Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Inspired by Tao Te Ching - chapter 17



My translation of Tao Te Ching Chapter 17

From time immemorial
The practice of Tao has always been like this:
Some people with ordinary intellect practice it
Some like to query will praise it but not practice it
Some smarter guys are afraid of it
Some with the highest intellect blaspheme it.
Likewise there are those who have faith in it
And there are those who do not have enough faith
A true practitioner finds it hard to verbalize this internal practice
and observers fail to see what goes on inside
After a practitioner has reaped full benefits from his practice
People around him would simply say:
He only acts according to naturalness (ziran)!

Paul’s inspiration:

In this chapter the concept of Taoist-naturalness being mentioned: Ziran. From Britannica Online Encyclopedia:

"ziran, ( Chinese: “spontaneity,” or “naturalness”; literally, “self-so-ing,” or “so of itself”)  Wade-Giles romanization  tzu-jan ,  in Chinese philosophy, and particularly among the 4th- and 3rd-century bce philosophers of early Daoism (daojia), the natural state of the constantly unfolding universe and of all things within it when both are allowed to develop in accord with the Cosmic Way (Dao).

Chinese cosmologies present a vision of a dynamic universe that is incessantly being generated. While the course it will take cannot be fully anticipated, it emerges and operates according to a continuous process. Human beings, however, impose their own order on reality, differentiating it by creating language and names for individual things, by developing rituals that order human life, and by creating government, which channels the energy of the people toward particular ends. Such actions distance people from the generative process of which they are a part. Instead, humans should attune themselves to the constant transformations of the Way. They may accomplish this by cultivating an openness toward spontaneity (ziran), which characterizes not only the constantly unfolding universe but the Dao itself."

The biggest misunderstanding of ziran is that it is something that develops by itself and one simply stays passive and everything will be fine. And in the personal field, this misunderstanding oftentimes is translated into "anything goes". Tao is nothing BUT.

The best way to appreciate Laozi's ziran is through meditation (standing or seated). Without this experiential understanding, any philosophical speculation of the western type will end up with the "do-nothing" conclusion of wasteful passivity.

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