20 February 2009

Thoughts on the Tao of Dao

Over at the Useless Tree, there are some very good posts discussing the nature of the Tao (Dao) and the I-Ching (Yijing):

Is Dao the Sum of All De?
Teaching the Yi Jing (I Ching)

Asking "What is Dao?" is not particularly useful. There's no conceptual answer that encompasses all that Dao is. And even putting a name to it (Dao) changes the nature of what it is. Since I've been reading Heidegger, I was somewhat tempted to identify Dao with "the nature of being," but Dao is also the nature of nonbeing. Dao is everything and in everything, and Dao is nothing and in Nothing.

A contrast with the traditional Abrahamic god might be useful... Usually, this god is described as "omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omniscient." Dao is not omnibenevolent. It just is; that's all. All things, both good* and bad*, meet in Dao. Omnipotence is no match for the power of doing nothing, which belongs to Dao. As for omniscience... what is there to know? Does the river need to know the law of gravity that pulls it down to the valley? Dao allows, where a god must forcibly "create." Dao notices and is aware of, where a god must "know". In Dao, there is no good* or evil*, as all things are One, where a god must separate and distinguish.

*If these labels even exist, one has already fallen away from Dao. To call Dao "good" is either meaningless or an insult, and quite possibly both. When all things flow as One, there can be no good or bad, but only being. When the flow stops, when it breaks, that is where good and evil can arise. At least, that's my limited understanding of it.


donna said...

I would say it is more when one forgets the principles of the Tao, one perceives good and evil. If one is with the Tao, then evil has no opportunity to enter, and good is more or less irrelevant.

Qalmlea said...

I both agree and disagree... which is probably typical of me. I agree with the overall idea, but the particular words used to express it don't quite work for me (then again, these aren't easy things to put into words).

"evil has no opportunity to enter" sounds too much like evil has an existence independent of people, but, to my mind, it exists only in the perceptions, intents, and actions of people. *shrugs*