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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.


Andrew said...

I became aware of Taoism through Lee family Tai Chi Chuan as a form of exercise recovering from a herniated intervertebral disc. I rapidly became interested in the philosophical aspects as they fitted my thinking and view of the world far better than any artificial system I had encountered. Since I have learned to relax my mind more and become aware of my surroundings and the part I play in them. The Tao is the way of the world and there is no disputing its existence. It is simply whether you choose to open your eyes and see it. I am opening my eyes, but waking up takes time! It has given me more confidence in understanding myself and the realisation that I am my own master. I also understand more clearly that each one is their own and is in charge of their own destiny. To gain clarity of thought you clear the mind and don't think. To gain control you let go. To achieve great things you do nothing.

I have read your pages for some years with great interest and actively look forward to each installment of Tao Living. Thank you Derek for sharing. I am learning to do the same.


Derek said...

Thanks Andrew. I've completed another Tao Living installment and will be publishing it online in a day or two.

Navid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Navid said...

I have to tell you this post is brilliantly formed and i want to thank you for taking the time required to answer questions regarding taoism.


Jardar said...

Hm. If there are as many taoist position on a subject as there are taoists, how can you call it a taoist position? I mean, doesn't that mean that the only thing that is different between a taoist position and another position is what you yourself call it? In short, if taoism is purely subjective, what makes it taoism?

Derek said...

"In short, if taoism is purely subjective, what makes it taoism?"

There is always Religious Taoism, which is similar to other religions in regards to official doctrines and dogmas. But even there it is important to recognize that different sects have somewhat different sets of beliefs, much like the existing situation with Christianity.

So, what makes it Taoism? That's similar to asking what makes Christianity what it is today. The many sects of Christianity are united in their belief of Jesus Christ; similarly, the many sects of Religious Taoism are united in their belief of the Tao.

However, please note that religious doctrines and dogmas are not the point of my blog entry. Beyond Religious Taoism, there is only the Tao. This Tao is your own. It is associated not so much with a physical temple as it is with the temple in your heart. You are both leader and follower, student and teacher of your own Tao. It is your own path through life; the Tao urges that you be your own trailblazer.