Power & the Tao Te Ching

Due on
December 20, 2017



 


“Trying to understand is like straining through muddy water. Have the patience to wait! Be still and allow the mud to settle.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Using the Tao Te Ching as your sole source, define how power is defined for at least one of the three schools of Taoisms: Efficient, Augmented, or Vicarious.

Your initial response should supply a quote from the text as well as your analysis. 

When responding to another’s response, you should either support or argue against their interpretation by utilizing a further quote as well as supplying more analysis.

 

Comments

  1. In the practice of Philosophical Taoism there is a belief that the amount of te (power) an individual is allotted in life is finite, and thus, one must expand it efficiently. In essence, Philosophical Taoists try not to expend their te on unnecessary actions. Philosophical Taoists look to nature and it’s inherent ebb and flow as a guide to achieve this mean in their own lives. Moreover, water is considered the closest nature element to the Tao: “The highest good is like water. ​Water give life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.​ It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao” (5). While being the giver of life, water does not strive (make an effort to achieve or obtain anything), but nevertheless is able to flow into all places whether hidden or not. Taoists try to cultivate this same effect through a sort of active inaction in which the ego yields to a higher power. Similar to Hinduism and Buddhism, one must look past the finite self in order to become in tune with the flow of life: “Empty yourself of everything. ​Let the mind become still. ​The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return. ​They grow and flourish and then return to the source. ​Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature” (8).

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    1. Your explanation makes complete sense to me and I just wanted to add another quote that supports your claims: "Just do what needs to be done. ​
Never take advantage of power." (16). The Philosophical Taoists not only believe that in one's own life you should be like water, but also when interacting and using your power over others. They expand their reasonings to the concept of government and rulers.

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    2. Isabelle, your response is strong and I agree with many points you made. You could add even more to your argument by possibly mentioning how to become one with the Tao. There is a small excerpt in the Tao Te Ching that gives a philisophical way and some guidelines that I believe could help if you were to add this. That excerpt is: "Knowing constancy is insight. Not knowing constancy leads to disaster. Knowing constancy, the mind is open. With an open mind, you will be openhearted. Being openhearted, you will act royally. Being royal, you will attain the divine. Being divine, you will be at one with the Tao." (8-9). I personally believe that this could strenghten your argument because it could give readers a basic understanding of how to become one with the Tao, what is your opinion?

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    3. Grahman, I think your interpretation of your supplied quote is valid. I would take it one step further and say that overall being consistent in your behavior, particularly that of inaction and “going with the flow” is the basis of Taoism. It is only through continual self improvement that one can open their minds to the Tao.

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    4. Graham "Grahman" BryerDecember 19, 2017 at 10:15 PM

      I do agree with you Isabelle, what you supply in your response such as: "only through continual self improvement that one can open their minds to the Tao" would definitely take it a step further. Also, I like how you fused Graham and Brahman together, creating the legendary "Grahman." Not to worry though ladies, please don't fight over me, I'm more than enough man for all of you.

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    5. “Grahman,” in this particularly instance I accepted the “go with the flow” mentality as propagated by Taoist teachings. Your name continually got autocorrected to Brahman, so I accepted this and simply put the two names together.

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  2. In the “school” of Taoism that describes Tao as Augmented Power, the goal is to increase ones own supply of Tao rather than conserving a small amount. This leads one to constantly be searching for Tao, rather than being satisfied with a small amount. As the Tao Te Ching states, “Observers of the Tao do not seek fulfillment. ​Not seeking fulfillment, they are not swayed by desire for change. ” (8) This is the belief of the Augmented power Taoists, that one will never be truly fulfilled until they release their own ambitions and desires and become one with Tao. These Taoists will try virtually everything to obtain more power, searching in food, sexual acts, breathing experiments, dance and meditation. They believe that by drawing Tao to oneself and then radiating it to others is the most successful way to obtain the most power.

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    1. Summer, I think you provide an incredibly sound interpretation of how Augmented Power is represented in the Tao Te Ching. I think you could further connect how certain practices of Augmented Power, such as breathing exercises, connect to the Tao. As the Tao Te Ching explains, “It is not wise to rush about. ​Controlling the breath causes strain. ​If too much energy is used, exhaustion follows. ​This is not the way of Tao. ​Whatever is contrary to Tao will not last long” (28). I think this quote would benefit your argument as it showcases that only when one has patience and is able to look past their physical needs can they connect with the Tao, and practice the aspects of Augmented Power that increases their own power.

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    2. Summer, you provide a clear and understandable explanation of the augmented power. I like this quote from section fifty-three of the reading, “If I have even just a little sense, ​
I will walk on the main road and my only fear ​will be of straying from it. ​Keeping to the main road is easy, ​But people love to be sidetracked.” (Pg 26) This explains further on what you said about fulfillment and becoming one with the Tao. One should want to create a lifetime of Tao which is the right way to power.

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    3. Summer I’m not entirely sure I agree with your claim. I believe that Tao is a path through life. And I agree that people search for Tao of sorts. But they can’t increase their supply of it and being unsatisfied with it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. As the Tao Te Ching says “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.” (pg 2)

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  3. Efficient Power is about saving up te, contrary to the other powers. Efficient power, also known as philosophical Taoism, is all about going with the “flow” while still standing true to moral values. It is more of an outlook on life than a religion. If you are a philosophical Taoist and you, for example, want to sit in the front of a class, you would not come to class early to insure a seat in the front, but rather come to class when you should and see if it is the will of the world to leave a seat open in the front for you. “Cut doors and windows for a room; ​It is the holes which make it useful. ​Therefore benefit comes from what is there; ​Usefulness from what is not there.” (6). A Philosophical Taoist does not need to benefit from the world, but be useful to it. Philosophical Taoists act this way because they seek to save up te because the believe you begin with a set amount and it deteriorates from there. By simply going with the “flow”, no te is expended.

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    1. Connor, through your use of examples you illustrate the idea of Efficient Power very effectively. However, I believe you could further expand on the idea of why “going with the flow” is the most desirable option beyond conserving te. The Tao Te Ching asserts that, “He who acts defeats his own purpose; ​He who grasps loses. ​The sage does not act, and so is not defeated. ​He does not grasp and therefore does not lose” (32-33). This establishes the idea that if one does not grasp for anything they will not find themselves thwarted.

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    2. While I agree with most of your claims made about Efficient Power, I understood their philosophy not as the Tao deteriorating through life, but just avoiding the desire to gain more. "The Tao is elusive and intangible" (​10). They believe that Tao is unobtainable and difficult to achieve, not a specific thing that you are born with.

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    3. Connor, you do use good examples of power in the Philosophical Taoist ways, however, I feel you could even strengthen it by providing examples of people actually involved within Philosophical Taoism, such as a sage, which would provide another strong example to support your claim. Somewhat adding to Isabelle's response to yours, you could add more examples of "going with the flow," such as: "The sage does not attempt anything very big, and thus achieved greatness." (32). That excerpt would help, as well as this one: "Because the sage always confronts difficulties, he never experiences them." (32). Those excerpts would help because they provide more examples of "going with the flow," such as not attempting anything very big and always dealing with difficulties resulting in them not being difficult. This is just my interpretation of course, but I think they would be beneficial for your argument. Do you agree?

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    4. Connor the way you describe the Efficient Power path sounds like they are trying to actively avoid spending their te. As if they’re “hoarding it. “ But i believe it’s more of them trying to find the perfect balance (ying yang) and not be wasteful. As the Tao Te Ching says “So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind; ​
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily; ​
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness; Sometimes one is up and sometimes down. Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.” (pg. 16)

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  4. In Philosophical Taoism, power (or te), is believed to be limited. Practicers believe that one must expand their te to others effectively and efficiently. This could be compared to everyday life activities, such as filling the gas tank in your car. This is because in since you have a limited gas tank, you should use it slowly, effectively and efficiently. Philosophical Taoists also believe water to be a model for their believes. This is because water flows and strives slowly but is efficient as well. For example, if water flows slowly at a mountain ridge, it will eventually carve its way into it and create a work of art. It may take a while, but the outcome is much better than doing something such as blowing it up. Philosophical Taoists have other examples of how to represent their believes as well, such as: "Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt. Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it. Claim wealth and titles, and disaster will follow. Retire when the work is done. This is the way of heaven." (5). Those are all great examples of how Philosophical Taoists portray their believes because if you don't use your te efficiently, your blade will blunt, you won't be able to protect your treasure of gold and jade, claiming wealth and titles will be futile in the long run, and so on. Looking past yourself and becoming one with the Tao is also a concept of Philosophical Taoism, such as not thinking of yourself all the time, deciding not to have the dessert, or the donuts, or ask questions that begin with "what if" to sastify your own curiosity. (Or confuse other people). Philosophical Taoists also believe that becoming one with the Tao is eternal: "Being at one with the Tao is eternal. And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away." (9). This implies that Tao is essentially the equivalent of other blissful places such as Nirvana and Heaven.

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    1. While I think your understanding of Tao is essentially correct, I disagree that Tao is described as similar to Nirvana or Heaven. Tao is more similar to one's own Atman, guiding them through life and providing energy and power. “The greatest form has no shape; ​
The Tao is hidden and without name. ​
The Tao alone nourishes and brings everything to fulfillment” (22). This describes Tao as something that provides energy (such as the gas in your car) rather than a final goal at the end of one's life as Nirvana and Heaven are described.

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    2. Indeed Summer, thank your for your interpretation. Now that I think about it, I now am beginning to think that you are right in the sense that Tao is more of one's own Atman, rather than Nirvana or Heaven. If you did not say that, I would have kept thinking that the Tao is more of something one strives to achieve rather than something that guides them through life and providing energy. I can now interpret the Tao in a different and more understanding way.

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    3. Graham, while I agree with your claims I think your argument would benefit if you delineated the way in which Philosophical Taoists conserve their te, particularly through inaction. This idea of active inaction is present through out the Tao Te Chung, for example, “Tao abides in non-action, ​Yet nothing is left undone” (19). This quote incapsulates this idea as it showcases that while seemingly doing nothing you are leaving nothing undone as you are in tune with the flow of the universe.

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    4. Summer, I agree with your disagreeing with Grahaman's claim that Tao is as defined as Nirvana or Heaven. Tao has a sort mysticism about it that leaves it open to the interpretation to Taoists. As it is said in the Tao Te Ching, it is “the gate to all mystery ” (One)

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    5. While I do disagree with Tao being some kind of Nirvana or Heaven, it does have some other similarities to Buddhism and Hinduism. “There is no greater sin than desire, ​
No greater curse than discontent, ​
No greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself.” (23). In all forms of Toaism, in order to conserve or create more Te, it is important that one does not put him/herself first, which is similar to how in Buddhism and Hinduism complete illimination of the self was necessary.

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    6. Graham, I enjoyed reading you're thoughts and examples on Taoism. Your quote from page nine of the text is used in a way that I hadn't thought of, however I do agree with others that have commented you're interpretation may not be fully correct. That being said it's good to be able to read others thoughts and interpretations because I had thought of it the same way at one time.

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  5. The augmented power of Taoism is focused on hygiene and the yogas. They work with matter, movement, and the mind within life. They work with breathing, and physical arts such as t’ai chi, in order to bring themselves closer with ch’i. The people who follow this school do not believe in instant gratification, but instead search for a lifetime of power. An example of this is section nine of the text, “Better to stop short than fill to the brim. ​Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt. ​Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it. ​Claim wealth and titles, and disaster will follow. ​Retire when the work is done. ​This is the way of heaven.” (Pg. 5) This quote explains how one should spend their lifetime searching and not seek the satisfaction of filling one small thing at a time. Another example of this school is in section twenty-eight of the reading, “Be an example to the world! ​Being an example to the world, ​Ever true and unwavering, ​Return to the infinite.” (Pg 15) This says that one should obtain power by being unwavering, meaning that one’s personality should remain steady and unchanging. If one was to seek out the things, actions or events which cause them to seek out the finite world, then they would not gain the power from those events. Power is gained over a lifetime. “Achieve results, ​But never glory in them. ​Achieve results, ​But never boast. ​Achieve results, ​But never be proud. ​Achieve results, ​Because this is the natural way. ​Achieve results, ​But not through violence.” (Pg 16) This quote from section thirty of the Tao Te Ching explains the proper way for a Taoist to achieve and be successful, without using achievement as instantaneous power.


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    2. Sahara, I feel as though you neglected to stress one key aspect of Augmented Taoism. Augmented Taoists are eternally consuming, attempting to increase their power. “That which shrinks ​must first expand” (Thirty-Six). Instead of preserving what they have, they are continuously searching for ways to obtain more.

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  6. Tao means “the way.” However, there is no one true way in Taoism. One way, or school, in particular, is Efficient Taoism. This is a path of conservation and preservation of Te. The principles of this path are that it is “better to stop short than fill to the brim. ​Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt ” (Nine). This is a key point that makes it differ from Augmented Taoism, which encourages increasing and consuming Te. If one is to continuously attempt to increase their Te, it will turn into an insatiable desire that will soon result in their overall Te being weakened. Efficient Taoism teaches that one must learn to go wherever life takes it. One who truly abides by this way of Taoism is “guided by what he feels and not by what he sees. He lets go of that and chooses this” (Twelve). They possess the patience and tranquility to be in touch with the world, and ebb and flow with how the world moves around them. Along with this ideal of going with the flow, acceptance follows suit. “Accept disgrace willingly. ​Accept misfortune as the human condition” (Thirteen). In order for someone to flow freely as a river, they must be accepting of whatever comes their way. Whatever the obstacle may be, it can be eroded with time if one possesses the patience and efficiency of this school of Taoism.

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  7. The augmented power path in Taoism is about rather than making their consumption of te more efficient, it’s about trying to draw it from external sources. Such as breathing exercises, yoga, what you eat, or acupuncture. But even though they seek to replenish their te, that doesn’t mean they are wasteful of what they already have. According to followers of the Tao, "These are extra food and unnecessary luggage. They do not bring happiness. ​Therefore followers of the Tao avoid them.”(pg12-13)

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    1. I agree with ReAnna's interpretation of Efficient Power. The best way to conserve Te is to just accept what is happening. “Less and less is done ​
Until non-action is achieved. ​
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. The world is ruled by letting things take their course. ​
It cannot be ruled by interfering.” (24). This quote sums up the idea of Effecient Power. One must accept the will of the world and roll with wear it takes them and not fight the current.

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