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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Taoist Position

I am often asked what the Taoist position is on a particular issue, and my answer is always that such a thing does not really exist. The practice of Tao cultivation isn't like the typical form of organized religion, where there is a readily identifiable central authority. There is, for instance, no equivalent to the Pope or the Ten Commandments in Tao cultivation, and therefore no pronouncements of "official" positions on anything. Instead, it is up to us to think for ourselves. This freedom to claim absolute mastery of one's own mind can be exhiliarating, but to some it can also be very scary.

This paradigm is perfectly in accordance with the Tao because the Tao is the way of nature, and nature has given each one of us a brain with which to observe, reason, and conclude. There is nothing more natural for us to make use of this capability - all of it, the rational as well as the intuitive. It can only be unnatural if we give up this birthright and rely on someone else do the thinking for us.

This is not to say followers of mainsteam religions are unthinking drones, of course - only that an authentic practice of the Tao will emphasize a cultivator's sovereignty and responsibility over his or her own thoughts. All the chapters in the Tao Te Ching that talk about rulers underscore this very point.

This is why there can be as many Taoist positions on a controversial subject as there are Tao cultivators in the world. So when I'm asked about the Taoist position - the definitive perspective of the Tao - the best I can offer is one Taoist position - the definitive opinion of me, myself and I.