dwai

How to understand the Daodejing and similar taoist works?

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I was reading my first teacher's notes - his records of what his master taught him over several years (he maintained it like a diary), which he gave to my taiji brother and myself. He writes in his notes from 2000 --

Quote

In a talk I had with Master after class he mentioned that to understand the Tao Teh Ching, and
other such works, it is important to imagine that you are the only person on earth. Can you be right or
wrong then? Is there good or bad?

This points directly to non-duality and the context in which works like DDJ should be studied and understood. Feel free to discuss :) 

 

 

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26 minutes ago, dwai said:

I was reading my first teacher's notes - his records of what his master taught him over several years (he maintained it like a diary), which he gave to my taiji brother and myself. He writes in his notes from 2000 --

This points directly to non-duality and the context in which works like DDJ should be studied and understood. Feel free to discuss :) 

 

 

Sounds like a non-taoist way to look at the DDJ, especially the part about imagining that you are the only person on the earth.  From the DDJ...

 

TWENTY-SEVEN

A good walker leaves no tracks;

A good speaker makes no slips;

A good reckoner needs no tally.

A good door needs no lock, Yet no one can open it.

Good binding requires no knots, Yet no one can loosen it.

Therefore the wise take care of everyone And abandon no one.

They take care of all things And abandon nothing.

This is called ‚Äúfollowing the light.‚ÄĚ

...

Tsu, Lao. Tao Te Ching

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Just now, Jeff said:

 

Sounds like a non-taoist way to look at the DDJ, especially the part about imagining that you are the only person on the earth.  From the DDJ...

 

TWENTY-SEVEN

A good walker leaves no tracks;

A good speaker makes no slips;

A good reckoner needs no tally.

A good door needs no lock, Yet no one can open it.

Good binding requires no knots, Yet no one can loosen it.

Therefore the wise take care of everyone And abandon no one.

They take care of all things And abandon nothing.

This is called ‚Äúfollowing the light.‚ÄĚ

...

Tsu, Lao. Tao Te Ching

Don't know about that. This is the main teacher of my lineage. As Daoist as they get :) 

Maybe the general understanding of how a Daoist should look at DDJ is incorrect?

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45 minutes ago, dwai said:

it is important to imagine that you are the only person on earth. Can you be right or
wrong then? Is there good or bad?

 

13 minutes ago, Jeff said:

Sounds like a non-taoist way to look at the DDJ, especially the part about imagining that you are the only person on the earth.

 

This seems to me that your teacher is telling you to develop a personal understanding of Tao instead of taking his or anyone else's. TTC and other works are guideposts pointing to the way, they are not the way itself.

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3 minutes ago, dwai said:

Maybe the general understanding of how a Daoist should look at DDJ is incorrect?

 

How could that be so when all personal interpretations (as if you were the only person on earth) would be OK? Further in case you would indeed be the only person on earth than there would be no need for discussing politics or social issues generally, and thus a large part of the Tao Te Ching would become irrelevant.

 

But maybe the teacher followed an esoteric interpretation where the political chapters are reinterpreted as referring to internal alchemical processes?

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37 minutes ago, wandelaar said:

 

How could that be so when all personal interpretations (as if you were the only person on earth) would be OK? Further in case you would indeed be the only person on earth than there would be no need for discussing politics or social issues generally, and thus a large part of the Tao Te Ching would become irrelevant.

:) 

 

37 minutes ago, wandelaar said:

But maybe the teacher followed an esoteric interpretation where the political chapters are reinterpreted as referring to internal alchemical processes?

The grandmaster of my lineage says that the political parts of DDJ are just bolt-ons and somewhat irrelevant. DDJ is primarily a text of internal alchemy. 

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17 minutes ago, dwai said:

:) 

 

The grandmaster of my lineage says that the political parts of DDJ are just bolt-ons and somewhat irrelevant. DDJ is primarily a text of internal alchemy. 

 

I can't help but observe, this sounds more like Advaita than Taoism.  To discard the parts that involve duality (or the reality of the one and the many) as somewhat irrelevant.  In my view, I think all parts are equally significant.

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16 minutes ago, dwai said:

Don't know about that. This is the main teacher of my lineage. As Daoist as they get :) 

Maybe the general understanding of how a Daoist should look at DDJ is incorrect?

 

If you don't seem to like the chapter that I quoted, how about this one from Chapter 51...

 

...

Therefore all things arise from Tao.

By Virtue they are nourished, Developed, cared for,

Sheltered, comforted, Grown, and protected.

Creating without claiming, Doing without taking credit,

Guiding without interfering.

This is Primal Virtue.

 

Sheltered, comforted, grown and cared for... This is the primal virtue... :) 

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7 minutes ago, s1va said:

 

I can't help but observe, this sounds more like Advaita than Taoism.  To discard the parts that involve duality (or the reality of the one and the many) as somewhat irrelevant.  In my view, I think all parts are equally significant.

The grandmaster of my lineage trained in Daoist alchemy and taiji quan since the age of 12 in Taiwan. 

I'm quoting from my teacher's notes again below, taken directly from Advanced Master classes taught by his master --

Quote

You do the six step work and form work to train the body.
Realize though that there is a hierarchy. The mind should move
the Chi to move the body. This results in Chi flow and Chi
awareness. This is a necessary step in order to generate Jing.
Then you can go outside and into the opponent to manipulate
their energy.
This is not the ultimate goal. You want to transcend even
this to get to the level of Shen, (Spirit). Here there is no past, no
future, no concept of time at all. To do the lower levels takes a
lot of time, but here that concept is irrelevant. That is why the Masters who get here are said to appear
stupid. They stop talking and teaching when they get here, and are removed from the constraints of time
and space.

What is this level? It is like an ocean and you, (your
mind), see yourself as a drop of this ocean, moving around in it, (see
diagram at left). This is a false
viewpoint, and the goal is to
become the ocean. How do you
do this? You must destroy the
mind, the me, the I, and become
the ocean. So to reach even
higher levels you must first use
the mind, but then destroy it to
allow yourself to cross over.

 

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Just now, Jeff said:

 

If you don't seem to like the chapter that I quoted, how about this one from Chapter 51...

 

...

Therefore all things arise from Tao.

By Virtue they are nourished, Developed, cared for,

Sheltered, comforted, Grown, and protected.

Creating without claiming, Doing without taking credit,

Guiding without interfering.

This is Primal Virtue.

 

Sheltered, comforted, grown and cared for... This is the primal virtue... :) 

:) Its not that I don't like the chapter. OP is from perspective of understanding. You're posting from perspective of being. There's a difference imho.

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3 minutes ago, dwai said:

:) Its not that I don't like the chapter. OP is from perspective of understanding. You're posting from perspective of being. There's a difference imho.

 

Then please explain how all such meaning of my quoted passages is not lost if you think you are the only person on the planet? Or if nothing really exists.

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Just now, Jeff said:

 

Then please explain how all such meaning of my quoted passages is not lost if you think you are the only person on the planet? Or if nothing really exists.

:)
I would look at it this way --

 

Understand that there is no other. Call it Dao (or something else - it is just a label). Everything and everyone that appears to be, arises and dissipates in this Dao. Once the understanding is complete (and in a flash the understanding fructifies into realization), all things are part of you and you yourself. How can a sage then not do all the things that are outlined?

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7 minutes ago, dwai said:

:)
I would look at it this way --

 

Understand that there is no other. Call it Dao (or something else - it is just a label). Everything and everyone that appears to be, arises and dissipates in this Dao. Once the understanding is complete (and in a flash the understanding fructifies into realization), all things are part of you and you yourself. How can a sage then not do all the things that are outlined?

 

That is just the issue, there are others in the Dao.  You are overlaying your AV view to your understanding of the Dao. In your approach to understanding you are abandoning others.  That is the point of the part of Chapter 27 that I tried to point out...

 

Therefore the wise take care of everyone And abandon no one. 

They take care of all things And abandon nothing. 

This is called ‚Äúfollowing the light.‚ÄĚ

 

 

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7 minutes ago, Jeff said:

You are overlaying your AV view to your understanding of the Dao.

 

This happens a lot. Personally, I tend to apply a Christian bend to Tao. Tao becomes a euphemism for God. It's difficult to not do this, the structures are ingrained and unconscious. Thus I give people leeway when discussing matters of faith, especially when they may not be aware that this is what they are doing. 

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15 minutes ago, Jeff said:

 

That is just the issue, there are others in the Dao.  You are overlaying your AV view to your understanding of the Dao. In your approach to understanding you are abandoning others.  That is the point of the part of Chapter 27 that I tried to point out...

The thing is, I am not. I merely am relaying some of my first teacher's notes of his master's teachings. That said, I never once found any major difference between AV and Daoism as taught to me from a view perspective (in the 18 years I've been studying in this lineage) , except that Daoism/Alchemy deals with energy whereas AV deals with consciousness.

In any case, the OP is intended to have people discuss why such a statement would have been made in the first place. Not about me or my opinions :)

Quote

Therefore the wise take care of everyone And abandon no one. 

They take care of all things And abandon nothing. 

This is called ‚Äúfollowing the light.‚ÄĚ

 

 

Why would anyone be abandoned? I think you missed the point I made earlier :) 

Edited by dwai
adding context
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1 minute ago, Lost in Translation said:

 

This happens a lot. Personally, I tend to apply a Christian bend to Tao. Tao becomes a euphemism for God. It's difficult to not do this, the structures are ingrained and unconscious. Thus I give people leeway when discussing matters of faith, especially when they may not be aware that this is what they are doing. 

 

I agree that happens as everyone brings their own mental framework to what they read.  But, part of the beauty of the DDJ to me is that it is very integrated and wholistic.  It specifically states in it's own words what is appropriate and how to approach.

 

 

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7 minutes ago, dwai said:

The thing is, I am not. I merely am relaying some of my first teacher's notes of his master's teachings. That said, I never once found any major difference between AV and Daoism as taught to me from a view perspective (in the 18 years I've been studying in this lineage) , except that Daoism/Alchemy deals with energy whereas AV deals with consciousness.

In any case, the OP is intended to have people discuss why such a statement would have been made in the first place. Not about me or my opinions :)

Why would anyone be abandoned? I think you missed the point I made earlier :) 

 

Ok, sorry if I derailed your thread.  I was just disagreeing with your premise in the first place as it did not fit for interpretation of the DDJ for me.

 

That being said, if there is only one person on the planet, then to me there would be no right or wrong, or good and bad.  Since you are the only person, everything would simply be self referenced, and just your view on things. Since there is just you, there would not even be a language to have such words or concepts in the first place. :) 

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2 hours ago, dwai said:

In a talk I had with Master after class he mentioned that to understand the Tao Teh Ching, and
other such works, it is important to imagine that you are the only person on earth. Can you be right or
wrong then? Is there good or bad?

 

Let's take this at face value.

 

If you are the only person on Earth then under what condition can you be right or wrong? The answer seems to be when there is an objective reality, a right and wrong defined independently of oneself. The same answer would hold for good and bad. Under what condition can you be neither right nor wrong, neither good nor bad? Here the answer points to a condition in which reality is fundamentally subjective.

 

So back to the quote above. Is the master leading the student, or is the student asked plainly to meditate upon the question?

 

 

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2 hours ago, Lost in Translation said:

 

Let's take this at face value.

 

If you are the only person on Earth then under what condition can you be right or wrong? The answer seems to be when there is an objective reality, a right and wrong defined independently of oneself. The same answer would hold for good and bad. Under what condition can you be neither right nor wrong, neither good nor bad? Here the answer points to a condition in which reality is fundamentally subjective.

In my understanding and experience, everything is fundamentally subjective. Even the objective reality is predicated on a subject :) 

Quote

 

So back to the quote above. Is the master leading the student, or is the student asked plainly to meditate upon the question?

 

 

Good question. I interpret that as a statement of fact - "In order to understand the Dao de jing, you have to understand that there are no others apart from you..." 

 

The DDJ are the teachings of a  zhenren, and he (Lao Tzu) clearly indicates that his words are easy to understand but hard to follow. Most who hear them laugh at them, only a few half-understand them and only the rare few are able to follow them.

 

Edited by dwai
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2 hours ago, wandelaar said:

But maybe the teacher followed an esoteric interpretation where the political chapters are reinterpreted as referring to internal alchemical processes?

 

That was my first impression, that it was meant as a hint, to make you think "what the heck could this chapter be about, then?"  As in the ones Jeff pointed out, it's clearly sounding like there are others involved. The key, I've heard, is that the nation is meant as one's own body, with the population and everything else being the different agencies interacting inside.

 

Otherwise i'd agree that the "only person on earth" could still have not really been meant literally, but as a figure of speech to rely on your own intuition at the time, and dispel any preconceived notions or hangups. 

 

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30 minutes ago, Nintendao said:

The key, I've heard, is that the nation is meant as one's own body, with the population and everything else being the different agencies interacting inside.

 

That is an interesting take of the TTC. I've heard this before so there seems to be merit to it. Whether that was Lao Tsu's original intention... we'll never know.

 

I tend to take the Tao Te Ching at face value, meaning it's a treatise on how to live effectively in the world. From that perspective I prefer to not add any esoteric meaning into the chapters beyond what is already there. Maybe that was Lao Tsu's original intention? Again, who knows...

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Interesting thread!

To me, a hint to your Master's suggestion is found in TTC38:

"Therefore when Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
When kindness is lost, there is justice.
When justice is lost, there is ritual.
Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.
Knowledge of the future is only a flowery trapping of Tao.
It is the beginning of folly."

 

As the 'only person on earth' - goodness, kindness, justice and ritual would not factor in..and understanding the TTC is not encumbered with morality... like it already is with thinking it's a primer for energy work, or thinking it's about only non-dual, or equating Tao with..

 

Gonna stop. Been here long enough to know when to stop. The rest of TTC38 expresses it well, however.

 

Edited by rene
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I think it is interesting to know how the Tao Te Ching is interpreted in alchemical circles (and that's why I have ordered the book by Yang, Jwing-Ming about this), but as internal alchemy is largely a later development and the TaoTe Ching makes perfect sense as a combined spiritual and political contribution to Warring States thinking it looks like the alchemical interpretation is a later invention meant to increase the perceived credibility of internal alchemy by tracing it back to the Old Master.

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