Buddhism and the Taoist Alternative

15 Jun

Secular Buddhism, Meditation, and the Taoist Alternative (via Philosophical Taoism)

  1. http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/how-to-meditate/
  2. http://darwiniana.com/2011/06/10/secular-buddhism-and-bad-science/
  3. http://darwiniana.com/2011/06/10/sam-harris-confusion-over-buddhism-and-meditation/


06.10.11  Sam Harris’ confusion over buddhism, and meditation

Posted in General at 12:34 pm by nemo

We have discussed Harris’ confusion on the issue of buddhism here already several times: …   I find Harris’ analysis dreadful, and somewhat frightening.

Harris isn’t stupid, but the influence of scientism is on its way to making him so.  In any case, the call to renew buddhism is absolutely right on, until you realize what is meant: the state of enlightenment will be factored out and replaced with vague ‘mystical contemplation’ to be studied by neuroscience. Please.  NOT!  The confusion of software and hardware here is fundamental: for millennia yogis and buddhists have reached enlightenment (which terminates the round of rebirth) using the ‘software of meditation.  Now the attempt to reduce it to science will no doubt destroy that concept and tradition and replace it with ‘feel good’ relaxation response as the purpose of mediation.


The Tao is a way or path to living as optimally as possible in accordance with the nature of things. … … There is no metaphysics … [in] Taoism).

Taoism as Hermit Philosophy http://www.hermitary.com/solitude/taoism.html


The argument here above from Darwiniana is that neutered, deracinated Buddhism does away with enlightenment/the doctrine of rebirth (i.e., the mystical tradition) and thereby makes this system easy pickings for the worst trends in secular scientism and the occult.  OK fine.  I wouldn’t necessarily agree with this assessment, nor with the idea that a secular Buddhism couldn’t achieve enlightenment without metaphysics, but I am willing for one to concede to Buddhism its traditional philos-sophia and doctrines on the grounds that these are noumenal principles and part of nature …

But there is an alternative.  The Taoist tradition and path to meditation.  Here’s a page describing it.


This is yet another path to enlightenment, and one that doesn’t and needn’t be attached to metaphysics to make it worthwhile or beneficial to people, without also supposedly watering down its tenets.

Maybe the Secular Buddhists could borrow a few pointers here from the Taoist playbook via a reading of the Tao Te Ching and the original vision of Philosophical Taoism.  That way, at least, they couldn’t be accused of selling out to scientific modernism.

Traditional Buddhism itself isn’t bad; but Lao Tse, I think, saw the writing on the wall.  Metaphysics would be the doom of it and other similar traditions as soon as it could be construed as being the “way that [could] be followed.”  Buddhism couldn’t … and can’t … and now we see the results.  … … … Metaphysical “religion” – the stuff of higher soul, supernaturalism, and spirituality (seen as being divorced-from the natural order around us and how it functions in the world) – is a minefield and it’s going to blow up in people’s faces.

This has already happened with regard to Taoist “religion” and “metaphysics” (vis-a-vis its emphasis on alchemy, shamanism).  It’s well on its way to happening with the doctrinal systems of so-called “religious” Buddhism and its metaphysical notions about reality in the world (i.e., via the doctrine of rebirth & all similarly-related principles).

The insistence on binding people to these esoteric concepts and a primordial, myth-laced soteriology of ascent (i.e., the idea of enlightenment-as-transfiguration) is going to make Buddhist religion a hindrance to people in their progression along the path of contemplative development.   …

If Buddhism is going to “get on” in the extended history of human thought, intellectual development, and the inculcation of wisdom … if it expects to make a real impact on human lives through the fostering of insight and inner peace, then it is going to have to differentiate its critical tenets as Practice from the cultural mythologization that attached to it over time through its religious structures and metaphysical concepts.  It’s going to have to learn how to distinguish its own Tao from its 10,000 Things, and then confront its own mystery, as Taoism does its.

The way that can be followed is not the Eternal Way.”
(Lao Tse, Tao Te Ching)


3 Responses to “Buddhism and the Taoist Alternative”

  1. dianoeidos June 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    I’ve made some modifications to this post, based on some reader comments. It doesn’t really “change” what I’ve said; I’m still sticking to my guns about Taoism being an alternative to “religious” Buddhism and a useful one at that. Nevertheless, it clears up my points a little; and I’ve included some more material for our consideration here, regarding Philosophical Taoism, the metaphysics issue in Taoism, and religious concerns. Also, for anyone’s who’s interested, check out this site for the Reformed Taoist Congregation and Movement. Hope it’s of use.



  1. Darwiniana - June 16, 2011

    […] http://dianoeidos.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/buddhism-and-the-taoist-alternative/ I appreciate Luke’s remarks here, and welcome his posts. Richard has commented on Buddhism/Taoism. […]

  2. Darwiniana » Repost: Harris muddles the meditation question - June 17, 2011

    […] is puzzling strategy. Repost of a popular piece yesterday: Harris muddles the meditation question http://dianoeidos.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/buddhism-and-the-taoist-alternative/ I appreciate Luke’s remarks here, and welcome his posts. Richard has commented on […]

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