Tao and God

earl

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Paladin said:
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
Reminds me of one of the typically inscrutable, yet simple replies that the late founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, Shunryu Suzuki, would give questioners on topics related to Zen teachings: "Not necessarily so." Good to see you back/around Paladin.:) Earl
 

earl

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If you tell me there's a God, 1 smack with the kyusaku stick. If you tell me there's no God, 1 smack with the stick:D How do you realize God while walking the Tao-Way? Have a good one, earl;)
 

Tao_Equus

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jiii said:
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.



Very good post. So good infact I was almost tempted to agree with it!! But I have read the thread through a few times since then, had time to let the dough of my thoughts rise etc.

So with respect for what you have said I would say that the differences between Eastern and Western thoughts are not at all different. We are all Humanity and the Tao/G_d existed well in advance of us.

I had a partner once, she was a skilled illustrator/artist. Part of the reason we never worked out was that we never saw the same thing. She saw that which made things different, I saw that which connected one thing to another. I would humbly suggest you are of her type of nature.

I believe that Tao and G_d are one and the same. Just as the Tao is fundamentaly unknowable, ungraspable by our feeble capacities so is G_d. The difference between the Tao and monotheistic 'G_d' is more akin to the difference between science and religion than between two distinct religions. Tao is in other words more a science, a way to understand our inability to define and express G_d, where as religion is a way to pay homage to the principle. But at the very core G_d must conform to the Tao, or G_d is the Tao. I think both are true.

Kind regards

David
 
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Tao_Equus said:
Very good post. So good infact I was almost tempted to agree with it!! But I have read the thread through a few times since then, had time to let the dough of my thoughts rise etc.

So with respect for what you have said I would say that the differences between Eastern and Western thoughts are not at all different. We are all Humanity and the Tao/G_d existed well in advance of us.

I had a partner once, she was a skilled illustrator/artist. Part of the reason we never worked out was that we never saw the same thing. She saw that which made things different, I saw that which connected one thing to another. I would humbly suggest you are of her type of nature.

I believe that Tao and G_d are one and the same. Just as the Tao is fundamentaly unknowable, ungraspable by our feeble capacities so is G_d. The difference between the Tao and monotheistic 'G_d' is more akin to the difference between science and religion than between two distinct religions. Tao is in other words more a science, a way to understand our inability to define and express G_d, where as religion is a way to pay homage to the principle. But at the very core G_d must conform to the Tao, or G_d is the Tao. I think both are true.

Kind regards

David

Well, I'm afraid I'll have to agree with you both! If you strip God down to his undershorts it looks a lot like the ungraspable no-thing that the Tao represents. But I think that the Title God has too much baggage to represent the "suchness" that Jii is referrring to. That said, I very often borrow the term God and use it for conveneince to mean what is essentially, in my mind, the Tao.

Chris
 

AletheiaRivers

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China Cat Sunflower said:
That said, I very often borrow the term God and use it for conveneince to mean what is essentially, in my mind, the Tao.

Yup. Me too. Although I do believe God is "personal," (meaning that I do not think God is impersonal). Heh. Makes sense. :rolleyes:
 

jiii

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It has been a while since I've looked at this thread, and I've noticed that one of my entries was quoted a few times with some further commentary. I feel compelled to add some notes based on these further discussions.

Firstly, 'cavalier' mentioned my post in the context of 'westerner bashing', which is far from the point I was making. I never put down Westerners as a group, as a collective consciousness, as a society, or anything else for that matter. My point was simple: Westerners are notorious for attempting to understand world religion through the framework of Christianity, rather than approaching such things with a mind open to a faith or spiritual doctrine that may be totally unfamiliar in anything but its distant philosophical implications. This is not even a bad thing, necessarily, unless one's goal is to understand a religion in its original light. People tend to forget that so much writing about Eastern religion such as Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism are really best understood as philosophical investigations. They yield, as I mentioned in my old post, profound grounds for a comparative understanding. However, it is a mistake to confuse these almost purely conceptual philosphies based on religious practices with the religion itself.

'Cavalier' also mentioned my comment that follows: 'The ideal Christian world, in a traditional sense that is, is a world where everyone practices Christianity.' This is a simple case of the use of loose language and generalization, which must be allowed for when discussing topics so broad and general as 'Does God equate to Tao?'. What I was referring to with that statement was the general attitude toward dissemination in Christian religion as opposed to most Eastern traditions. Taoists show little interest at any point in history of attempting to convert, recruit, or in any way actively seek out adherents. This attitude is nearly unheard of in Taoism. Conversely, Christianity takes a certain amount of fulfillment in spreading God's word. Missions to do so have been going on all over the world for hundreds of years. If 'cavalier' considers this point to be bogus, or to be insulting to Christians, I am lost for a reason as to how that is so. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with either inclination.

Furthermore, it should go without saying that there are obviously many Christians that this attitude of spreading one's faith certainly does not appeal to. But, they are either in the relative minority or their viewpoint has not yet been absorbed by the mainstream religion, and thus prominent features of the Catholic/Christian faith, in general, do not correspond to MANY adherent individuals' perspectives. This is inevitable. Not every individual adherent in the world can be taken into account when discussing religion. There is simpy too much variation. Does this mean our answer will, in turn, be just as general? Yes. But, again, that is to be expected...this is a VERY general question we are talking about here.

Finally, it is true that Christianity and Taoism have something in common outside their both being religions, but this is a tricky point. Christianity came to be called Christianity, in the first place, to distinguish itself from other religious and philosophical views. The same can reasonably be said about using the term Taoism (though, there are many types of Taoism that are different from each other, an in-depth exploration of these types is outside the scope of this topic). We are talking about terms that are used to separate these religious traditions from others...terms that are SUPPOSED to highlight the differences between them so that we might be able to tell them apart with certainty. In that respect, Tao is NOT God.

'Tao Equus' mentioned: 'I believe that Tao and God are one and the same. Just as the Tao is fundamentaly unknowable, ungraspable by our feeble capacities so is God.' Indeed, this is a perceptive sentiment. But again, this correspondence doesn't mean that 'God' and 'Tao' are the same simply because they both aren't purportedly graspable. Many things aren't graspable...air is not graspable, 'pi' is not graspable, Confucius' jen is not graspable (he refused to ever define it). For that matter, Bertrand Russel, in his book 'The Problems of Philosophy', went into great detail demonstrating that even the 'reality' of a simple wooden table was completely ungraspable and mysterious. If everything that is ungraspable is to be called equivalent to Tao and to God, then ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING is Tao AND God, simultaneously. Of course, people that are purists of these religions, in any sense, will hotly debate this topic, and with good cause. The bottom line is, if everything is God, then God is no longer monotheistic...he becomes a strange pantheistic ('pagan') deity. Taoism, for that matter, becomes a religion that irresponsibly ignores the definite and concrete existence of a divine creator. These comparative conclusions create far-reaching, contradictory implications that obliterate the uniqueness of the two different religions, and deny them them their character. This assumption reduces all things characteristically Christian or Taoist to a homogenous, palatable dust so that we can consume them without having to pick through strange lumps. But this kind of disintegration of the uniqueness of each religion is simply unnecessary, and works mostly to obscure and suppress the living, breathing spirit of actual adherents of Christianity and Taoism.

There is, nonetheless, a world where God and Tao are the same thing...it is the world that exists when nobody is trying to determine if God and Tao are the same thing. The prescence of Taoists in the world in no way inherently encroaches on the prescence of Christians in the world, and vice versa. The two are the same not in that ANYTHING concerning their beliefs 'matches'. Rather, these beliefs, which are specific to each religion, were created for the purpose of elaborating how that particular religion was different, and for illuminating the unique characteristics of each that make it worthy of being a stand-alone religion. Christian teachings elaborate the Christian view, Taoist teachings elaborate the Taoist view. Rather, these two are the same in that they grew out of the same ungraspable Universe, and the same green planet.

Are the lilies of Matthew 6:28 the same flowers as the revered cherry tree blossoms in the Asia? No, they are comletely different. Lillies don't have cherries, one is a tree and the other is a plant, they have totally different distributions, different appearances, different growth rates, require different conditions, and live for different amounts of time.

A lilly is NOT a cherry tree...no matter how you cut it. There is no unity there, at least not to the naked eye or the grasping mind. Unity can only be realized when it is seen that both cherry blossoms and lilies grow out of the same blue and green sphere of water and soil we call Earth. Thus, their unity is not implied by their name or by categorizing or philosophizing about them. Their unity is the silence in which one considers them before they have been sequestered from each other as denomial entities which are bound to express them in a mutually-exclusive light, therefore creating the illusory proposition that a reconciliation is required between the two. Such a reconciliation cannot be reached, because the religious entities it seeks to enjoin are already united in this world. All additional efforts are mostly just so many philosophical growths upon their surface, clumsily trying to form conceptual bridges between the two.

So, in closing, I will say this: if Tao and God can be equated, in would be a shame to say so. This is because if there is any relevance in speaking about that which is ungraspable, it is in that of the ungraspable and completely unspoken unity of two completely different spiritual traditions that grew out of the same globe of soil.
 

Blizzardry

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I'm going to risk a couple of whacks of the stick here :)

Nobody made this stuff up. Nobody sat down and thought "I know a good idea for a religion". This is the stuff of experience. Abraham talked with God, Moses met him in the desert, the heavens were opened and Jesus remembered who he was and God spoke to him. Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster and all the ancient Chinese sages and hindu Buddhas, the prophets of small religions and all of them, really, actually had an experience of something bigger than they were calling them friend, or son, or at least being personal to them in particular.

When we feel a presence, be it unconditional love raining from the heavens, or the Kundalini shooting us up to heaven, or doves coming down, or magical transportations to Mecca, we tend to personalise the experience as a Sky Father, or an Earth Mother, or an Eternal Oneness, or being awakened to the illusory nature of reality because that's what it feels like.

Different cultures, different mythologies, but it all comes down to something. You felt something in there (or out there) that changed your life, cleansed you of sin, guilt or bad karma, gave you a path to walk towards and a responsibility to the common man or zeal to preach the good news you've found, or set your people free. Congratulations, you are now a sage, prophet, born-again, rebirthing buddha shaman healer, guru or whatever.

At any rates, you've found the way, the truth and the light. I am a person, so the Tao is a person, so God is a person. If not, then not. Probably both. I really don't think Christianity's origins are that different to Taoism. The message to live by are almost identical. It's just the dogmatic explanations of the experience that are different.

But I'm just a solipsist, so I can believe everything anyway...
 

Snoopy

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They may even be Calvinist Kleins... Or "Why" fronts?


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s.
 

Ciel

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Am reminded of a favourite Bobby Dylan quote........

Even the president of the united states sometimes must stand naked....

- c -

:)
 

MeditationMom

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How about this?

God is God

Tao is Tao

There is no God,
But God

There is no Tao,
But Tao

If I watch deeply within myself when I think the word "God", I feel something different than when I think the word "Tao".

When both "God" and "Tao" disappear, they are the same.
 

DrumR

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Have far can it be read that the Tao can be equated with God?

By that I don;t mean the "human personality" of God as some viewpoints would have God - as much as the deeper, more abstract, "God as an unknown" perception.

Does it really make sense to equate Tao with the Concept of God to some degree? Or is the entire matter of a relationship one of semantics, and therefore meaningless?


Just my Tao_pence worth...

Examine the introductions of the Tao Teh Ching and the Genesis chapter of the Bible (KJV), primarily the first few sentences, and it is from this point that I do not find a "scriptural" relationship that would support Tao = God. Far from it, the relationship may be paraphrased as:

"In the Beginning was the Tao and all was right and proper. Then this "God-thing" precipitated from the Tao and started the process of separating and categorizing other "things" which resulted in the destructive distillation of all things Tao."

But then again it could be just as easily said <insert something here>.
:cool:
 
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