Monday, January 27, 2014

The changes of the Tao

Taoism is an ability to grasp the changes of the world and to blend with them in a "non action" necessary for a certain quality of relaxation.

The growth, the changes and the decline of phenomena and things, the natural cycles and the principles of creation / destruction , are in the image of the movement of the Tao.

This movement, Fan反, is a "reversion" , a "return " .

All that is necessary to know about the movements of the Tao is in Chapter 40.

This return to the spontaneous and natural, that existed before the attachment to one's self-image, is the Practice.

反 者 道 之 动,弱者 道 之 用
天下 万物 生于 有,有 生于 无

Reversion is the movement of Tao
Weakness is the expression of the Tao

All things under heaven come from the manifested ,
The manifested comes from the unmanifested .

"Fan", reversion , return movement, regression, in this context is similar to what we see in Chapter 25:
大 曰 逝
逝 曰 远
远 曰 反
Big therefore moving ( da shi yue )
Moving therefore at the origin ( yue shi yuan)
Antique therefore at the origin ( yue yuan fan)

You should see here a circular motion, endless, whose origin and end are the same.
It is the absence of progression, of addition. It's a search for simplicity, a willingness to do more than just learn.
This return leads back to the natural, what is already present, but demands to resurface .

The movement is a movement of return , not of evolution, in fact of evolution in the returning.

The fact of adding, of accumulating, can not go in the direction of a simplification.

The more you search, the more you find there is to search for.

It's an endless action that projects itself into the future, a linear representation.

The Return is a circular motion.

The weakness is that of the bamboo versus the oak, of water versus fire : a relative weakness that is a source of sustainability.

In chapter 43, it is said "What is soft overcomes what is hard ."

天下 之 至柔
驰骋 天下 之至
Under the sky, what is soft
Dominates what is hard (under Heaven)

This softness and apparent weakness can be found in the combat arts, armed or bare handed, in conflicting human relationships, in life in general.

Here, again we find the two terms "Wu " and " You" that we saw in Chapter 1.

无: Wu is what is not manifested, the origin of what is.
有: You is what is manifested, what is the domain of the ​​perceptible .

The manifestation takes its source in the "unmanifested absolute" unmanifested .

The world takes its source in the manifestation of Tao.
The Taiji symbol, the black and white circle with two points, is the representation of the movement of the Tao.

It is only about 500 years before JC that Zou Yan will shape this figure that we know so well... 1500 years after the beginning of the Yi Jing .

This representation is only interesting if we see the movement, the "return" of one of the absolute to the other, this dynamic interaction that defines the concepts of yin and yang.

This spiral, endless and onto itself, may contain this idea of reversion. It evolves and changes, but remains identical to itself, it is a representation of the cycles and changes the world.

This concise chapter gives us a lot of information on the practice :

The study is necessary, but it is not the practice
The basics are the most advanced practices
Returnning on what is "known" is a perpetual novelty
Attentive to life, everything is constantly changing in an idenical nature.
The movements and functions of the Tao are the sources of the change and transformations of the phenomena of the world.
Understanding this, in an enlightened observation, enables us to unite ourselves to the changes the world in an active non-action.

This understanding refers to the Yi Jing ( the Book of Changes ), the source of the Feng Shui (the geomancy).

This return to the roots is a human attempt to get as close as possible to the Tao without being able to reach it.

It is not possible to reach as it is in the unmanifested and the human is a manifestation of that.

As the eye can not see itself, what is created can not understand the creator.

After conception, the human being can only taste the De (德), the manifestation of the Tao and its expression in the world.

We can not see the true nature of what is not accessible to our understanding, on the contrary we can see its manifestations.

This chapter is a sublimation of the details of Chapters 25, more concise and precise while becoming more nebulous for the non-practicionner.

A wise man joked : " a non-practitioner has no more to do reading the Daodejing than a Japanese in a course of taijiquan ."

In the history of mankind, many phenomena have gone to their destruction after their heyday. We find the natural movement of reversion, creation / destruction dear to Lao Zi.

This is the principle of the natural cycles of our system.

It is interesting to note that in the Taoist idea of ​​changing phenomena, anyway, everything returns to the source. This return is the reason why we do not want a relationship to time (past and future), but an union with the present. This is the idea of the trip whose purpose is not the destination but getting there. The circular vision of Taoism as compared to the Western linear view.

Stillness , tranquility, relaxation and non-resistance will enable us to live in harmony with the changing world, to fully enjoy everything that comes in one's life, to return to the source without conflict. This active non-effort allows us to live in harmony with the Tao , unlike the mind that feeds on time and expectations, projections and questions , doubt and hope.

The weakness of the Tao is an apparent weakness: it is the concealed strength of water. Nothing is more fluid and seemingly weaker than water. In the techniques of martial arts, if the impact power is needed, the fluidity of movement is the source of the destruction of the enemy. This "natural " flow that is trainable is the power of water.

Furthermore, water has no form, it adapts to its container, as well as air. If the water is in a cup, it takes the shape of the cup, if the water is in the ocean, it takes the shape of the Earth. The air is the same. Water and air are the yin and yang of Feng Shui (Geomancy which means "Wind and Water" ). The Tao includes this yin and yang.

We see this in the study of the beginning of chapter 78 :

天下 莫 柔弱 于 水
而 攻坚 强者
莫 之 能 胜
以其 无 以 易 之

Under Heave, nothing is more adaptable and flexible than water
However, it erodes the strongest and stiffest
Nothing surpasses it for that

弱 之 胜 强
柔 之 胜 刚

The flexible surpasses the hard
The adaptable surpasses the rigid

The image of water is ideal to express this aspect of the Dao. If flexibility is important, the concept of adaptability is really the quality that leads to the return, to the simple. In the capacity of relaxation that is necessary to adapt oneself, there is already an beginning of return .

This is the "De" (manifestation of the Dao ) which is practiced and that points to the Dao, which can not be understood .

All this is interesting and demand something difficult, but essential : the Practice.

Everyone agrees that it is better to be relaxed, flexible and adaptable, but it is rare to see people practicing in this endeavor, which schedule their life in that direction.

Lao Zi already testifies of this fact in his time... and it remains valid nowadays.

In the remainder of chapter 78 :

天下 莫 不知
莫能 行

Under Heaven, everyone can understand that
Yet nobody does it practical

Chapter 78 ends with a sentence that contains a theme of Lao Zi :

正言 若 反

The expressed truth may appear paradoxical

We should not always believe what is expressed and not necessarily doubt either. We must not talk too much and not study too much, but we must acquire knowledge. What is perceived can be false, knowing this we must be attentive with our senses... all this has nothing paradoxical.

All that is said is consistent if it does not refer to an intellectual understanding, but to an understanding through direct experience, by one's personal practice .

This Taoist capacity that aims to blend in with the changes in the world demands for natural qualities to emerge, but they are dormant in every human being. It is therefore not about winning anything at all !

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Daodejing, the book that defines the « Dao »

Lao Zi was the first to define precisely the Tao, the Way and the De, the manifestation of the Way.

This path is rooted in the ancient China and the message of this teaching is found in many similar traditions even though they are geographically distant.

There is a shamanic aspect in the original Taoism, a non-dual vision that is far from the popular religious movement that we know today.

Therefore we'll see similar spiritual messages in the Shaiva Tantra of Cashmere, in some shamanism of North American Indians, or in some kabbalistic teachings.

Lao Zi will describe the essence of the Tao and the ways to touch it, live it, without really ever reaching it: we can not achieve perfection, we can only get close and perceive its manifestations (De) .

Changes in the Tao are described and they are in fact the essence of the Yi Jing, the books of changes, a treaty of the evolution of things in the world of perceptions, a work of internal alchemy : the Yi Jing is therefore the study of the changes of the world which are the expression of the Dao, the changes of the world are the "De" .

In its most manifested form, the most Yin, the Tao is at the origin of the creation of "things" and in its most yang form, it is not conceptualizable by our mind, too yang in regard to the absolute yang of the Tao.

In addition, there is a difference between the Way of Heaven, the set of phenomena that are beyond the understanding of man, but that are the search of the Taoist sage, and the way of Man, which is an expression of the discomfort of humans with themselves, fueled by competition, power and conflict .

You should know that the chapters are not part of the original text and the punctuation was also added well after it was written. Therefore, anything is possible with this text, nothing is wrong,  everything can be said... almost.

There are two fundamental concepts in the book of Lao Zi :

  • The Taoist cosmology, the understanding of the world, of its creation and its Changes
  • the practice of "Returning" to the Natural / Spontaneous

The only interest of a cosmology is to answer questions that our mind lays on the world.

Through an understanding of the world, useless, but necessary, we will be able to relax in a practice that goes beyond the conceptual mind, which complicates our lives with its compulsive thoughts.

By an intellectualization, so reassuring, we let ourselves fearlessly dive into the Practice, in the acceptance of our non-choice and non-resistance that goes without saying.

As understood here, the cosmology does nothing but helps us to practice, it gives us no answer apart from those which we do not care of, she decorates our universe of morbid thoughts, but it does not resolves our problem, a little... like a bouquet of flowers in a hospital room: it is useless, but it's nice; the drug drip, that is essential, but we do not think about it... as it should be of the Practice.

In this relative relaxation, we go to the Practice which is the one of  Returning (to the Natural).

The Return is the regression to our nature that is buried under layers of acquired reflexes, conditioned interpretations of a non-existing truth, of a mundane and trivial life that has distanced us from ourselves.

In addition, our ego and the importance that we give it will rebel against the teaching: we can not stand not being the center of the world and we prefer to flee the Way, rather than discovering ourselves in the horrible Truth.

By a "teaching in action", we will relax and make silence to listen to the world.

In this listening, the changes and phenomena will no longer be strangers to us and we will recognize them.

This recognition, while maintaining our cognition, enables us to return to a vital flow which brings us back to the spontaneous and the natural.

We are in the Way which unites us to the Way of Heaven, dear to Lao Zi.

It is obvious that all the book speaks of the Tao, but chapters 1, 4, 6 and 25 are the most expressive about the Essence thereof.

In Chinese, the Tao is a word that means "Way" or "Road", a person who follows the concepts of Taoism is a Practitioner, but only he who is Initiated is a Taoist .

Initiation is mandatory for being a "Taoist ", but being a Taoist linked to a lineage does not change one's practice... the initiation does not improve one's qualities.

But to be Taoist, one must be initiated and accepted by a lineage, otherwise, you are a practionner more or less engaged.

We can deduce that in ancient China , before Lao Zi , the "Tao" was a way of life, a course of action .

For Lao Zi, it is much deeper, thus he names the origin, all of which is visible and the rest.

Here we find an attempt to puts in concepts this possibility to conceive and merge in the changes and phenomena of the world, the return to the spontaneous and the natural.

We know this state, it is our origin.

Before we were born, but after our creation, we know that total union to the world through intrauterine life : after our arrival in the world, we continue to live in this "totality" during the first weeks.

After that we enter in a judgmental, discriminating and compulsive cognition that separates us more and more from the world, gradually but surely.

The "unique" image of ourselves that our immediate circle will impose us, will become our source of attachment, defended by our mind as a system of defense: the ego. The acquired will replace the innate and the conditioned will replace the spontaneous, we will do everything to be this image of ourselves that lives in our minds, but not the reality.

Compulsive thoughts will try to distract us, even to see us drown, in a flood that reassures us... that binds us to our image.

This attachment will give birth to the unique emotion that is the source of the others, the fear of disappearing, dissolving and not be "unique."

The state of peace and silence that is originally the "Te" from " Tao Te Ching ", this manifestation of the Tao, will be submerged by our worldly conditioning.

We can roughly define the essence of the Tao:
  • All the laws of nature
  • Eternity in space and time
  • Essence of all things, it can be " tasted " by the De, its manifestations
  • Origin of all the changes and all the phenomena
  • Everything in the Tao is moving, changing
  • Everything comes from the Tao so everything is One
  • unimaginable is still possible to get an idea of it by the intellect

It is interesting to see that it's a quest of the human being with himself, without Gods or Demons : we leave the traditional religious paths that give in this stifling duality (God Almighty and weak man), but we are entering a totality that gives the universe a unity.

My teacher said that Tao had five faces :
  • The Tao is the Space and Chaos
  • The Tao is the Origin of All Changes
  • The Tao is the Raw Material of the World
  • The Tao is invisible to the Spirit, but sensible by the Body
  • The Tao governs the laws of all phenomena

In 1973, in a tomb of the Han Dynasty (206 - . 180 BC) at Mawangdui (near Changsha, capital of Hunan), two copies on silk of  Lao Zi's text show differences and changes.

Chang Tao (Constant Tao) later turns in Heng Tao (Eternal Tao), but the difference is minimal in Chinese.

Whether it is "Chang" or "Heng", this description of Tao gives him eternal qualities, indescribable, deep, subtle, irreplaceable and unforgettable .

In the first chapter, there is in the first verse the whole doctrine of Lao Zi.

The most important here is this "You should not be confused !".

It is important not to confuse what we are talking about, the concept, and what is.

Only the Practice and the De, manifestation of the Tao, can be grasped and understood. In the text the Name is the Tao, in a more readable form, as a concept, the one we will discuss. It is possible to say that the difference between the Name and the Tao is the same as the difference between which doesn't have a form, which is not, and which has a form, which is.

Which takes a form takes it's origin in what does not, all things come of Heaven and Earth.

In the form and name, all things grows and "materialize" what did not have a form. The Tao is the source of what has no name or form, it is what can not even be explained.

"Wu" and "You" have no possible translation. Some say "what has no form" and "what has a form", others say "what is not" and " what is" or "non-being" and "being". We can use, in order to better understand it, the terms " manifested" and " unmanifested"... one is perceived by our senses, the other is a whole, a potential that is not in the world of human perceptions... or almost...

"Wu", in Lao Zi, is not the emptiness or the absence of things, it is the unlimited Space and Totality, which can not be grasped not our limited intellect. "Wu" is the domain of the Tao, the Way of Heaven, a totality which will include the world. "You" is the visible manifestation, by the senses, of things and their changes. These are two aspects of the Tao that can take the moments of Chaos of the Earth and Heaven before the creation of all things and the moment of creation itself.

The Taoist world according to Lao Zi is a non-dual and united world, manifestation the changing totality that is the Tao. This way to Heaven can be "touched" by a practice that follows the Taoist teachings. In a subtle and fleeting Communion at first, the Sage guides his life. The flow of the Tao carries the practitioner in an  existence without resistance to the natural changes such as Zhouang Zi's swimmer.

The terms "Heaven and Earth" are used in Chinese to describe Nature and the Universe as a whole. One is the playground of the man and the other the immensity that surrounds him.

The term "Wan", "10,000 things" should be understood as "all things ," "the myriad things." In ancient texts, "10000" is the way to express what is huge, what can not be counted. It was a source of much misinterpretation, the Chinese scriptures are full of figures that are symbolic and non-descriptive.

From the beginning of the text, Lao Zi does as Lu Dong Ping in its "hundred characters tablet" and says, " Shh! , Shut up and practice !".

The first concept is that the Tao can not be understood or expressed, so, you might as well shut up and practice. A remark of more than 2500 years which tells us not to believe what is said or written, but find ourselves the source of all things.

This understanding of silence leads to another error too often "new age", this modern idea of a teaching without a master.

The too present information, and work too rare, gives rise to intellectual and patched up arts that will strengthen the ego mind instead of dissolving it in a desirable silence. Without initiation, no Taoist, without master no disciple.

Those who practice alone a way of Taoist inspiration are a "prospective student", but are not yet "in" the Way.

But what can not be named, 5000 ideograms will be traced by Lao Zi to make us understand it.

There is a dynamic movement that emanates from the Tao, a "non- form" towards a "form", a manifestation of the invisible towards the visible, from totality to Unity. The Absolute manifests itself in a sensible world to which we belong. We find in it the inner duality between our buried natural and our bright conditioning.

The two faces of the same coin , "Wu" and "You" will interact as the name and its object or thought and action.

Before Lao Zi, in the ancient shamanistic China, two terms could be at the origin of  the Tao:

  • Tian Tao (Celestial Tao)
  • Tian Ming (Celeste Destiny)

It's fun to see how many philosophers try to understand the Tao.

Writings can not advance the understanding of what can not be named, only the practice of the "De" can touch the Tao.

But practitioners write too little, they are busy practicing.