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Mysticism and Sacred Scripture$
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Steven T. Katz

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780195097030

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195097030.001.0001

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Tao, World, and Mind: Mystical Adaptations of the Taoist Classics

Tao, World, and Mind: Mystical Adaptations of the Taoist Classics

(p.242) 12 Tao, World, and Mind: Mystical Adaptations of the Taoist Classics
Mysticism and Sacred Scripture

Livia Kohn

Oxford University Press

The two major classics of the Taoist tradition, the Daode jing and the Zhuangzi, are philosophical writings from about 300 bce that contain a rich store of ancient wisdom They are not at all alike. The Daode jing, a collection of proverbs, aphorisms, and traditional sayings, is very short and rather mysterious in its often elliptic and enigmatic verses. The Zhuangzi is a compendium of prose that includes stories, fables, and parables in happy imitation of a footloose Taoist lifestyle. Yet combined, the two texts contain the essence of the Taoist mystical tradition and, over the centuries, have stood at the center of Taoist beliefs and practices, adapted and reinterpreted ever anew in light of contemporaneous concerns and sectarian preferences. This chapter examines the two texts and their development in the Chinese middle ages. It first presents a detailed description of the texts; then, proceeding in pairs, looks at two major commentaries from the early centuries ce and at the use of the classics in sectarian Taoist practices of the 4th and 5th centuries. Finally, the chapter focuses on their reinterpretation under Buddhist impact during the Tang dynasty (618–906). It shows how the tradition remains true to its original sources without ever giving up its flexibility or strength to serve the needs of later generations. It also documents the continuing importance of ancient sacred texts in the practical efforts of living Taoist mystics.

Keywords:   Taoism, Daode jing, Zhuangzi, sacred texts, mysticism, Taoist mystics

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