Recommended Posts

@ Ilumairen

 

Yes! Such is the natural way as proposed in the Chuang tse. I think that philosophical Taoism is close to Zen in its appreciation of the wonders of everyday life. And by wonders I don' t mean flying in the air, walking on water, or seeing through walls, but more simple things like unlocking a door or preparing an avocado.

 

I sometimes realize this blissful state of appreciation, and than I'm completely satisfied and happy. But this state soon slips away as the hassles of life drag away my attention.

Edited by wandelaar
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?" 

     (Feng/English)

 

I love this quote, and have found it's applicability to everyday life (and in particular interpersonal relationships) invaluable.

 

However, this too (upon further contemplation) seems dependent upon the development of certain skills - namely an ability to recognize "mud" and the ability to "wait."

 

I was writing this when a notification arrived regarding the above post, and decided to share anyway - although this isn't in response to the above..  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/15/2019 at 3:41 PM, Cloudwalking Owl said:

Howdy:

I'm interested in whether any folks on this discussion board follow Daoism as a practical philosophy. I've seen a lot of conversation about energetics, Chinese medicine, Qi, and so on. I don't want to be provocative, but I've come to the conclusion that most of this stuff is nonsense. But having said that, I do believe that there is a really practical core to Daoism that has sustained it over the centuries. Let me illustrate with a practical example from my home town.
 

....

 

Hi,

 

Thanks for your story.  I'm not, by the way going to go into the 'provocative' thing ... except to say it's ok in my view to provoke ... why not?  However, as a person who does regularly practice with what might be termed 'energetics and qi' I'm very interested in why you came to the conclusion that most of it is nonsense.  I don't have a problem with this - but perhaps I would say that a lot of nonsense is spoken about it rather than it itself being nonsense - which is slightly different.

 

I think it is possible to apply Daoist principles to anything - with or without qi, hand waving and so on.  So each to his own.  I hope you will fill out a little your experiences and conclusions around this subject.

 

Cheers.

 

A.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, lrn2livorlive2lrn said:

You can entertain and appreciate the practical non esoteric truth seeking the old daoists AND be involved in all the other stuff at the same time though...

 

It's all a matter of perspective, if you can't respect that then....

 

It takes an honest and secure person to reject their self bias, naturally resyrictive thinking and to see  that BOTH can be right. Its a dynamic world. This among other  reason I was drawn to zhuangzi

 

Yes, but what if someone has studied all the esoteric stuff for decades, have most---if not all---of the experiences that people talk about, and, come to the conclusion that it's "mostly all bosh"? The problem with energetics isn't the experiences that people have, it's the theoretical overlay that has built-up around them. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
33 minutes ago, Apech said:

 

However, as a person who does regularly practice with what might be termed 'energetics and qi' I'm very interested in why you came to the conclusion that most of it is nonsense.  I don't have a problem with this - but perhaps I would say that a lot of nonsense is spoken about it rather than it itself being nonsense - which is slightly different.

 

I think it is possible to apply Daoist principles to anything - with or without qi, hand waving and so on.  So each to his own.  I hope you will fill out a little your experiences and conclusions around this subject.

 

 

I spent years doing various things and believed in the idea of qi. I felt it flow through my body, I studied the esoteric map of the human body that was found at the White Cloud Temple. I even chanted the Jade Emperor sutra and regularly offered incense to an altar. 

At the same time that I did all of this I was an avid reader of popular science and more (I have a Master's in Philosophy.) I came to the conclusion that most of the experiences that I was having could be explained in better ways using modern scientific theory. The feelings that I had of "qi" going through my body and the various abilities that was able to manifest could be explained better through neuroplasticity than through some mysterious substance.

At the same time, I enjoyed watching the feats of various "qi" masters both in person and through video. In most cases it was obvious that what was being done had nothing at all to do with Qi and were just demonstrations of basic physical principles. Others looked to me to be not much more than stage magic (and often not very good stage magic.) At the same time, I played around a bit with the ability to project the image of being a "wise and groovy master", and found out that it is profoundly easy to convince some people that you are some sort of wizard simply be knowing a few things that they do not. I also learned how seductive it is to cultivate this persona as it gives you a degree of unhealthy control over other people. (This is why I cultivate an persona of being "punk and plain", I never want anyone to put me on a pedestal again!) 

 

I have had a few experiences that are hard to explain given modern theory. But I don't believe that Daoist energetics are any better than they at explaining them. So I choose to leave them as "mysteries" instead of trying to explain them. One thing I will say, however, is that none of them had any real value to my or anyone else's life. And one thing that I have decided is that the only thing worth spending your time cultivating is wisdom. 


Don't assume that because I'm not a fan of qi, it's because I dismissed it out of hand---.  

Edited by Cloudwalking Owl
  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have dug up an old topic that might be relevant to this topic also:

 

 

Don't know where the horse comes from?! :blink:

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Cloudwalking Owl said:

 

I spent years doing various things and believed in the idea of qi. I felt it flow through my body, I studied the esoteric map of the human body that was found at the White Cloud Temple. I even chanted the Jade Emperor sutra and regularly offered incense to an altar. 

At the same time that I did all of this I was an avid reader of popular science and more (I have a Master's in Philosophy.) I came to the conclusion that most of the experiences that I was having could be explained in better ways using modern scientific theory. The feelings that I had of "qi" going through my body and the various abilities that was able to manifest could be explained better through neuroplasticity than through some mysterious substance.

At the same time, I enjoyed watching the feats of various "qi" masters both in person and through video. In most cases it was obvious that what was being done had nothing at all to do with Qi and were just demonstrations of basic physical principles. Others looked to me to be not much more than stage magic (and often not very good stage magic.) At the same time, I played around a bit with the ability to project the image of being a "wise and groovy master", and found out that it is profoundly easy to convince some people that you are some sort of wizard simply be knowing a few things that they do not. I also learned how seductive it is to cultivate this persona as it gives you a degree of unhealthy control over other people. (This is why I cultivate an persona of being "punk and plain", I never want anyone to put me on a pedestal again!) 

 

I have had a few experiences that are hard to explain given modern theory. But I don't believe that Daoist energetics are any better than they at explaining them. So I choose to leave them as "mysteries" instead of trying to explain them. One thing I will say, however, is that none of them had any real value to my or anyone else's life. And one thing that I have decided is that the only thing worth spending your time cultivating is wisdom. 


Don't assume that because I'm not a fan of qi, it's because I dismissed it out of hand---.  

 

 

Thanks - actually I think that's very good.  You've clearly thrown out a lot of dross and misconceptions.  I agree about demonstrations of so called qi and power generally - it is mostly stage magic and tricks to impress the impressionable.  If you are interested in philosophy though you might find that the essential idea of qi is not some mysterious force at all.  It is part of an ancient cosmological view rather like yinyang theory and wuxing.  You could say if you like that it is a way of looking at the world, a view.  So don't throw the baby out with the bathwater just because of some charlatans, I would suggest.

 

For myself awareness of qi came through meditation and had a profound affect on me - and leaves me in no doubt - although I accept that there is a lot of crap spoken as well.  But I think we each need to find our own way based on our own genuine experiences - looking to others or the consensus is not very useful.

 

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

 

A.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, EmeraldHead said:

qi doesn't increase iq

 

:huh:

 

Qi comes from jing,  its quality determines how subtle and powerful qi  is . A brain dominated by weak and dull qi can't remember things well, can't  grasp the complexities of things well  , let alone talking about being creative or not  . To old guys and ladies ,  nothing is more practical than rescuing  their deteriorating mind and bodies .

Edited by exorcist_1699
  • Like 3
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Cloudwalking Owl said:

Yes, but what if someone has studied all the esoteric stuff for decades, have most---if not all---of the experiences that people talk about, and, come to the conclusion that it's "mostly all bosh"? The problem with energetics isn't the experiences that people have, it's the theoretical overlay that has built-up around them. 

 

Then it’s not for you.. no big deal, personally I don’t think the way is about pretending.. I understand exactly where you’re coming from and to be honest again, in my opinion, if you came from the dao and are in the dao, you will return to the dao. Humans are probably the only creatures manipulating themselves to this extent.   Maybe I should start another thread. I’m interested in what people think of so much focus on “mastery” I think this is an interesting topic affecting daily life. 

 

Why so much preoccupation of the mind on mastering things? 

 

Is mastering things really the way.? 

 

Dont get me wrong im a big fan of skill attainment and growing in life.  I’m also pretty ignorant to the reasons people do what they do 

 

Its intersting to me that  so much of the philosophy is about simplifying into a natural flow but so many people still want to be consumed with attainment. Is the idea that because you understand you can use dao hacks on your life and become an attainment monster? is this the way? 

 

There’s lots of daoist tooting of its own horn about practical problem solving and most of it through outlook which allows understanding. I’d say its pretty obvious the major daoist texts want you to know the practical benefits....like stoicism...on cosmic  acid.. 

 

 

 

 

Edited by lrn2livorlive2lrn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/15/2019 at 10:41 AM, Cloudwalking Owl said:

I'm interested in whether any folks on this discussion board follow Daoism as a practical philosophy.

 

What would be the sources such people would follow?

 

DaoDeJing?

 

Ultimate Reality?

 

The Alchemists?

 

The Legalists?

 

YinYang school?

 

The Fang Shi?

 

Folk Religion?

 

The Official Daoist Priests?

 

 

Can these all even be called one "Philosophy"?

 

If so, it will be a Mess to "follow".

 

Or would one "cherry pick" from these and make up something?

 

That is the "New Age" way. Do you mean that?

 

 

 

 

 

-VonKrankenhaus

  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, lrn2livorlive2lrn said:

 

Then it’s not for you.. no big deal, personally I don’t think the way is about pretending.. I understand exactly where you’re coming from and to be honest again, in my opinion, if you came from the dao and are in the dao, you will return to the dao. Humans are probably the only creatures manipulating themselves to this extent.   Maybe I should start another thread. I’m interested in what people think of so much focus on “mastery” I think this is an interesting topic affecting daily life. 

 

Maybe instead of using the word "mastery," we could consider "ease of doing?" 

 

Quote

Why so much preoccupation of the mind on mastering things? 

 

It's actually rather interesting to me when I take some time to contemplate what there is in the navigation of daily life and interpersonal relations which hasn't arisen through some learning curve. And when I'm being brutally honest there is little to nothing which hasn't been dependent upon some form of learning - the easier something seems, the further from the "time of learning" it appears to be - nothing more. 

 

Quote

Is mastering things really the way.? 

 

At this juncture, I would certainly say, "yes," although I may be looking at the word differently than you are. 

 

Initially I was going to ask if someone could present something not related to the autonomic nervous system which wasn't dependent upon some form of learning, but upon my own contemplation there are ways even the nervous system "learns," and things such as trauma can cause repeated patterns of unconcious behaviors - at which point "mastery" (or rewriting the subconscious script) may become synonymous with healing. 

 

At any rate, this is more than enough words for the moment.. 

 

 

Quote

Its intersting to me that  so much of the philosophy is about simplifying into a natural flow but so many people still want to be consumed with attainment.

 

It's another paradox. :lol: 

 

Sometimes "attainment" brings both simplification and what appears as natural flow.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, silent thunder said:

the world reality as thought about...

is the world reality as it is?

 

 

Hello my friend, if I'm remembering correctly you enjoy a good bone broth. At one point you learned how, and now you simply do and enjoy. 

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
38 minutes ago, ilumairen said:

 

Hello my friend, if I'm remembering correctly you enjoy a good bone broth. At one point you learned how, and now you simply do and enjoy. 

 

G'mornin Gal!  Great thought... bone broth.

 

Thought prompts action, action rearranges life bits into broth; broth revitalizes body and mind thinks more thought.

 

reality: fluid and mingled... like broth.

 

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hope the original poster doesn’t mind but to answer the question about where this “practical” Taoist philosophy would come from.

 

i think it could come from any of those and bits of those, everyone’s philosophy will be so,ehow different. I’m not the most knowledgeable person about daoist philosophy but the mindset/perspective is the unique commonality I see.

 

its only really an issue if you want a daoist (trademark) “practical philosophy” .  The detached (from self and bias) viewing of the world to see the truer nature, hear multiple perspectives, see interrelations etc for me has been very helpful..

 

elements of this are also shared with Many other philosophies. What you want out of this philosophy is also personal. You could just use your understanding to manipulate situations to go your way. A dao manipulator.

 

in the broader deeper “not practical” sense it’s hard not to get great variation when you’re talking about sometching which every description is at best an informed guess. 

 

Defining the philosophy is up,to the individual, I don’t have a philosophy or system I have thoughts that resonate with things other people have thought,  and it’s this curious outlook driven by the want of objective truth and understanding for me  that’s practical and useful...sometimes..LOL

 

the original poster might have a much better idea of what defines his philosophy 

Edited by lrn2livorlive2lrn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find this to be a highly problematic train of thought, beginning with the title.

 

Your definition of "practical" is highly specific to "the interests, values, and conclusions of Owl." You attempt to cut what you perceive of as Daoism into pieces, separate them into distinct boxes, create a hierarchy for these boxes, and affix the label of illegitimacy to some of them on the basis of arguments whose flimsiness is somewhat obscured by your eloquence.

 

This pattern is as strange as it is common. It seems to manifest when two opposed desires converge upon a single point. The first desire is to maintain a comfort zone based upon what is familiar and acceptable to the individual actor (who, of course, is never truly an individual, and rather an individualized product of conditioning with a long history involving vast numbers of people). The second desire is to make up for what is lacking inside of the comfort zone through exposure and absorption of cultural patterns from beyond the commonly accepted borders of the comfort zone.

 

The convergence of these two desires creates a certain degree of conflict. This conflict can easily be let to bubble and stew with no need to resolve any of its contradictions if a person simply exists within this confluence. It is much harder to allow these apparent-contradictions to coexist if one wishes to "package" the fruits of one's learning by expressing them in coherent language to people who have not directly experienced the alien cultural pattern. A wish to speak on behalf of the alien to one's familiars all too often seems to inspire the kind of "surgery" I described in the first paragraph above. 

 

When this happens, what emerges from the operating room is often a body at once gutted as well as retrofitted to fit the needs of the surgeon. I observe that the "need" leading many surgeons to thusly wield the scalpel is a specifically need for imprimatur. By this I mean that a person who wishes to communicate "deep ideas" to his/her countrymen finds it convenient to point at a complex array of foreign phenomena and declare: "Behold! There is a word for all of this, a word discovered long ago in a land far away. I know this word, and in telling you what it is, I will not only bring you clarity about what you already are, I shall also bring you clarity about what those in the land far away are. More importantly, I shall also draw upon my lessons from those from afar to tell you what you should do, what you should do better, and what you may become!" 

 

Somehow humans do in fact seem prone to lend an ear and credence to He Who Can Speak for The Ancient and Distant Wise Ones, and so this pattern does not appear only with westerners who are keen on Daoism. For example, Yan Fu translated western writings into Chinese (well, he had bilingual Chinese people read the stories to him aloud in Chinese and then he had other people write down his retellings, which were for a time best sellers) but took tremendous license to alter, edit, and omit in order to make a simple point: "See, dear reader, these foreign stories actually teach us the value of our Confucian values." The head-spinning subtext here is: "Chinese culture has become decadent. It needs an injection of foreign ideas to be revivified and set right. These foreign ideas will set us straight because actually they are our domestic ideas."

 

MC Lyte said, "mad things change, mad things rearrange, but it all stays the same." Yan Fu's message was so simple that he could have presented it in a single sentence: "Study and enact traditional Confucian values in order to restore yourselves and your society." But nobody would have listened! The foreignness of the books he "translated" lent him exoticism, which effortlessly attracts a great many humans' eyes and ears. From the exotic knowledge source to which he claims to hold the keys he obtained powerful imprimatur, which he then used to deliver a subliminal message to his Chinese readers: "You don't need to believe little old me that Confucianism is the way. But how could you ignore the fact that millions of Britons--what with their warships and cannons and empire and power and dominion--have risen to their superior state precisely because they, ultimately, understand and employ Confucian values?"

 

In short, wherever it appears, this process of creating imprimatur by identifying and then speaking for a [geographically/temporally/culturally] faraway "them" ultimately means that the the them's true identity gets lost in the process. Owl, I am afraid that this is what you are doing. I add that I think that neither you, nor Yan Fu, nor most people who do this do so intentionally or even fully aware of what they are doing. Humans' conditioning reasserts itself through all of us who are its hosts, just as conditioning that is slightly different from that which created you is reasserting itself through me as I type. I doubt anybody can be cognizant of all factors at play in his or her conditioning.

 

The particular process I believe you enact here has been repeated time and again since the English word "Daoism" appeared. In order to label it, I will boil it down in way that oversimplifies and yet likely contains a solid grain of accuracy. I would label your ideas as typical of Comfortable University Educated First World White Person Daoism. While Daoism was the source of inspiration for you to start this thread, I think that your ideas are much less similar to any of the many Daoisms I have encountered in my wanderings than they are to all of the "Comfortable University Educated First World White Person [Insert Name of Appropriated Here]s" that I have encountered.

 

If what I say strikes you from utterly out of the blue, then please read "Play-thing of the Times: Critical Review of the Reception of Daoism in the West." A very similar pattern has defined much of the transmission of Buddhism into the west. The blog Angry Asian Buddhist played an important role in prodding Comfortable University Educated First World White Buddhism to begin to turn and face this problem in the last few years, and it has been doing so with admirable candor in its widely circulated publications with articles like this one and this one (although these articles focus on Buddhism, they are highly germane to this discussion). Daoism is not organized in the way Buddhism is, so I do not know where white supremacy in western Daoism will meet its reckoning. Here is a good enough place to start, though. 

 

Comfortable University Educated First World White Person Daoism has a right to exist and may indeed have much to contribute to the world. But it should not be delivered and expressed in a way that subtly or overtly attempts to silence and pull rank over other Daoisms, whether be they native to Asia or products of syncretisms from other lands. I say this partly because doing so can mean furthering white supremacy de facto (albeit probably unconsciously), in a most insidious way. I say this also partly because the committed Comfortable University Educated First World White Person Daoist does him/herself a tragic disservice by slamming shut many doors to inspiration and liberation Daoism holds in an attempt to define the undefinable and pad the comfort zone with silken pillows embroidered with Oriental motifs, so to speak. 

 

In order to make clear the reasons that your writing impelled me to write the above, I address your posts directly below. Additionally, because I also address places where our interpretations of Laozi and Zhuangzi's teachings are markedly divergent. I also comment on two of Wandelaar's posts made in support of your thesis.

 

Quote

I'm interested in whether any folks on this discussion board follow Daoism as a practical philosophy.

 

If by asking about "practical philosophy" you mean, "Do people here apply the insights they have gained from their interaction with Daoism to aspects of their life beyond the portions of their time devoted to formally studying and practicing Daoism," then I think almost everybody here who has an affinity with Daoism here would say yes. 

 

Quote

I've seen a lot of conversation about energetics, Chinese medicine, Qi, and so on. I don't want to be provocative, but I've come to the conclusion that most of this stuff is nonsense.

 

There you go concluding, and there you go concluding yourself. Zhuangzi, which you seem to hold as a standard of sorts, begins (see the first three segments of Legge's translation of "Free and Untroubled Ease") by mocking those who hem themselves into smallness with their conclusions (from Old French conclusion "conclusion, result, outcome," from Latin conclusionem (nominative conclusio), noun of action from past-participle stem of concludere "to shut up, enclose")

 

Quote

But having said that, I do believe that there is a really practical core to Daoism that has sustained it over the centuries.

 

Your implication is that those things which you have "concluded are nonsense" are not what has sustained Daoism over the centuries. This is triply problematic.

 

One, you assume that things in Daoism which you cannot use do not work, and therefore are by definition not practical, when in fact it may well be that they are simply beyond your ken.

 

Two, you assert that you have identified "core Daoism," thereby implying categories like "superfluous Daoism" exist. 

 

Three, supposing you are correct in your identification of "practical Daoism" as a core and "impractical Daoism" as unessential or superfluous, it would still be a massive leap to say that "impractical" beliefs, ideas, and praxes are not as (or more) important in sustaining Daoism over the centuries as so-called practical Daoism is. Robert Ford Campany's book Making Transcendents: Ascetics and Social Memory in Early Medieval China is a compelling argument that quite the opposite of what you imagine may be true. 

 

Quote

Let me illustrate with a practical example from my home town.

There is a small park that exists where two rivers meet. It is quite nice, but it gets in the way of two major highways connecting. The local engineering department usually controls where roads go and the planning department only gets to "pretty up" the mess that the engineering department creates. The planners really wanted to save the park, but they lacked the power to do so. 

The local university had a convention of North American timber framers and offered to have a "building bee" as part of the conference if the city would provide the materials and land, plus a project for them to do. Some genius in the planning department decided to get them to build a beautiful covered pedestrian bridge over one of the rivers. They built it and the city fell in love---people get married on the bridge. It's a tourist destination. 

A couple years later the engineering department decided it was time to connect the two highways and they wanted to build a concrete bridge next to the covered pedestrian bridge. An instant mob of enraged citizens showed up with pitchforks and torches, and Council quickly vetoed the plan to connect the two highways. 

I never understood what happened until later when a friend who was then a City Councilor and eventually was mayor for several terms explained that the planning department chose the spot and the project specifically to stop the Engineering dept from connecting the two highways. I would say that this was a case of "doing without doing". I would even go a step farther and say that the covered bridge is acting like a "land God" in my city because people worshiping it has resulted in the preservation of nature.

 

That is a nice story, thank you for sharing it. I enjoyed reading it and my guess is most of the Daoists I know would like it and think that that was a nice way to protect the park. But I am not sure this qualifies as a Daoist teaching. I would call it worldly strategy with a bit of a Daoist flavor--a bit like Sunzi's Art of War, maybe. Such things perhaps derive from Daoism, but that does not mean that they are Daoism. Although many great arts come to us by those who studied and practiced Daoist teachings, the way of Daoism itself is to "rerive," something which can be seen in Zhuangzi's repeated calls to float and get lost in "rivers and lakes."

 

Furthermore, where do we see Daoists confidently stating that worldly success of any type is something particularly desirable? When I read your story I am reminded of Huainanzi's "old fellow in the hinterlands" who loses his horse and then gains a herd, only to have his son be injured, only to have his son avoid the draft, and so on. Such a story is not usually repeated by students of Daoism as a call to figure out how to get worldly success in cunning ways, as nobody could be so cunning as to intentionally bring about what happened to the fellow in the hinterlands by chance--and for all he knows, what comes next is more disaster! The story's moral is to not be so sure we can judge what is a good outcome and what is not, and to therefore be detached from worldly vicissitudes. While yours is a good story and most Daoists would prefer parks to highways, I'm prone to say that a "philosophically Daoist" response to your story would be to chuckle and wonder aloud whether or not this will just mean that poor people down the road will have their homes get Imminent Domained for the new overpass. And to chuckle about how all of us who like parks still use asphalt roads laid atop once pristine lands day in and day out without expressing much lament as we drive to Starbucks. And to wonder why people can't make their wedding vows under concrete overpasses (I know a happy couple who essentially did). And laughingly envision a version of the lost horse story involving the collapse of the wooden bridge. And so forth. 

 

I am also reminded of the ancient Daoist Yang Zhu, who said, more or less, "If nobody would pluck even a hair to try and assist the world, the world would be better off" (人人不損一毫,人人不利天下,天下治也。). While your Parks and Rec friends won the day, they did not use wuwei. They simply used a deft, tricky, even masterful form of youwei. There is a huge difference between the two. In terms of actual Daoist practice, this difference needs to be understood. Youwei, even at its highest levels, never approaches the Dao. Youwei always keeps us away from the Way. 

 

Finally, Laozi is no exponent of craftiness nor does he put much stock in apparent worldly success. Chapter 20:

 

What all men fear is indeed to be feared; but how wide and without end is the range of questions (asking to be discussed)! The multitude of men look satisfied and pleased; as if enjoying a full banquet, as if mounted on a tower in spring. I alone seem listless and still, my desires having as yet given no indication of their presence. I am like an infant which has not yet smiled. I look dejected and forlorn, as if I had no home to go to. The multitude of men all have enough and to spare. I alone seem to have lost everything. My mind is that of a stupid man; I am in a state of chaos. Ordinary men look bright and intelligent, while I alone seem to be benighted. They look full of discrimination, while I alone am dull and confused. I seem to be carried about as on the sea, drifting as if I had nowhere to rest. All men have their spheres of action, while I alone seem dull and incapable, like a rude borderer. (Thus) I alone am different from other men, but I value the nursing-mother (the Dao).

 

Chapter 58:

 

Misery! - happiness is to be found by its side! Happiness! - misery lurks beneath it! Who knows what either will come to in the end? Shall we then dispense with correction? The (method of) correction shall by a turn become distortion, and the good in it shall by a turn become evil. The delusion of the people (on this point) has indeed subsisted for a long time. Therefore the sage is (like) a square which cuts no one (with its angles); (like) a corner which injures no one (with its sharpness). He is straightforward, but allows himself no license; he is bright, but does not dazzle.

 

 

Quote

I think that as more people in the West adopt Daoism into their lives, it is important to emphasize the concrete ways that Daoist principles can improve people's day-to-day lives.  

 

This is a most confusing statement to deliver immediately after telling a story about people who likely never studied Daoism in a land whose cultural milieu likely contains scarce little Daoist influence. Those people won their battle for their park without knowing a thing about Daoism. They did not need to "adopt Daoism into their lives," and the moral of the story seems to be that they're doing just fine without it. Why all the need to import a foreign term and tell these people what they're doing? And, again, the park improved day-to-day lives... for now... Until the day somebody dear to use needs to get to the hospital and the ambulance has to drive an extra 30 minutes because the highways aren't connected, gasp!

 

On 10/15/2019 at 11:57 PM, Cloudwalking Owl said:

Having said that, I don't want to get into a pointless argument between myself and a lot of people who have made up their minds (like I have), simply because I just don't want to talk about the subject at all. But if I didn't raise the issue at all, it might be construed as meaning that I do believe in a lot of "woooo", which I would think of as being both cowardly, and, not serving to help people new to Daoism.

 

"Woo-woo" is a derogatory term--even the OED says as much, although I do not need a dictionary to tell me that this is so. Your choice of this word implies that those who hold beliefs contrary to yours are so far from the truth that only a word representing gibberish and incoherence suffices to represent them. Thinking that the lessons many thousands of Daoists would offer newcomers actually disserve newcomers is one thing. Expressing that thought with such words is belies your fig leaf claim. 

 

On 10/15/2019 at 11:57 PM, Cloudwalking Owl said:

Consider it a banner raised to point out to "newbies" that you can be a Daoist and be skeptical about the existence of Qi and other energetics. I know it's not a popular view, but I think it is a legitimate one. And that has bearing on the idea of seeing Daoism as a practical philosophy, because a lot of folks only see it as being with regard to other stuff---like energetics.

 

The Daodejing and Zhuangzi both use the character 氣; Zhuangzi does so extensively in the inner chapters in ways that a serious student of Daoism cannot afford to write off or overlook. Your problem may be that you conflate qi, a Chinese word with extraordinarily deep meaning, with "energetics," a fairly recent addition in the English language that is ill-equipped to represent all of the subtleties inherent in the word qi, some of which I address below. 

 

On 10/16/2019 at 12:12 AM, Cloudwalking Owl said:

At risk of annoying, I might suggest that this makes sense. Someone once told me that the essence of "Mastery" of a subject is being able to learn how to apply basic principles to novel situations. For example, a novice taijiquan player knows the moves of the set, but doesn't know how to apply them instantly in a fight. A "Master" at taijiquan is someone who is able to know instantly which move to use and how to apply it in a way that actually works. 

 

This is a middling taijiquan teaching and my teachers would not call it mastery. A taijiquan master does not know, a master simply responds spontaneously. No moves from the forms are used, because the moves in the forms are not techniques, they are ways of practicing moving force. This is expressed in the sentence from taijiquan writings which says, "I know not how my hand dance nor how my feet leap" (不知手之所舞,足之所蹈).

 

On 10/16/2019 at 12:12 AM, Cloudwalking Owl said:

The general principles of Daoism are just like taijiquan moves. You have to instantly know how to apply them and how to do it "just right".

 

Again, there is no knowing. From my quote of Laozi's quote above: "The multitude of men all have enough and to spare. I alone seem to have lost everything. My mind is that of a stupid man; I am in a state of chaos. Ordinary men look bright and intelligent, while I alone seem to be benighted." This is how masters of taijiquan operate, and this is why taijiquan can be a path for cultivating Dao. 

 

On 10/16/2019 at 1:33 AM, Cloudwalking Owl said:

Once I was in my taijiquan club fooling around with a blunt, aluminum practice sabre. I noticed an 8.5 x 11 inch poster on the bulletin board promoting a cult, which annoyed me. I instantly stabbed it, flicked up the point, and, threw the poster into the air. Then I instantly did a move from the sabre form, which neatly sliced the paper in half, leaving both pieces to lazily fall to the floor. (I looked around the room and saw two beginner students with open jaws and bugged-out eyes. At that point the test for me was whether I would act groovy and mysterious---or be frank and honest towards them. It was an ego battle!) 

 

The real test was to remain empty. Had you done so, no ego battle would have arisen. 

 

On 10/16/2019 at 3:53 PM, wandelaar said:

Well - that's how it goes...

 

This topic will be bend into esoteric discussions about qi, about weird states of consciousness, and about ancient lineages and practices without a scientific backing. That's what most Bums are here for. They want to escape the drudgery of daily life. They are after the miraculous. They want to acquire special superpowers, and some even want to become immortal. Chuang tse had to laugh about that kind of stuff, but to most Bums here it's what Taoism is all about.

 

Zhuangzi's Inner Chapters are full of talk of qi and even dew-eating immortals which cannot simply be written off as irrelevant or declared as metaphors or symbols. It is fine to cherry pick what we like from books we read, but it is arbitrary to speak for the whole of a text as though it only contains the parts we like. 

 

On 10/16/2019 at 11:38 PM, wandelaar said:

@ Ilumairen

 

Yes! Such is the natural way as proposed in the Chuang tse. I think that philosophical Taoism is close to Zen in its appreciation of the wonders of everyday life. And by wonders I don' t mean flying in the air, walking on water, or seeing through walls, but more simple things like unlocking a door or preparing an avocado.

 

I would agree with you that both Daoism and Chan/Zen teach a sort of "appreciation of the wonders of everyday life." But I would disagree that they somehow eschew with the "non-everyday." Even philosophical Daoism is chock full of discussion of "wonders," and to be very, very certain, so were the writings of the great Chan masters, writings which Zen masters in Japan to this very day hold in high esteem and study intensely. 

 

It is important to be clear that Daoism and Chan/Zen both teach us to do away with our distinctions, including distinctions between the marvelous and mundane. In this way, when marvels arise we do not get carried away with them, either by attaching to what seems to have occurred, or retreating into some kind of "I'm going to write off all of this 'wooo' and unrelated to 'practical' and 'simple' things" mindset. One learns to be 淡 in the face of all such matters, recognizing that ordinary/extraordinary are not essentially different. All things are simple things. All things are wonders. There is nothing to be said all things. Just sit. 

 

Quote

I sometimes realize this blissful state of appreciation, and than I'm completely satisfied and happy. But this state soon slips away as the hassles of life drag away my attention.

 

If you absorb the above, perhaps you will have this problem less and less. 

 

On 10/17/2019 at 1:19 AM, Cloudwalking Owl said:

I spent years doing various things and believed in the idea of qi. I felt it flow through my body, I studied the esoteric map of the human body that was found at the White Cloud Temple. I even chanted the Jade Emperor sutra and regularly offered incense to an altar. 

At the same time that I did all of this I was an avid reader of popular science and more (I have a Master's in Philosophy.) I came to the conclusion that most of the experiences that I was having could be explained in better ways using modern scientific theory. The feelings that I had of "qi" going through my body and the various abilities that was able to manifest could be explained better through neuroplasticity than through some mysterious substance.

 

You do not seem yet to have a firm grasp on the differences between "pre-heaven qi" and "post heaven qi." This can also be expressed as the difference between 氣 and 炁, although these characters are not always used, and ancient authors did not always make it obvious whether they were talking about pre-heaven or post heaven qi. Pre-heaven qi is not an energy and it is not the ying (營) that flows in the veins nor the wei (衛) that moves throughout the body and can be felt relatively readily. In fact, it is impossible to say that one believes in the "idea of qi" if one is talking about pre-heaven qi (炁) because it is not something the conceptual mind can understand. It cannot even be experienced if the mind is thinking. It cannot even be said to exist or not exist.

 

Another problem is that coming up with a new way to explain things does not necessarily invalidate an old way of explaining things (especially in the case of Daoism, where different texts, lineages, teachers, eras, etc. use the same words in different ways with different levels of import). Yet another problem is that Daoists, despite the proclivity of many of them to offer wordy tracts explaining things (ahem), are not particularly interested in explanations, in the end. Consciously echoing the second chapter of the Daodejing as well as their own educations in the oral tradition, more than one teacher has used words to say to me that the true teachings cannot be conveyed in speech. The first sentence in Lu Dongbin's "100 Character Stele" says to "forget words," even though 95 more characters follow. In time I have come to understand why this is so, but I will never be able to use words to explain to you why. 

 

Quote

At the same time, I enjoyed watching the feats of various "qi" masters both in person and through video. In most cases it was obvious that what was being done had nothing at all to do with Qi and were just demonstrations of basic physical principles. Others looked to me to be not much more than stage magic (and often not very good stage magic.) At the same time, I played around a bit with the ability to project the image of being a "wise and groovy master", and found out that it is profoundly easy to convince some people that you are some sort of wizard simply be knowing a few things that they do not. I also learned how seductive it is to cultivate this persona as it gives you a degree of unhealthy control over other people. (This is why I cultivate an persona of being "punk and plain", I never want anyone to put me on a pedestal again!) 

 

I have had a few experiences that are hard to explain given modern theory. But I don't believe that Daoist energetics are any better than they at explaining them. So I choose to leave them as "mysteries" instead of trying to explain them.

 

This last sentence is very wise. Unfortunately you seem only half committed to this choice and elsewhere offer alternative explanations and put yourself in a position of being qualified to declare what is real and what is false, oh wise experienced groovy master who has experienced all the sensations what with his neuroplasticity. 

 

By the way, cultivating a persona is sooooooo youwei

 

A final thought on practicality. In the story of Huizi's calabash that is too heavy to lift when full and incapable of holding things when cut open, Zhuangzi suggests turning the calabash into a boat. Then he follows that advice with the story of the people who for 100 years protected their hands from chapping while bleaching silk with a medicinal cream which they sold to a traveler for a small quantity of gold, which he then used help a nation win a war fought in the wintertime. Is there anything "practical" about floating around in a gourd? Are we told about how the hand cream could be used to win wars instead of eking out a living as silk bleachers in order to tell us the silk bleachers would have been better off if they had thought up something more practical to do with their cream? 

  • Like 4
  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Walker said:

I find this to be a highly problematic train of thought, beginning with the title.

 

Your definition of "practical" is highly specific to "the interests, values, and conclusions of Owl." You attempt to cut what you perceive of as Daoism into pieces, separate them into distinct boxes, create a hierarchy for these boxes, and affix the label of illegitimacy to some of them on the basis of arguments whose flimsiness is somewhat obscured by your eloquence.

 

This pattern is as strange as it is common. It seems to manifest when two opposed desires converge upon a single point. The first desire is to maintain a comfort zone based upon what is familiar and acceptable to the individual actor (who, of course, is never truly an individual, and rather an individualized product of conditioning with a long history involving vast numbers of people). The second desire is to make up for what is lacking inside of the comfort zone through exposure and absorption of cultural patterns from beyond the commonly accepted borders of the comfort zone.

 

The convergence of these two desires creates a certain degree of conflict. This conflict can easily be let to bubble and stew with no need to resolve any of its contradictions if a person simply exists within this confluence. It is much harder to allow these apparent-contradictions to coexist if one wishes to "package" the fruits of one's learning by expressing them in coherent language to people who have not directly experienced the alien cultural pattern. A wish to speak on behalf of the alien to one's familiars all too often seems to inspire the kind of "surgery" I described in the first paragraph above. 

 

When this happens, what emerges from the operating room is often a body at once gutted as well as retrofitted to fit the needs of the surgeon. I observe that the "need" leading many surgeons to thusly wield the scalpel is a specifically need for imprimatur. By this I mean that a person who wishes to communicate "deep ideas" to his/her countrymen finds it convenient to point at a complex array of foreign phenomena and declare: "Behold! There is a word for all of this, a word discovered long ago in a land far away. I know this word, and in telling you what it is, I will not only bring you clarity about what you already are, I shall also bring you clarity about what those in the land far away are. More importantly, I shall also draw upon my lessons from those from afar to tell you what you should do, what you should do better, and what you may become!" 

 

Somehow humans do in fact seem prone to lend an ear and credence to He Who Can Speak for The Ancient and Distant Wise Ones, and so this pattern does not appear only with westerners who are keen on Daoism. For example, Yan Fu translated western writings into Chinese (well, he had bilingual Chinese people read the stories to him aloud in Chinese and then he had other people write down his retellings, which were for a time best sellers) but took tremendous license to alter, edit, and omit in order to make a simple point: "See, dear reader, these foreign stories actually teach us the value of our Confucian values." The head-spinning subtext here is: "Chinese culture has become decadent. It needs an injection of foreign ideas to be revivified and set right. These foreign ideas will set us straight because actually they are our domestic ideas."

 

MC Lyte said, "mad things change, mad things rearrange, but it all stays the same." Yan Fu's message was so simple that he could have presented it in a single sentence: "Study and enact traditional Confucian values in order to restore yourselves and your society." But nobody would have listened! The foreignness of the books he "translated" lent him exoticism, which effortlessly attracts a great many humans' eyes and ears. From the exotic knowledge source to which he claims to hold the keys he obtained powerful imprimatur, which he then used to deliver a subliminal message to his Chinese readers: "You don't need to believe little old me that Confucianism is the way. But how could you ignore the fact that millions of Britons--what with their warships and cannons and empire and power and dominion--have risen to their superior state precisely because they, ultimately, understand and employ Confucian values?"

 

In short, wherever it appears, this process of creating imprimatur by identifying and then speaking for a [geographically/temporally/culturally] faraway "them" ultimately means that the the them's true identity gets lost in the process. Owl, I am afraid that this is what you are doing. I add that I think that neither you, nor Yan Fu, nor most people who do this do so intentionally or even fully aware of what they are doing. Humans' conditioning reasserts itself through all of us who are its hosts, just as conditioning that is slightly different from that which created you is reasserting itself through me as I type. I doubt anybody can be cognizant of all factors at play in his or her conditioning.

 

The particular process I believe you enact here has been repeated time and again since the English word "Daoism" appeared. In order to label it, I will boil it down in way that oversimplifies and yet likely contains a solid grain of accuracy. I would label your ideas as typical of Comfortable University Educated First World White Person Daoism. While Daoism was the source of inspiration for you to start this thread, I think that your ideas are much less similar to any of the many Daoisms I have encountered in my wanderings than they are to all of the "Comfortable University Educated First World White Person [Insert Name of Appropriated Here]s" that I have encountered.

 

If what I say strikes you from utterly out of the blue, then please read "Play-thing of the Times: Critical Review of the Reception of Daoism in the West." A very similar pattern has defined much of the transmission of Buddhism into the west. The blog Angry Asian Buddhist played an important role in prodding Comfortable University Educated First World White Buddhism to begin to turn and face this problem in the last few years, and it has been doing so with admirable candor in its widely circulated publications with articles like this one and this one (although these articles focus on Buddhism, they are highly germane to this discussion). Daoism is not organized in the way Buddhism is, so I do not know where white supremacy in western Daoism will meet its reckoning. Here is a good enough place to start, though. 

 

Comfortable University Educated First World White Person Daoism has a right to exist and may indeed have much to contribute to the world. But it should not be delivered and expressed in a way that subtly or overtly attempts to silence and pull rank over other Daoisms, whether be they native to Asia or products of syncretisms from other lands. I say this partly because doing so can mean furthering white supremacy de facto (albeit probably unconsciously), in a most insidious way. I say this also partly because the committed Comfortable University Educated First World White Person Daoist does him/herself a tragic disservice by slamming shut many doors to inspiration and liberation Daoism holds in an attempt to define the undefinable and pad the comfort zone with silken pillows embroidered with Oriental motifs, so to speak. 

 

In order to make clear the reasons that your writing impelled me to write the above, I address your posts directly below. Additionally, because I also address places where our interpretations of Laozi and Zhuangzi's teachings are markedly divergent. I also comment on two of Wandelaar's posts made in support of your thesis.

 

 

If by asking about "practical philosophy" you mean, "Do people here apply the insights they have gained from their interaction with Daoism to aspects of their life beyond the portions of their time devoted to formally studying and practicing Daoism," then I think almost everybody here who has an affinity with Daoism here would say yes. 

 

 

There you go concluding, and there you go concluding yourself. Zhuangzi, which you seem to hold as a standard of sorts, begins (see the first three segments of Legge's translation of "Free and Untroubled Ease") by mocking those who hem themselves into smallness with their conclusions (from Old French conclusion "conclusion, result, outcome," from Latin conclusionem (nominative conclusio), noun of action from past-participle stem of concludere "to shut up, enclose")

 

 

Your implication is that those things which you have "concluded are nonsense" are not what has sustained Daoism over the centuries. This is triply problematic.

 

One, you assume that things in Daoism which you cannot use do not work, and therefore are by definition not practical, when in fact it may well be that they are simply beyond your ken.

 

Two, you assert that you have identified "core Daoism," thereby implying categories like "superfluous Daoism" exist. 

 

Three, supposing you are correct in your identification of "practical Daoism" as a core and "impractical Daoism" as unessential or superfluous, it would still be a massive leap to say that "impractical" beliefs, ideas, and praxes are not as (or more) important in sustaining Daoism over the centuries as so-called practical Daoism is. Robert Ford Campany's book Making Transcendents: Ascetics and Social Memory in Early Medieval China is a compelling argument that quite the opposite of what you imagine may be true. 

 

 

That is a nice story, thank you for sharing it. I enjoyed reading it and my guess is most of the Daoists I know would like it and think that that was a nice way to protect the park. But I am not sure this qualifies as a Daoist teaching. I would call it worldly strategy with a bit of a Daoist flavor--a bit like Sunzi's Art of War, maybe. Such things perhaps derive from Daoism, but that does not mean that they are Daoism. Although many great arts come to us by those who studied and practiced Daoist teachings, the way of Daoism itself is to "rerive," something which can be seen in Zhuangzi's repeated calls to float and get lost in "rivers and lakes."

 

Furthermore, where do we see Daoists confidently stating that worldly success of any type is something particularly desirable? When I read your story I am reminded of Huainanzi's "old fellow in the hinterlands" who loses his horse and then gains a herd, only to have his son be injured, only to have his son avoid the draft, and so on. Such a story is not usually repeated by students of Daoism as a call to figure out how to get worldly success in cunning ways, as nobody could be so cunning as to intentionally bring about what happened to the fellow in the hinterlands by chance--and for all he knows, what comes next is more disaster! The story's moral is to not be so sure we can judge what is a good outcome and what is not, and to therefore be detached from worldly vicissitudes. While yours is a good story and most Daoists would prefer parks to highways, I'm prone to say that a "philosophically Daoist" response to your story would be to chuckle and wonder aloud whether or not this will just mean that poor people down the road will have their homes get Imminent Domained for the new overpass. And to chuckle about how all of us who like parks still use asphalt roads laid atop once pristine lands day in and day out without expressing much lament as we drive to Starbucks. And to wonder why people can't make their wedding vows under concrete overpasses (I know a happy couple who essentially did). And laughingly envision a version of the lost horse story involving the collapse of the wooden bridge. And so forth. 

 

I am also reminded of the ancient Daoist Yang Zhu, who said, more or less, "If nobody would pluck even a hair to try and assist the world, the world would be better off" (人人不損一毫,人人不利天下,天下治也。). While your Parks and Rec friends won the day, they did not use wuwei. They simply used a deft, tricky, even masterful form of youwei. There is a huge difference between the two. In terms of actual Daoist practice, this difference needs to be understood. Youwei, even at its highest levels, never approaches the Dao. Youwei always keeps us away from the Way. 

 

Finally, Laozi is no exponent of craftiness nor does he put much stock in apparent worldly success. Chapter 20:

 

What all men fear is indeed to be feared; but how wide and without end is the range of questions (asking to be discussed)! The multitude of men look satisfied and pleased; as if enjoying a full banquet, as if mounted on a tower in spring. I alone seem listless and still, my desires having as yet given no indication of their presence. I am like an infant which has not yet smiled. I look dejected and forlorn, as if I had no home to go to. The multitude of men all have enough and to spare. I alone seem to have lost everything. My mind is that of a stupid man; I am in a state of chaos. Ordinary men look bright and intelligent, while I alone seem to be benighted. They look full of discrimination, while I alone am dull and confused. I seem to be carried about as on the sea, drifting as if I had nowhere to rest. All men have their spheres of action, while I alone seem dull and incapable, like a rude borderer. (Thus) I alone am different from other men, but I value the nursing-mother (the Dao).

 

Chapter 58:

 

Misery! - happiness is to be found by its side! Happiness! - misery lurks beneath it! Who knows what either will come to in the end? Shall we then dispense with correction? The (method of) correction shall by a turn become distortion, and the good in it shall by a turn become evil. The delusion of the people (on this point) has indeed subsisted for a long time. Therefore the sage is (like) a square which cuts no one (with its angles); (like) a corner which injures no one (with its sharpness). He is straightforward, but allows himself no license; he is bright, but does not dazzle.

 

 

 

This is a most confusing statement to deliver immediately after telling a story about people who likely never studied Daoism in a land whose cultural milieu likely contains scarce little Daoist influence. Those people won their battle for their park without knowing a thing about Daoism. They did not need to "adopt Daoism into their lives," and the moral of the story seems to be that they're doing just fine without it. Why all the need to import a foreign term and tell these people what they're doing? And, again, the park improved day-to-day lives... for now... Until the day somebody dear to use needs to get to the hospital and the ambulance has to drive an extra 30 minutes because the highways aren't connected, gasp!

 

 

"Woo-woo" is a derogatory term--even the OED says as much, although I do not need a dictionary to tell me that this is so. Your choice of this word implies that those who hold beliefs contrary to yours are so far from the truth that only a word representing gibberish and incoherence suffices to represent them. Thinking that the lessons many thousands of Daoists would offer newcomers actually disserve newcomers is one thing. Expressing that thought with such words is belies your fig leaf claim. 

 

 

The Daodejing and Zhuangzi both use the character 氣; Zhuangzi does so extensively in the inner chapters in ways that a serious student of Daoism cannot afford to write off or overlook. Your problem may be that you conflate qi, a Chinese word with extraordinarily deep meaning, with "energetics," a fairly recent addition in the English language that is ill-equipped to represent all of the subtleties inherent in the word qi, some of which I address below. 

 

 

This is a middling taijiquan teaching and my teachers would not call it mastery. A taijiquan master does not know, a master simply responds spontaneously. No moves from the forms are used, because the moves in the forms are not techniques, they are ways of practicing moving force. This is expressed in the sentence from taijiquan writings which says, "I know not how my hand dance nor how my feet leap" (不知手之所舞,足之所蹈).

 

 

Again, there is no knowing. From my quote of Laozi's quote above: "The multitude of men all have enough and to spare. I alone seem to have lost everything. My mind is that of a stupid man; I am in a state of chaos. Ordinary men look bright and intelligent, while I alone seem to be benighted." This is how masters of taijiquan operate, and this is why taijiquan can be a path for cultivating Dao. 

 

 

The real test was to remain empty. Had you done so, no ego battle would have arisen. 

 

 

Zhuangzi's Inner Chapters are full of talk of qi and even dew-eating immortals which cannot simply be written off as irrelevant or declared as metaphors or symbols. It is fine to cherry pick what we like from books we read, but it is arbitrary to speak for the whole of a text as though it only contains the parts we like. 

 

 

I would agree with you that both Daoism and Chan/Zen teach a sort of "appreciation of the wonders of everyday life." But I would disagree that they somehow eschew with the "non-everyday." Even philosophical Daoism is chock full of discussion of "wonders," and to be very, very certain, so were the writings of the great Chan masters, writings which Zen masters in Japan to this very day hold in high esteem and study intensely. 

 

It is important to be clear that Daoism and Chan/Zen both teach us to do away with our distinctions, including distinctions between the marvelous and mundane. In this way, when marvels arise we do not get carried away with them, either by attaching to what seems to have occurred, or retreating into some kind of "I'm going to write off all of this 'wooo' and unrelated to 'practical' and 'simple' things" mindset. One learns to be 淡 in the face of all such matters, recognizing that ordinary/extraordinary are not essentially different. All things are simple things. All things are wonders. There is nothing to be said all things. Just sit. 

 

 

If you absorb the above, perhaps you will have this problem less and less. 

 

 

You do not seem yet to have a firm grasp on the differences between "pre-heaven qi" and "post heaven qi." This can also be expressed as the difference between 氣 and 炁, although these characters are not always used, and ancient authors did not always make it obvious whether they were talking about pre-heaven or post heaven qi. Pre-heaven qi is not an energy and it is not the ying (營) that flows in the veins nor the wei (衛) that moves throughout the body and can be felt relatively readily. In fact, it is impossible to say that one believes in the "idea of qi" if one is talking about pre-heaven qi (炁) because it is not something the conceptual mind can understand. It cannot even be experienced if the mind is thinking. It cannot even be said to exist or not exist.

 

Another problem is that coming up with a new way to explain things does not necessarily invalidate an old way of explaining things (especially in the case of Daoism, where different texts, lineages, teachers, eras, etc. use the same words in different ways with different levels of import). Yet another problem is that Daoists, despite the proclivity of many of them to offer wordy tracts explaining things (ahem), are not particularly interested in explanations, in the end. Consciously echoing the second chapter of the Daodejing as well as their own educations in the oral tradition, more than one teacher has used words to say to me that the true teachings cannot be conveyed in speech. The first sentence in Lu Dongbin's "100 Character Stele" says to "forget words," even though 95 more characters follow. In time I have come to understand why this is so, but I will never be able to use words to explain to you why. 

 

 

This last sentence is very wise. Unfortunately you seem only half committed to this choice and elsewhere offer alternative explanations and put yourself in a position of being qualified to declare what is real and what is false, oh wise experienced groovy master who has experienced all the sensations what with his neuroplasticity. 

 

By the way, cultivating a persona is sooooooo youwei

 

A final thought on practicality. In the story of Huizi's calabash that is too heavy to lift when full and incapable of holding things when cut open, Zhuangzi suggests turning the calabash into a boat. Then he follows that advice with the story of the people who for 100 years protected their hands from chapping while bleaching silk with a medicinal cream which they sold to a traveler for a small quantity of gold, which he then used help a nation win a war fought in the wintertime. Is there anything "practical" about floating around in a gourd? Are we told about how the hand cream could be used to win wars instead of eking out a living as silk bleachers in order to tell us the silk bleachers would have been better off if they had thought up something more practical to do with their cream? 

 

 

Brevity is the essence of wit.

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

:rolleyes: When a garrulous fellow who has already let the world know that he is no lesser than a bo-na-fide Master of thee Arts in Philosophy wakes up one day and finds he doesn't like long pieces of writing, after all... Why, you do just have to wonder, don't you, dear?

 

On 2019/10/16 at 12:12 AM, Cloudwalking Owl said:

And just like in all the taiji clubs I've been involved with, people who don't "get" live push hands, just come up with excuses to not even try.  

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Walker, 

I think you're talking about alot of things here. Many interesting complex topics. 

You are right that this "practical' philosophy cloud will use will not lead to or be the same as the philosophy of those he has read but  he is by admission looking for a limited scope to be useful in affecting things in his life. 

This is not "daoism" this is "clouds practical daoism"  which would probably be better described as "clouds practical philosophy" which is inspired by his perception of useful (in his life) daoist thought and to some people "clouds white University daoism". 

Doesn't zhuangzi point out that anyone can use the way? I agree this is not at all the point, but it is true? 

Note that years of energy cultivation and engagement with this aspect of what we call daoism and yet cloud may still may be struggling with these things apparent in the writings..or maybe not??  this is my interest in the "practical" daoism and why I think it's good to discuss. 

I don't think all the  writings are ancient secret knowledge but describe a process of forming a detached objective Outlook as an integral  PART and prereqirement for beginning to understand the world. 

I think this  (now to me very apparent part) is put to wayside. I was in fact a dabbler in this respect until over time situations, conflict and thinking in my life linked up with what I had just known as nice curious stories. 

I may just be a slow person idk
I think an effort is made by these writers to put this in the forefront. It is useful and takes effort over time just like the other aspects. 

So as you point out much of the world's Outlook including the English way of looking at things is at odds with pretty core ideas of daoism. It is a very good point that this alone is a trip hazard but also another perspective to see.

 I don't claim to be a daoist because I am not them. From what I know, they did not call themselves daoists either...  Identity often creates a million useless quarrels. 

I think walker makes some points that are worth thinking about and while some of it may be pretty  presumptuous he did make quite an effort to contribute. 

We can't just know where someone is coming from and many times that is why having philosophical conversations with strangers is a struggle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's how it goes around here. Somebody starts a topic about something that interests him, and then Bums who are not interested in this kind of topic flood it with irrelevant postings to kill off any possibility of having a decent discussion. There are hundreds of topics on this website about esoteric and magical forms of Taoism where Bums who like those kind of things can have any discussion they like. And although most philosophical Taoists don't think esoteric and magical Taoism very useful and may even say so, they will not spoil esoteric and magical topics with a barrage of criticisms that are considered irrelevant by the believers. But the same decency isn't shown the other way around.

 

So who are really the narrow minded guys around here?

 

(This was a rather short stay, but I have seen enough bigotry already.:()

Edited by wandelaar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I once found the least direct, most efficient path to a beneficial spot to camp by following the lay of the land and not the line of my eye... This naturally led near water where I slaked my thirst, provided shade from wind and sun, while garnering an easy natural snack of berries while I walked... 

 

Don't recall using philosophy for that, as i was being practical. 

 

By its nature, philosophizing seems a mental process of complication, a juggling of thoughts of the mind, or a chewing of mental bones for any of a myriad of reasons, entertainment, self soothing, boredom, curiosity, ego pacification, ego magnification, competition, demonstration, perspicacity, none of which seem particularly practical for life aside from filling time once the practical needs of life have been fulfilled at present.

 

Thinking, reading and conversing about thoughts... only practical if all the practical stuff n such is done n stuff. 

 

Course... what is practical?

I'd say, procurement of food, shelter, water, safety.

 

The world as talked about, thought about and read about, seems a mental game, not a practical life asset; an exercise in shared verbal modeling of the projections of mental interpretations of phenomenologically transduced noumenon.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sometimes ...a lot of the time... You don't even know you're in you own way.  

 

Sometimes you're born into a socially complicated world.. 

 

I agree that if you can many times shutting up and using intuition is perfect.

 

There are alt of times that  depend on the person (their upbringing or society, insecurity, expectations responsibilities) long list of things that call you to get in the way of yourself., Of understanding/seeing things. 

 

Takes work, but the result I would say is helpful in daily life.. 

Edited by lrn2livorlive2lrn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites