Tao and God

Discussion in 'Tao' started by iBrian, Mar 7, 2004.

  1. Tungp'o

    Tungp'o New Member

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    I’m new to the forum and was drawn to this discussion on Tao and God. I’m not an expert on Taoism, though Taoism plays a large part in my development in the spiritual and philosophical realm.



    It’s not uncommon to see a similarity with the Christian idea of God and the Tao. Some say that they are one in the same thing, but opinions differ greatly when compared with other Taoist sects and writings. I think the biggest question most readers of Taoist philosophy ask is, “Is the Toa personal or impersonal?”



    It’s an important question because if the Tao is impersonal than it’s not the same as the Biblical God of the Jewish and Christian faith. Indeed many have denied that Tao is personal and many Taoist masters have stated that Tao is indeed an impersonal force.



    Why then the debate over the similarities with Christianity’s concept of God and Tao? The Tao Te Ching is the reason why many see personal attributes to Tao. In the field of philosophical Taoism, truly Lao Tzu is the father of this school of thought. Taoism existed long before Lao Tzu, but with the advent of the Tao Te Ching Taoism became a system of thought others could follow.



    Later on you have Chang Tzu and his classics. It’s in Chang Tzu’s teachings that the idea of Tao as being impersonal is really developed, not that it isn’t hinted at in the Tao Te Ching, but Chang Tzu goes into depth as to the impersonal nature of Tao. This conception of Tao is more instep with Buddhist ideas, that a all embracing force would be neither good nor evil. This doesn’t mean Chang Tzu was Buddhist, but it does mark a departure from Lao Tzu in the philosophical model of Tao.



    Now the argument that the God of the Judaism and Christianity could not be the Tao is based upon the fact that it is explicitly stated that God is righteousness, goodness, light, est…and would exclude him as the source from which all existence originated. This is a valid point, after all there is both good and evil in the world the Yin and Yang, or is it?



    · Now this is my own theory and I have a long way to go to validate it in any scholarly context, so please excuse me for its short comings.



    In Christianity, Judaism, and Islamic teachings God displays both positive and negative attributes. The Lord is love and judgment a positive and negative in one. If you will remember Yin and Yang is “Positive” and “Negative” this does not mean to say a negative is “Evil”, but that negative and positive in balance is needed for life and growth. That’s why Satan in scripture is not depicted as the opposite of God, but a mere creation. That is why the idea of a single living God- and not two opposite gods forever balancing each other into harmony – is the basis of Christian, Jewish ,and Islamic faith. Tao is not the interplay of Tin and Yang, but the source from which the two arose.



    However, these are only some of my insights into the study of Taoism as a philosophy.

    I have some other information on my small homepage under "links" is anyone would like to make some coments. As I said its not perfect, but I would like to learn more about Taoism and the truths that it holds.

    www.templerock.zoomshare.com
     
  2. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    just an aside..


    both the Jewish and Islamic faith state that God is not a "personal" God. that is, in some respects, a completely Christian idea. generally speaking, their view is that words and so forth are mere approximations and are not and cannot represent that which is beyond representation.

    of course... humans being what they are... that hardly seems to stop them :)

    welcome to the forum, Tungp'o :)

    enjoy your stay.
     
  3. theocritus

    theocritus New Member

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    That is been my biggest problem in accepting Christianity for myself. To attach a personality to some thing such as God, source, Way, or what ever you want to call it seems very egotistical of us to do. At the same time it is tough for us in our modern society to not think of some thing with out personality.
     
  4. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste theocritus,

    thank you for the post.

    that is a very difficult thing to overcome.

    frankly, i find that there is some value in using these ideas, if it can be borne in mind that these are tools, approximations which do not, actually, correspond with anything other than our ideas about something.

    if one can bear this in mind, i think that there is less of a worry than if one starts to think that their thoughts about a subject actually indicate the nature of said subject... if that makes sense :)
     
  5. earl

    earl ?

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    I whole-heartedly agree! In fact, of course, this same thing could be & is said by Buddhists regarding the self. Take care, Earl
     
  6. theocritus

    theocritus New Member

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    I agree with this wholeheartedly as well. Most "western" religions (i.e. Christianity) I feel loose touch with that and focus on these personalities or their hierarchical system that some have.

    You find that not all my post has my entire idea out. Personal problem I have with words. I'm a techy geek that is great with computers but words and I don't get a long the greats.

    Thanks for the topic of discussion.
     
  7. Tungp'o

    Tungp'o New Member

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    [QUOTE Vajradhara]just an aside..

    "both the Jewish and Islamic faith state that God is not a "personal" God. that is, in some respects, a completely Christian idea. generally speaking, their view is that words and so forth are mere approximations and are not and cannot represent that which is beyond representation.



    The Jewish faith does have reference to a personal deity. If you look in the Old Testament ( the teachings of the Torah that Judaism uses) you’ll find in Psalms specific imagery to the concept of a personal God.

    "Oh Lord my God, in thee do I trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me:

    I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, Oh God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech."

    Psalms 7:1 & 17:6


    I’m not sure what you mean by personal? I use personal in meaning: relating to the parts of somebody’s life that are private. I don’t think that I am out a place in making that point. Also the notion that a personal God is a uniquely Christian idea is a false one. Were do you think the Christians got the idea of a personal God from. Remember Christianity did rise up from the teachings of Judaism, so they are not unrelated in this regard.

    But I degrees from the point I made. Also, I would be cautious about criticizing another attempt to talk about one faith in relation to another ( i.e. Christianity and Taoism) both are unique to each other, but at the same time not completely foreign to each other.

    New Member

    Theocritus Said:

    "To attach a personality to some thing such as God, source, Way, or what ever you want to call it seems very egotistical of us to do."

    It’s not egotistical to use familiar concepts to explain different ideas. We don’t all proscribe to the same metaphysics, nor do we use the same viewpoint. During the apostolic age early churches existed in ancient China and have been recently unearth. References of Christian ideas and theology were written in Taoist and Buddhist terminology. It was still the same concepts just different perceptive.
     
  8. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Tungp'o,

    thank you for the post.


    just a note... the Old Testament is not the same as the Torah. moreover, the written Torah is not the Oral Torah, which is the real authority. the written words are, in Judaism much like in Buddhism, simply guide posts to help orient the human mind towards that which is beyond conception.

    thus, they will use allegory and metaphor.

    what i mean to be saying by "personal deity" is that a) it is anthropormorphic and b) that this being interacts in a personal way with each sentient being.

    for reference:

    G-d is Incorporeal



    Although many places in scripture and Talmud speak of various parts of G-d's body (the Hand of G-d, G-d's wings, etc.) or speak of G-d in anthropomorphic terms (G-d walking in the garden of Eden, G-d laying tefillin, etc.), Judaism firmly maintains that G-d has no body. Any reference to G-d's body is simply a figure of speech, a means of making G-d's actions more comprehensible to beings living in a material world. Much of Rambam's Guide for the Perplexed is devoted to explaining each of these anthropomorphic references and proving that they should be understood figuratively. We are forbidden to represent G-d in a physical form. That is considered idolatry. The sin of the Golden Calf incident was not that the people chose another deity, but that they tried to represent G-d in a physical form.

    http://www.jewfaq.org/g-d.htm

    basically, the Christians didn't have the same exegsis of the teachings and thus, were not able to determine which teachings were meant to be taken figuratively, thus, they have come to view G!D has having form, definate attributes and so forth.

    as the referenced passage indicates, in Judaism, this is actually considered to be idolatry.

    i don't think that i asserted that it was uniquely Christian, however, it certainly has no basis in Jewish thought. within the Semetic traditions, the idea of a personal God is a Christian idea. there are plenty of other religous paths, however, that view deity as a personal God.

    of course, one is reminded of a discussion between Joseph Campbell and a Catholic priest.

    JC: do you believe in a personal God?

    CP: yes.

    JC: if so, what need is their for faith?

    CP: how about those Red Sox?

    i suspect that we will probably disagree on this :) but that is ok, we don't have to agree with every each other says to have a discussion, do we?
     
  9. Zazen

    Zazen New Member

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    i think many have a misunderstanding of what is really important. some said in this thread, the god of the christians is not the god of islam or of judaism. this imo is not the way to look at it, because each of these religions and their followers do not follow a figure head they place their faith in the holy spirit, which is to say the "heavenly father" or the source, which is the meaning of heavenly father, the transcendental source of your spirit.


    jesus says, you cannot get through the father but through me. this is the same as taoists and their view on meditation. how can you wish to achieve wisdom without a focused mind? i dont think it is possible. the almost "dogmatic" faith of the christians and jews and islams is just another method of placing faith in the transcendental source which is what all religions and in this case daoism teaches.

    i really dont think much else matters besides that. the fact of every religion is to have faith, faith in the teaching, faith in everything thought or action etc it all boils down to faith in the vehicle. you can look at it at any angle you wish, the holy trinity, the concepts of yin/yang, bagua, wuji etc etc they all bring the practitioner to the same enlightened state
     
  10. Tungp'o

    Tungp'o New Member

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    I would have to agree with that assessment. Zazan I think got at the heart of the discussion without being prompted to.
     
  11. Kelcie

    Kelcie Kelcie

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    Hi Zazen,

    I agree, however I think it is more "awareness" than faith. The un-manifested Tao or the Tao that is constant has limitless ways of expressing itself in the manifest. Our "awareness" as it unfolds will then perceive what remains constant in all doctrines despite the labels we give it. Despite what man has made them out to be.

    Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism etc are fine examples that demonstrate just some of the limitless ways the un-manifested Tao expresses itself.

    For me in each doctrine, philosophy, or religion, there is the essence of the unmanifested Tao, or "that which cannot be spoken". What labels we choose to give it is subject to where we are at on our path and subject to our understanding of the Tao. Whether we name it God or Tao, I agree it makes no difference, the function is the same in all religions, philosophies, and doctrines and that is to lead us to truth. (my interpretation of enlightenment)

    Kelcie:)
     
  12. Satanist

    Satanist New Member

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    Is Tao, the way of the universe monistic?

    The God is a "one" just becouse it is attatched to a monist universe(one principe)
    and therefore its a monotheistic God.

    Furthermore a monotheistic god does not have to be Christian anymore than it has to bee good in order to be monotheistic.

    A monotheistic God would only have the presonality of the universe(as the religion believe it is) it is attached to.
     
  13. killmyprince

    killmyprince New Member

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    The Tao is not God in the sense that it actively creates. You cannot say that the Tao woke up one day and meant to oversee the creation of a billion things, because it didn't. What the Tao really did was generate one thing, which generated another, and another, and another. Most senses of God direct to the idea that God personally put some effort in shaping the way that creations turned out and thus, was an active creator.

    In addition, the Tao doesn't preside, or have an air of authority, over the Universe. It is, essentially, the Universe itself. It does not make laws or rules. It is like a glob of slime, it just flows in whichever way that it happens to flow without a lot of definition. So any morality or physics that it has, it does not have of its own choice. It merely is (sort of like how we have 4 limbs, we didn't choose it, but that's how we are).
     
  14. Zazen

    Zazen New Member

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    "The Tao is not God in the sense that it actively creates. You cannot say that the Tao woke up one day and meant to oversee the creation of a billion things, because it didn't. What the Tao really did was generate one thing, which generated another, and another, and another. Most senses of God direct to the idea that God personally put some effort in shaping the way that creations turned out and thus, was an active creator."

    in the classics, it states from the tao came yin/yang, from yin/yang came bagua, from bagua came the 10,000 myriad beings. i think you need to have a better grasp of what your describeing before you decide to speak intelligently about what the tao does and doesnt do. understand because the message is transmitted in a different manner, does it make it different?

    the real truth herein isnt how christianity and taoism are similar or dissimilar in their depth, scope, philosophical schools or teachings. moreso, how the tao and god reveal themselves and the role they play to the adherant of the said religion. for what would taoism be without the tao? what would christianity be without jehovah?

    "In addition, the Tao doesn't preside, or have an air of authority, over the Universe. It is, essentially, the Universe itself. It does not make laws or rules. It is like a glob of slime, it just flows in whichever way that it happens to flow without a lot of definition. So any morality or physics that it has, it does not have of its own choice. It merely is (sort of like how we have 4 limbs, we didn't choose it, but that's how we are)."

    i see, so really, in the end this 'glob of slime' created what we see around us. the ancient sages of taoism gave the ancient chinese rules of conduct, moral code and ethics for social and government from observing this reality, and that has no bearing on the fact that it all stems from tao? riddle me this then, if taoism "is how it is" how are you to claim what it isnt?

    i think you need to get past some barriers before you can truly comprehend what is being discussed, taoism is alot more then the superficial mess you seem to be clinging to, and thats not a personal attack, merely an observation of your statements.
     
  15. jiii

    jiii ...

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    I read the post that started this thread, and admittedly, it seems that the last dozen or so replies in the four-page listing have gotten pretty far away from the original question. This is to be expected, of course, in a discussion forum. However, I would like to address the original question once again.

    Ultimately, I believe that it is a mistake to equate the Tao with God for a few different reasons.

    Firstly, there is a problem with the language of spirituality that confuses the entire issue. 'God' IS a Judeo-Christian term specifically, indicating the Judeo-Christian conceptions of God. Many people, I believe, confuse the words 'God' and 'god', where the latter is a very general term that is attached to the deities of any religion from Hinduism to Roman pantheism to tribal/native cultures. In fact, it is specifically the similarity between 'God' and 'god' that has led to so many European dissertations on non-Christian religion, as well as European translations of non-Chrisitian spiritual books, to be somewhat flaky and arguably corrupt. For instance, many translations of the Taoist book 'Chuang Tzu' have been dubbed academically incorrect because words like 'Heaven' are absolutely NOT words that existed in ancient China in ANY sense that they exist in a European culture that is rooted so firmly in Judeo-Christian ideas. So when a translator puts the words 'heavenly glory' into the mouth of Chuang-Tzu and Lieh-Tzu, he is really taking a kind of artistic license in an effort to keep translations roughly as long as the original texts. Chinese terms like 'tzu-jan', 'kuan', 'jen' and 'shen' remain relatively elusive for translators because they simply stem from an entirely different set of roots in understanding the world than we know in the West. There are simply no appropriate one word translations for many ancient Chinese spiritual words, and oftentimes many pages could be dedicated to trying to outline their meaning in English properly.

    Second, Tao is absolutely NOT 'God' or 'a god' in the purest sense of the term. Only Westerners, who are constantly trying to understand other religions by hastily fitting them into a Christian framework, will believe otherwise. Why do I say this? I have read a few different translations of Lao-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu, and Lieh-Tzu and cannot recall a single instance in which anyone spoke of the Tao as 'a god'. True, people are spoken of as 'worshipping the Tao', but again, it is a reflection of a man that cannot step out of his Christian-influenced worldview to see that not all things worshipped have to be cognates of 'God', or a god at all. If a man worships money, that does not make money a god except in a very sarcastic sense used to belittle his passions. If a man worships his homeland (as many do), this also does not make his homeland in anyway a cognate of God or a god. The fact that the Tao was worshipped does not, in any way, mean that it should correspond to our concept of gods, and especially 'God' as the Christians know Him.

    There is a language barrier between ancient Chinese and modern English. Many Chinese words, especially those relating to spirituality, simply do not have appropriate cognates in English. This doesn't mean that we can't understand them, but that condensing a translation of them into a few words is ludicrous, and can only be done if we substitute for the unintelligible sections a pre-formed Christian ideal. This is why entire books are written in the English language with the singular goal of defining 'Tao' (I realize that 'defining Tao' is contrary to the Taoist attitude, but that hasn't stopped us from trying).

    I suppose that the real question is, what's more important in this context...sameness or seperateness? The Tao has this, and only this, in common with Christianity: they are both religions. Even in this, though, the two differed. The traditional Christian attitude is that religion should be disseminated far and wide. The ideal Christian world, in a traditional sense that is, is a world where everyone practices Christianity. The ideal Taoist world, on the other hand, is a world where people have no religion. That is not to say a world where everyone is an atheist; remember, 'atheist' is a Christian term that did NOT exist in ancient China. The Taoists felt that the moment religion became a seperate entity from a man's life, to be then accepted, rejected, or modified, he had already fallen from grace...because there was no way of intentionally being 'holy' in the Taoist perspective. 'Holiness' was 'suchness'...'of itself'-ness.

    These are two COMPLETELY DIFFERENT attitudes. Ultimately, though, they end up in similar places. The fact of the matter is, you don't need to equate these two to understand them. 'God' is not Tao, and likewise Tao certainly isn't 'God'. To argue otherwise is to blur the real meanings of these religions and confuse their genuine attitude, instead desiring to construct a personal spiritual philosophy which, although perhaps very profound, is not the same as two religions from which it was deduced.
     
  16. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Good post, jiii - thanks for that. :)

    I think a particular point I tried to raise earlier in the thread is that the concept of "God" is breaking very much away from traditional usage as equating to a being that must be worshipped - hence I guess why some people try to move into a different vocabulary, such as Universal Consciousness/ Divine Oneness, etc.
     
  17. i'm just a man.

    i'm just a man. New Member

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    The Tao That Can Be Told Is Not The Eternal Tao- The Name That Can Be Named Is Not The Eternal Name- The Nameless Is The Beginning Of Heaven And Earth....

    Who Are You, I Am.
     
  18. Tien Kou

    Tien Kou philosophical phool

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    Hi all, just thought I'd say hi and make a small comment of my own on the matter of Tao and God. Obviously, it can be said that the Tao and god cannot be completely synnonymous due to cultural and historical reasons. However, it is true also that there is, regardless of culture, an innate understanding that there is so much in thhis world that we are ignorant of and will never understand. Whilst each culture tries to define that beyond our comprehension differently, we must also try and understand the divine nature within ourselves. lol, not as small a comment as I intended. once I pop, i just cant stop. :D
     
  19. cavalier

    cavalier New Member

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    A short aside
    It seems that on this site there's a fair amount of westerner-bashing. I've read a few comments by people that seem to endorse a view that eastern thought and eastern thinkers are in some way superior, I find this a little irritating. With regards to the above quote, how is that you think Eastern people understand Western religions?






    This is just not true, it is only some Christians view of a perfect world.
    Someone once told me about the head of the Anglican church in India(possibly by now the previous head of the Church). When someone goes to see him with a spiritual problem, he tells them to first try to find the answers within their own religion.
     
  20. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    You know, if regarded as a koan, the above makes perfect sense.
    If viewed from the dreaded "western" philosophic, linear dynamic we can make erudite argument indefinitely.
    If I were a zen disciple of old, and asked my master this question, I would be struck repeatedly with his staff ( I hate when that happens).

    So when asked I think the answer would be a resounding "yes" or an inscrutable "no" depending on who asked, and when. Nicht Wahr?:)

    Peace
    Mark
     

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