Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tantric Practice, Shaman and the Tao

"Emptiness, or how to untie what has never been tied" --Sunyata

Learn to yield and be soft
If you want to survive
Learn to bow
And you will stand 

at your full height

Learn to empty yourself
and be filled with the Tao
the way a valley empties itself into a river

Use up all that you are
And then you can be made new
Learn to have nothing
And you will have everything

Sages always act like this
and are Children of the Tao

Never try to impress, their being shines forth
Never saying 'this is it,' people see what the truth is
Never boasting, they leave the space they can be valued in
And never claiming to be who they are, people can see them
And since they never argue, no one argues with them either

So the ancient ones say
Bend and you will rule
Is this a lie? 
You'll find its true
Be true to yourself,
 and all will be well with you.

--Tao Te Ching, Chapter 22, translated by Man-Ho Kwok

To the Western mind, the Tao is often misconstrued. Most often, it's through a lack of experience with the world in which it comes forth, and even less experience with the ancient world in which its wisdom was written. So for most Westerners, having little or no contact with Asian civilization, society or its antiquity, there leaves a gaping hole which is often filled with something, something that may well be an assumption based upon western experience--or imagination. The meanings are then misconstrued.

Know that while there was a person called Lao Tzu historically, he was known to the Chinese philosopher, Confucius as the person, Li Ehr Tan; little else survives about who this person may have been. 
The Tao Te Ching along with other wisdom books, T'ai Shan Kan-ying, Chuang Tzu and Lieh Tzu, as well as the I Ching are important writings of the Taoist Cannon.
And while the authorship of these ancient texts made be deduced, many scholars are of the opinion that the book we call the Tao Te Ching, like the Greek text, Homer, was actually written by a number of persons over a span of time.

It is important to consider and appreciate that the values of the Tao were radically different from those of Confucius' imperialism; one of the most significant differences was the practice of Shamanism. It is a core belief of Taoism that there exists two worlds, the material, physical world which we experience, and a greater, unseen world, the spiritual world existing side by side with the everyday world. Sometimes the Taoist believes this spirit world breaks into the everyday world; a mystical experience arises.

The Shaman is key in his role of one who is able to intercede between the two worlds, heaven and earth, if you like; often using meditation, trance, drumming or tantric methods, the Shaman is able to move between these worlds. This idea is key to the Taoist notion that these intercessors flow between the worlds, riding  upon a river of the true, natural, forces of the universe.
Shamanism believes certain creatures or structures are divinely inspired and more open or receptive to the forces of the Spirit world. It continues to the present day. Thus the sage, the Shaman, remains open, or empty so as to be the receptor of the spirits. Some think them to be like chameleons, able to take many poses or forms.

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