At all costs, the Christian must convince the heathen and the atheist that God exists, in order to save his soul. At all costs, the atheist must convince the Christian that the belief in , doing enormous harm to the cause of true social progress 1)↓. And so they battle and storm and bang away at each other. Meanwhile, the Taoist Sage sits quietly by the stream, perhaps with a book of poems, a cup of wine, and some painting materials, enjoying the Tao to his hearts content, without ever worrying whether or not Tao exists. The Sage has no need to affirm the Tao; he is far too busy enjoying it!
1. CHINESE PHILOSOPHY IN A NUTSHELL
A mathematician friend of mine recently told me of a mathematician friend of his who everyday “takes a nap”. Now, I never take naps. But I often fall asleep while reading — which is very different from deliberately taking a nap! I am far more like my dogs Peekaboo, Peekatoo and Trixie than like my mathematician friend once removed. These dogs never take naps; they merely fall asleep. They fall asleep wherever and whenever they choose (which, incidentally is most of the time!). Thus these dogs are true Sages.
I think this is all that Chinese philosophy is really about; the rest is mere elaboration! If you can learn to fall asleep without taking a nap, then you too will become a Sage. But if you can’t, you will find it not as easy as you might think. It takes discipline! But discipline in the Eastern, not Western style. Eastern discipline enables you to fall asleep rather than take a nap; Western discipline has you do the reverse. Eastern discipline trains you to “allow yourself” to sleep when you are sleepy; Western discipline teaches you to force yourself to sleep whether you are sleepy or not. Had I been Laotse, I would have added the following maxim — which I think is the quintessence of Taoist philosophy:
The Sage falls asleep not because he ought to
Nor even because he wants to
But because he is sleepy.
2. THE TAO
There is something blurred and indistinct
Antedating Heaven and Earth.
How Indistinct! How Blurred!
Yet within it are forms.
How dim! How confused!
Quiet, though ever functioning.
It does nothing, yet through it all things are done.
To its accomplishment it lays no credit.
It loves and nourishes all things, but does not lord it over them.
I do not know its name,
I call it the Tao. 2)↓
Thus writes Laotse some twenty-five hundred years ago. I think this is as good an introductory description of the Tao as can be desired. It raises many interesting questions: Just what is the Tao? How should one define the Tao, or does the Tao elude any possible definition? If it exists, what is it like? What are its properties?
Before turning to these matters, let me tell you the story of a Zen-Master who was asked by a student, “What is the Tao?” He replied, “I will tell you after you have drunk up the waters of the West River in one gulp.” The student countered,” I have already drunk up the waters of the West River in one gulp.” To which the Master replied,” Then I have already answered your question.”
9. THE TAO DOES NOT TALK
That’s another reason I like the Tao so much; it doesn’t talk! I hate people who talk too much. When I’m in company, I like to be the one to talk; others should just respectfully listen!
Is it not marvelous that I can talk to the Tao to my heart’s content, and the Tao never contradicts me or answers back? The Tao never criticizes me for being egocentric or talking too much.
When I talk about talking to the Tao, the more sophisticated and psychoanalytically oriented reader will say that I am not really talking to the Tao, I am really talking to myself. But this is not so! Since all words come from the Tao, my talking to the Tao is not really me talking to myself but the Tao talking to itself! So, you see, the Tao talks to itself. Yet the Tao does not talk, it is silent! Is this not a remarkable paradox?
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|1.||↑||Lawrence Krauss & Richard Dawkins|
|2.||↑||This is a composite of several translations of several verses of the Book of Tao.|