Tao Te Ching chapter 20 - empty mind

Discussion in 'Eastern Religions and Philosophies' started by IowaGuy, Nov 2, 2011.

  1. IowaGuy

    IowaGuy Hunter-Gatherer

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    Thanks to an earlier link from SG, I've been contemplating the Tao Te Ching. I'm curious to discuss an idea from chapter 20: "I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty"

    I have read similar concepts in other Eastern writings. Krishnamurti taught of the importance of an empty mind, without the clutter of beliefs and knowledge. Buddhism also talks of emptiness of views and opinions. I'm reminded of the parable where the wise sage pours tea into the professor's cup until it overflows and keeps on pouring, to illustrate how we can't learn new concepts without an "empty cup".

    But I am struggling with how to apply this particular wisdom to my daily life. Maybe I'm too ingrained in the "Western" idea that knowledge is good. I tend to think of the Sage as a wise old Socrates or Aristotle or Einstein type, one whose mind if filled with knowledge and can discuss various philosophies, sciences, and religious views; not like an "idiot" with an empty mind.

    Anyone willing to share how they apply the Taoism/Buddhism concept of "empty mind" to their daily life or personal belief system?

    How does knowledge (which I have always viewed as a good thing) relate to the concept of "empty mind"?
     
  2. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Poem – The centipede
    by Mrs Edmund Craster (d. 1874)


    A centipede was happy quite,
    Until a toad in fun
    Said ‘Pray which leg moves after which ?
    This raised her doubts to such a pitch
    She fell exhausted in a ditch,
    Not knowing how to run.

    While lying in this plight,
    A ray of sunshine caught her sight;
    She dwelt upon its beauties long,
    Till breaking into happy song,
    Unthinking she began to run,
    And quite forgot the croakers fun.
     
  3. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Chapter 21 addresses this in not clinging to ideas--"being agnostic."

    from your above link:
    The Master keeps her mind
    always at one with the Tao;
    that is what gives her her radiance.

    The Tao is ungraspable.
    How can her mind be at one with it?
    Because she doesn't cling to ideas.

    The Tao is dark and unfathomable.
    How can it make her radiant?
    Because she lets it.

    Since before time and space were,
    the Tao is.
    It is beyond is and is not.
    How do I know this is true?
    I look inside myself and see.
     
  4. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    "Anyone willing to share how they apply the Taoism/Buddhism concept of "empty mind" to their daily life or personal belief system?"

    --> This is how it was explained to me: We must continue to do good work, but we must learn to do good for good's sake, and not let it affect us in anyway. The biggest example is, we must not do good in order to get any reward for it. We must not do good even because it makes us feel good. We must do good, then turn and walk away, without deriving any benefit from what we have done.
     
  5. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

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    This is perhaps not connected to the intended subject, but when I think of 'empty mind' I remember having great difficulty understanding the good in lack of knowledge. Until I read this passage.

     
  6. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Speaking of the Japanese:

    Mushin (no-mind)

    Related to Taoist "flow"
     
  7. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    ah, a thread after my own heart (beleive it or not, I know I come off as virtually worshiping knowledge). Knowledge should support action-in-the-world (solving problems, making things better). But action-in-the-world should always be in accordance with value, the good. Wisdom is integration of good with knowledge and action-in-the-world. One does this with a mind not focused on memories or hopes but rather on at-one-ment.

    Jees, just don't ask me to try to 'splain in scientific terms!

    Pax et amore omnia vincunt!
     
  8. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Ever watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? There is a scene where Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) talks about doing martial arts effortlessly. I wish I had the exact quote right now, but it seems like the same concept.
     
  9. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    It is. (As a martial arts student, myself.)
     
  10. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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  11. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    My sen-sei never went into the theory behind it. In fact, more often than not, he kept theory away from me, as I was quick to develop the above mentioned "centipede syndrome" if he fed me any theory. Without theory, I could usually learn the correct form of a move easily in one or two tries.

    (He even conditioned me in Zen in this manner, carefully sneaking the Zen into the lessons, to my utter ignorance at the time!) :eek:

    Snoopy has been kind enough to provide me with much of the Zen vocabulary as the concepts come up.
     
  12. IowaGuy

    IowaGuy Hunter-Gatherer

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    OK, this "no-mind" or "unconscious comptence" concept sounds similar to when I play a piano composition from memory and I don't even think about where my hands are on the keyboard. So I can see how it applies to my physical actions in life.

    But how does this "empty mind" concept apply to knowledge and the desire to learn? Does more or less knowledge negatively impact one's ability to have an "empty mind"? Does an "idiot" have more of an empty mind than Einstein/Aristotle? Or is "empty mind" independent of how much knowledge we have/how full our cup is.

    If knowledge is to be used in the pursuit of wisdom as in Bushido's teachings, how do we know whether our knowledge is "good" or "bad"? i.e. I have been able to apply knowledge towards things in life that I never thought possible at the time of learning; sometimes I don't know the practical application of particular knowledge until much later in life.

    Is all knowledge good? Or is there "bad" knowledge and "good" knowledge? Is knowledge good as long as we don't cling to it, as suggested in Tao Te Ching chapter 21?

    I always feel like there is so much to learn in this world, so much that I don't understand. But then I read something like Tao/Buddhism "empty mind" and feel maybe I shouldn't be trying to learn so much!
     
  13. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    As compared to mushin, we have Shoshin
    The not clinging part, as well as "being in the dark" could be compared to Zanshin
     
  14. IowaGuy

    IowaGuy Hunter-Gatherer

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    SG, you certainly have a lot of knowledge, and I appreciate your input on these threads. Do you feel like you have an empty mind, like an "idiot" ? (per TTC chapter 20)?
     
  15. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

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    I always feel uncomfortable when broaching the subject of intelligence or lack there of, it is perhaps because I have feel stupid during my school years. It took time to leave the concept of more or less intelligent, but very liberating.
    So I would perhaps say that some of us use our mind in some ways and and others in other ways. It can be problematic, when learning spiritual principles, to use our mind the same ways as when trying to learn more mundane things. Especially eastern philosophies have some fluffy concepts that in some ways should be accepted and not understood. Understanding comes later.
    It is important to remember that I'm speaking more theoretically since I have little experience on the subject...apart from using my mind "too much".
     
  16. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Not only an idiot, but a clueless idiot! {I need all the help I can get!}
     
  17. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Let us form a club.... "the clueless ones", for I, too, feel that way often!
     
  18. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    *doh* **plants ice cream cone in own forehead** ;)
     
  19. DrumR

    DrumR New Member

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    Green!
    My clew is Variegated Green.
    I need only reach for my pouch
    to be very close to the clew
    Wearing my pouch
    I am clew less no more.

    TTC#70
    "My words are very easy to understand."
    and very easy to practice."
    "Yet the world cannot understand them
    nor practice them."
    ......

    So there still remain
    so many clew-less people in this world.
    Better to seek out to the sewing notions,
    Pick a color,
    to be clew-less no more.
     
  20. Lunitik

    Lunitik Interfaith Forums

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    This is certainly something which must be practiced, for mind wishes to assert all the time. It is not that knowledge is bad though, it is that you should be in control as to when to use it. You should not permit mind to conclude in its ways, you should not permit mind to be the master. When knowledge is needed, use it, you would be a fool not to, but for watching a sunset or looking at a flower, what is the need for mind to come in? Use mind when it is needed, otherwise do not, it is not an either or - do you think these people have written in a state of no-mind? It is simply to permit your being as the master instead of mind for it is more subtle but more fulfilling, and meditation can assist in this... meditation itself is the state of no-mind, and should be in all your actions eventually, but at first you must learn the state.
     

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