Is Taoism Common Sense?
I have heard many people say that Taoism is just common sense. I never liked this definition for Taoism that people throw about. Common sense isn’t easy. Common sense is based on the lessons we learn in life. It changes relative to how society bounces a person around. Common sense only becomes “common” after so many people perform it. Then we parrot each other’s sensible actions. I would state common sense in 300 BC warring states China is going to have some different elements than sensible actions in United States 2010. So it really represents the term we used to cover all the unwritten rules to navigate life in a better way. People use it as a measuring stick to validate their actions.
The way, Tao, isn’t directly common sense. Tao represents living to life as a motion of grace (Wu Wei). Grace is complicated, simple and without words as it is only definable in retrospect to one’s actions that we can determine if something was graceful or not. So Tao represents our journey and common sense is one of the tools we use to help make our journey more graceful.
People strive to make common sense graceful.
Never confuse a tool of a practice to be what defines that practice. This happens quite often for students trying to define Taoism.
We can say in Taoism that our teachings will try and distill elements of good sense into our practice: patience, kindness, compassion. However, learning how to apply these elements and practicing them isn’t always very easy. This is especially true within cultures that suppress kindness, compassion and patience. Both China and Western consumer culture currently actively suppress these ideals and attempt to subvert them for profit.
Understand the frustration in trying to define Taoism is very normal. Trying to make sense of Taoist teachings can be difficult. This is because the culture we live in makes it difficult or actively shuts down those who do teach or practice it successfully. Look at what happened to Martin Luther King as example of how our modern society reacts to people teaching common sense truths.
Teaching kindness and compassion is a very difficult road in our culture and one often resisted by the larger system.
The questions about the nature of Taoism is really an internal search to find one’s path… that never is to be given but rather explored. We hope common sense will define the path. More to the point it really helps you stay on the path. The path itself can still be very hard to journey, even when use a walking stick of common sense to help.
Remember, common sense neither defines a path nor a destination. Rather it helps you to place steps gently ahead. Good sense permits you to take care of yourself and others as you journey through life in a more wholesome manner: with kindness, compassion and patience.
Much fortune to you in exploring life. Strive to explore good sensible options in life. Take the time to craft your own journey rather than thinking the map ahead comes from outside your life or nature.