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Can Theravadin Buddhism be compatible with Taoism?

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I'm aware that the Buddha spoke against seeking things that are seemingly metaphysical in nature as they were considered to be a part of the world. It is said that most of the actual teachings of the Buddha have been lost and that the Theravadin teachings are closest to the original. I don't plan on abandoning my Theravadin background but at the same time I find that a good portion of the Theravadin teachings tend to be so strict that in order to put them to practice you may possibly need to be isolated from the modern world. Modern times are entirely different from the time of the Buddha and that's one major reason why someone living in todays world may have somewhat of a different version of the middle path as compared to Gautama Buddha. I don't think that the Buddha foresaw many of the changes and possible challenges that were to come for future generations. My question is are there any Theravadins here which find Taoism to be compatible?

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you may possibly need to be isolated from the modern world.

 

Know of any Theravedin monasteries that achieve this?

 

There's one in Burma focused on WEsterners - but still - I mean I'm not sure how isolated it is.

 

For example isn't is true that during the rainy season the monks would do a long meditation session with the teacher in the forest?

 

It seems that Western "forest" monastery keeps the monks on a set routine year round - go get your daily food - go back to your hut and meditate.

 

I read one Western expose of becoming a Theravedin monk and he said the big problem was constipation from the white rice.

 

Then I read up on that Western forest monastery in Burma and they say they're introducing different kinds of food to add more fiber to treat constipation. haha.

 

I think if they were doing the "moving of yin and yang" standing active exercises then constipation shouldn't be that much of an issue.

 

I would say the main difference for me - after studying the different philosophies for years is that Taoism is explicitly based on a three-in-one harmonic resonance while Buddhism is derived from the Vedic symmetric logic system - even if the Buddhist logic is "neither this, neither that."

 

Of course I'm simplifying and that is meant to be obvious since Buddhists - precisely because of that symmetric logic limitation - tend to get caught in eternal arguments of the conceptual realm - never realizing that the problem is in the symmetric dualistic structure of phonetic language itself.

 

Still Theravedin monks do the Full Moon all night meditation with the females and that is tantric as is the females feeding the monks - more tantra there. So the "complementary opposites" resonance is implicit to Buddhism - also that females are not allowed to touch the monks.

 

Yeah but still for example Burma still is a military regime that has used slave labor to build meditation temples for the Western tourists who don't know any better - they're just attracted to Buddhism, not realizing they are relying on slave labor to seek enlightenment.

 

Thailand is based on U.S. military bases working with a regime there also.

 

Laos and Cambodia also still recovering from the genocidal U.S. invasions - bombing and the fall out from that.

 

So it seems a bit asking too much for a Westerner to be fed for free so he can meditate as a monk in countries that have bombed and set up military bases and military regimes of vast oppression that starve the masses.

 

I know there's a lot of prestige and karma for feeding the monks and so the wealthy elite in those countries give huge donations to the monasteries but then it feeds corruption as well.

 

This is true of the "forest monks" who, precisely because of their previous seclusion from the modern world, achieved high levels of spiritual mastery - and so were courted with generous contributions by the military regime - so that the regime could hopefully get some of the spiritual power.

 

You could say that is true of Westerners in general - seeking out the spiritual power of Eastern meditation masters who come from a culture of seclusion - the Westerners coming from a culture of military regimes posing as democracies, etc. And so we as militarized Westerners hope to, by offering prestige and money, get back some spiritual energy.

 

So I guess that is also true for Taoism.

 

As far as the meditation process - I was in a Theravadin monastery to become a monk and so I read about the "achievement of cessation" as the first level of samadhi - and so this requires a week long fast.

 

So again is that even possible in that forest monastery in Burma - because as I said in the rainy season there would be longer meditation sessions in isolation - like a couple months - but it seems like in the "modernized" monasteries the local citizens control the routines of the monks and so the monks have to just be focused on doing community ritual events and so the monks can never really achieve deep samadhi success. Because the citizens under "democratic reform" have changed the monasteries into being controlled by the citizens who obviously are not monks and so should not have the ultimate say - and yet they do and so the monasteries are changed into charity places for education and food, etc.

 

People then have no idea what they are missing.

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Many years ago I lived for a while in a Theravadin monastery, so I'm familiar with the tradition in general, but I don't know from your post how strictly you follow the vinaya, or how much you know about the diverse nature of the Daoist tradition.  

 

Both similarities and differences can be found within the two traditions, but as an overview I'd say the practices are almost diametrically opposed to each other. Daoism is underpinned by spontaneity,naturalness and non-doing, whereas the Theravadin emphasises mindfulness and compassion. But perhaps the starkest difference is that Daoist praxis is focused on cultivating the whole body, whereas Theravadin Buddhism shuns the body.  

 

Basically though, I think the implications of your question are just too broad to have any meaningful answer. I'd suggest for you to experiment and decide for yourself. 

Edited by Darkstar
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Therevada doesn't shun the body... rather, attachment to it.

 

Anyway, I think you could draw on both of them. But you would have to choose one as your fundamental reference for what the path is about and how you proceed, and only use practices from the other that don't contradict. For example, taking the four noble truths and eightfold path as your base, using qigong as an extra method to help calm the mind, deal with emotional crud and maintain health, could work well. You can practice vipassana during qigong and recognise that the flow of qi is impermanent, dukkha and anatta. You could use The Attention Revolution by Alan Wallace (ignoring his crazy high standards), MCTB by Daniel Ingram and Daoist Nei Gong by Damo Mitchell as your practice guides for that.

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From a broader perspective it’s interesting to consider why people are drawn to different teachings and practices; different paths.  When I was younger I avidly searched out teachings and spent a number of years living, for longer or shorter periods, at many Buddhist centres of different lineages. Although each centre was  based on either the Theravada, Mahayana or Vajrayana tradition, they all had distinctive flavours within these traditions derived from  the ’power’ (here the Daoist concept of de is better) of the founding teacher. I couldn’t help but note how a practice that was the focus of one centre could well be proscribed at another.

 

I came to the conclusion that all these different practices / teachings were like medicines aimed at redressing specific imbalances within each practitioner. ¬†From this perspective I encourage people to explore all that is available. However, once appropriate teachings / practice is found it‚Äôs important to stick with it to get real results. The power of working for a long period of time under the personal guidance of a wise and gifted teacher is what helped me the most ‚Äď and this teacher was of a Daoist lineage. (For me personally Daoism resonates with and expands my own experience of reality ‚Äď but I emphasise that this is only a personal preference. Also, nothing is rigidly fixed, my needs have changed over time and hence I‚Äôve never called myself a Daoist. Now, I'd consider my main teacher as nature itself as well as learning to deal wisely with all real life experiences that come my way of themselves.)

Edited by Darkstar
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My question is are there any Theravadins here which find Taoism to be compatible?

 

Actually, the more you practice Taoism the closer you get to Theravada or Buddhism in general. It's like climbing a diamond, more and more similarities between practices as you get closer to the tip.

 

The Buddha didn't have to do anything with his body, his method was purely INTERNAL. No Qi, meridians, yin and yang, five elements, etc. But remember that was 2,500 years ago in a planet with:

 

1. No pollution

2. No ultra-capitalism

3. No stress resulting from a fast-paced modern lifestyle

4. Overwork, night shift work

5. Prescription drugs and drugs in general, alcoholism

6. Computers

7. Sitting on a chair most of the day facing a computer, machine, etc.

8. Traffic, noise, violence, bullying, etc.

9. Humans living in cities or megacities

10. Junk food

11. Schooling, exams, pressure to perform well, worrying about future, study exams

12. Competitive society, the rat race

 

He nearly perfected his mind before his last incarnation as a human (he was a deva in his last rebirth and did cultivate his mind countless lifetimes prior to that) so for him it was just a matter of time in his lifetime. He was meant to become a Buddha, someone who finds the path to liberation alone and by himself. It's impossible for a human to attain that level today in our modern world and being born in New York, Paris or Tokyo.

 

So, use Taoism as a means of working your mental blockages which are all reflected in your body (internal organs, meridians, joints, tendons and muscles) and then you'll understand the mind and hopefully reach one of the four stages of enlightenment.

 

Baguazhang is a wonderful art to unblock the body-mind as well as promoting health and vitality.

 

In the end, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sufism, Esoteric Christianity, etc are all the same.

 

Have you read this Dharma talk?

 

No Religion.

Edited by Gerard
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Sounds pretty idealized but again Buddhism was a reformation of the Vedic Brahmin religion.

 

No megacities? Sravasit: "the city had a population of 900,000 in 5th century BCE a"

 

No wars?

 

The Kalinga war, the only major war Ashoka fought after his accession to throne, is one of the major and bloodiest battles in world history. Kalinga, then an Independent region put up a stiff resistance against brutal strength of Ashoka and fought bravely till the end. But despite being tough, they were outnumbered against Ashoka's armies. The bloodshed of this war is said to have prompted Ashoka to adopt Buddhism. However, he retained Kalinga after its conquest and incorporated it into the Maurya Empire.[4]

 

 

It's very convenient for the victors to declare a reign of peace.

 

No Caste system?

 

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/29757366?uid=3739736&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21106578102683

 

Academic analysis says Buddhists never challenged the caste system nor its discriminatory laws.

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I'm aware that the Buddha spoke against seeking things that are seemingly metaphysical in nature as they were considered to be a part of the world. It is said that most of the actual teachings of the Buddha have been lost and that the Theravadin teachings are closest to the original. I don't plan on abandoning my Theravadin background but at the same time I find that a good portion of the Theravadin teachings tend to be so strict that in order to put them to practice you may possibly need to be isolated from the modern world. Modern times are entirely different from the time of the Buddha and that's one major reason why someone living in todays world may have somewhat of a different version of the middle path as compared to Gautama Buddha. I don't think that the Buddha foresaw many of the changes and possible challenges that were to come for future generations. My question is are there any Theravadins here which find Taoism to be compatible?

 

I have to start by saying I'm not really qualified to answer your question properly as I am neither Theravadin or properly a Daoist.  But you raise an interesting question which has already provoked some interesting answers.

 

If you were to ask a broader question as to whether Buddhism and Taoism can be compatible then I think I could answer yes, since in China this happened in Ch'an Buddhism and Complete Reality school of Taoism - though even here there would be some here who see both of these as somehow 'contaminated'.  I've never held that view as I see it more as evidence of the underlying truth of both religions that they can be symbiotic rather than some kind of tainting.  But this was a merging of Mahayana Buddhism and not Theravada.

 

The Theravada uphold a view which might question the view that the Tao is fundamentally real as the only real would be mental events or dharmas.  But even here it might be possible to understand the Tao as the flow of dharmas (?) not sure about this.  I think the only problem on a practitioner level would be the possibility of generating confusion for yourself by mixing concepts from the two systems ... or perhaps concepts and approaches to practice.  But again to do this might be a good exercise in itself.  Provided you can protect against merging into a kind of New Age mud.  

 

The Buddha gained awakening or personal realisation which he said in the first instance he found to be inexpressible.  But he was moved by compassion to teach it.  When he taught he was of course interacting which people who lived in the Vedic culture and he used terms, images and so on drawn from that culture.  For instance the terms karma, samsara and so on.  He re-interpreted these ideas in a fundamental way in order to try to help people.  He wasn't a social reformer and as has been pointed out he did not cause lay Buddhists to challenge the caste system ... but there was no caste system in his sangha, in fact it has been suggested by academics that the Sakya clan was on the periphery of Vedic culture and the organisation of the sangha reflects the social order of the gana-sangha.  Some of the quotes from the suttas in that paper which purport to uphold the varnas and jatis are actually the buddha critiquing and lampooning the degenerate practices of the Brahmins (or so it is said by other academics).

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Only early Chan' Buddhism was compatible with Daoism. After 6th patriarch Chan' was corrupted. So I would say that modern Chan' (Zen) hasn't preserved methods of original Chan'. 

 

As for Buddhism it is very hard to say what Buddha practiced excatly. There were internal and external teachings. I really doubt that Theravada preserved original internal methods of the path of perfection.

 

Quiet sitting (mind perfection) was not as much harmful for people in ancient India as it is now for the western people. It is not practiced in authentic Daoism in the beginning and it is only one out of the preparations methods for the quieting the heart and not the method for itself. People who teach it as "method"  do not understand what they teach. Moreover it can be very harmful if it is done for a long time. 

 

Daoist initial methods have a lot of practices which are done in motion. Sitting begets Yin, motion begets Yan.

Let's have a look what daoist Liu Yiming wrote about daoists methods of cultivation:

 

 

Another scripture says:

        Superior virtue keeps one's form intact by means of the Tao. 
        Inferior virtue extends one's existence by means of a technique.(2)

Both passages say that superior virtue and inferior virtue differ in status, and that their operation is also not the same.

Essentially, in superior virtue one's body is intact and one's virtue is full, and the Yang of Qian ‚ėį has never been damaged. "Never been damaged" means that the precelestial Yang has never been damaged; it does not mean that the postcelestial body has not lost its integrity.(3)When the Yang of Qian is plentiful, with a pure and flawless perfect Essence and an inchoate One Breath, the ‚ė쬆five agents¬†gather together and the four images join in harmony. All of the precious things are intact.

Without a method for protecting and guarding this, the Yang necessarily culminates and generates the Yin; wholeness culminates and becomes lacking. Those who know this hasten to seek the oral instructions of an enlightened master. Without waiting for the birth of Yin, they use the method of "keeping one's form intact by means of the Tao." They set the natural True Fire in motion, and refine the Yin breath of the entire body; they use the Yin instead of being used by the Yin, and achieve efficacy in the postcelestial.(4) When the Yin is exhausted and the Yang is pure, they live a long life free from death.

 

http://www.goldenelixir.com/jindan/cultivating_the_tao_19.html

 

Buddha was the person who had Superior Virtue. Only people of Superior Virtue can practice non-doing for the perfection. All other people need method for the cultivation. Initial methods in Daoist Neidan are called "Laying the foundation". It has nothing to do with sitting meditations. 

Edited by Antares
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Okay, let me think about this for a minute . . .

 

First, there are a lot of different interpretations/implementations of both Buddhism and Taoism -- both in the East and in the West.

 

I personally don't care about the Eastern ones at all.  I don't feel they are relevant to me as a Westerner; everyone can decide that for himself.

 

So any version of Buddhism or Taoism that retains a primarily Eastern perspective . . . I don't take seriously (at least not until someone re-interprets it in Western terms).

 

Beyond that, I find that Taoism (in general) is much more capable of being usefully interpreted in Western terms than is Buddhism. 

 

And Theravada seems the LEAST so of the various types of Buddhism . . .

Edited by Lataif
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First, there are a lot of different interpretations/implementations of both Buddhism and Taoism -- both in the East and in the West.

 

Yes, absolutely!

 

I personally don't care about the Eastern ones at all.  I don't feel they are relevant to me as a Westerner; everyone can decide that for himself.

 

So any version of Buddhism or Taoism that retains a primarily Eastern perspective . . . I don't take seriously (at least not until someone re-interprets it in Western terms).

 

I agree that Western interpretations are important.  But the interpreter must totally understand the original tradition and how it fits its Eastern culture before he or she can validly adapt the essential features so that the essence of the teaching is retained within our Western cultural context. This is a big ask and is something that takes time. To my observation Buddhism, due to its greater penetration over time, has progressed further down the Westernisation path than Daoism.

 

 

Beyond that, I find that Taoism (in general) is much more capable of being usefully interpreted in Western terms than is Buddhism. 

 

Daoism is certainly less definable, less a coherent whole, than Buddhism and therefore more open to flexible interpretations. But this can mean it loses its potency, its de. 

 

 

And Theravada seems the LEAST so of the various types of Buddhism . . .

 

In my experience this is true. Theravadin monks are so restricted by the vinaya that much of their practice is simply about keeping their behaviour within the rules. For instance, they need an attendant to accompany them when travelling - unless they choose to walk and beg for food as per their tradition - because they cannot handle money, amongst many other restrictions. Also the attitude of the tradition to women is atrocious. In general, it's an austere, patriarchal and hierarchical tradition, and consequently of very limited appeal in the West.  

Edited by Darkstar

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A lot of what's being said about Therevada here applies to being a monk - which the OP doesn't seem to be intending anyway - and to the ossified cultural traditions and dogmas rather than the core theory and practice itself.

 

In any tradition whatsoever, an intelligent practitioner will try to separate the actual essence from the nonsense that people, time and cultures have burdened it with. If you want to see this done in Theravada (to an extent Buddhism in general, but particularly Therevada), look to people like Daniel Ingram.

Edited by Seeker of Wisdom

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Certainly our planet wasn't as unhealthy as today's:

 

o6aQiIW.jpg

 

 

 

 

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