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RELG 1040 - 16 - Daoism - Daodejing
Transcript of RELG 1040 - 16 - Daoism - Daodejing
Laozi: Man, Myth, God
Dao (The Way)
Wu Wei (non action)
Differences between Confucianism and Daoism
Structure (hierarchy) vs. process (constant fluctuation of things: yin yang)
Confucianism reflects Chinese tendencies to put society above the individual, rationalism and argumentation over soteriology
Daoism is more concerned with the individual, with nature, art and leisure. It also developed a soteriology through the notion of immortality.
Both are nostalgic traditions, although in different ways. Confucianism is nostalgic of an (idealized) historical past, the period of the Zhou Dynasty, the era of the sage kings. Daoism is nostalgic about a primordial time, the time of creation, the time before the appearance of “the myriad things.” But the best is in the past. This will operate as an essential metaphor for both traditions. For Confucius the past is lost, for Daoism the past (the Dao) is retrievable (barely)
What is Daoism?
Traditional distinction between Philosophical and Religious Daoism
Philosophical Daoism: Laozi (Daodejing) and Zhuangzi (5th century BCE)
Religious Daoism: Celestial Masters, Shangqing, Lingbao – ritual, doctrine, textual corpus, community, etc. Starts in the 2nd century CE
Tension in the study of these two traditions:
The study of the tradition from a philosophical perspective: philosophical Daoism as a “pure” form of the tradition, a poetic and intellectual distillation of the wisdom of the early Daoist Masters, while religious Daoism is a ritualization of the tradition, a less “pure” form. This is appealing to Western sensitivities since we think we can access Daoism without the need of all of the ritual and doctrinal baggage
From a (and relatively recent) perspective of the study of Daoism as a religion, Daoism did not start till the appearance of the Celestial Masters in the 2nd century through the revelations of Laozi to Zhang Daolin. To consider the Daodejing or Zhuangzi as the essence of Daoism ignores the complex process of formation of the tradition. The Daodejing and the Zhuangzi are not the “essence” of the tradition, they are just early texts that mused, that reflected in topics that were later important for the tradition (think Old Testament vs. New Testament)
While the distinction is not accurate we will sort of use it (with the above caveats!) for its practical usefulness and since we only have two days to explain Daoism.
Although you can always go with Pooh
Laozi: Old Master (like Kongzi is Master Kong)
The figure of Laozi: We practically know nothing about him, a figure of legend that went through a similar transformation as the one of Confucius (from man to God).
Dates 5th or 4th century, during the Warring States period (475-221 BCE)
Laozi as Confucius Master. Laozi is the keeper of the archives of Zhou and Confucius visits him. Laozi teaches him. Another story depicts Confucius in old age visiting Laozi to be taught the Dao (the Way).
Laozi as the teacher of the Buddha. In old age Laozi leaves China on a Buffalo. A frontier guard asks him to teach him one last time before he leaves. This is the origin of the Daodejing. Daoists will develop this story to say that Laozi went to India and taught the Buddha… that’s why their teachings have certain similarities!
LAOZI: MAN, MYTH, GOD
Name: the text is known as the Laozi or the Daodejing (The Book of the Path and its Virtue) we’ve seen these two terms before in the Lunyu.
81 chapters: 37 chapters are the book of Dao (the Way), 44 chapters the book of De (Virtue)
Discovery of the Mawangdi in 1973 tomb from the 2nd century BCE and how it changed the knowledge we had about the text since there it is inverted (DE goes first and DAO second).
Language in the Daodejing: poetic, cryptic, ambiguous (also resulting from the nature of Chinese language), apparent contradictions (union of opposites). Many different translations of the text sometimes resulting in very different meanings
How to read the book: not really a book to read from beginning to end, choose a few passages, search for passages that talk about the same topic or refer to the same concept (see List of Passages for Comparison in p. 89)
We saw this term in Confucius as the “proper course of human conduct and of the organization of government, which is the Way of Antiquity, of the former Kings,” (Graham, p. 13)
In the Daodejing, the Dao is the supreme principle of reality, the origin of everything and, at the same time, unnamable, impossible to define.
The Way that can be followed is not the eternal Way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth
While naming is the origin of the myriad things.
Therefore, always desireless, you see the mystery
Ever desiring, you see the manifestations.
These two are the same—
When they appear they are named differently.
This sameness is the mystery,
Mystery within mystery;
The door to all marvels.
What is the Dao? How do we reach it? Dao as Mystery.
LANGUAGE: This is a good introduction to the text and its inherent linguistic tension (saying without saying), the limitations of language!
The DAO as the source of everything: Daodejing XLII. Here we have a cosmogony, something we do not see in the Lunyu
The cosmogony of the Daodejing: From Dao to Qi (the force!). From Qi to Yin Yang, then the 5 phases Explain how this is a process, never ends. Process vs. Structure
The power of the Dao, its manifestation is De, virtue. The Dao is beyond the particular things, undifferentiated, it holds everything together. The DE or virtue is its external manifestation.
Daodejing has many criticisms of Confucian ideology. The Daoist virtue is not the Confucian virtue. Virtue, in a way, has negative connotations or at least is inferior to the Dao. LAOZI ch. 38. The appearance of virtue indicates the loss of the Dao. But virtue is also the potentiality that will allow us to return to Dao, to the origin of everything.
Daodejing is written in opposition to Confucian values
The expression of virtue: wu wei (non-action) and ziran (spontaneousness)
So how do you return to the Dao? what shall we do? Nothing (wu wei), we need to be spontaneous (ziran). This is also against Confucian notions of ritual and rite, against the obsessive regulation of human activities.
Wu Wei in Daodejig ch. 37 10&51 (doing but...)
Ziran in Daodejing ch. 25 (Also Cook Ding in Zhuangzi)
This is what Graham calls “reversal” (pp. 223-231)
Sometimes we need to do the opposite of what we thing we need to do to get achieve the outcome we want
The notion of the Soft vs. the Strong Daodejing 43
Like water Daodejing 8, 78
Daoist paintings (water, mountains)
The counterintuitive teachings of the Daodejing
Like the Lunyu (Analects) this is not simply a book of “wisdom,” it is also a book for the ruler, with clear and practical advice on how to govern and rule
Daodejing ch. 3 (promote people of ignorance)
Daodejing ch. 61 "soft government"
Ruling through wu wei (non action) 57
A book for the King?
Returning to the Dao
Here there is an ideal of salvation. If in Buddhism salvation is in the future, in Daoism is in the past
Assault on reason - language
Deconstructing reality (butterfly dream)
The usefulness of uselessness
Individual vs. government
The butterfly dream and, what is real?
Once Zhuang Zhou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting gaily. He knew nothing of Zhou. Suddenly, he awoke, and all at once he was Zhou. But he didn’t know whether Zhou had dreamt he was a butterfly or a butterfly was dreaming he was Zhou. Surely there is a difference between Zhou and a butterfly – this is what we call the transformation of things!
Cook Ding and spontaneity
Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. As every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee — zip! zoop! He slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music.
“Ah, this is marvelous!” said Lord Wen-hui. “Imagine skill reaching such heights!”
Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, “What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now — now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and following things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.
“A good cook changes his knife once a year — because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month — because he hacks. I’ve had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I’ve cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room — more than enough for the blade to play about it. That’s why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.
“However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I’m doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until — flop! the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground. I stand there holding the knife and look all around me, completely satisfied and reluctant to move on, and then I wipe off the knife and put it away.”
“Excellent!” said Lord Wen-hui. “I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life!”
Superior virtue is not virtuous
Therefore it has virtue.
Inferior virtue never fails to be virtuous
Therefore it has no virtue.
Superior virtue does not “act”
And has no intentions.
Inferior virtue “acts”
And always has intentions.
But has no intentions.
Superior rightness “acts”
But but has intentions.
Superior propriety “acts”and if you don't respond
They will roll up their sleeves and threaten you.
Thus, when the Way is lost there is virtue
When virtue is lost there is humaneness
When humaneness is lost there is rightness
And when rightness is lost there is propriety.
Now “propriety”is the external appearance of loyalty and sincerity
And the beginning of disorder.
Occult abilities are just flowers of the Way
And the beginning of foolishness.
Therefore the Great Person dwells in the substantial
And not in the superficial.
Rests in the fruit and not in the flower.
So let go of that and grasp this.
The Way is always “not-doing”...
The Way is always “not-doing”
Yet there is nothing it doesn't do.
If the ruler is able to embody it
Everything will naturally change.
Being changed, they desire to act.
So I must restrain them, using the nameless “uncarved block (original mind).”
Using the nameless uncarved block
They become desireless.
Desireless, they are tranquil and
All-under-Heaven is naturally settled.
Pacifying the agitated material soul...
Pacifying the agitated material soul and holding to oneness:
Are you able to avoid separation?
Focusing your energy on the release of tension:
Can you be like an infant?
In purifying your insight:
Can you un-obstruct it?
Loving the people and ruling the state:
Can you avoid over-manipulation?
In opening and closing the gate of Heaven:
Can you be the female?
In illuminating the whole universe:
Can you be free of rationality?
Give birth to it and nourish it.
Produce it but don't possess it.
Act without expectation.
Excel, but don't take charge.
This is called Mysterious Virtue.
Return is the motion of the Way.
Softening is its function.
All things in the cosmos arise from being.
Being arises from non-being.
The softest thing in the world
Will overcome the hardest.
Non-being can enter where there is no space.
Therefore I know the benefit of unattached action.
The wordless teaching and unattached action
Are rarely seen.
The highest goodness is like water.
Water easily benefits all things without struggle.
Yet it abides in places that men hate.
Therefore it is like the Way.
For dwelling, the Earth is good.
For the mind, depth is good.
The goodness of giving is in the timing.
The goodness of speech is in honesty.
In government, self-mastery is good.
In handling affairs, ability is good.
If you do not wrangle, you will not be blamed.
If you do not adulate the worthy, you will make others non-contentious.
If you do not value rare treasures, you will stop others from stealing.
If people do not see desirables, they will not be agitated.
Therefore, when the sage governs,
He clears peoples minds,
Fills their bellies,
Weakens their ambition and
Strengthens their bones.
If the people are kept without cleverness and desire
It will make the intellectuals not dare to meddle.
Acting without contrivance, there is no lack of manageability.
The great state should be like a river basin.
The mixing place of the world,
The feminine of the world.
The feminine always overcomes the masculine by softness
Because softness is lesser.
Therefore if a large state serves a small state
It will gain the small state.
If a small state serves a large state
It will gain the large state.
Therefore some serve in order to gain
And some gain despite their servitude.
The large state wants nothing more
Than to unite and feed its people.
The small state wants nothing more
Than to enter into the service of the right person.
Thus both get what they want.
Greatness lies in placing oneself below.
Use fairness in governing the state.
Use surprise tactics in war.
Be unconcerned and you will have the world.
How do I know it is like this?
The more regulations there are,
The poorer people become.
The more people own lethal weapons,
The more darkened are the country and clans.
The more clever the people are,
The more extraordinary actions they take.
The more picky the laws are,
The more thieves and gangsters there are.
Therefore the sages say:
I do not force my way and the people transform themselves.
I enjoy my serenity and the people correct themselves.
I do not interfere and the people enrich themselves.
I have no desires
And the people find their original mind.
The usefulness of uselessness
Huizi said to Zhuangzi, “I have a huge tree of the type people call an ailanthus. The main trunk is gnarled and knotted from the root up, you can’t align it with a plumb line, and the branches are all so twisted and bent that no compass or square can mark them. Even if it were growing by the roadside no passing carpenter would think of using it. Now, your words are just as big and useless, so everyone spurns them too!”
Zhuangzi said, “Have you ever observed the wildcat? It crouches concealed and waits for its prey to wander in range – then it springs left or right, heedless of heights and chasms. And yet wildcats spring our traps and die in our nets. Or take the yak, big as a cloud hung from the sky – it’s skilled at being huge, but it can’t even catch a rat. Now you have this big tree but its uselessness is a trouble to you. Why don’t you plant it in the village of Nothing-at-All or the plain of Broad-Void
and amble beside it doing nothing at all, or wander free and easy lying asleep beneath it? No ax will ever cut short its life, nothing will ever harm it. If there’s no use for it, what hardship could ever befall it?”
We should recognize that when Taoists claim the Daodejing as source of their religion, it is a theological claim on a parell with that of the Christian religion that their saviour, Jesus Christ, is clearly prefigured in the words of the "Old Testament" prophets. Just as the Christian claim can tell us something about their religion, but nothing about pre-Christian Jewish history, so the Taoist claim can tell us much about Taoism, but nothing about the origins of the Daodejing
Bokenkamp, Stephen, “The Silkworm and the Bodhi Tree: The Lingbao Attempt to Replace Buddhism in Xina and our attempt to plau Lingbao Daoism. Religion and Chinese Society: Volume 1, Ancient and Medieval Xina. Chinese University Press (2004).)