The Tao in union with bahai writings?

Jun 2014
1,081
Wisconsin
#2
If anybody is familar with taoism
My religious background has Taoism in it. I hold the belief that Lao Tzu is a Manifestation and Zhuang Tzu a minor prophet. There are many points of overlap between Taoist and Baha'i teachings that I could go into, especially around the nature of the world and the Seven Valleys, but I'll try to prevent myself from enthusiastically posting a gigantic wall of text at this moment and keep to more specific topics. ;) Because I could spend hours writing about the topic of Taoism. :giggle:

I wonder if The Tao could be Gods system to govern life?
I believe the Tao is God. I don't think this is overly obvious from just the writings of Lao Tzu, but the writings of Zhuang Tzu make more mention of the Tao's mystical dimensions. My thinking of the Tao being God Himself is based on the idea that both the Tao and God (by the Baha'i definition) are said to be beyond all attributes, and the Tao is also said to be the origin and guide of all things.
 
Oct 2014
1,798
Stockholm
#3
I'm not quite sure, but some years ago there was an author, who tried to prove that Winnie-the-Pooh was a true Taoist. Maybe there are reasons for demonstrating that he was a Bahá'í as well?

gnat
 
Jun 2014
1,081
Wisconsin
#4
I'm not quite sure, but some years ago there was an author, who tried to prove that Winnie-the-Pooh was a true Taoist. Maybe there are reasons for demonstrating that he was a Bahá'í as well?

gnat
That book was an elaborate pun, because Pooh is pronounced the same way as Pu, the Taoist concept of an uncut block of wood, which has value in its potential to become many different things due to its simplicity.
 
Jul 2018
62
Tarshish, bound for Nineveh
#5
I am a huge admirer of the Tao te Ching, and list it in my top five spiritual classics among some of my favorite Baha'i texts. I would say it is about 99% compatible with our writings and I have long wanted to cross-reference them to show that but never got around to it. I recommend Stephen Mitchell's very eloquent translation.

Cheers
 
Sep 2017
371
Earth
#7
That book was an elaborate pun, because Pooh is pronounced the same way as Pu, the Taoist concept of an uncut block of wood, which has value in its potential to become many different things due to its simplicity.
Taoism is interesting, but how can The Tao be God when it does not 'doeth whatsoever he willeth' but follows a fixed course in the sense it responds to certain modes of behaviour for example when you flow and let be
 
Jun 2014
1,081
Wisconsin
#8
Taoism is interesting, but how can The Tao be God when it does not 'doeth whatsoever he willeth' but follows a fixed course in the sense it responds to certain modes of behaviour for example when you flow and let be
I think you are talking about man or nature following the Tao, not the Tao following some fixed course.

Here is the Scripture I'd use to dispute the idea that the Tao follows a fixed course:

"Humanity follows the earth.
Earth follows Heaven.
Heaven follows the Tao.
The Tao follows only itself."

(Tao Teh Ching 25)

God "doeth whatsoever he willeth", therefore He "follows only [Himself]". The Tao "follows only itself", therefore It "doeth whatsoever [It] willeth".

Can you cite whatever writing you are drawing from that made you think the Tao followed some fixed course??
 
Sep 2017
371
Earth
#9
I think you are talking about man or nature following the Tao, not the Tao following some fixed course.

Here is the Scripture I'd use to dispute the idea that the Tao follows a fixed course:

"Humanity follows the earth.
Earth follows Heaven.
Heaven follows the Tao.
The Tao follows only itself."

(Tao Teh Ching 25)

God "doeth whatsoever he willeth", therefore He "follows only [Himself]". The Tao "follows only itself", therefore It "doeth whatsoever [It] willeth".

Can you cite whatever writing you are drawing from that made you think the Tao followed some fixed course??
Thank you Walrus, learning from you .. thank you. Can you help me understand something else.. Lao Tzu says 'The highest virtue is not virtuous that is why it's virtuous' I really love that, that it should Spring naturally and really not forced, but what I have got from the bahai view is that we must be virtuous, and strive daily and be like Abdul Baha which is basically impossible and he is the examplar which leaves me guilty 24/7 as he was so selfless and I'm no where near like that .. And I feel I need to keep working to be as virtuous as Abdul Baha which goes againgst the first quote .. I also feel I'm going against my inherent noble nature by trying to force myself to be like Abdul Baha .. How are these two reconciled as I really like the idea of the first one, and this rings true to my heart. Do we know of Lao Tzu mentioned in Bahá'í writings? Also would love to see your overlap in the seven valleys with Taoism
 
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Jun 2014
1,081
Wisconsin
#10
Thank you Walrus, learning from you .. thank you. Can you help me understand something else..
Basically three questions and I will attempt to answer them in order, but due to time constraints I'll only answer the first at the moment, and answer the rest when I have some more time.

Lao Tzu says 'The highest virtue is not virtuous that is why it's virtuous' I really love that, that it should Spring naturally and really not forced, but what I have got from the bahai view is that we must be virtuous, and strive daily and be like Abdul Baha which is basically impossible and he is the examplar which leaves me guilty 24/7 as he was so selfless and I'm no where near like that .. And I feel I need to keep working to be as virtuous as Abdul Baha which goes againgst the first quote .. I also feel I'm going against my inherent noble nature by trying to force myself to be like Abdul Baha .. How are these two reconciled as I really like the idea of the first one, and this rings true to my heart.
Zhuang Tzu (the most prominent Taoist religious figure after Lao Tzu, in case you are unaware) had a parable that I think explains part of it.

First, the Five Virtues in Chinese (notably Confucian) thought are the following: Bravery, Righteousness, Wisdom, Benevolence, and Sageliness. In Chinese society, at the time of Lao Tzu and Zhuang Tzu, the ideal was to be proficient in all Five Virtues, which would mean you were a virtuous person. The Taoists, however, disputed the Confucian "Five Virtues" idea, and to demonstrate why the Taoists believed these Five Virtues were not enough, Zhuang Tzu presented the Parable of Robber Chih.

Robber Chih is a ruthless character who leads an army of bandits and wantonly pillages and plunders. However, Robber Chih is, by the Confucian standards, totally virtuous. When asked about the topic, Chih explains that "Making shrewd guesses as to how much booty is stashed away in the room is Sageliness; being the first one in [to battle] is Bravery; being the last one out is Righteousness; knowing whether the job can be pulled off or not is Wisdom; dividing up the loot fairly is Benevolence. No one in the world ever succeeded in becoming a great thief if he didn't have all five!" (Zhuang Tzu's self-named book)

So the basic meaning of the Robber Chih parable is that the Five Virtues are not inherently good traits, but they can potentially be used for evil. The Virtues are not, in themselves, virtuous (for lack of a better word), but rather it is in how the virtues are used. And Chih shows that such virtues can be used to become a great bandit.

On the flip-side, we can look to 'Abdu'l-Baha, who in one writing describes the opposite: how sins can be used for good. He specifically mentions Greed and Wrath, two of the traditional Seven Deadly Sins, and describes how we can use those sins to better ourselves: "The answer to this is that greed, which is to ask for something more, is a praiseworthy quality provided that it is used suitably. So if a man is greedy to acquire science and knowledge, or to become compassionate, generous and just, it is most praiseworthy. If he exercises his anger and wrath against the bloodthirsty tyrants who are like ferocious beasts, it is very praiseworthy; but if he does not use these qualities in a right way, they are blameworthy."

So for virtues and sins alike, in both Taoist and Baha'i frameworks, it's not so much about having sins or virtues, rather there is something else beyond which is needed apart from virtues.

Now back to the specific quote you mention, "The highest virtue is not virtuous that is why it's virtuous". If I am correct this is Tao Teh Ching 38. If so, I think some more text in the chapter is necessary to understand fully:

"The highest virtue is not virtuous.
Therefore it has virtue.
The lowest virtue holds on to virtue.
Therefore it has no virtue."


I would say the context tells us that the "lowest virtue" has no virtue because it clings to virtue. This could be, basically, an attachment to the idea of having virtues. This is the thing that lets Robber Chih think he is still a virtuous person, because he does have the Five Virtues, he's just using them to be a bandit. Thus it is the "lowest virtue", because Chih is only concerning himself with possessing the virtues, nothing more.

The "highest virtue" is thus not to concern oneself with having virtues at all, but instead strive to follow the Tao / the Way / God, and letting whatever virtues there are naturally arise from that striving. The chapter continues:

"The highest virtue does nothing.
Yet, nothing needs to be done.
The lowest virtue does everything.
Yet, much remains to be done."


The highest virtue does not strive for virtue or seek to prove its virtue, yet "nothing needs to be done" to become more virtuous because it is already one with the Tao.

The lowest virtue is constantly acting to try to prove its virtues, yet "much remains to be done" because the lowest virtue is focusing on virtue itself and not instead aiming for the Tao.

The chapter continues:

"The highest benevolence acts without purpose.
The highest righteousness acts with purpose.
The highest ritual acts, but since no one cares,
It raises its arms and uses force.


Therefore, when the Tao is lost there is virtue.
When virtue is lost there is benevolence.
When benevolence is lost there is righteousness.
When righteousness is lost there are rituals.
Rituals are the end of fidelity and honesty,
And the beginning of confusion."


And then we are given the progression of a decline of a human institution, a progression we have seen many institutions of the past undergo.

At the highest level is Unity with the Tao or Unity with God.

When that is lost, the institution cleaves to virtue instead, and seeks to maintain the virtue of the institution.

When the virtue is lost, benevolence takes its place, and the institution seeks to act at least benevolently.

When benevolence is lost, there is at least righteousness, and the institution seeks to act fairly.

And after righteousness is lost, all the institution is left with is blind rituals with no meaning behind them.

Which, from the Baha'i viewpoint, is the period in which religion is renewed by God back to the highest level again. This process is actually something that's interested me as of late, and I've been pondering it quite a bit. The process outlined by Lao Tzu appears to apply to every human institution that has existed, whether religion or government. The Empire always declines and falls. Yet judged as a whole, it is also doubtless that humanity itself progresses forward despite the fact that every human institution progresses notably backwards. It's a beautiful paradox, the implications of which I am only beginning to ponder.

I'll answer the next two questions in a bit...