dao transformation

My apologies for not sending out the meditation yesterday: I am sending it today so we don't get behind. The daily meditations stopped for a month as I was unable to pay the list provider but it appears we are up and running now! Do consider visiting the shop and purchasing sumething to help support us if you cannot donate outright. And consider the shop for holiday needs.

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Basset atop rocks and waterfall

You hurt me years ago;
My wounds bled for years.
Now you are back,
But I am not the same.

In the past, warriors fought by striking the same points that acupuncture use. One famous swordsman nearly died in a duel in which his opponent attacked him in such a way. After that, the swordsman became a wanderer and tried to renounce the martial life. Years later, his enemy found him and challenged him to duel again. They fought. In the first flurry of blows, the aggressor stepped back in surprise. The swordsman smiled and said, “I trained for twenty years to move my vulnerable spots.” With that, he was finally able to triumph.

Spirituality is a process of inner healing. The wounds of the past can be the greatest obstacles for self-cultivation unless we find them all and heal them. This task can take years, but we must accomplish it.

In many cases, our wounds were inflicted by other people—enemies. This is subtle. Our enemies can be others on the street, or people much more intimate with us: parents, teachers, siblings, lovers, friends.

If we move away from such people and succeed in our practice, they will have no chance to come back in our lives. How can they? We change whatever made us vulnerable in the first place.

365 Tao
daily meditations
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
ISBN 0-06-250223-9
tao hub

Bessie at Cascade Falls
(Basset Grace)
Leica m3 90mm Zeiss
Kodacolor 100
© 1983 - 2005 lisbeth west


Though we want to be able to take in these less language-like cases, the philosophical story of Daoism requires a note on a passage in The Analects that does emphasize language--the "rectifying names" sorites.

If names are not rectified, language will not flow;
If language does not flow, social-affairs will not be realized;
If social-affairs are not realized, ritual & music will not flourish;
If ritual & music do not flourish, … people will not know how to move hand or foot.

This passage initiates[16] a philosophical reflection on puzzles about dao in China. In effect, the direction of reflection signals the dominance in ancient China of questions of interpretation of dao over questions about the content of dao. Cognitive revision and originality are thought of as expressing themselves in adapting guidance to real-time situations rather than as revising the explicit words of the guidance. Chinese tradition focused on the problem of games and interpretation before they learned to doubt their traditional value systems--they did their Wittgenstein before their Socrates. This problem arises most acutely within Confucian traditional orthodoxies with their commitment to following conventional, ceremonial patterns. Confucius' students regularly discovered that, in concrete contexts, they disagreed about what to do even when they agreed on using the same "rulebook" as their guide.

A natural metaphysical treatment for this discourse-like situation is the type-token model from theory of language. We have dao-types (discourse dao) and dao-tokens (performance dao). A discourse dao is analogous to a play or a musical score. I coined the term 'performance dao' for that implicit token sense of 'way' that is the "real" goal of a discourse dao. A performance dao consists of a concrete, particular series of actions or behaviors. The score-performance model motivates a cluster of helpful insights. First, it illuminates Confucius' constant pairing of ritual and music in his formulations. Second, it explains the implicit “method” of rectifying names—which consists not of giving definitions or doing analysis, but simply of using them correctly yourself—as a model. Third, it points us to an important difference in interpretive processes as each end of our language spectrum. Rather than a theory of the meaning of a word as related to the experiences or evidence for its use, we have a “performance” of the discourse as the “way of interpreting.” This is, however, different enough from our evidence-side notion of interpretation to that may be helpful to distinguish it. Let us call it “performance interpretation.” Finally, it motivates my translation of εΎ·devirtuosity as “virtuosity” and reminds us that interpretation in Confucianism (and for most of Chinese philosophy) is not simply a matter of a bi-polar right-wrong but a more continuous aesthetic evaluation. This gives us one way to construe Hall and Ames' assertion that Chinese thought represents an aesthetic rather than a logical order[17].

Despite these advantages, however, a type-token analysis is a more stark (and Platonic) metaphysical structure than is suggested by the contextually shifting individuation we have highlighted in ancient Chinese talk of dao. The type-token model presents a particular problem for my approach since I find little motivation in ancient Chinese concepts of background beliefs for the kind of universal-particular model characteristic of ancient Greek (and Indic) thought. While handy for us today in understanding what a dao is, we are unlikely to find any echoes of this metaphysical structure in Daoist writing from the classical period of Chinese thought. Thus, while we have no overt reason to reject this metaphysical analysis of dao, it departs from the conditions on a solution we began with. Arguably, it is not what would occur to a Chinese thinker with the conceptual structure and philosophical agenda of ancient China.[18]

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