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Sacred Texts

1. Introduction to Textual Resources

Dating from 1444, the Daoist canon contains 1,476 titles. Contemporary Daoist practices utilizes a small fraction of the original textual resources (many of which are cited below) as well as many unpublished texts that have been handed down privately from master to initiate. Passages from two of the most foundational texts, the Daode jing and the Zhuangzi, represent a strong connection between religious orientation and ecological consciousness. James Miller, Richard Wang, and Ned Davis* argue that this ecological consciousness is present in Daoist texts through three dominant themes: 1) the role of humanity in cosmic ecology, 2) the spiritual ecology of the bodies’ inner landscape, and 3) the problem of human transcendence over nature. Although no single text can capture the intention of an entire tradition, the passages below provide viewers with some understanding of the interconnection of religion and ecology in the Daoist tradition.

 

[*] James Miller, Richard Wang, and Ned Davis. “What Ecological Themes are Found in Daoist Texts?” Daoism and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic Landscape, edited by Norman J. Girardot, James Miller, and Xiaogan Liu (Cambridge, Mass.: Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School. Distributed by Harvard University Press, forthcoming in 2001).

 

2. Classic Resources

Texts from the Tao Te Ching

Daode jing 7

Heaven is long, Earth enduring.

Long and enduring
Because they do not exist for themselves.

Therefore the Sage

Steps back, but is always in front,
Stays outside, but is always within.

No self-interest?
Self is fulfilled.1


Daode jing
8

Best to be like water,
Which benefits the ten thousand things
And does not contend.
It pools where humans disdain to dwell,
Close to the Tao.2


Daode jing
13

. . . Respect the world as your self:

The world can be your lodging.

Love the world as your self:

The world can be your trust.3


Daode jing
32

. . . Tao’s presence in this world
Is like valley streams
Flowing into rivers and seas.4


Daode jing
39

Of old, these attained the One:

Heaven attaining the One

Became clear.

Earth attaining the One
Became stable.

Spirits attaining the One
Became sacred.

Valleys attaining the One
Became bountiful.

Myriad beings attaining the One
Became fertile.

Lords and kings attaining the One
Purified the world.

If Heaven were not clear

It might split.

If Earth were not stable,
It might erupt.

If spirits were not sacred
They might fade.

If valleys were not bountiful
They might wither.

If myriad beings were not fertile,
They might perish.

If rulers and lords were not noble,
They might stumble.

Therefore,

Noble has humble as its root,
High has low as its foundation. . . . 5

 

Daode jing 42

Tao engenders One,
One engenders Two,
Two engenders Three,
Three engenders the ten thousand things.

The ten thousand things carry shade
And embrace sunlight.

Shade and sunlight, yin and yang,

Breath blending into harmony. . . .6

 

Daode jing 46

With Tao under heaven

Stray horses fertilize the fields.

Without Tao under heaven
Warhorses are bred at the frontier. . . . 7

 

Daode jing 52

The world has a source: the world’s mother.

Once you have the mother,

You know the children.

Once you know the children,
Return to the mother. . . . 8

 

Daode jing 64

. . . A tree too big to embrace

Is born from a slender shoot.

A nine-story tower
Rises from a pile of earth.

A thousand-mile journey
Begins with a single step.

Act and you ruin it.
Grasp and you lose it.
Therefore the Sage

Does not act
Wu wei
And so does not ruin
Ku wu pai
Does not grasp
And so does not lose.

People commonly ruin their work

When they are near success.

Proceed at the end as at the beginning
And your work won’t be ruined.
Therefore the Sage
Desires no desires
Prizes no prizes
Studies no studies
And returns
To what others pass by.


The Sage

Helps all beings find their nature,
But does not presume to act. 9

 

Daode jing 76

Humans are born soft and weak.
They die stiff and strong.
The ten thousand plants and trees
Are born soft and tender,
And die withered and sere.

The stiff and strong

Are Death’s companions

The soft and weak
Are Life’s companions.

Therefore,

The strongest armies do not conquer,
The greatest trees are cut down.

The strong and great sink down,
The soft and weak rise up. . . .10

 

Texts from the Zhuangzi

Zhuangzi 1

Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu, “I have a big tree called a shu. Its trunk is too gnarled and bumpy to apply a measuring line to, its branches too bent and twisty to match up to a compass or square. You could stand it by the road and no carpenter would look at it twice. Your words, too, are big and useless, and so everyone alike spurns them!”

Chuang Tazu said, “Maybe you’ve never seen a wildcat or a weasel. It crouches down and hides, watching for something to come along. It leaps and races east and west, not hesitating to go high or low-until it falls into the trap and dies in the net. Then again there’s the yak, big as a cloud covering the sky. It certainly knows how to be big, though it doesn’t know how to catch rats. Now you have this big tree and you’re distressed because it’s useless. Why don’t you plant it in Not-Even-Anything Village, or the field of Broad-and-Boundless, relax and do nothing by its side, or lie down for a free and easy sleep under it? Axes will never shorten its life, nothing can ever harm it. If there’s no use for it, how can it come to grief or pain?”11

 

Zhuangzi 7

Do not be an embodier of fame; do not be a storehouse of schemes; do not be an undertaker of projects; do not be a proprietor of wisdom. Embody to the fullest what has no end and wander where there is no trail. Hold on to all that you have received from Heaven but do not think you have gotten anything. Be empty, that is all. The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror-going after nothing, welcoming nothing, responding but not storing. Therefore he can win out over things and not hurt himself.12

 

Zhuangzi 17

“[t]he Heavenly is on the inside, the human is on the outside. Virtue resides in the Heavenly. Understand the actions of Heaven and man, base yourself upon Heaven, take your stand in virtue, and then, although you hasten or hold back, bend or strectch, you may return to the essential and speak of the ultimate.”

“What do you mean by the Heavenly and the human?”

Jo of the North Sea said, “Horses and oxen have four feet-this is what I mean by the Heavenly. Putting a halter on the horse’s head, piercing the ox’s nose-this is what I mean by the human. So I say: do not let what is human wipe out what is Heavenly; do not let what is purposeful wipe out what is fated; do not let [the desire for] gain lead you after fame. Be cautious, guard it, and do not lose it-this is what I mean by returning to the True.”13

 

Zhuangzi 18

Let me try putting it this way. The inaction of Heaven is its purity, the inaction of earth is its peace. So the two inactions combine and all things are transformed and brought to birth. Wonderfully, mysteriously, there is no place they come out of. Mysteriously, wonderfully, they have no sign. Each thing minds its business and all grow up out of inaction. So I say, Heaven and earth do nothing and there is nothing that is not done. Among men, who can get hold of this inaction?14

 

Zhuangzi 18

The seeds of things have mysterious workings. In the water they become Break Vine, on the edges of the water they become Frog’s Robe. If they sprout on the slopes they become Hill Slippers. If Hill Slippers get rich soil, they trun into Crow’s Feet. The roots of Crow’s Feet turn into maggots and their leaves turn into butterflies. Before long the butterflies are transformed and turn into insects that live under the stove; they look like snakes and their name is Ch’ü-t’o. After a thousand days, the Ch’ü-t’o insects become birds called Dried Leftover Bones. The saliva of the Dried Leftover Bones becomes Ssu-mi bugs and the Ssu-mi bugs become Vinegar Eaters. Yi-lo bugs are born from the Vinegar Eaters, and Huang-shuang bugs from Chiu-yu bugs. Chiu-yu bugs are born from Mou-jui bugs and Mou-jui bugs are born from Rot Grubs and Rot Grubs are born from Sheep’s Groom. Sheep’s Groom couples with bamboo that has not sprouted for a long while and produces Green Peace plants. Green Peace plants produce leopards and leopards produce horses and horses produce men. Men in time return again to the mysterious workings. So all creatures come out of the mysterious workings and go back into them again.15

 

Other Texts

Yibaishiba jie, One Hundred and Eighty Precepts

14. You should not burn [the vegetation of] uncultivated or cultivated fields, nor of mountains and forests.
18. You should not wantonly fell trees.
19. You should not wantonly pick herbs or flowers.
36. You should not throw poisonous substances into lakes, rivers, and seas.
47.   You should not wantonly dig holes in the ground and thereby destroy the earth.
53.   You should not dry up wet marshes.
79.   You should not fish or hunt and thereby harm and kill living beings.
95.   You should not in winter dig up hibernating animals and insects.
97.   You should not wantonly climb in trees to look for nests and destroy eggs.
98.   You should not use cages to trap birds and [other] animals.
100. You should not throw dirty things in wells.
101. You should not seal off pools and wells.
109. You should not light fires in the plains.
116. You should not defecate or urinate on living plants or in water that people will drink.
121. You should not wantonly or lightly take baths in rivers or seas.
125. You should not fabricate poisons and keep them in vessels.
132. You should not disturb birds and [other] animals.
134. You should not wantonly make lakes.16

 

Taiping jing, Scripture of Great Peace

The Three Lineages (santong)-Heaven, Earth, and human beings-depend upon each other for their existence and develop giving form to each other, just as a human being has a head, feet, and an abdomen. If one lineage is annihilated, all three lineages will be destroyed.17

 

3. Contemporary Resources
Please check this section in the future for additional contemporary Daoist resources.



Endnotes

[1]
Stephen Addis and Stanley Lombardo. Tao Te Ching: Lao-Tzu (Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Publishing Company, 1993) 7.

[2]Ibid., 8.

[3]Ibid., 13.

[4]Ibid., 32.

[5]Ibid., 39.

[6]Ibid., 42.

[7]Ibid., 46.

[8]Ibid., 52.

[9]Ibid., 64.

[10]Ibid., 76.

[11]Burton Watson. Zhuangzi or Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964, 1996) 29–30.

[12]Ibid., 94–95.

[13]Ibid., 104.

[14]Ibid., 112–13.

[15]Ibid., 117.

[16]Kristofer Schipper, trans. “Daoist Ecology: The Inner Transformation. A Study of the Precepts of the Early Daoist Ecclesia.” In Daoism and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic Landscape, edited by Norman J. Girardot, James Miller, and Xiaogan Liu (Cambridge, Mass.: Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School. Distributed by Harvard University Press, 2001) 81–82.

[17]Chi-tim Lai, trans. “The Daoist Concept of Central Harmony in the Scripture of Great Peace: Human Responsibility for the Maladies of Nature.” In Daosim and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic Landscape, edited by Norman J. Girardot, James Miller, and Xiaogan Liu (Cambridge, Mass.: Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School. Distributed by Harvard University Press, 2001) 111, n. 47.

 

Reprint Permissions
Permission to reprint the above materials has been given by the following publishers.

Classic Resources
Stephen Addis and Stanley Lombardo. Tao Te Ching: Lao-Tzu (Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Publishing Company, 1993). Excerpt from Tao Te Ching by Stephen Addis and Stanley Lombardo Copyright © 1993 by Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., Indianapolis and Cambridge is reprinted with the permission of Hackett Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Burton Watson. Zhuangzi or Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964, 1996). Excerpt from Zhuangzi or Chuang Tzu translated by Burton Watson Copyright © 1964 Columbia University Press, is reprinted with the permission of Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Kristofer Schipper, trans. “Daoist Ecology: The Inner Transformation. A Study of the Precepts of the Early Daoist Ecclesia.” In Daoism and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic Landscape, edited by Norman J. Girardot, James Miller, and Xiaogan Liu (Cambridge, Mass.: Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School. Distributed by Harvard University Press, 2001). Excerpt from Daoism and Ecology edited by Norman J. Girardot, James Miller, and Xiaogan Liu Copyright © 2001 by Center for the Study of World Religions is reprinted with the permission of The Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. All rights reserved.

Chi-tim Lai, trans. “The Daoist Concept of Central Harmony in the Scripture of Great Peace: Human Responsibility for the Maladies of Nature.” In Daosim and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic Landscape, edited by Norman J. Girardot, James Miller, and Xiaogan Liu (Cambridge, Mass.: Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School. Distributed by Harvard University Press, 2001). Excerpt from Daoism and Ecology edited by Norman J. Girardot, James Miller, and Xiaogan Liu Copyright © 2001 by Center for the Study of World Religions is reprinted with the permission of The Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. All rights reserved.

 

Copyright © 2001 Forum on Religion and Ecology.