The Way of the World: Readings in Chinese Philosophy
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The dynamic relationship between the individual and society has been a central concern of Taoism from its ancient beginnings—which is perhaps why certain Taoist classics, like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, are so often consulted these days for leadership advice. This anthology presents a wide range of texts revealing the processes of integrating personal spirituality with social responsibility central to Taoist tradition across the centuries and throughout the schools. There are a wealth of approaches to life in the world presented here, but at the heart of each is an understanding that even a mystic must be socially responsible and that self-cultivation is primary preparation for anyone called to lead.
path is not taken, even if profitable. The best follow Nature, Those next follow humanity— if others don’t propose,1 they do not participate; if Nature does not initiate, they do not follow.2 Therefore their words are not wasted and their undertakings do not fail. Find out beginnings, calculate realities, get to the root of their origin. What is known in the abstract is sought in the concrete: focus on their reasons, and you know their state of mind; find out how they start, and
swapping. One of the kings of Xia raised dragons for riding, one of the kings of Zhou partied at the Jade Pond. These were quite supernatural indeed, but the sage obscured them and did not discuss them, for fear the rulers of later generations would try to produce things by magic and fulfill their pleasures by sorcery. Nevertheless there were still rulers in later generations who abdicated irresponsibly in search of immortality, or prayed for what they wanted with sacrificial rites. What a
has to be complex, or to endure what you ought to beware of, or to neglect what you ought to attend to. Those who are most intelligent know that intelligence is ultimately insufficient to comprehend everything, so they’re ignorant. Those who are most eloquent know that eloquence is ultimately insufficient to explain things, so they are silent. Those who are most brave know that bravery is ultimately insufficient to overcome people, so they’re diffident. Of the myriad things of sky and earth,
these terms in the Taoist anthology Alchemists, Mediums, and Magicians: Officer Xi was a grandee of Zhou. Adept at inner studies, he regularly consumed vital essences and practiced secret charity. None of the people of his time knew him. When Lao-tzu traveled west, Xi perceived his atmosphere in advance, and knew a real human was going to pass through. Looking to stop him, he actually found Lao-tzu. Lao-tzu knew he was exceptional too, and wrote two works for him, on the Way and on Virtue.
falsify; the false hides nothing. Therefore it is said, “Apart from knowledge, how does one seek?” If nothing is hidden, why conjecture? If there is no seeking and no conjecture, there is no thought. If you have no thought, you frustrate falsification. The Way of heaven is empty in its formlessness. Being empty, it is unrestricted; being formless, it has neither position nor opposition. Having no position or opposition, it pervades all things without changing. Virtue is the house of the Way;