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May 07, 2015


So the daoist view of enlightenment is the same as sant mat in that you simply need to learn how to die, or to realise that the phenomenal world is all 'maya' or falsely perceievd.

Same teaching, different teacher?

George, no... exactly the opposite. As noted in this post, "the truly enlightened man hearing the tolling of a bell would simply enjoy the experience for what it is."

Meaning, the natural world is the only world. What is perceived here in this world is what is.

A sound of a bell is just a sound of a bell. It doesn't have some other cosmic significance, even though human minds may view that sound as a metaphor for the certainty of death, etc.

Daoism doesn't posit any "divine" force or entity separate from nature. The Dao, so far as it can be explained, is just how nature operates, not anything apart from nature.

Losing the tendency to attribute more meaning and significance to events than a dog or a cat would, is not enlightenment; it's dehumanization.

The whole point of Buddhism and the contemplative life is to understand the human condition so that one isn't tormented by incomprehension and the sense of futility and meaninglessness. Thus, enlightenment would have to be profound understanding arrived at through inquiry - not the loss of that capacity as in dumb animal mentality.

I agree x.. And i think what people lack is to become people.
My first thing is to be a full human a full man as I am. Peace

Humans are animals. Yes, we do have some extra cognitive capabilities. We can think in ways other animals can't. But this has pluses and minuses. Evolution didn't intend for those extra capabilities to make us happy. Natural selection aims for reproductive and survival advantage, not happiness.

Animals have a lot to teach us. I'll be walking with our dog, lost in thought, and notice that the dog is intently watching a squirrel in our tree, or otherwise is aware of our surroundings in a way that I'm not.

It's a matter of experimentation, really. "Flow" is a real state of consciousness that enhances athletic and other sorts of performances. Think less, perform better. Dancers, martial artists, golfers -- they all know this.

Daoism isn't calling on us to surrender our special human cognitive abilities. It is suggesting that we use those abilities appropriately. Over-thinking and over-analzying isn't wise, when these activities aren't needed.

So we can experiment and see when thinking and hyper-self-awareness is beneficial, and when it isn't. Most of us, I'd suggest, think and worry too much. Dogs are wiser in this regard (not that they have a choice.)

Brian said :"A sound of a bell is just a sound of a bell." for a dog "

Yes in many circumstances

But in Sant Mat it seems just A sound of a bell is just.a metaphor for a completely new and flabbergasting energy that seems
: can and will be "heard"

While this is cyclic as every RSSB happening you can hear it
for instance while mowing the garden, seeing a film,
and in meditation
In all these circumstances there are the 5 words which are able to integrate the Lover in the stream

People say often : I have to meditate at so and so o'clock, . .

hearing such sound at the bus stop and you are hurrying to sit
for more , for deeper, for news, for more Love
it s no obligation then

What I m trying to say is that This Sound is Very special and a part of the fantastic absorption process

Enlightening is not for satsangis neither in God, it's for the brahma guys and dolls


Daoism isn't calling on us to surrender our special human cognitive abilities. It is suggesting that we use those abilities appropriately. Over-thinking and over-analzying isn't wise, when these activities aren't needed.

If Daoism is just learning not to over-think and over-analyse, why call it anything but learning? Calling it Daoism makes it needlessly complicated.

Probably the "religion" of Daoism does complicate things but is Brian talking about the Tao (the Way)? Or have you now, Brian, become more of a materialist or are you just somewhere in-between?

As 777 says: "This Sound is Very special and a part of the fantastic absorption process"

The Tao:

"It is a Sound Principle (Shabd) emanating from the Great Silence (Ashabd). In Chinese scriptures, it is known as Tao. Lao Tze, in the fourth century B. C., used the word Tao meaning "Road" or "Way" to denote the Hidden Principle of the Universe.

Shabd is of two kinds: outer and inner or Varn-Atmak and Dhun-Atmak, respectively.

The Varn-Atmak to a certain extent gives a clue to the Dhun-Atmak Shabd. It is a matter of common experience how martial music stirs up men to arms, sad dirges bring tears to the eyes, loving strains bewitch the mind, doleful songs strike the spirit, solemn notes inspire awe and reverence. Again, the words of the wise act as a soothing balm for lacerated minds and smarting taunts cut us to the quick.

When there is so much magic in Varn-Atmak Shabd, one cannot possibly imagine the Power that lies hidden in the Dhun-Atmak Shabd, which is very subtle and ethereal in nature. The inner Shabd is sublime and pure, with an irresistible magnetic pull which a freed soul cannot but plunge into."

Try - http://www.youmightbeataoist.com - sounds sense to me.

Brian, thanks a lot for that detailed reply. It was very interesting reading.

But I have to say this : I’m afraid I didn’t get it. At all.

Which is perhaps as it should be : since “the Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao”! :-)

But seriously : That excerpt from Raymond Smullyan’s book was thought-provoking. But it probably only addresses the issue (of Taoist enlightenment) only partially, it seems to me, and tangentially at that. That is, it seems to describe (some) symptoms (if I may use that word) of Taoist enlightenment, rather than describing the actuality of enlightenment itself. (Always assuming, for the sake of discussion here, that there is such a thing a Taoist enlightenment—if only in the conception and imagination of Taoist “sages”. Without that temporarily-made assumption—which of course we take with the proverbial pinch of salt—we can’t really engage with this discussion at all.)

If one were to take that excerpt from Smullyan as FULLY descriptive (even if only indirectly and somewhat tangentially expressed) of the essence of Taoist enlightenment, then such enlightenment would amount to no more than a progressive hierarchy of “knowledge” (as in learning what others have speculated or said or written about this) and beliefs (starting from the wholly clueless person, who neither knows nor believes [since he knows nothing that he may believe] ; to someone who knows of and believes in whatever afterlife stories Taoist tradition feeds him with ; and so on to “higher” hierarchies of “knowledge” and beliefs). Simply knowledge (as in information), believed explicitly, can assuredly take one through those “stages” (provided that belief remains unshaken). And I’m sure that’s not what is actually meant at all. Taoism, of all traditions, is not (from what I gather) one to go down that route.

Which is why I’m guessing Smullyan is merely describing a tangential cross-section, as it were, of Taoist enlightenment, rather than plainly and simply describing what it actually is. That will at best make sense if one already knows what exactly this animal is ; else it’s only more of the proverbial rope and columns, et cetera, which will leaves those who don’t know clueless about the elephant standing before their blind eyes. (And those who do know don’t really need to be told all over again. Which is why these cryptic and/or poetic allusions to the “other shore” I sometimes wonder about, despite their beauty and their apparent depth.)

- - - - - - -

Now I realize it isn’t quite fair to simply keep asking for answers, without doing at least a modicum of homework oneself. Your blog provides us a sumptuous enough buffet, without us constantly holding out our plates greedily for newer dishes! So before asking again, I tried a bit of research myself. (Which is a somewhat grand way of saying I spent, cumulatively, perhaps an hour and a half or so invoking the Google-God on matters Tao.)

And these are my thoughts, basis the revelation that that great God vouchsafed me (and basis what I remember of your earlier posts) :

(a) What is Taoist enlightenment? It is the attainment of a state of perfection and natural-ness. This state of perfection, while wholly natural, does not generally come naturally (that is, effortlessly), but instead needs to be sought/cultivated. There is, in that state of Tao, both the positive sense (of perfection, of perfect naturalness) as well as the negative sense (of discarding inessentials, including the discarding of the unnecessary and dysfunctional mental chatter / monkey mind that you directly mention in your post above).

And yes, not to forget : the Tao that can be “told”, spoken of, described, that is not the eternal Tao. If you believe you’ve got it pat, you’re wrong—or at least, only incompletely aware of the fullness of what it is, or something like that. (Which leads one to the question : How did the person who first spoke or wrote those words—Lao Tzu perhaps or perhaps someone he was quoting or whoever whenever in that tradition—know what is by definition unknowable? Because he (or she) wouldn’t have been able to make that pronouncement about the Tao unless he knew the Tao in the first place, would he? So what do we have here then : some kind of authoritative take-it-without-question-or-leave-it divine revelation after all, even within the confines of philosophical, non-religious, non-deistic Taoism?)

(b) How does one approach / attain to Taoist enlightenment? (i) Meditation. (ii) That Wu Wei business, or Flow : which seems to comprise (a) full mindfulness ; and (b) the actual “flow”, that is, getting so good at some particular thing (and, more generally, getting so good at simply and generally living) that the whole thing becomes “perfect” and yet “natural” and effortless. And (iii) A discarding of the inessentials, a letting go of the dross (including unnecessary and uncontrolled thoughts/thinking).

(c) Why attempt all this at all? This I couldn’t crack, at least not from the stuff I browsed through yesterday and today. There seems no clearly-spelt-out reason really, as far as I could make out. You do such and such, because that is perfection, because that is natural. But why aim for perfection? Why aim for that elusive naturalness? No answer (that I could discern). A bit like Confucianism, the logic here seems rather circular (even when seen within the bounds of the belief system, and even when accepting their axioms). You do such and such and such. But why? Answer : Just because. Nice wise answer, if you choose to view the answer “just because” as wise and profound (and which you yourself don’t fully comprehend because of the lack in your own spiritual evolution, as opposed to any lack in the explanation itself). [But of course, an hour and a half’s cumulative browsing over a week’s time is not close study, it is only very cursory browsing : so perhaps it is written there in one of those three main books in the Taoist tradition after all and I missed it.]

In any case, Brian, you yourself have indicated one possible answer : namely, that this is the only way to full happiness or contentment, or something like that. Which makes complete sense (at least, to someone who accepts that assertion, it is fully internally consistent and not illogical). I mean, the idea that only in “naturalness” and only in the state-of-Tao lies lasting happiness or contentment, that idea is no more extravagant than asserting that only in total Samadhi lies lasting bliss, or that only in total cessation (Nirvana) lies the end of suffering, or that only in listening to divine melodies lies both bliss and salvation, or for that matter the much more simplistic “to be in Heaven is to have endless bliss”, or the even more simplistic (and much more interesting) concept of the 72 virgins. (Although of course, in the latter examples, there is this further assumption of an afterlife, so that the Taoist Occam’s-Razor is at least that much sharper.) So, basis your writing, Brian, that’s how I’ll think of it : Why Taoist enlightment? Because that’s the only way to be consistently happy.

- - - - - - -

I have no doubt I’ve got lots and lots and lots of basic stuff wrong there, and it’ll be great if you can fix up and/or flesh out those bits where I did mess up.

- - - - - - -

One specific question, Brian, if I may, about Taoist meditation.

From what I could see, this seems no different from different types of Buddhist meditation. How come? (I mean, given that Taoism predates not only the import of Buddhist thought into China, but even predates Buddhism itself and the Buddha himself. And also given that the origination of Buddhist meditation techniques is clearly documented, and there’s no possibility of Taoist influences having shaped meditation techniques back during the Buddha’s time, or even later on when the Vajrayana techniques were first developed and formalized.)

This last is purely wild conjecture on my part : but might it be that Taoism itself had no structured meditation, beyond the Wu Wei concept? And when the Daoists came in contact with Buddhism (which also has mindfulness-in-daily-life as one of its “techniques”), they found it easy to buy into the whole Buddhist package because of (among other things) that essential similarity, and in turn they influenced Buddhism (towards the distinctive ideas and practices—or more correctly, towards the distinctive emphases—of Chan, Zen, all that). And further—and this last is my conjecture, and my question—Taoism itself, thus far lacking in structured meditation techniques (although it had its own cultivating-chi-and-working-on-ying-yang practices), in turn took from Buddhism the idea of (formal and structured) meditation proper, such as elements of anapana sati, elements of tantric visualization practices, elements of mantra meditation, as well as formalized its own philosophy of meditation-in-action (as in Tai Chi), all that, so that Taoist meditation per se [although not Taoist philosophy itself] is only a post-Buddhist development.

This seems to make sense, because the alternative is that these two distinct traditions (Taoism and Buddhism) developed near-identical meditation techniques wholly independently of each other, and that their coming together and these extraordinary similarities are no more than coincidence. And that seems extremely unlikely.

I know, that’s a huge wild leap to make from the very narrow base of less than two hours’ cumulative browsing and some very scattered reading, and no doubt I’m making a fool of myself by presenting that conjecture here : but what do you think, I am at all close to what you yourself think about this?

Quote x :

The whole point of Buddhism and the contemplative life is to understand the human condition so that one isn't tormented by incomprehension and the sense of futility and meaninglessness.

I empathize with that statement of yours. Sounds good, and seems to encompass the "letting go" that Brian speaks of up there.

Can you expand on that thought of yours? Specifically, why/how do you think an understanding of the human condition will necessarily lead to not being tormented by a sense of futility?

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