Opposites in Taoist Philosophy


Today we talk about one of the key ways in which Taoism is different from other religions.

Listen to the Episode

 Show Notes

Daily Reading

Today's reading is from chapter 2 of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching from the translation of Gia fu Feng and Jane English.


One of the interesting things about Taoism is that it isn't a particularly prescriptive religion. You're not going to find language in the Tao Te Ching that says, "this action is immoral or a sin". Rather, many of the statements made are about the nature of reality itself. Since from a Taoist perspective we belong to that same natural order, following those principles in our own lives leads to harmony.

This verse is a great example of this. The first part of the passage is a cosmological statement about opposites. Lao Tzu is saying that what we see as distinct opposite things actually arise interdependently of each other, that you cannot have one without the other.

Simply by paying attention to this one concept, there is so much insight that can be gleaned in our personal lives. What if we expected and anticipated the bad times in our lives just as we did the good ones? How would that change the way we confront difficulty? How would it make us more resilient to the twists and turns in life?

Lao Tzu ends the verse talking about how to realize this understanding in your life, and it's a practice he advocates for over and over: meditation. This is what he means by teaching "no talking". Understanding starts with just showing up and watching.

Uplifting News

It's a good day to be a Canadian with a Chase Bank card. Chase has decided to exit the Canadian credit card market, and in doing so has canceled active debts for Canadians with Chase cards. It's the sort of story you expect to see on the Onion and not in real life. Now, it's still a good idea to keep your card balances low as Chase will certainly not be pulling out of other countries like the US anytime soon (it's actually the top credit card issuer in the states).

 Quote of the Day

Today's quote is from the 13th-century Persian Muslim poet Rumi,

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.”