From the belief in a God or gods potentially springs many conflicts ranging from “my god is better than yours” to “God is on my side (and not yours).” Atheism does not, in my humble opinion, transcend the conflict either but stokes the flames by asserting a monopoly on objectivity, if not enlightenment. In the same way, the term “faith” has often been considered in the exclusive realm of those who believe in a Supreme Being or beings and an life hereafter. For most the religious, if there is no God and an afterlife, then life as we know it is meaningless, absurd and downright unfair. However, there are many atheists who disagree with that point of view. Meaning is not something given by a superior being but generated by human creativity; people leave a legacy that goes on beyond their lifetimes; justice is not granted by Divine Providence but decided by discussion and cooperation in pursuit of truth and a common good. Enter the agnostic who takes neither side because there is no definitive proof of the existence of God or its antithesis, God’s non-existence. Nevertheless he is open and endeavours to seek the truth to which the two factions often respond “Good luck on your hopeless quest.” The many atheists, on the one hand, will say you cannot prove what does not exist. On the other hand, many of the believers will note the logical impossibility of the quest because proving God’s existence is reducing a Supreme Being to an object. Thus, we, humanity are divided still among those who choose to believe, not to believe and those who are not sure, do not know but strive to find the truth.
This paper aims to seek a common ground for the three, with due apologies to Martin Buber who wrote I and Thou . One of the most profound treatises on God’s relationships with man and God. Note the similarities between the two, despite their lifetimes being millenia apart. Instead of “Thou,” I will try my best to introduce the Tao . The pinying character for Tao (pronounced Dao in futonghua or mandarin) is a man walking a road or a path. Thus, many times “the Tao” is roughly translated as “the Way.” As a Filipino, I want to add that Tao (pronounced in my native language as táô) also means person or human. Awareness of the two meanings of the written Anglicized word spurred me to connect with Buber.
Understanding Tao requires a paradigm shift away from the current debates and doubts towards a common ground that believer, non-believers and skeptics share. It is that humanity seeks truth, meaning and understanding. In Taoist thought, it does not matter if God exists or not. In pursuing proofs, there is also the risk of missing out on the more important issues and engaging in vicious cycles of conflicts, even war and persecution. What is important is acknowledging that things happen in people’s live and in the world. There are processes by which things happen, preceding processes that cause them and so forth. Things happen in a certain “way” and that way is the Tao. Tao, therefore, is not a “Who” or a “What.” Tao is a “How.” Hopefully this perspective will serve for now as a reconciling agent among contending forces mentioned.
Prehistoric Origins Taoism is rooted in Chinese shamanic traditions that date all the way back to the Ice Age. Harsh conditions in those primitive times forced man to understand nature in order to work with it and respect that which it cannot control or fully comprehend. What came from the understanding was science and technology. From the respect for the unknown and uncontrollable came ritual and religion. Among its earliest legendary founders is the mythical King Fu Hsi who was aid to have introduced the essential arts, crafts and industries that gave rose to Chinese civilization.
Shift Paradigm• There Is No God • There Is a God An Acknowledgment of Man’s Search for Truth & Meaning
Brief History of Taoism• Shamanic tradition preceding Lao tze• Mythical King Fu Hsi (2,800 BCE)• Yu of the Court of Sun (2070 BCE) managed floods with dikes & canals• King Wen (1100 BCE) crystallizes sixty four trigrams of divination into I Ching http://www.taoism.net/enter.htm
Classic Crisis of Lao Tzu’s Era• “Warring States” – Fragmentation Leading to Eventual Consolidation – Territorial & Resource Conflicts – Contending Gods & Deities – Intellectual Ferment & the Employment of Sages as Advisers
Taoism through the Years• The Rise of the Fang Shih: sages retired in the era of peace – agroindustrial & commercial architecture/ design & planning (Feng Shui) – traditional herbal & natural medicine – martial arts for health & self-defence• Fusions – Buddhism: Ch’an & Zen – Confucianism Tradition & Ceremony
Lao tze & the Tao Te Ching• Called for harmony • Tao te Ching: 81 through the Verses respectful • Original versions understanding have been said to• Cultivate the sage be lost but Taoist within us by being in thinkers reason that the world it’s always a work- – Learn from nature & in-process anyway: from one another relevance over – Reflect upon one’s version self & relationships
The Tao Exists• Does God exist?• Taoist thought would say: – the logical difficulty of proving God’s being in reducing God to an object – things happen & there is a “how” behind them is difficult to refute.• Tao is not a what or a being as God is proposed to be but a “how” & a “being in itself”
Tao is not a what or a who• What can be experienced is not the Tao; A world that can be constructed is not the world. Tao manifests all that happens and may happen; A world represents all that exists and may exist. To experience without agenda is to be in the world; To experience with agenda is to anticipate a world. Although these two experiences are hard to tell apart; Their construction differs but produce definite results. Beyond the gate of experience flows the Tao, Which is ever greater and more subtle than any world.• Tao is not a “what” or a “who”
Tao Is How• The Tao is limitless; When used selfishly, it is never filled nor matched by the world; It cannot be cut, knotted, dimmed or stilled; Its depths are hidden, ubiquitous & eternal; Who can know from where Tao comes? Tao comes even before nature.• Tao can’t be a “what” or “who” to be proven to exist or not but a “how” to be worked with
Self-less: Be Like the Tao• Embracing the How, you become embraced; Breathing gently, you become newborn; Clearing your mind, you become clear; Nurturing your children, you become impartial; Opening your heart, you become accepted; Accepting the world, you embrace Tao. Bearing and nurturing, Creating but not owning, Giving without demanding, This is harmony.• Sin is its own punishment. Goodness is its own reward• Justice is owning up to the process & outcomes
The Tao of the Sage• The best of man is like water, Which benefits all things, and does not contend with them, Which flows in places that others disdain, Where it is in harmony with the Way. So the sage: Lives within nature, Thinks within the deep, Gives within impartiality, Speaks within trust, Governs within order, Crafts within ability, Acts within opportunity. He does not contend, so none contend against him.
Ego & Agenda• Distractions from seeking the Tao• To learn “how to manipulate” is not learning the How of the Tao• Facing the ego & agenda , not even by denying them• To meditate & to choose: – Integrating means & ends – What is or what can be
Harmony & Non-Contention • Not in denying but respecting • Complementation, Cooperation & Creative, Friendly & Constructive, Competition • Applications: – Positive Sum GamesMASCULINE FEMININE – Gender Issues
The Tao of Leadership• The best leaders are unobtrusive; The next best are loved and praised; The next are feared; The lowest are despicable: They have no faith in the people, And the people feel contempt for them. When the best leaders achieve things The people are able to lay claim to them• Democracy is I , Thou & Tao
Tao & Ideology• When the How is forgotten or foregone The rhetoric of duty & justice appear; Then ideologies are born Along with their hypocrisy. When harmony dissolves Demand for respect & devotion arise; When a nation falls to chaos The rhetoric of loyalty & patriotism is born.• The Tao pursues the context for facts & doesn’t screen them according to agenda.• It takes sides with principles, not egos
Taoist Morality• Who understands the world is learned; Who understands the self is enlightened. Who conquers the world has strength; Who conquers the self has harmony. Who is determined has purpose; Who is contented has wealth. Who defends his home may long endure; Who surrenders his home may long survive it.• Virtue is the conquest of one’s self-ishness, more than of others. Self-discipline has no substitute.• Purity of Intention = Wisdom as Journey
Tao Is Merciful• The Tao is the fate of men, The treasure of the saint, And the refuge of the sinner. Fine words are often borrowed, And great deeds are often appropriated; Therefore, when a man falls, do not abandon him, And when a man gains power, do not honour him; Only remain impartial and show him the Way. Why should someone appreciate the Tao? The ancients said, "By the Tao, those who seek may easily find, And those who regret may easily absolve" So Tao is the most precious gift, mercy.
The Tao of Don QuixoteChange must be natural even when it’s imperative• Who recognizes his limitations is healthy; Who ignores his limitations is sick. The sage recognizes this sickness as a limitation. And so becomes immune
Tao of Hope• What lies still is easy to grasp; What lies far off is easy to anticipate; What is brittle is easy to shatter; What is small is easy to disperse. Yet a tree broader than a man can embrace is born of a tiny shoot; A dam greater than a river can overflow starts with a clod of earth; A journey of a thousand miles begins at the spot under ones feet. Therefore deal with things before they happen; Create order before there is confusion.• Hope in a future yet to be written, of possibilities limited only by one’s imagination
Tao of Education• The ancients did not seek to rule people with knowledge, But to have them realize that they already know naturally. It is difficult for knowledgeable people to become natural; So to use law to control a nation weakens the nation, But to use nature to control a nation strengthens the nation. Understanding these two paths is understanding subtlety; Subtlety runs deep, ranges wide, Resolves confusion and preserves peace.• “Edu Care” = to draw from• Teaching is already easy because the student already knows.
Tao Is Infinite as One Minute• Have you ever heard of One Minute Wisdom?• Isn’t it too short?• It’s actually fifty-nine seconds too long.• Why?• Opening one’s eyes takes a second but seeing takes a lifetime.