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Joseph_F
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May featured books: Taoism!

Hi,

 

In May we'll be looking at Taoism, with two books.

 

The first

 

 

 

The Shambhala Guide to Taoism  by Eva Wong

 

should give us a fairly short, easy-to-read introduction to the history and practice of Taoism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

then we'll move to

 

 

Tao Te Ching

  

 

 

 

and take a look at one of the primary texts of the religion. I want to read the guide to Taoism first, because I feel that the Tao Te Ching is among the most misunderstood books in the world, having been used by countless different self-help gurus and spiritual groups to push whatever they already had to say. When reading this, I'd like us to take a second to try to understand what the text is actually saying, outside of anything we've heard about it, and I'd also like us to think about how it relates to how Taoism is actually practiced in the modern age.

 

Any thoughts? Comments? Books you'd like to see featured in the future?

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TiggerBear
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

Cool. Sounds good.

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Nadine
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

I think this could be a very interesting discussion. Nice to get into some non-Western religions. I'm on, though there may be only the three of us. I'll put in an order for the books today.

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Nadine
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

 

Joseph_F wrote:

Hi,

 

In May we'll be looking at Taoism, with two books.

 

The first

 

 

 

The Shambhala Guide to Taoism  by Eva Wong

 

should give us a fairly short, easy-to-read introduction to the history and practice of Taoism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

then we'll move to

 

 

Tao Te Ching

  

 

 

 

and take a look at one of the primary texts of the religion. I want to read the guide to Taoism first, because I feel that the Tao Te Ching is among the most misunderstood books in the world, having been used by countless different self-help gurus and spiritual groups to push whatever they already had to say. When reading this, I'd like us to take a second to try to understand what the text is actually saying, outside of anything we've heard about it, and I'd also like us to think about how it relates to how Taoism is actually practiced in the modern age.

 

Any thoughts? Comments? Books you'd like to see featured in the future?

 

 

I did a little poking around and found the Lao Tzu translation available on the net for those who might want to take a look at it.

 

Tao Te Ching, D.C Lau translation

 

I discovered that I alread have this book. There is a 40 page introduction that you can't get on the web site. It looks like a good introduction and I can get to it sooner since I have to wait for the Shambala. But I will look around to see if there are some good web references on the history.

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Nadine
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

I am finding a wealth of stuff on the internet.

 

First an interesting commentary using the Lau translation and the actual Chinese.

 

Translation commentary.

 

And I also found the introduction to the Lau translation. Nice thing about this reference is that the entire book can be searched by keyword.

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Joey2Tall
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

I'm in too.  I'm new, but I will definately read these. 

 

Joey

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Nadine
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

 

Joey2Tall wrote:

I'm in too.  I'm new, but I will definately read these. 

 

Joey

 

 

I finally got my books and I will start reading them this weekend. They look very interesting. I gather the game plan is to read the Shambhala Guide first and discuss that and then read the Tao Te Ching with the knowledge we have learned from the introductory guide.

 

Nadine

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Nadine
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

I just started reading the Shambhala Guide to Taoism and this "religion" is turning out to be very complex and quite varied. It appears to be a collection of conventional religions, mystical religions, philosophy, health program, and may other things. They are basically very different things and, at least as far as I can tell, don't seem to have any common relationship to each other.

 

There are many forms of Christianity, and they are very different, but each type does have a common set of core beliefs that makes the religion Christian. They are all basically Christian religions but with varying practices and rituals.

 

Taoism doesn't seem to be that way at all. I haven't, so far, found a common element that binds these various diverse practices and ways of thinking with some sort of core foundation. About the closest "guess" I have right now is that they are all part of a historic evolution process from Chinese Shamanism. But beyond that, each practice or way of thinking went in its own direction.

 

I still have much to read but I was wondering if anyone else had some thoughts on what makes something Taoism?

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crzynwrd4lf
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

I'm not really sure how this board works but I started reading Tao Te Ching, and it seems like an observatory perspective. Like looking at life through a window, if that makes sense, or by not judging what you see but merely acknowledge what you see. I'm probably completely missing the mark...

"One potato, two potato, three potato, four/ she's coming for you now, you better lock the door"-- Promise Not To Tell
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Joey2Tall
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

Wish I could help, but still haven't received the first book. I did however download the second book to my Nook but have decided it best to read the books in order as is shown. I expect to receive the book no later than Tuesday, at which time I will speak my piece.
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Nadine
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

 

crzynwrd4lf wrote:

I'm not really sure how this board works but I started reading Tao Te Ching, and it seems like an observatory perspective. Like looking at life through a window, if that makes sense, or by not judging what you see but merely acknowledge what you see. I'm probably completely missing the mark...

 

You are doing just fine. I haven't gotten to the actual Tao Te Ching. I just started the Shambhala guide book. But from what I remember of the Tao Te Ching I think I understand what you are saying. I believe it is written from the perspective of a wise old sage and his observations on reality, life, morality and government.

 

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Nadine
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

 

Joey2Tall wrote:

Wish I could help, but still haven't received the first book. I did however download the second book to my Nook but have decided it best to read the books in order as is shown. I expect to receive the book no later than Tuesday, at which time I will speak my piece.

 

 

I agree. I am waiting until I read the guide book before I read the Tao Te Ching. I want to read it fresh from a more informed perspective.

 

I'm not really very far ahead of you. Actually I've only read the introduction to the Shambhala guide but she gives an overview of what she is going to cover and that is what prompted my questions. I was just struck by the diversity of Taoism and I think this range makes it really hard to define it and put it in some cubby hole. I was looking for a way to define it. But that is probably the problem of my Western mind that wants to classify things. This may be a whole new way of thinking. As the Tao Te Ching says:

 

The way that can be spoken of

Is not the constant way;

The name that can be named

Is not the constant name.:

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Nadine
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Re: Taoism/Daoism

As I continue my research into Taoism, I have noticed many alternate spellings. So I researched that a bit. It seems there are many systems for rendering Chinese into to a phonetic Romanized alphabete. Many of the terms in Taoism are from the old 19th centruy Wade-Giles method and have generally been continued because people are most familiar with the old spellings. But Pinyin (a Chinese developed modern version of Romanization) is now becoming the international standard. We are going to see both systems of spelling and we should be aware of the two methods if we are going to do any research on the Internet. I found this explaination of the two systems

 

Our moderator should make a descision on what we should use here but I thought I might post some important terms that I am constantly seeing. The first is the older Wade-Giles and the second is the new international standard, Pinyin:

 

Tao/Dao

Taoism/Daoism

Lao Tzu/Laozi

Tao te ching/ Daode jing

Chuang-Tzu/Zhuangzi.

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Nadine
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Re: Taoism/Daoism

I found a recitation of the Tao Te Ching on YouTube. This is a modern translation by Stephen Mitchell.

 

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Part 3

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Nadine
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Re: Taoism/Daoism

For those of you still waiting for your Shambhala guide I found this historical overview from James Miller's book Daoism: A Beginner's Guide.

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Nadine
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Re: Taoism/Daoism

There seems to be three foundational texts for Taoism. I don't know if Joseph wants to include them in this discussion.

 

The first, The Tao te Ching (Daode jing) is included and I've given some references above to online translations.

 

The Second is the Zhuangzi

 

And the third is the Guanzi.

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Nadine
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Re: Taoism/Daoism

[ Edited ]

The Zhuangzi (or Chuang Tzu in Wade-Giles) contains the famous Butterfly Dream. Since it is very short and well known, I thought I would quote it here. This is the Burton Watson translation I linked ot above:

 

--------------------------

Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn't know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.

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Joseph_F
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

Nadine: I think whatever spelling people prefer to use is fine, as long as it is understandable to everyone else. Personally I use Taoism because it is the most common spelling for Americans.

 

The other foundational texts are great if you'd like to explore them as well, but the ones I'm looking at specifically are the two books I listed.

 

One thing to note from the beginning of the guide is how Taoism reacts and interacts with the practicalities of the political and day-to-day life of the times in which it was developed. This is related also to its shamanic roots that she highlights. Shamanism, for all its mysticism and spiritual journeys, is at heart practical. It heals, it guides, it helps with problems. It's based in the obstacles encountered in day-to-day life.

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Joseph_F
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

How's everyone doing working their way through the guide? Let's aim to be done with it and on to the Tao Te Ching by around the 20th of May.

 

I think it's interesting to see, in the history of Taoism section of the guide, how the development of the religion mirrors in a practical way the politics and society that surrounds it. What may seem, looking at it from a modern perspective, like a twisted knot of myths and mysticism was actually a series of practical reactions to the needs of the day. That's not unique to Taoism of course, but the history section provided a clear example of the trend.

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Nadine
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Re: May featured books: Taoism!

Though there is definitely a Taoist Religion I don't see the Tao Te Ching as being a religious text. Maybe it is my definition of religion.

1. To me a religion should have a set of accepted beliefs, there is a higher force or deity that is more powerful than we are and warrants worship, and this form or worship takes the form of prescribed ritual. Also there is some assumption as to what happens beyond death.

2. Within religion, but certainly not unique to it, there is a standard of ethical behavior and a philosophy of how we and other things in nature relate to each other.

I think the Tao Te Ching is within the 2nd statement but has nothing to do with the first. I also can't see it as being a basis for a religious movement.

I am curious as to whether others have a different definition of religion and whether they think the Tao Te Ching is a religious text and a foundation for a religious system.