Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds The Dao De Jing is really important for Western people because you have this problem in the Chinese tradition of Zhi Ji Zhi Bi That the only way that you can understand yourself is to understand the other. In Chinese, there’s an expression, Bu Jian Lushan Zhen Mian Mu Zhi Yuan Shen Zai Ci Shan Zhong In English we have a similar kind of expression by Rudyard Kipling in the 18th, 19th century. Kipling says “What knows he of England whom only England knows?” If you just know England, you don’t know England. You only know yourself by virtue of the way in which you relate to other things.
Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds And so from a Western point of view, the Dao De Jing really provides us with a different cosmology, a different worldview, a different common sense. And this common sense really requires that we ask different questions because in the Western philosophical narrative, the Western culture narrative, what is real is fixed and unchanging. And so to know, we have to ask the question, “What?” So we ask the question, “What is a human being?” And the answer is, a human being is an immortal soul. A human being is something that is fixed and unchanging. A human being is something that we associate with a perfect, transcendent, independent God.
Skip to 1 minute and 54 seconds That’s the starting place or the central question in Western philosophical culture, in a Western way of thinking is what is something. To know is to know what something is.
Skip to 2 minutes and 11 seconds In the Chinese tradition, it’s very different Human being is not a thing is not what is human being but how do we become consummately human? How can we use the roles and relationships that locate us in our family, in our community, in our environment? How can we maximize these roles and relationships to become consummately human, to become the best human being that we can be? And so the Dao De Jing’s question is not what but how. It’s a Tiyong. It’s a Liantong way of thinking. It’s a way of thinking where we recognize persistence and we acknowledge change and out of persistence and change, we strive to achieve He.
Skip to 3 minutes and 2 seconds We strive to achieve a kind of harmony that optimizes the creative possibilities that are available to us because the human experience is always an interface between what is determinant, what has shaped and formed, what is intelligible and the indeterminant, the as yet unknown. That what makes today different from tomorrow is the unknown, is the Wu , is the what has not yet happened and so that Wu is available to the human being in order for us to participate in the process of cosmic transformation. That the human being in the Dao De Jing you have Ren Dao, you have Tian Dao, that the human being is a collaborator, is a co-creator with the cosmos. We have the capacity.
Skip to 4 minutes and 11 seconds We have the responsibility to step up
Skip to 4 minutes and 17 seconds and do that job the best way that we can. The Dao De Jing in this sense is a manual for how the human being can get the most out of the human experience. So the human the Dao De Jing is a text that is born in the Warring States period, a world of violence, a tragic world and it is a way of thinking that provides the human being with an alternative to that kind of violence. The human the Dao De Jing is not expository. The Dao De Jing]does not explain to us, does not give us the arguments for why we ought to accept its interpretation.
Skip to 5 minutes and 9 seconds The Dao De Jing is an invitation for the individual to come in and philosophize with this text. That every time we read the Dao De Jing, we read it differently. Every culture that reads the Dao De Jing reads it differently. They use their own experience. They organize their own experience with the ideas that we find in the Dao De Jing. The Dao De Jing is a heuristic. The Dao De Jing is an instrument that is available to the human being to think through our problems, to think through the ordinary events, the human experiences and to arrive at a strategy for bringing these events together and they all to remember kind of way.
A different cosmology, a different worldview, a different common sense
The Dao De Jing provides Western people with a different cosmology, worldview and common sense from Chinese people. Every culture reads the Dao De Jing differently. It is an instrument that is available to the human being to think through our problems or the ordinary events.