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Buddhism and the Tao

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

I was reflecting the other day on the Noble Eightfold Path, and it occurred to me that much of buddhism is about being other, being better. It sets certain goals for you and expects you to apply effort and dedication to changing yourself. I find it at once inspiring and slightly uncomfortable.

It contrasts sharply with the Tao, which is more concerned with an “acceptance of things as they are”. I find that a very beautiful avenue of growth and self-discovery as well. It is more passive, less goal-oriented and because of that more open-ended.

It is of course a question of skilful means and applying what teaching is appropriate, and different styles of Buddhism have a different take on this. But I find the mixture quite beautiful, and useful.

RodrigoSnakeskinrocala

Comments

  • CarameltailCarameltail UK Veteran
    edited December 2017

    Some people say that Zen has some similarity to Taoism or so I have read.
    (ofc they are still very different)

    Snakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Aww shucks, now I might as well toss my 12-point plan that ended with “be a Buddha!” As usual you contribute some sensible and insightful points @karasti ... The notion that Buddhism wants you to be something — an adherent to the five precepts, a follower of the noble eightfold path, a practitioner of mindfulness, a student of the dharma — seems to crop up in a few places though.

    Snakeskin
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    But, and this might be picking nits a bit but it's what comes to mind, :lol:, Buddhism at this point is a system of wisdom and information. how can it want or expect anything of you? Teachers might, for sure. But we definitely have a choice in which teachers we give our devotion to. But Buddhism itself? It's just there for us to do what we wish with, just like kitchen tools. The pizza cutter has no expectations of me. If I use it for something that isn't a pizza, i doubt the pizza cutter will know or care. It's just there. Any expectations or limitations I place on it are mine.

    Snakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited December 2017

    Then how do you handle the teachings saying “do this!” and “don’t do that!” and “be this!” and “don’t be that!” Take the N8FP rules on right speech, for instance. Even the Athakavagga had many lines that said, the sage is not like this, all hints of behaviour to avoid or growth to encourage. It’s a system of wisdom and information, yes, but it’s largely directive one that pushes you towards certain behaviour.

    And perhaps that’s a trait shared by most religions. Certainly Christianity has its own set of rules and expected behaviour, as does Judaism or most of the others. I just find it useful to practice radical acceptance sometimes, interspersed with Buddhist behaviour modification. I think they complement eachother very well. Osho was also much in that way, he often spoke of other traditions with great love.

    I do take your point about ‘testing the truth of the teachings’, but I get the feeling from the way it’s written that certain core teachings like the N8FP are non-negotiable.

    Snakeskin
  • Tee Hee (Taoist mantra)

    I have read many versions and times the Tao Te Ching, which was influenced by Buddhism
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao_Te_Ching

    I like the Tao. Going with The Way, relaxing in yoga, being enlightenish etc all make fine hobbies.

    ... and now back to the fortunate cookies ...

    Snakeskin
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited December 2017

    Being a Taoisty kind of Buddhist I can totally understand your conclusion but I differ with your analysis.

    @Kerome said:
    I was reflecting the other day on the Noble Eightfold Path, and it occurred to me that much of buddhism is about being other, being better. It sets certain goals for you and expects you to apply effort and dedication to changing yourself. I find it at once inspiring and slightly uncomfortable.

    It contrasts sharply with the Tao, which is more concerned with an “acceptance of things as they are”.

    This to me sounds like there is no discipline to Taoism but that's just not so. There is much more to it than acceptance because first one must understand how things are and then learn to act in accordance with the way things are until it becomes graceful or second (or even first) nature. Then we can act as water flows without having to think about it.

    I don't want to be presumptuous but it could be the translation of the Eightfold Path as Right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right samadhi. Since each aspect of the 8FP is represented by a spoke on the wheel, it makes sense they each work in concert. It flows more naturally seen as the 8 harmonious spokes and then rather than Right effort we have harmonious effort. If each spoke is as nurtured as the others, it won't collapse its part of wheel as it rolls closest to the ground.

    I find that a very beautiful avenue of growth and self-discovery as well. It is more passive, less goal-oriented and because of that more open-ended.

    But it is fairly goal oriented and much of the teachings are about how the virtuous or skillful behaves or sees. Chapter 8 of the Tao Te Ching makes being like water sound easy but just because it sounds simple does not make it easy.

    It is of course a question of skilful means and applying what teaching is appropriate, and different styles of Buddhism have a different take on this. But I find the mixture quite beautiful, and useful.

    So do I. I am not strictly Zen but non-sectarian and my shrine here has Buddha and Lao-Tzu. Still looking for Tara (preferably 2 aspects) and Nagarjuna.

    The Tao, Emptiness, Buddha nature and the unborn is all the same thing conceived of differently by the way I see it.

    KeromepaulysoSnakeskin
  • @Kerome said:
    I was reflecting the other day on the Noble Eightfold Path, and it occurred to me that much of buddhism is about being other, being better. It sets certain goals for you and expects you to apply effort and dedication to changing yourself. I find it at once inspiring and slightly uncomfortable.

    It contrasts sharply with the Tao, which is more concerned with an “acceptance of things as they are”. I find that a very beautiful avenue of growth and self-discovery as well. It is more passive, less goal-oriented and because of that more open-ended.

    It is of course a question of skilful means and applying what teaching is appropriate, and different styles of Buddhism have a different take on this. But I find the mixture quite beautiful, and useful.

    Your first paragraph reminds me of an Ernest quote. “True nobility is being superior to your former self.” But focusing on that goal reminds me of an Admiral quote. “It’s a trap!”

    I think “things as they are” is an integral part of Buddhism. How could there be insight otherwise? To me the difference is between the words acceptance and acknowledgment. Leaning toward the latter makes space for resolve, which pays closer attention to the interconnections between things as they are, e.g., the braid of perception and feeling. Fall into the trap, lean back. That, I think, coupled with intention, is from where skillful means actually comes, from acknowledging things and their interconnections as they are.

    KeromepaulysoDavidkando
  • I think for me it's more a try to see things as they are and examine mental constructs I have made over the years that might not be true. When you get to the point of seeing how things are I'm not sure that means to accept them. Like as humans we can change lots of things. Is acceptance more a calming method for dealing with the things that we cannot change or do not know how to change?

    Snakeskin
  • jwredeljwredel Albuquerque Veteran

    In Buddhism, everything ultimately refers back to the mind. And the phrase seeing how things are should be really understood as seeing how the mind is. And when the nature of the mind is fully realized, there is no Tao and there are no notions of accepting and not-accepting - because there is no 'I' or 'we' to follow or to accept or to not-accept.

    ShoshinJeffreySnakeskinBuddha-Dude
  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran
    edited December 2017

    the icon of buddha touching the earth--as my witness--is ,imo,is quintesential dao and dharma.a friend of mine once said,tao is everything.im a believer.in dharma,the gnosis,allows the interaction with the dao.the brain phenomenon can be quicker than the eye phenomenon.still trying to familiarizie this phenomenon,somewhat mystical,somewhat scary.but through dharma practice hope it settle as simple acknowledgement or as others suggest the acceptance of the dao-dharma phenomenon.

    DavidSnakeskin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Ah, so.

    image

    Snakeskin
  • @Kerome said:
    The notion that Buddhism wants you to be something — an adherent to the five precepts, a follower of the noble eightfold path, a practitioner of mindfulness, a student of the dharma — seems to crop up in a few places though.

    To be something is one perceptive. Another is that we are perpetual change. The metaphor of a path adds direction. Removing “right” leaves views, intentions, speech, actions, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration. Nothing that isn’t already happening. Buddhism simply says this way leads here and that way leads there. Be on your way.

    David
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited December 2017

    "The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you've gotten the fish, you can forget about the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget about the snare. Words exist because of the meaning. Once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget about the words. Where can I find someone who's forgotten the words so I can talk with him?"

    • Zhuangzi
    SnakeskinJeffreylobster
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    It contrasts sharply with the Tao, which is more concerned with an “acceptance of things as they are”.

    I don't see that as a contrast because to "accept things as they are", is itself, a goal and to be able to do that often requires effort and dedication to changing yourself. =)

    For example, are you able to accept the fact that you will die? Most people have great difficulty with that!

    KeromeDavidSnakeskin
  • jwredeljwredel Albuquerque Veteran

    Bringing it back once again, for Buddhists, the "acceptance of things as they are" must ultimately mean the "acceptance of the mind as it is".

    In Case 19 of the Mumonkan, Joshu asks Nansen - "What is the Way?" (Tao)
    Nansen answers: "Ordinary mind is the Way."

    And, as @seeker242 says, it does require effort and dedication ... but not to change yourself, but to completely reconcile the notion of anatta .

    Snakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Some wise words from the NB Sangha :) thank you all.

    I guess what it comes down to is that “acceptance of what is” is a process of discovery and natural growth. It is an extension in the direction in which you already growing. It requires minimal effort compared to other paths, but you might not like what you see, it’s a warts-and-all path of awareness.

    The Noble 8FP is a path of improvement, it sets you goals that may not have originally been part of the way you had naturally developed. This can be both a blessing and a curse, it can inspire you and spur you on to greater things, evolving you. At the same time it can also internal conflicts when you have to let go of things counter to your desires.

    SnakeskinBuddha-Dude
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Some wise words from the NB Sangha :) thank you all.

    I guess what it comes down to is that “acceptance of what is” is a process of discovery and natural growth. It is an extension in the direction in which you already growing. It requires minimal effort compared to other paths, but you might not like what you see, it’s a warts-and-all path of awareness.

    Yeah but also "accepting what is" means knowing the correct action to take. It does not mean complacency.

    Snakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @David said:

    @Kerome said:
    Some wise words from the NB Sangha :) thank you all.

    I guess what it comes down to is that “acceptance of what is” is a process of discovery and natural growth. It is an extension in the direction in which you already growing. It requires minimal effort compared to other paths, but you might not like what you see, it’s a warts-and-all path of awareness.

    Yeah but also "accepting what is" means knowing the correct action to take. It does not mean complacency.

    Maybe you’d like to illustrate that with an example? To my mind acceptance doesn’t seem to involve many choices.

    Snakeskin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome said:

    @David said:

    @Kerome said:
    Some wise words from the NB Sangha :) thank you all.

    I guess what it comes down to is that “acceptance of what is” is a process of discovery and natural growth. It is an extension in the direction in which you already growing. It requires minimal effort compared to other paths, but you might not like what you see, it’s a warts-and-all path of awareness.

    Yeah but also "accepting what is" means knowing the correct action to take. It does not mean complacency.

    Maybe you’d like to illustrate that with an example? To my mind acceptance doesn’t seem to involve many choices.

    Wrong. Acceptance is, in itself, a choice.
    If you are wrongly accused at work of stealing, and for some reason, you have no alibi and the odds seem stacked against you, you may be fired and lose your job, unjustly.
    That is one time to 'accept' the situation as it is, but it doesn't necessarily mean you take the wrongful dismissal on the chin and lose your job.
    Things are what they are; the situation has arisen, and exists. But as @David correctly points out: Acceptance doesn't mean complacency.
    You do whatever is skilful, necessary and just, to prove your innocence, keep your job, pay the mortgage, put food on the table, settle the bills and stay working.

    SnakeskinDavidBuddha-Dude
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    Yep. And you can be "in the zone" as you are writing letters to your politicians to improve laws for people, etc. It doesn't mean you don't do anything to change poor circumstances. It means you spend more time "in the zone" so that you are living in the present, and while you are working to change things, you aren't focused on anything but that moment. It's quite possible. I practice it when I am doing taxes, :lol:

    DavidlobsterSnakeskin
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited December 2017

    I think this post might have been redundant.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @David said:
    I think this post might have been redundant.

    ...Acceptable. image

    David
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    I think I was trying to figure out the best way to say that accepting things as they are is the same thing as being mindful.

    lobsterSnakeskin
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    This post reminds me of an exchange by Chan Master Ta-Chu Hui-Hai in his Treatise On Entering The Tao of Sudden Enlightenment =)

    Q: What does "attainment of the Tao" mean?
    A: Absolute Attainment is attainment of the Tao.

    Q: But what does "Absolute Attainment" mean?
    A: As I said before, neither attaining anything nor not attaining anything is Absolute Attainment.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited December 2017

    @seeker242 said:
    This post reminds me of an exchange by Chan Master Ta-Chu Hui-Hai in his Treatise On Entering The Tao of Sudden Enlightenment =)

    Q: What does "attainment of the Tao" mean?
    A: Absolute Attainment is attainment of the Tao.

    Q: But what does "Absolute Attainment" mean?
    A: As I said before, neither attaining anything nor not attaining anything is Absolute Attainment.

    And your post reminds me of the Middle Way between craving and aversion which is also acceptance.

    Buddha-Dude
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @David said:

    Tai Chi is a Taoist martial art for example. If accepting things as they are means being complacent I would just get hit instead of knowing how to avoid being hit without having to think about it.

    Completely accepting things as they are, we are in the here and now completely. Artists and athletes call it being in the zone.

    That’s interesting, certainly a more practical and direct application than I was thinking of. In the real world making choices is unavoidable, and so accepting things as they are is only of use in certain situations. Ho hum.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @David said:

    Tai Chi is a Taoist martial art for example. If accepting things as they are means being complacent I would just get hit instead of knowing how to avoid being hit without having to think about it.

    Completely accepting things as they are, we are in the here and now completely. Artists and athletes call it being in the zone.

    That’s interesting, certainly a more practical and direct application than I was thinking of. In the real world making choices is unavoidable, and so accepting things as they are is only of use in certain situations. Ho hum.

    I'd say it's useful in all situations. Accepting things as they are includes everything such as the fact that we can affect change to a degree and that affecting change is best done skillfully.

    Also when we meditate and watch thoughts come and go without adding anything or taking anything away we are accepting things as they are.

    There are a few ways to look at it and none involve complacency in the face of skillful options. Even accepting there is nothing we can do for a situation means moving on.

    adamcrossleySnakeskin
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Explorer
    edited December 2017

    @David said:

    Accepting things as they are includes everything such as the fact that we can affect change to a degree and that affecting change is best done skillfully.

    Well said :) I totally agree.

    Snakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Complacency doesn’t really come into it. Acceptance of things as they are is part of seeing things truely, which is a prelude to making skilful choices.

    But I think accepting things as they are has a particular meaning in terms of seeing things correctly, insightfully and deeply. Many people are told to just “accept!” without understanding deeply what it is they are looking at.

    Snakeskin
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    If "accepting things as they are" is just another play on being mindful, and/or being present, it doesn't mean not making choices when they are presented. If you can manage to remain mindful when a choice is offered then you are able to make the right choice without having to spend forever thinking about "what ifs" or trying to untangle the whole mess. Being mindful keeps you in the right place to respond to people, situations, and yes, choices.

    Snakeskin
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited December 2017

    Geez, I totally goofed there. Complacency is not the term I'm thinking of and for the life of me I can't fetch the proper one. Maybe apathy?

    Ah, resignation... that seems more like it, thanks @federica

    lobsterSnakeskin
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