Laozi reading group

Laozi reading group2020-07-31T08:24:47+00:00

Laozi reading group

In this online group we discuss the Laozi (Daode jing/Tao Te Ching) from a number of perspectives. These include the development of the text within Chinese culture, its significance to Daoist cultivation, and our own responses and reflections during the course of reading.

The group is led by Shidao and is running biweekly over the summer of 2020. For each session we focus on one chapter which is chosen to highlight some of the terms most essential to the Laozi. Key terms will include the dao (the way), de (virtue, potency, power), ziran (self-so; spontaneity), wuwei (non-action) and a number of others. Although we refer to the Chinese terms during our discussion, no understanding of Chinese is required and the main focus is on English translations of the text.

Reading
There are many English editions of the Daode jing available and for guidance on some particularly useful translations, please see the reading list page. For each session, participants will be provided with at least one translation of the chapter under discussion. Robert Henricks’ Lao Tzu: Te-Tao Ching is one of the main editions we use, however we also refer to other versions as we consider the range of possible interpretations.

Participation
Participation is limited to members of the BDA and numbers are restricted in order to allow all participants to engage in the discussion. If you wish to take part please contact us to express your interest.

Laozi reading group (5 August): The undifferentiated Dao and the spontaneity of ziran – chapter 25

In this session we will read chapter 25 of the Laozi which begins with a description of the Dao in its undifferentiated state. We will consider the various interpretations of this passage  and what it contributes to our understanding of the Dao. The discussion will also focus on the term ziran (natural, spontaneous, self-so). This is one of the Daode jing’s most distinctive terms and although mentioned in other parts of the text, it is in this chapter that its significance becomes clear.

Humans follow earth
Earth follows heaven
Heaven follows Dao
Dao follows what is so of itself (ziran)
人法地,地法天,天法道,道法自然。

By |July 31st, 2020|

Laozi reading group (22 July): The potency of the valley and the simplicity of uncarved wood – chapter 28

In chapter 28 we will encounter several ideas and images that are distinctive features of the Daode jing. One of these is the concept of de (virtue, potency, power), which forms part of the title of the text and represents the manifestation of the Dao in individual beings and things. Related to de is the idea of the valley, a key image of receptivity and nourishment. In addition, we will explore the ideas of simplicity, authenticity and wholeness as expressed in the image of uncarved wood.

Being the valley of the world
constant potency is sufficient
return to the state of uncarved wood
為天下谷,常德乃足,復歸於樸。

By |July 22nd, 2020|

Laozi reading group (8 July): Approaching the Laozi – chapter 1

In this session we explore the different ways of approaching the Laozi with a focus on chapter 1. We consider this in light of what the text says about the limitations of words and language and the issues of naming and knowledge:

The Dao that can be spoken of is not the constant Dao
The name that can be named is not the constant name
道可道,非常道。名可名,非常名。

As we read carefully through the text we will consider the different interpretations that are possible and discuss the significance and relevance of the chapter for our own lives.

By |July 8th, 2020|
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