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The Decline of Tao

Part 18 of the Tao Teh King for Awakening

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When the Great Tao (Way or Method) ceased to be observed, benevolence and righteousness came into vogue. (Then) appeared wisdom and shrewdness, and there ensued great hypocrisy.

When harmony no longer prevailed throughout the six kinships, filial sons found their manifestation; when the states and clans fell into disorder, loyal ministers appeared.

(Tao Teh King 18)

Lin Yutang is a bit more on target: “On the decline of the great Tao, the doctrine of ‘humanity’ and ‘justice’ arose. When knowledge and cleverness appeared, great hypocrisy followed in its wake.

“When the six relationships no longer lived at peace, there was (praise of) ‘kind parents’ and ‘filial sons.’ When a country fell into chaos and misrule, there was (praise of) ‘loyal ministers.’”

On the decline of the great Tao,… The Taoists felt that “in the beginning” the Tao was known and therefore followed. Yet in time people began to lose their grip on the Tao. As a result it was not the Tao that faded away or declined, but the people themselves faded away and declined. So when we have the phrase “on the decline of the great Tao,” it means when the awareness of the Tao declined in people’s minds.

…the doctrine of “humanity” and “justice” arose. When people lost their innate awareness of the Tao, and therefore of their true selves, they began to violate their true nature which was the Tao. Instead of natural and true virtue in thought, word, and deed, they began to behave in disorderly and destructive ways. In order to stop this aberration and chaos at least externally, various codes for human behavior were formulated. Some were merely presented for consideration, and others were imposed through social and civil law. Infraction of these laws resulted in either loss of reputation, the “losing face” so abhorrent to the Chinese, and risk of social ostracism or even punishment by the civil authorities.

Taoists considered the Confucian definitions and prescription for right behavior to be trivial and hypocritical, especially when they became so rigid and heavy-handed that authentic humanity and justice became extinct to a troubling degree. The individual became less and less as “society” and “order” gained in importance and overt dominance.

The Tao has “declined” throughout the world, and as a result nearly all people believe that by acting a certain way we can make ourselves into what we really only appear to be. It is believed that people who act “nice” really are nice, that those engaged in “helping” others are kind, caring and compassionate. And so it goes in many directions. But any intelligent and insightful person, though in a minority, is aware that this is a superficial and simplistic way of seeing things that is really self-deception. We all know “godly” people who are hellish, and “caring” people that are nothing but manipulative sociopaths, and “helping” people that are exploitive opportunists.

Remember the hateful teachers, especially in grade school, that constantly bellowed: “If I did not like children I would not have become a teacher!”? And: “I am not a policeman!” I’ll say they weren’t! They were commandants of a gulag, tyrants with unquestionable authority, social fascists of the worst sort.

Isn’t it interesting that at this point in time the label of hypocrite is only applied to religious people? Everyone else is to be accepted at face value and not questioned. Otherwise we will be “negative” and “obstructive.” Heaven only knows what would be thought of Taoists today if they did not have the (wrong) reputation for being advocates of supersex and therefore “one of us” in society’s eyes.

When knowledge and cleverness appeared, great hypocrisy followed in its wake. When intelligence and integrity waned, education and craftiness took over. P. J. O’Rourke has written an excellent essay, “A Plague of ‘A’ Students” that is gospel truth. As I once read, schools are places where pebbles are polished and diamonds made dull. If we observe children we can see their natural creativity and spontaneity being eroded year by year by public schools. It is a revelation to meet and converse with a home-schooled child.

As Byrn translates this: “When intellectualism arises, hypocrisy is close behind.” Fakery on all levels becomes rife, even though often unintentional.

When the six relationships no longer lived at peace, there was (praise of) “kind parents” and “filial sons.” When real families declined in numbers, “ideal” families that were artificial and hypocritical appeared. Parents were praised for being humane, or appearing to be, and children were praised for being “good” and “respectful.” Love being the basis of family life, there is no need for such labels when there is genuine love between parents and children. As Blackney translated this: “The six relations were no more at peace, So codes were made to regulate our homes.” Byrn renders it: “When there is strife in the family unit, people talk about ‘brotherly love’.”

In ancient China the rules of subservience developed from the Six Kinships of Confucius. Under its order of loyalties, the older is always master of the younger, man is master of woman, the lord is master of the subject, the father is master of the son, the husband is master of the wife, and the brother is master of the sister. This a very poor model for a real family.

“When a country fell into chaos and misrule, there was (praise of) “loyal ministers.” Blackney: “The fatherland grew dark, confused by strife: Official loyalty became the style.” Byrn: “When the country falls into chaos, politicians talk about ‘patriotism’.” Things have not changed much, have they? All of these troubles come from losing touch with the Tao, which is one’s own primal Self. Consequently no one can be what they really are, and artificial standards arise and compound the present problems and create many more. There is only one solution: return to the Reality of the Tao.

Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: Realize the Simple Self

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Introduction to The Tao Teh King for Awakening

Chapters of The Tao Teh King for Awakening

Preface to The Tao Teh King for Awakening

  1. On the Absolute Tao
  2. The Rise of Relative Opposites
  3. Action Without Deeds
  4. The Character of Tao
  5. Nature
  6. The Spirit of the Valley
  7. Living for Others
  8. Water
  9. The Danger of Overweening Success
  10. Embracing the One
  11. The Utility of Not-Being
  12. The Senses
  13. Praise and Blame
  14. Prehistoric Origins
  15. The Wise Ones of Old
  16. Knowing the Eternal Law
  17. Rulers
  18. The Decline of Tao
  19. Realize the Simple Self
  20. The World and I
  21. Manifestations of Tao
  22. Futility of Contention
  23. Identification with Tao
  24. The Dregs and Tumors of Virtue
  25. The Four Eternal Models
  26. Heaviness and Lightness
  27. On Stealing the Light
  28. Keeping to the Female
  29. Warning Against Interference
  30. Warning Against the Use of Force
  31. Weapons of Evil
  32. Tao is Like the Sea
  33. Knowing Oneself
  34. The Great Tao Flows Everywhere
  35. The Peace of Tao
  36. The Rhythm of Life
  37. World Peace
  38. Degeneration
  39. Unity Through Complements
  40. The Principle of Reversion
  41. Qualities of the Taoist
  42. The Violent Man
  43. The Softest Substance
  44. Be Content
  45. Calm Quietude
  46. Racing Horses
  47. Pursuit of Knowledge
  48. Conquering the World by Inaction
  49. The People’s Hearts
  50. The Preserving of Life
  51. The Mystic Virtue
  52. Stealing the Absolute
  53. Brigandage
  54. The Individual and the State
  55. The Character of the Child
  56. Beyond Honor and Disgrace
  57. The Art of Government
  58. Unobtrusive Government
  59. Be Sparing
  60. Governing a Big Country
  61. Big and Small Countries
  62. The Good Man’s Treasure
  63. Difficult and Easy
  64. Beginning and End
  65. The Grand Harmony
  66. The Lords of the Ravines
  67. The Three Treasures
  68. The Virtue of Not-Contending
  69. Camouflage
  70. They Know Me Not
  71. Sick-Mindedness
  72. On Punishment (1)
  73. On Punishment (2)
  74. On Punishment (3)
  75. On Punishment (4)
  76. Hard and Soft
  77. Bending the Bow
  78. Nothing Weaker than Water
  79. Peace Settlements
  80. The Small Utopia
  81. The Way of Heaven

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