Tao Te Ching

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Alan D. Griffin's picture
Tao Te Ching

Tao Te Ching
By Alan D. Griffin
​I will attempt to show through the course of this chapter that the Tao Te Ching is a further evolution of the philosophies presented by Hinduism and Buddhism. I will first present the correlation between these three Eastern religions. Next, I will show examples presented in the Tao Te Ching of elaboration on the four Noble truths in Buddhism and the noble eightfold path. Lastly, I will show where the ideas in
Taoism and in particularly the Tao Te Ching differentiates itself from Buddhism in a progressive way into a philosophy that can stand on its own.
​ Buddhism led to Taoism in the same way Hinduism lead to Buddhism. The evolution of Eastern philosophy not only evolved through time but also geographically from west to east or from India to China. Hinduism created stages of life to live by in hope of finding a way to enlightenment and escape from karma and samsura. The second stage of life called grihashta meaning householder was implemented to have a time to fulfill desires and gather experiences so those desires would not bring about attachment to this world through regret and possibly lead to samsura. The third stage of life called vanaprastha meaning forest dweller was implemented to bring about detachment from the people and material belongings gathered in the previous stage of life. If you were able to do this you could then enter the fourth and final stage in life known as sannyasin meaning renouncer in hopes of breaking free from karma and samsura. The Buddha on the other hand saw the problem with this logic and realized going from householder which was a self-indulgent lifestyle to a forest dweller or ascetic life style brought about Dukkha or suffering and that lead to attachment and therefore lead to samsura. The Buddha came to the realization of the four noble truths which state that everything is in a state of suffering and suffering is caused by Tanah meaning desires. Detachment from desires would lead to detachment from suffering. You escape your desires from calm detachment by avoiding extremes of self-indulgence and asceticism also known as the middle way. The noble eightfold path is a broad outline of how to achieve the middle way. Lao Tzu took these philosophies to the next level by giving more detailed and rational thinking to the middle way or in his case just the way or Tao. Lao Tzu used the ideas of relativity and identity of opposites to reach the ultimate middle way of nonaction. The entire book of the Tao Te Ching is an illustration of how opposites are just different ways of describing the same thing and are subject to the relativity of the observer. The pattern of thinking and logic presented in the Tao Te Ching centers the reader between acceptance of the world and denouncement of the world which leads comfortably to a place of detachment and indifference. This frame of mind leads to nonaction. This is why Buddhism and Taoism can be used together with ease because they complement each other so well.
​There are several examples in the Tao Te Ching that reflect the four noble truths of Buddhism and the idea of Brahman in Hinduism. The Tao Te Ching is worded in such a way to make your mind center itself to between extremes. Chapter 22 in the Tao Te Ching has a great example of this it states “To yield is to be preserved whole. To be bent is to become straight. To be hollow is to be filled. To be tattered is to be renewed. To be in want is to possess. To have plenty is to be confused.” These are pinpointing ideas
which drive you to the middle way starting from two extremes. Another verse that establishes this train of thought is in chapter eighteen which says “On the decline of the great Tao, the doctrine of humanity and justice arose. When knowledge and cleverness appeared, great hypocrisy followed in its wake.” The Tao Te Ching takes the ideas of extremes discussed in Buddhism and changes it to the identity of opposites to make detachment from either easier to accomplish.
​ In chapter four the description of Tao is indistinguishable from a description of Brahman if you did not know the source of the quote. This quote is “Tao is a hollow vessel, and its use is inexhaustible! Fathomless! Like the fountain head of all things, its sharp edges rounded off, its tangles untied, its light tempered, its turmoil submerged, yet dark like deep water it seems to remain.” You can easily see how Eastern philosophy evolved from Hinduism into Buddhism and then perfected by Taoism.
​The Tao Te Ching and Taoism Separates from Buddhism and Hinduism by removing the importance of escape from karma and samsura, by concentrating its energy and focus on relativity and identity of opposites it reaches nonaction. Through nonaction you become detached without striving for detachment. The problem with Hinduism and Buddhism is that in striving for detachment you become attached. The Tao Te Ching in its passive approach and no mention of what comes next after this life detachment is receive with no effort or striving at all. And in the lack of striving you receive a lack of suffering. This is the main distinction between Taoism and the Eastern philosophies that came before it.

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Travis Hedglin's picture
Ack... Eastern Philosophy

Ack... Eastern Philosophy hurts my brain, it burns, it burns...

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