THE TAO IS SILENT — Preface (excerpt) p. xi by Raymond M. Smullyan


When I first came across the Taoist writings, I was infinitely delighted. I did not feel that I was reading something strange or exotic, but that I was reading the very thoughts I have had all my life, only expressed far better than I have ever been able to express them. To me, Taoism means a state of inner serenity combined with an intense aesthetic awareness. Neither alone is adequate; a purely passive serenity is kind of dull, and an anxiety-ridden awareness is not very appealing. A Chinese friend of mine (of the modern school) recently criticized Taoism as a philosophy of “having one’s cake and eating it too.” I replied, “What could be better?” He responded, “But one can’t have one’s cake and eat it too!” This is precisely where we disagree! All my life I have believed that one can have one’s cake and eat it too. Hence I am a Taoist.

Actually, I came to Taoism first through Zen-Buddhism. It took me quite a while to realize to what extent Zen has combined Taoism and Buddhism, and that it was primarily the Taoistic elements which appealed to me. The curious thing about Zen is that it first makes one’s mouth water for this thing called Satori (enlightenment) and then straightaway informs us that our desire for Satori is the very thing which is preventing us from getting it! By contrast, the Taoist strikes me as one who is not so much in search of something he hasn’t, but who is enjoying what he has.

blog comments powered by Disqus