Daoist Philosophy

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Daoist Philosophy and Cosmology

When people think of Daoism (also spelled Taoism), the original wisdom tradition of China, they naturally start with the Tao Teh Jing attributed to the Sage Lao Tzu. The opening line of this most widely translated of the classics of Daoism says simply and mysteriously "The Tao that can be named is not The Tao". This single line has spawned literally thousands of commentaries over many centuries. How is it possible to say so much about something that cannot be spoken about?

Most of Daoist philosophy has this same air of mystery. Many see this as a natural tendency to secrecy in Daoism. Shrouded in symbolism, the Ancients hid their meaning, concerned about Celestial Retribution if the secrets reached the wrong ears. Or so the story goes. Read further and their real intention may become more clear.

"It is not that the Dao hides from people, it is that people hide from the Dao"

Many are attracted by the "Go with the Flow" spirit of Daoist philosophy. This interpretation can mask the serious task the Ancients were presenting. Daoist philosophy is intended to inform, not comfort; to encourage thoughtful action, not foster quietism or wordly rejection.

Daoism has a public spirited as well as a hermit tradition. These paths may cross as required by the times. Rooted in Nature and the natural world, Daoism encourages natural solutions, and spontaneous action.

There are estimated to be 250 translations of the Tao Teh Jing into Western languages. Next in popularity is the Chung Tzu, named for it's author. The sage Chung Tzu had a sense of humour mixed with a serious sense of dramatic reform, of action and human nature. With the goal of simply being useless to others, the author sought total freedom, from all limitations including the self.