Tao Chia

Philosophical taoism. Simple stuff about flow and harmony. Pay nothing, go for a nice long walk. Visit a green place by the water. Accept the world, watch it decay and renew, and become content.


Philosophical taoism is about the rules you have to master to become an expert on anything. It sounds contradictory at times, as for example: "Shape without shape", or even too simple: "You need to exit the room to enter in it if you are already inside." It is obviously a set of criteria of what you would see if you see a master on any subject area, since it is so general, it does not mention how to master anything, only to how to realize if you master something. -- GuillermoSchwarz

Um, go read LaoTse. Say, chapters 19 & 20. Then come tell us you've mastered TaoChia. -- EasternWuss

Cool. This is going to take long, since I've been reading the TaoTeKing for several years, so my explanations tend to be rather long. I do not claim to be a TaoChia master just because of that. I may make several mistakes and I would be glad if somebody corrects me. Let's see:

Chapter 19 starts by saying:

 If we could abolish knowledge and wisdom
 Then people would profit a hundredfold;
The meaning of that phrase as I understand it:

 If we could abolish the concepts of knowledge and wisdom,
 then real knowledge and real wisdom would naturally flow to us.
Abolish the knowledge and wisdom. Dig LaoTse #3, #48, #53, #65 ... there's no ambiguity on this at all.

The fact that they are flowing to us is Taoist in nature: How could that be different? Knowledge and wisdom is what people should get from their own experience, but they are so confused with something that looks like knowledge and something that looks like wisdom that they can't see the reality.

LaoTse #1. Where is this reality of yours? In the head? Illusion. In the world? Illusion.

The very concepts of knowledge and wisdom are what is blocking us from the truth. If we had already achieved true knowledge and wisdom, then these concepts would be almost unnecessary and almost meaningless, since everything we would do would be knowledgeable and be wise. That is not the case and that is why we care so much about what is knowledge and what is wisdom. That very fear, that very desire, is blocking us from getting it. This seems contradictory with the IfYouThinkYouCanAndYouTryVeryHard mentality. Actually, Taoism accepts all opposites as something good. Sometimes you need one, sometimes you need the opposite. Only a master knows which one to use in each case. And, of course, it depends on "A master on what subject?".


Once I'd figured it out I couldn't see why it looked so difficult before...

This is something that goes through my head often.

At the outset, when I know nothing about a field of Knowledge it looks complicated, difficult and daunting. However, once I'm familiar with it, I'm not mystified by the subject and it seems very simple.

It's not a huge leap to think that all ideas and concepts are in truth simple, it is Knowledge and Wisdom in the exterior sense that are mystified.

You could say a person who embraces the Tao overcomes the "Deafening Noise" of their own ignorance.

The general interpretation I give to Abolish the knowledge and wisdom is that knowledge and wisdom do not appear as such to the truly wise, all things surely appear simple, since in the Tao all things are simple, because this is their nature.

On one hand, it is self designation of the status, Knowledgeable and Wise, in an attempt to assert superiority and take advantage of the ignorant that I feel LaoTse is imploring us to abolish.

On the other, how many times have you heard another person say about a certain subject "I can't understand that, it's really difficult." If you know something about it, you'd probably say, "oh it's really quite simple" The struggle for that person in gaining some insight, is with their own doubts about their ability to gain Knowledge, or in other words the Deafening Noise of ignorance, and this is something that no-one else can do for them directly, they have to abolish the intimidating Knowledge & Wisdom for themselves. -- JasonMilkins


Taoism is about flow and harmony - my dog is a much better taoist than I am.

Why would people profit from wisdom? Because all people would benefit from the knowledge and the wisdom of a minority. Notice that this implies that there is a Taoist minority who take care of the rest and not of themselves. This is counter intuitive at first sight. What is best for me: To have very rich neighbors or having have poor neighbors. Probably neither, but the first scenario seems better than the second. If a minority were really knowledgeable and wise, they would not need to take advantage of the poor, in fact the poor would benefit from what knowledgeable and wise people would do.

LaoTse #77 suggests othewise. As for me, I've had rich neighbours and poor ones. Give me the poor ones any day.

Also notice that LaoTse is not really proposing to abolish some thoughts. He explicitly says to reduce the number of prohibitions and now he is doing WishfulThinking.

Yes, it's a straw-man.

Then the chapter goes on and on applying the same criteria over and over different subjects. Then the chapter ends with:

 Reveal your naked self and embrace your original nature;
 Bind your self-interest and control your ambition;
 Forget your habits and simplify your affairs.
Do not mind about what you should be, but how you feel, who you are, etc. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings. Know yourself. Then you will realize what other people think when they are in the same situation as you are. You will know them, because everybody thinks identically under the same circumstances. (This could be debated over and over, but Taoism thinks it is deterministic, in the same manner that GameTheory thinks it is deterministic).

GameTheory is about representing games formally so that you can prove theorems about 'em. That's it. Taoism doesn't say anything about determinism either. It's just about flow and harmony - anything else is a gloss.

Do not care about yourself and you will obtain everything you actually need. Control your ambition and you will succeed.

Forget your habits, since they are useless in new situations. Succeeding in new situations is like forgetting everything and starting over. Of course, then you will recognize patterns (or DesignPatterns if the new scenario is software) and probably will be able to apply old solutions to new problems. But always be careful and pay attention to details. Master what you are doing. Simplify your affairs, since if it is too complicated, then it means it will take too much time for you succeed.

Yes, and there's a GoProverb that comes closer still: "a meijin [top rank] knows no joseki [standard tactical patterns]".

Now Chapter 20:

 What is the difference between assent and denial?
 What is the difference between beautiful and ugly?
 What is the difference between fearsome and afraid?
Can you specify the difference so that a computer can understand. Mmmmhhh, most probably yes, but LaoTse implies that we can't. And even if we can, it does not matter. The explanation is further ahead.

Your computer understands the difference between assent and denial? Must be a very interesting computer you have there. If you could ask it to let the rest of us in on that, we'd avoid a lot of confusion ;-)

 The people are merry as if at a magnificent party
 Or playing in the park at springtime,
 But I am tranquil and wandering,
 Like a newborn before it learns to smile,
 Alone, with no true home.
This guy is a homeless wanderer, but he has everything he needs. If he has everything he needs, he is rich. While others who do not feel rich, think he is poor.

The newborn is important here. The newborn has all his life before him, to do wonderful things. So is this homeless wanderer. He has no desire in his heart, so he does not suffer.

Suffering and attachment are more buddhist concepts than taoist ones.

 The people have enough and to spare,
 Where I have nothing,
 And my heart is foolish,
 Muddled and cloudy.
His heart is foolish, muddled and cloudy in their eyes. -- (in their eyes? Where did that come from?)

I think you're missing something valuable by adding qualifiers. His heart is foolish, muddled and cloudy. Nothing wrong with that.

 The people are bright and certain,
 Where I am dim and confused;
 The people are clever and wise,
 Where I am dull and ignorant;
 Aimless as a wave drifting over the sea,
 Attached to nothing.
Inferior people are bright and always certain. They have no questions in their minds.

Inferior? Superior? What's the difference between those two?

Superior people do not feel bright and most probably they do not feel certain about everything. When they do feel certain about anything they're supposing too much and may be making mistakes, so acting as inferior people in the light of Taoism (or should I say darkness of Taoism? ;-).

The master is aimless, he has no purpose, he just follows the rules of the universe (a wave follows a rule of the universe).

The master does not feel attached to anything. He can give everything that he has, because he knows where to get more of the things he has, things that the rest do not appreciate.

I hope you liked that interpretation. -- GuillermoSchwarz

Not bad. But forget introducing extraneous concepts. Take it straight. Taoism is very simple.

Simple is the opposite of complex. Complex is just a big bunch of very simple things. Taoism can be applied onto anything, including itself. I wouldn't call that terribly simple, although I agree that all its rules are really simple. -- GuillermoSchwarz

Even though Taosim can be applied to itself it's still simple. -- JasonMilkins


Sometimes I regret what I have done. Then I realize that what I did was necessary. Regret is only something in my head, I always do the right thing according to what I think is right, there is no solution in regret. So why regret? Even regret is necessary sometimes, but that is just a feeling for me to be able to think it could have been different, while at the same time it could not according to my capabilities. Regret is something that only feel the ones who have not embraced the Tao. The ones who have embraced the Tao stop problems before they are real problems, so they have nothing to regret.

I see no point in discussing further because that would be a ViolentAgreement. Although you seem to imply that Taoism can't be applied to GameTheory and the like. What a pity, that's a small disagreement. We both agree that you don't need GameTheory to understand Taoism. But I think GameTheory is simpler than Taoism. You can master GameTheory, but you can't master Taoism. -- GuillermoSchwarz

Embracing the Tao is not about believing that you should avoid regret, either. If you believe something about the Tao, you are not embracing the Tao. It is not about belief.

Regret, like anything, can be a negative, but it is not inherently negative. Its purpose is to teach us to follow a different path in the future than we did in the past. If you reject all regret, you may be rejecting all learning.

Regret as a simple emotional reaction to events is not proof that someone has not embraced the Tao. Living daily in regret may well be.

-- DougMerritt

I agree, this has nothing to do with beliefs. What I believe is irrelevant; what's important is what actually happens. Embracing the Tao is not what I believe about the Tao, but that is the path you have to follow: if you don't believe anything, it is useless. If you believe anything about the Tao, you have not achieved your goal. Tough luck; the Tao is not useless, so you must believe something. It does not matter that you don't know everything, because nobody needs to know everything.

Regret of what I've done is a signal that I have not achieved the Tao. Regret of what other people do is also a signal, but a lot more subtle.

Having no regret at all can be a signal that I'm specially numb (or dumb), or that there is really nothing to regret.

-- GuillermoSchwarz

There really is nothing to regret... Regret isn't the same as learning. -- JasonMilkins


Contrast: TaoChiao
CategoryEasternThought

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