Scenes from Sozin's Comet, Part Three: Into the Inferno
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Lao Tzu (sometimes translated as 'Old Master') has always been deemed, along with Huang Ti, as a founder of Taoist philosophy. Consisting of five thousand characters, his little book of eighty-one chapters is by far the most translated and printed book in the world. The history of the Tao Te Ching, which is quite spurious, tells us that the sage Lao Tzu decided to leave the world behind and head off to the far northwest regions of China to go into hermitage. A gatekeeper named Kuan Yin entices Lao Tzu to write a few words of instructions for posterity. La Tzu then wrote two short treatises, one outlining the Tao (Way) and the other Te (Virtue).
'Within this work are wonderful aphorisms that directly related to the very premise and heart of T'ai Chi practice. The Tao Te Ching at its very root is a model for leading a life void of aggression — valuing yielding over forcefulness and, most importantly, viewing virtue as the highest power of human and spiritual beings.
'In regard to the practice of T'ai Chi, the most influential concept of the Tao Te Ching is Wei Wu Wei — Active Noncontention or Nonaggressive Activity. As we can surmise from its principles, T'ai Chi is completely based on this idea: yielding as a means of overcoming the unyielding, learning to lose as a means of winning without aggressive intents, using intrinsic energy (chin) rather than external muscular force (li), and abiding by the tan-t'ien rather than by the reactions of the mind.
'.... Another very important concept Lao Tzu presented in relation to the development of T'ai Chi is found in his question, 'Can you obtain the pliability of a child?' The bones of a child are soft and pliable, and the internal processes of T'a Chi, the circulation of ch'i, are meant to increase and reestablish marrow to the bones, making them more pliable.
'A child's mind and spirit are not hindered by constraints of logic and rationalism, as implied in the Christian Bible — 'have childlike faith.'
'To have the clear and unhindered mind of a child is the ideal in Taoism. Everything in Taoism, generally speaking, related to the idea of returning to and regenerating youthfulness, both physically and mentally.
'The difference is in the conscious awareness of being youthful, something the child does not have. Will Roger's statement that 'it's too bad youth is wasted on the young' seems very Taoist. The motive of T'ai Chi is identical with this Taoist thinking, to bring the body and mind back to the pliability of a child.
'To live naturally in the Tao, Lao Tzu described his three treasures of humility, compassion, and frugality, which are seen in the underlying principles of T'ai Chi. No one can learn to lose, yield, or abide by the tan-t'ien without humility.
'The idea behind nonaggressive actions is compassion, as the very intent of T'ai Chi in practical use is not to injure opponents but to ward off and neutralize their aggressive actions.
'The idea of frugality is seen in the expedient use of movement, to use as little physical energy (li) as possible, replying on mind-intent (i) and the mobilization of ch'i and shen (spirit) to activate the motions of the body.
'T'ai Chi can be equated, both physically and mentally, with Lao Tzu's three treasures of humility, compassion, and frugality through its principles of yielding, nonaggession, and expediency....'
- 'I Ching: Embodying the Principles of the Book of Changes' by Stuart Alve Olson