Free Lecture in Sinology: Life Preservation in Dao Thought

The philosophy of life in Taoist thought is so profound and wide-ranging that it is truly breathtaking. It is no wonder that many philosophers at home and abroad fall over it and regard it as the motto of standing up. We summarize it as the attitude towards life, the way of keeping good health, the outlook on nature, and the spiritual realm that Taoism pursues, and talk about our superficial understanding.

“Rebirth”, “precious life” and “health preservation” are an important part of Taoism’s entire philosophy system. It fully reflects Taoism’s great concern for life and real life. In this regard, Taoism have reached a height that other religions and other classical philosophies cannot reach. We always feel that the relevant philosophical concepts of Taoism in this respect are completely consistent and closely related to the goal of building a harmonious society and the guiding ideology of “people-oriented” that we advocate today. To guide people to arrange their lives rationally and wisely, to absorb the essence of Taoist philosophy of “rebirth”, “precious life” and “health preservation”, so that it can play its due positive role in the actual moral construction. It is modern Taoist thought and culture The researchers and the majority of Taoist believers cannot shirk the noble responsibility.

1. Taoist attitude towards life

According to the “Historical Records: Biographies of Lao Zhuang and Shen Dynasty”, Confucius once asked Lao Tzu for gifts, and Lao Tzu said: “A gentleman will drive when he has the right time, and he will do everything if he is not.” Later, Mencius, another representative of Confucianism, interprets it as “Darkness will benefit the world, and poorness will benefit the world”.

Based on this, we can conclude that the Taoist view of being in the world is not only “out of the world” but also “entry into the world”. Taoism has always advocated “helping the material benefit the people”, “helping the danger and helping the poor” and “pursuing great harmony”. “Entry into the WTO” should be no problem. The important thing is to correctly understand and grasp the “time” in Lao Tzu’s passage. We believe that the “time” mentioned here refers to opportunities, that is, the maturity of objective conditions. Possess certain objective conditions (including one’s own wisdom and abilities), and when the time is right, one should strive to do more merits and deeds, make contributions to society, and seek the well-being of the people in the world; if the objective conditions are not met, “no at the time, you should keep quiet, improve your physical and mental cultivation, and even create conditions to wait for the moment, without thinking about it or acting rashly. In short, on the issue of “being out of the world” and “entering the world”, Taoism respects “Let’s go with the flow”, that is, it does not violate the objective laws of everything and takes a scientific and practical attitude.

Reflected in the concrete standing and acting, it is “do nothing but do nothing”. The development and change of everything has its own laws, that is, the laws of nature. This is not dependent on people’s will. Such as the change of day and night, the change of seasons, the birth, old age, sickness and death of people, etc. Because of this, we cannot achieve anything without the interaction of subjective and objective conditions. There are often situations where we do a thing with a good subjective desire, but because the objective conditions are immature, the effect is counterproductive; many things are in front of us, because the maturity of the objective conditions is not the same, and some can be. Start to do it immediately, but some have to be put on hold for now. In this way, it seems that there is a master in the dark, yes, this is the “Tao”! “Tao” reflects the objective laws of nature, large and small. People can get the grace of nature if they can act according to objective laws; otherwise, they will be punished. But the “Tao” itself is “inaction”-it only manifests as an objective existence. In this way, the problem becomes clear. The key points of Lao Tzu’s “doing nothing without doing nothing”, “doing something” and “doing nothing” depend on the maturity of objective conditions, that is, the understanding and grasp of objective laws.

Under the guidance of this principle, Lao Tzu put forward three basic principles in the 67th chapter of Tao Te Ching, namely, the “kindness”, “thrifty” and “dare not dare” in Chapter 67. For the world first”. “Mutual kindness” means to treat all things kindly and reach the lofty state of non-personal life. In fact, this is also the manifestation of “kindness”. Nature has given all people and all living beings the right to survive and develop (called “natural human rights”), and “be kind to all things”, that is, follow and comply with the natural law of “the way of heaven and doing good.” The so-called “frugality” refers to diligence and frugality, which means that we should always maintain a simple nature. From the perspective of Tao, everything that we humans depend on for survival and reproduction are all gifts of nature and should be cherished. To spend extravagantly and violently against the heavens and things is to violate the “way” of nature and will surely take the blame. From another point of view, only by advocating frugality can we extol benevolence and do good deeds to a greater extent. “Don’t dare to be the first in the world”, we can understand it as the virtue of always remaining humble, which also means not daring to fight for the first for personal gain. In the seventh chapter of the “Tao De Jing”, Lao Tzu said: “The sky and the earth are long. The sky and the earth are long, because they do not live by themselves, so they can live forever. The sage leads behind the body and exists outside the body. “. Be humble, put one’s own fame and fortune behind others, but will gain people’s love and respect, and be in front of others; instead, if one’s own interests are ignored, they will be able to seek advantages and avoid disadvantages, seek safety and avoid dangers, and gain oneself. preservation. The reason why heaven and earth can exist for a long time is precisely because it does not grow by its own growth, that is, it does not grow by itself. As an individual, one should naturally follow the “Way of Heaven” and humbly retreat in the face of fame, wealth and selfish desires, so as to gain “beginning” and “presence” and truly embody the value of individual existence.

In “Xiaoyaoyou”, Zhuangzi set up such moral requirements and guidelines for us: “To man has no self, god and man have no merit, and saint has no name.” The general idea is that a person with noble morals (Zhuangzi calls it the “zhiren”) can transcend the boundary between foreign objects and self, and reach the state of selflessness; the spiritual world is full of people who are free from vulgarity (the so-called “shenren”). There is no existence of one’s own fame; people with perfect ideological realm (called “sages” by Zhuangzi) never pursue reputation and status. “Xiaoyaoyou” talks about “Xiaoyao” throughout. What is “Happy”? Happiness is the freedom of the soul. Nature is free, heaven and earth are free, and the spiritual realm of man should also be free. Everything, as long as you conform to nature and follow the universal laws of nature, you can be at ease. The problem lies in the fact that although human beings are only one of all things, they always want to transcend nature, be the master of nature, indulge in fame, wealth, and material desires, and thus have endless troubles. If you can take a correct position, obey and respect the laws of nature, and break free from fame and wealth, you will not be troubled by many worries and depressions, and you will fully enjoy your inherent spiritual freedom. This is the essence and thrust of Taoist philosophy of life.

Taoists looked up at astronomy, looked down at geography, and looked at personnel. They carefully observed and thought about everything in the vast universe, and gained extraordinary wisdom. Standing in the vast expanse of heaven and earth, looking up at everything, everything seems to be eternal; but it is endlessly busy and unpredictable, and it is difficult to see its true meaning. In fact, according to Taoists, this is called nature. It has its own laws of operation, and no one can control it, even nature does not control it! Starting from such a basic understanding to stand up and act, everything becomes logical, understandable, and unimpeded. This is the same as the Buddhist saying that “the heart is unobstructed, there is no obstruction, there is no terror, far away from inverted dreams, and ultimate Nirvana” (from “Maha Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra”).

2. Taoist health regime

Taoism advocates “precious life”, “rebirth” and “happy life”, which means that life is highly cherished; it also attaches great importance to the issue of “health preservation” and has constructed a whole set of systematic theories and methods on health preservation. From the Taoist perspective, there is nothing in the world that can restrict the innate life. Ge Hong, a famous scholar of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, once said, “My fate is my life.” Zhang Sanfeng, a nobleman in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, also said: “Blessings are for oneself, fate is for self-made”. Needless to say, Taoism pursues longevity, but this is by no means a vague and infinite fantasy. We can even think of this as a bold challenge to the limits of human life! It is very inappropriate to dismiss such reasonable pursuits and explorations as superstition and fantasies in general. The breakthroughs in the research of human genetics in contemporary science are enough to prove that the prolongation of human life does have unlimited potential, which needs to be explored and explored continuously. Looking at the problem from this perspective, the relevant discussions of the Taoists of the past dynasties are just the bold pioneering of the “life” and “life” learning, which is indispensable, and it still has a positive practical significance to this day.

What deserves our attention is the positive attitude of Taoism to care for and love life. Taoists focus on the exploration and research of the way of health preservation on the “unification of form and spirit” and “double cultivation of life and life”. According to Taoism, “sex” refers to the human mind; “fate” refers to the shape of the human body. The so-called “double cultivation of life and life” not only refers to the optimization of human physiological functions through physical fitness, so as to extend life as much as possible; it also refers to the purification of human soul through the cultivation of mind and nature to improve the value of life, that is, the quality of “life” . Lao Tzu said in the 54th chapter of the “Tao De Jing”: “If you cultivate in your body, your virtue is true; if you cultivate in your home, your virtue is more; if you cultivate in your home, your virtue is long; if you cultivate in your country, your virtue abundance; repair in the world, its virtue is pu”. Here, at least two meanings are embodied. One is the continuation of human society and individual life and the value of existence; the other is that to build morality, we must first start with me and spread it to home, town, country, and even the world. In this way, the meaning of cherishing life is further extended from the individual to the social function.

Zhuangzi believes that “cultivating one’s body and nurturing one’s nature” should focus on “nourishing one’s nature” and maintain inner peace, that is, the purification of the soul. In “The Great Master”, he said: “An ancient real person has no dreams, no worries, unwillingness to eat, and deep breath…. Those who have deep appetites have shallow secrets.” If you can keep your heart quiet, you can be undisturbed during the day and night (that is, if you don’t dream, you don’t feel worried”). On the contrary, if you are troubled by material desires, you will naturally get out of balance between your body and mind, and your yin and yang will be out of balance. In Zhuangzi’s view, a healthy mentality is of utmost importance to health preservation, because “body” and “mind” are actually a unity of opposites. How can we achieve a state of psychological balance and tranquility? Zhuangzi emphasized the word “forget”. That is, “the one who cultivates aspirations forgets the form, the one who cultivates the form forgets the profit, and the one who causes the Tao forgets the heart” (Zhuangzi’s “Let the King”). Forget your body, all the fame and fortune in the world, and the delusions in your heart, so as to achieve “introspection of the heart, the heart has no heart; the appearance of the shape, the shape has no shape; the distant view of the thing. The sublime realm of tranquility and emptiness of “nothing” will naturally lead to physical and mental health and achieve longevity.

Taoism pays attention to the cultivation of the “three treasures” of the human body, and believes that the human body has “three treasures inside” and “three treasures outside.” The inner three treasures refer to the person’s essence, vitality and soul; the outer three treasures refer to the ears, eyes and mouth. When practicing, we must pay attention to the internal and external response. If we don’t let the “three treasures of the inside” go out, we must block the desire of the “three treasures of the outside”. That is, the so-called “three treasures of the ears, eyes and mouths in the Zhouyi”. In fact, it is also equivalent to saying that if you can get rid of the temptation of fame, fortune, and hue from outside the world, you can achieve great success, keep your youth forever, and live forever. Depending on. In the “Quotations of Ma Danyang”, Ma Yu, the Gao Dao of the Jin Dynasty, made the content of Taoist self-cultivation more concrete. He said like this: “Thin taste is why you can nourish your qi, you can nourish your anger, so you can nourish your temperament, you can nourish your morals if you are humiliated, and you can nourish your morals if you are quiet and calm. Here, Ma Danyang pointed out for us four important aspects of self-cultivation, namely “nourishing qi”, “nurturing nature”, “nurturing virtue” and “nourishing Dao”. We are required to be “thin taste”, “to get rid of anger”, to be indifferent to “low humiliation”, and to reach the highest level of enlightenment “Tao” with a “quiet and tranquil” mentality. If we can do this, we can naturally also “live forever”. Look at it.

At the same time, Taoism does not reject the physical fitness effects of physical training and medical treatment, such as scientific exercises and martial arts exercises. Many of the great virtues are, in fact, famous doctors who have made outstanding contributions to traditional medicine, such as Zhang Zhongjing, Sun Simiao, Ge Hong, Gu Huan and so on.

We always feel that the regime advocated by Taoism is very different from the traditional Western regimen. The latter focuses on food hygiene and physical exercise; while Taoism focuses more on the cultivation of the whole body and mind, and advocates “sex function”, that is, psychological control, in order to achieve the highest state of “the unity of nature and man” and “the integration of Tao and me”. . Fortunately, with the advancement and development of medical science, people’s understanding has become more comprehensive and rational. Modern medicine has begun to actively advocate “psychotherapy”, and finally found a point of fit with our Taoist traditional health regimen. This should be said to be a great improvement.

3. Taoist view of nature

Man comes from the vast expanse of nature, and nature has given mankind everything for survival and reproduction; and nature has its laws of natural operation, which we humans must follow. Since the development of human society in the long famine years, all the achievements have been obtained by consciously or unconsciously following the laws of nature. Today, because we cannot follow the laws of nature well and do not cherish our living environment, we have suffered ecological problems that endanger the world. The root cause is undoubtedly the inability of human beings to treat nature well, and greedily ask for it for their own selfishness, without considering it to protect and reward. We can even say that the greatest manifestation of human greed and selfishness is the wanton trampling and plundering of the nature that nurtures us. Retaliation from nature is inevitable, and it can also be said to be reasonable. On this issue, we cannot help but admire the foresight of Taoist philosophers. Taoism believes that man and nature are an organically isomorphic whole, are mutually inductive, and have a sympathetic relationship of karma; they even further clearly realize that man must depend on nature to survive. Therefore, “the way of nature cannot be violated”. As early as more than 2500 years ago, the founder of Taoism, Lao Tzu, wrote in Chapter 32 of the Tao Te Ching: “Heaven and earth are in harmony, so that the rain will fall, and the people will be equal.” The yin and yang in the heaven and the earth are in harmony, and the upper and lower senses are connected, and the energetic qi is generated, which turns into nectar and benevolent, nourishes all things, and benefits all beings in the world regardless of thickness. Only then will there be a vibrant world. Thousands of years have passed. Reading it, you can still really feel that our gray-haired philosopher wrote this text with deep gratitude to nature. Lao Tzu’s successor, Zhuang Zi, compared nature to the great master and the great emperor who ruled everything in his “Great Master” and “Emperor Ying”. Only by conforming to the laws of nature can humans gain real happiness and thus entering the realm of happiness.

In “On Qiwu”, Zhuangzi also said: “Heaven and earth live side by side with me, and everything is one with me.” It is believed that the heaven and the earth (that is, nature) are interdependent and coexisting with us human beings. This not only embodies the cherishment of mankind itself, but also emphasizes the objective fact that mankind and nature are integrated and coexist, and contains a deep love for nature. We can completely understand that this is exactly the deep and sincere call and meaningful warning of this great philosopher as early as 2,300 years ago to the people of future generations! Let us consciously take care of all life forms in nature, and live in symbiosis with all things in nature forever. In this way, Zhuangzi organically integrated the Taoist philosophy of life and natural philosophy, which is a vivid embodiment of the philosophy of “the harmony between man and nature” and the scientific outlook on nature that Taoism has repeatedly advocated.

The successors of Taoism have continuously enriched and concretized this philosophy of “the unity of man and nature”, giving full play to the great idea of ​​caring for all living beings and caring for the living environment. In the “Tai Ping Jing”, there is a passage: “If a person has a benevolent heart, and no longer hurts all things lightly, the sky is the joy, and the earth is the joy.” Taoism has always advocated “kindness and harmony”, requiring people not only to be kind and peaceful to their own kind (that is, others), but also to all things in nature, all living things and beings with the same kindness, and treat them equally and share the same. Enjoy the love of heaven and earth and the gift of nature. If this can be done, the “heaven” and “earth” will also be happy, and will be more favored by nature. We believe that such an insight does not contain any element of superstition, but a poetic expression of objective truth. In “Tai Shang Induction Chapter”, we also warned us like this: “Accumulate virtue and work hard, be kind to things, insects and vegetation, never hurt.” Taoism believes that if people want to achieve long life, they should accumulate merits, that is, do more good deeds, do more good deeds, enrich one’s soul, perfect one’s own cultivation, that is, “to benefit all beings.” And this “beings” includes not only all people, but also “things”, that is, all living beings including insects, plants, and trees. The reason is very simple, because they are also natural creations, equal to us human beings, and there is no distinction between noble and inferior, and there is no relationship between slavery and enslavement, possession and possession. The problem still lies in the arrogance, ignorance, greed and dominance of our human beings. We always pretend to be the ruler of nature, thinking that everything in the heaven and earth should be taken for granted by ourselves and squandered and enjoyed; but fundamentally. I don’t understand that the rule of nature, if any, can only be “Tao”, that is, an objective law that cannot be violated! As a result, due to people’s arrogance and arrogance, evil consequences inevitably appeared. The natural environment on which we live was extremely destroyed. After we finally woke up, we finally found that the flowers were blooming and beautiful. The colorful, boundless world of vitality has been trampled on by our human beings, devastated and devastated! Therefore, the issue of protecting the ecological environment is seriously and realistically placed before us.

Taoist philosophers’ indoctrination on coordinating the relationship between man and nature still has great enlightenment and warning to this day.

Spiritual realm of Taoism

The spiritual realm that Taoism requires us to achieve, in a nutshell, is “quiet and inaction, tranquility and lack of desire.” This is what the “Tao De Jing” said “to create emptiness and keep quiet.” It should be emphatically pointed out that the “inaction” mentioned here does not mean doing nothing or doing nothing, but refers to mastering the essential characteristics of everything in the world and the laws of motion, and not doing things that violate the laws of operation of everything.

Jing refers to the extreme of selflessness and emptiness; quiet refers to the control of “Jing” without being confused by foreign objects. To grasp life at such a height, naturally there is no worry and confusion. In terms of its essence, “clearness” and “quietness”, and even “inaction”, embody selflessness. Being able to make one’s mind empty and clear, surpassing the fame and fortune of the world, and reaching the realm of “selflessness” or even “selflessness” is in line with the requirements of “Tao”. For specific people who advocate “Tao”, they can also make their mentality become open-minded, relaxed, natural, and contented, and enter the realm of freedom of “communication with the world alone”.

Reflected in our individual moral cultivation, it is “cultivation of the mind.” The so-called cultivating the mind refers to maintaining a simple, clear and pure heart, and cultivating a pure heart. Changyue, the emperor of the Qing dynasty, stated in the “Longmen Heart Law”, “Time is easy to pass, and the mind should be bright…. If you have a past, you must change it. It is all based on precepts and practice. There are thousands of methods and cultivation. The heart is supreme. If you want to enter the land of immortality, you must be clear and wise early.

Precepts can be strong and wisdom is born. Think carefully and keep the precepts first.” The “quit” mentioned here means that people are required to abstain from the expansion of selfish desires and the excessive pursuit of material interests. The noble people respected by Taoism are often indifferent to fame and wealth and material enjoyment and pursue spiritual comfort and harmony. During the Wei and Jin Dynasties, Ji Kang said in his “Theories on the Difficulty of Keeping in Good Health in Da Xiang Ziqi”, “Ming Dahe is the most enjoyable, but the glory is not enough; if the calmness is the most flavor, the wine is not enough to drink. Whatever you enjoy is dung and earthy ears, so love you.” How chic and detached! This is the true meaning of “emptiness” and “stillness”. In “Liezi·Tianrui”, he pointedly pointed out this way: “If it is not by its name, it is not as static or as emptiness. Stillness is also empty, and it has its place; taking it and also loses its place.” Taoist people are pursuing and yearning for the supreme realm of “emptiness” and “quiet”; what they dismiss is the material “acquisition” and “and” that some people excessively pursue. That’s why Lao Tzu said: “Although there is a view of glory, the place of Yan is detached.” The “transcendence” mentioned here refers to the “transcendence”; in fact, the more important thing is to transcend the self, which is the “non-self” mentioned earlier. In terms of the attitude that should be held for the understanding of everything in “no-self” means being able to forget the existence of oneself and stand outside the “self” to treat and examine everything. If this can be done, there will be no self gain and loss, success and failure, honor and disgrace, or even life and death. What Taoism is pursuing is the most unrestrained spiritual state where no one has no self, no one knows the subject, and no one knows the object—“regardless of spring, summer, winter and autumn”!

Here, it is necessary to talk about the Taoist belief in immortals. Taoism respects gods and pursues the supreme state of immortals, but the gods believed in Taoism are not illusory, mysterious, unpredictable and unattainable elves and weirdness, but the infinite extension and sublimation of the individual spirit of life in the real world. “Heaven and man are connected” and “Heaven and man are united”. There is no insurmountable boundary between man and god. Therefore, Taoists have always believed that “to become immortal and Buddha always depends on human beings” and “to cultivate immortality and humanity first” , “The gods were originally made by mortals.” In fact, many Taoist “gods” and “immortals” often have their own people in history. They either have excellent moral character themselves or have made outstanding contributions to the development of society, thus winning a wide range of people’s attention. Respect and love, so he became a god. Some, even ordinary people, are revered as gods because of their immense merit. For example, Mazu, the sea god who is widely admired by the people on both sides of the strait, is a kind and simple fisherwoman, but she has also entered the realm of gods. I always feel that the Taoist gods have a sense of intimacy and charisma. They are personified, and they are fundamentally different from the awe-inspiring and majestic gods in other religions.

The philosophical system of Taoism is deeply rooted in the long historical process of China and Chinese nation. It should be said that it is most suitable for China’s national conditions. It takes the realistic life as the starting point, and in the process of pursuing the ideal and beautiful state of immortality, it is committed to the reasonable construction of the real world and the spirit of personality. This is a perfect combination of the ideal and reality of “harmony between man and nature”.

The changes in the form of social life, the increasing fulfilment of material life, and even the renewal of the concept of time and space have caused those of us living in the world to face an extremely serious and urgent problem that needs to be solved, namely, how to adjust and balance in such rapid development. The relationship between self and society and nature, to put it bluntly, is how to improve the norms and constraints of self’s social behavior in the new situation and new environment, so as to further enrich our material life while further enriching our spiritual life makes it more fulfilling and perfect. Taoist philosophy and Taoism, rooted in the fertile soil of China, have fully absorbed the essence of Chinese traditional culture. Over the past thousands of years, they have made inestimable contributions to the progress and development of society. In the future, they will surely build new morals. Play its due role. Of course, the exertion of this positive role also needs the unremitting efforts of the vast number of Taoist cultural researchers and Taoists.

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