Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Is Tao or Zen "anything goes"?

There has been a popular conception of Tao as "Let nature takes its course", or Taoist philosophy is "Anything goes". I beg to disagree. It is anything but. Am I going to "argue my case" then? No, it is quite futile. Either one gets it or one doesn't get it! And the worse thing is, the more one argues, the more one strays away from the concept of Tao or Zen, or Kong, or Wu...etc.

In Carl Jung's commentary to Japanese Zen master 鈴木大拙 D. T. Suzuki's book An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, Jung understood this frustration to the western (or any) rational mind. Zen masters negate everything! They are not building up concepts, they are tearing down concepts, including their own conceptions! This approach is quite unlike what is being practiced in the philosophy departments of our esteemed Universities, which could go so far as creating the following mind boggling example for General Maxim:

“That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish: And even in that case, there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which remains, after deducting the inferior.”

And it doesn't stop there. Because the same thing, according to the author, can be presented mathematically as follows:

"P(M|E)/P(~M|E) = P(M)/P(~M) × P(E|M)/P(E|~M),

where E is the proposed evidence for a miracle, and make the simplifying approximation that P(E|M) ≈ P(~M), since both terms are close to 1. Then the right side reduces to the ratio of the two remaining “small” terms, P(M)/P(E|~M), which will be a fair approximation of the posterior odds. Then the posterior probability of M will exceed 0.5 just in case P(M) > P(E|~M)."

Under this tradition, University-trained scholars studying Zen and Tao would oftentimes dig into arcane sources (Sanskrit too for Buddhist texts) and would try to find out "hidden wisdom", like the one above! And ending up with more confusions than ever.

Am I going off route? No. This is exactly the reason why some Taoists nowadays simply give up. And hopelessly fell back onto the other misguided conception: Anything goes!

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