time he was compiling the version of the Dao de Jing that pretty much every one has used since (until the recent discoveries).

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One example of Komjathy's brittleness (or sort of, I know more than you naah naah naah attitude):

He puts down people who consider the I Ching to be Daoist as ignorant and cites it as an example of Western misunderstanding of true Chinese Taoism. Except, as Chad Hansen notes, the I Ching was first called Daoist by Wang Bi in the 3rd Century AD, about the same time he was compiling the version of the Dao de Jing that pretty much every one has used since (until the recent discoveries).

Re-quoting TWIV:

"In 2006, [Louis Komjathy] received ordination into the Huashan lineage of Quanzhen Daoism and lived as a visiting Daoist monk in the Daoist monasteries of Laoshan 宥楀北 (Mount Lao; near Qingdao, Shandong) and Huashan 鑿北 (Mount Hua; Huayin, Shaanxi)."

So you can let up on the assumptions that Komjathy is merely some sort of externally observing academic.

Also the simple archeological fact is that the I Ching, in the indigenous form of the Lo Shu, predates any formalization of Taoism by around 2000 years or more. Even the current King Wen sequence was said to have been formalized C. 12th century BC. So even if in the 3rd Century AD Wang Bi said that the I Ching is Daoist all he has done, as I have pointed out elsewhere, is incorporated a component of the indigenous world view of ancient China into the formalized body of Taoism.

Does it make the I Ching Daoist? Well perhaps from the perspective that studying the I Ching is a part of Taoist curriculum. But in no way does it make the I Ching exclusively Daoist, because under the same sort of perspective the I Ching could also be called Confucian.

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For those that may be wondering, besides being a professor, Louis Komjathy is also a practicing Taoist.

From his website:

"In 2006, he received ordination into the Huashan lineage of Quanzhen Daoism and lived as a visiting Daoist monk in the Daoist monasteries of Laoshan 宥楀北 (Mount Lao; near Qingdao, Shandong) and Huashan 鑿北 (Mount Hua; Huayin, Shaanxi)."

ah...well then <cough>

So he does practice, that's cool. It's still an interesting issue. Again, I appreciate the effort to preserve the authenticity of "Daoism". But I wonder how useful such an effort is outside of academic knowledge. It seems to me that such efforts may alienate some people who resonate with Daoist teachings. I suspect this problem is common in many religions, do you water it down for the masses or stick to your guns and risk excluding others?

Personally, I tend to be more of a universalist, and think that whatever is true in one religion is true in another, and that religions that hold steadfastly to dogma are inevitably holding on to falsehoods. So while I appreciate the effort from an historical and cultural perspective, I don't from a spiritual one.

And I still don't get the Taoism with a "t" thing haha.

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"In 2006, [Louis Komjathy] received ordination into the Huashan lineage of Quanzhen Daoism and lived as a visiting Daoist monk in the Daoist monasteries of Laoshan 宥楀北 (Mount Lao; near Qingdao, Shandong) and Huashan 鑿北 (Mount Hua; Huayin, Shaanxi)."

So you can let up on the assumptions that Komjathy is merely some sort of externally observing academic.

Did I make that assumption? I don't remember doing so. (I said that Chad Hansen is Daoist, unlike some Western academics. I can see how you might think I meant Komjathy, but I did not. As you might have gathered, if I want to say something, I don't hem and haw about it a lot. :-) )

Actually my concern, based on this web article that you posted, is more about a sense of superiority and exclusivity, which his initiation may well have made worse.

As for the I Ching (Yijing), I know that it long predates Daoism. My point is that he throws it in his "Common Misconceptions of Daoism" article as another example of Western ignorance about Daoism; and in reality it's a piece of ancient Chinese ignorance, only recently corrected both in China and in the West.

That said, I found his article distinguishing sympathizers from adherents, and he distinguishes them in a way that is actually a bit more nuanced that I had thought, so I stand corrected.

Here is the article: Komjathy "Tracing the Contours of Daoism in North America"

He writes that "Euro-American Daoist adherents are those Americans of European heritage who identify themselves as Daoists or those for whom other reliable evidence exists that suggests they think of themselves in this way. Those who are attracted to Daoism but do not embrace it fully or exclusively may be referred to as sympathizers." He then goes on, however, to emphasize what he calls "close relations (ordained priests, lineage successors)" who he contrasts with those he calls "Pooh Bear Taoists." So there's (what I perceive to be) some of that superior attitude creeping in again.

Edited by Mark Saltveit

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[...]

Popular Misconception

Daoists, or Dao-ists, are those who love the Dao and go with the flow.

Informed View

From a Daoist perspective, there are various types of religious adherence and affiliation. These involve different degrees of commitment and responsibility. The Daoist tradition consists, first and foremost, of ordained priests and monastics and lay supporters. Lineage and ordination are primary dimensions of Daoist identity and religious affiliation. This requires training under Daoist teachers and community elders with formal affiliation with the Daoist religious community and tradition. A distinction may in turn be may between Daoist adherents and Daoist sympathizers. In the case of Daoism in the West, one also finds various forms of spiritual appropriation and spiritual capitalism

[...]

Hi Stig,

As discussed in a different thread, I think this is a great article - thanks for posting.

I do however have a bone to pick with the above quote. As you already know, I am not crazy about the sympathizers vs. adherents classification, but that is not the bone of contention here:

I completely disagree with the following: "The Daoist tradition consists, first and foremost, of ordained priests and monastics and lay supporters.". While clearly the opinion of the author, I believe this statement is unfounded.

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Hi Stig,

As discussed in a different thread, I think this is a great article - thanks for posting.

I do however have a bone to pick with the above quote. As you already know, I am not crazy about the sympathizers vs. adherents classification, but that is not the bone of contention here:

I completely disagree with the following: "The Daoist tradition consists, first and foremost, of ordained priests and monastics and lay supporters.". While clearly the opinion of the author, I believe this statement is unfounded.

Why do you believe this is unfounded? Within the context of Chinese culture that is exactly what the Daoist tradition is.

What do you believe the Daoist tradition is if you so adamantly disagree?

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Why do you believe this is unfounded? Within the context of Chinese culture that is exactly what the Daoist tradition is.

What do you believe the Daoist tradition is if you so adamantly disagree?

I don't speak for devoid of course, but the ambiguous phrase is "lay supporters." It sounds like he means unordained followers who accept only the authority of the ordained priests of the sects in question. If so, he is excluding millions of Chinese who treasure the Daoist classics but don't consider themselves part of a particular sect.

It's hard for me to work out his exact meaning though, because in the article I just cited, he adopts Livia Kohn's trifold classification of Daoists into literati Daoists, ritual Daoists and self-cultivation Daoists; but the first and last of these seem to include people who are not initiated into, or lay followers of, given sects. So I may be missing a nuance of his argument here.

Edited by Mark Saltveit

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Quoting from the above mentioned article, I believe this is a critical consideration in this discussion:

Jan Nattier argues that there are dangers involved in both uncritical inclusiveness and arbitrary (or sectarian) exclusiveness. In my view, the former disrespects the tradition involved; it is political in the sense that it implicitly condones appropriation and commercialization, which often exploit the original tradition as well as disempower and disenfranchise the representatives of that tradition. In addition, this stance can easily lead to an impoverishment of a given religious tradition; the traditional worldviews and practices become so mingled with other agendas that it is impossible to gain a clear historical understanding. However, exclusiveness, whether arbitrary or not, seems more problematic, in that the historian too soon comes to resemble a sectarian spokesperson.

Your stance on this dialogue will depend on where you see yourself standing on the sliding scale between inclusiveness (i.e. I call myself a Daoist therefore I am) or exclusiveness (i.e. you are only a Daoist if you conform to prerequisite conditions, like being ordained etc.)

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Guest allan

For those that may be wondering, besides being a professor, Louis Komjathy is also a practicing Taoist.

From his website:

"In 2006, he received ordination into the Huashan lineage of Quanzhen Daoism and lived as a visiting Daoist monk in the Daoist monasteries of Laoshan 宥楀北 (Mount Lao; near Qingdao, Shandong) and Huashan 鑿北 (Mount Hua; Huayin, Shaanxi)."

While the above article is better written than his translated texts and (some flawed) commentaries, based on his opinion on Laozi and Zhang SanFeng, it appears that he still has much to learn in Quanzhen.

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While the above article is better written than his translated texts and (some flawed) commentaries, based on his opinion on Laozi and Zhang SanFeng, it appears that he still has much to learn in Quanzhen.

24.gif

If I may ask, what makes you think you have the authority to say so?? Are you personally trained to a superior level in Quanzhen Taoism that would give you the ability to accurately assess someones achievement??

39.gif

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Guest allan

24.gif

If I may ask, what makes you think you have the authority to say so?? Are you personally trained to a superior level in Quanzhen Taoism that would give you the ability to accurately assess someones achievement??

39.gif

Do you know of any very senior Quanzhen members and speak to them often about Quanzhen practices and beliefs over the past two decades?

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Do you know of any very senior Quanzhen members and speak to them often about Quanzhen practices and beliefs over the past two decades?

:D

If you think your achievement in the Quanzhen surpasses Komjathy enough for you to feel you can pass judgement then out with it ... let's hear who you are and let's hear about the experiences you have had. If you have had the sort of contact that you insinuate then many of us here, myself included, would benefit greatly and we would be very grateful for your contribution.

After all, I am just a dim-witted, try-hard Aussie who is bumbling and fumbling along making do with the scraps of resources available to me.

:D

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Why do you believe this is unfounded? Within the context of Chinese culture that is exactly what the Daoist tradition is.

What do you believe the Daoist tradition is if you so adamantly disagree?

Are you serious?

If I say something is unfounded, it means that I have not yet heard the argument why this postulate holds true.

That leaves you with two cardinal choices: a) prove me wrong (e.g. by quoting a generally accepted source - as an example the Tao Te Ching would be very convincing, but I would accept many other sources (all of which I believe nobody is able to list canonically) or you can b] live with my disagreement and continue to listen to me complaining that this view is biased and does not represent taoism properly.

Let me tell you in advance, though, that I will not buy into the Confucian argument of respect for elders, system and tradition as a 'catch all' for this postulate.

Edit: if you write 'b' or 'B' followed by ')' it gives you B) - I now changed this back to 'b]' as the sunglass smiley was not intended.

Edited by devoid

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:D

If you think your achievement in the Quanzhen surpasses Komjathy enough for you to feel you can pass judgement then out with it ... let's hear who you are and let's hear about the experiences you have had. If you have had the sort of contact that you insinuate then many of us here, myself included, would benefit greatly and we would be very grateful for your contribution.

After all, I am just a dim-witted, try-hard Aussie who is bumbling and fumbling along making do with the scraps of resources available to me.

:D

Stigweard, you reference Komjathy a lot. Do you know him? Have you studied with him? I would actually like to get in touch with him for an article I'm working on.

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Guest allan

:D

If you think your achievement in the Quanzhen surpasses Komjathy enough for you to feel you can pass judgement then out with it ... let's hear who you are and let's hear about the experiences you have had. If you have had the sort of contact that you insinuate then many of us here, myself included, would benefit greatly and we would be very grateful for your contribution.

After all, I am just a dim-witted, try-hard Aussie who is bumbling and fumbling along making do with the scraps of resources available to me.

:D

It is not incorrect to remark that any Quanzhen disciple with only a four-year stint, whether part or full time, would have much to learn in Quanzhen.

Just ask your friend to do more research on the existence of the great sage, Laozi and Zhang SanFeng and to check where possible - if he has the requisite access - whether both have any link or not with Quanzhen. Thereafter he may have cause to change his informed view on both of them?

There is nothing else to share.

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The OP is a good reminder not to fall for the popular or commercial. But it has an element of throwing the baby out with the bath water. It is no surprise for instance that Ursula Le Guin is not a Taoist scholar and these are easy targets. It is helpful to have some rigorous and accurate scholarship on the subject of Taoism but there is something missing which is ... one would have thought that a source text like the TTC being inspirational to thousands if not millions of people across the western world would be held up as evidence of the wise and profound nature of Taoist teachings ... i.e. that they can cross cultural boundaries, be subject to some dubious translation but still ring true in hearts if so many readers. Ok their understanding might be limited and lack the nuance that serious study would give ... but still it is true that the Tao has made an impact in the West. This is something to be built on and it is perhaps a criticism of the 'serious' Taoists that they have left a vacuum into which Ms. Le Guin and others have stepped.

Buddhism suffered similarly in the early days but then it made serious efforts to spread authentic teachings. Now Buddhism is better understood in the west. So if the writer quoted in the OP is pointing the finger of criticism then quite a lot of that should rebound straight back on him.

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Are you serious?

If I say something is unfounded, it means that I have not yet heard the argument why this postulate holds true.

That leaves you with two cardinal choices: a) prove me wrong (e.g. by quoting a generally accepted source - as an example the Tao Te Ching would be very convincing, but I would accept many other sources (all of which I believe nobody is able to list canonically) or you can b] live with my disagreement and continue to listen to me complaining that this view is biased and does not represent taoism properly.

Let me tell you in advance, though, that I will not buy into the Confucian argument of respect for elders, system and tradition as a 'catch all' for this postulate.

Edit: if you write 'b' or 'B' followed by ')' it gives you B) - I now changed this back to 'b]' as the sunglass smiley was not intended.

You didn't answer my question: "What do you believe the Daoist tradition is if you so adamantly disagree?"

You find this statement unfounded:

"The Daoist tradition consists, first and foremost, of ordained priests and monastics and lay supporters."

Exactly what part of that do you find objectionable/questionable. And if you so strongly disagree then please give me your alternative view.

If you had to complete this sentence what would you say:

The Daoist tradition consists of....

:D

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