dao scholasticism

Chinese characters for "scholasticism"

woman stands against backdrop, play with light and shadow

Ocean inside a skull-cup,

Seeking the universal code in letters.
The mind is like a flower on icy water:
An eye within the petals.

The intellect is one of the thorniest problems for a spiritual aspirant. One cannot do without it—indeed, it is essential—and yet one cannot allow it to remain totally dominant. The intellect must be fully developed before it is brought to a point of neutrality. Unless this is done, it will act as a block, and there will not be any ultimate spiritual success.

Scholarship is thus an important first step. Education is a means of gaining access to the conventional world, of satisfying our curiosity, and of avoiding superstitious tendencies. There can be no talk of delving into philosophical mysteries if one has not even satisfied one’s curiosity about nature, civilization, mathematics, and language. But once mental cultivation is achieved, one must focus increasingly on a part of the mind that is far beyond the scholarly.

The intellect uses discrimination, categorization, and dualistic distinctions in highly sophisticated ways. By contrast, spiritual contemplation involves no discrimination, no categorization, and no dualism, so it has very little need for scholasticism. It is pure action that requires the totality of our inner beings. It needs pure involvement, not mere study. The proper use of the intellect is to give it free play, develop it to an extraordinary degree, and yet to leave it behind when spiritual action is required. A sage knows how to balance and combine both.


365 Tao
Daily Meditations
Deng Ming-Dao
ISBN: 0-06-250223-9

Kuang Jian 2000
Oil on canvas 56" x 42"

Kuang Jian
Kuang Jian was born in 1961 in Hefei City, Anhui province. He began studying art privately in 1974 and in 1979 was accepted into the Academy of Arts of the People's Liberation Army, Beijing. Since his graduation in 1983 he has been an art director for the Army Day Movie Studio, Beijing. He was awarded the Bronze prize at the Seventh National Exhibition in 1989 and has participated in shows in Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Germany. He currently resides in Beijing.

Inventory #: KJ-0005
© Kuang Jian license one time use only

Stanford Studies on Daoism

Definition of "Daoism"

A clear definition of Daoism is difficult because of the complex twists in its development as it played its role in the long history of China. Even the coining of the term creates ambiguity about what to count as its doctrine. Three to seven centuries after they were supposed to have lived, Han dynasty (around 100 BC) historians named six schools of classical thought -- Confucian, Mohist, Yin-yang, Legalist, Daoist and school of names. They coined the term dao-jia (way-school) or (dao-de jia) (way and virtue school) and came to identify Laozi and Zhuangzi as paradigms of the study of dao way.

"Legalist" and Huang-Lao thought were at the time dominating intellectual life. The historians who coined the term "Daoism" were probably thinking of Huang-Lao content when they introduced the term, but they came to fix its reference by pointing to Lao-Zhuang as the originating zi philosopher:master of the school. So the operative definition of Daoism was "what Laozi and Zhuangzi taught." Other early Han writers cribbed and copied from the original texts but, under Huang-Lao influence, exhibited little further philosophical reflection. The products of this "recovery" have also come to be thought of as Daoist texts and include the Huinanzi (around 140 BC) and the Liezi (Fourth Century AD).

During the early Han, Confucianism became the official orthodoxy. Superstitious cosmological speculation (five-phase theory and portentology) dominated Han thought and the intellectual lives of Chinese thinkers for four centuries. When the Han declined, Confucianism lost much of its grip and intellectuals turned to Lao-Zhuang for inspiration -- but now read through cosmological lenses. Western scholars identify this movement as Neo-Daoist but since it fixed the enduring forms of a "traditional text" and provided the first systematic commentaries, their cosmological conception has come to dominate the Chinese view of Daoism. The Neo-Daoist movement also coincided with the initial spread of Buddhism in China. Neo-Daoist discourse practices helped introduce Buddhist ideas into China and Daoism heavily influenced distinctively Chinese forms of Buddhism, particularly Chan (Zen). This development blended the content of the two religious doctrines in the intellectual consciousness so much that Neo-Confucians eventually took them to be essentially similar religious-metaphysical outlooks.

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