Synopses & Reviews
Taoism is mostly known for its quiet, enigmatic wisdom, but the Tao sometimes also flows with the crashing, cleansing force of a rushing river, sweeping away all forms in its path. According to Taoist teacher William Martin, the time has come to pay attention to what the Tao is doing now. It is gathering its Yang, its active power, he writes in The Activists Tao te Ching,
for a revolution that will change the world.
There is no question that this revolutionary energy is beginning to move. We have been too long out of balance. Whether or not the human race will notice and align itself with this energy is uncertain. If we are able to do so, we will find ourselves experiencing a new freedom and justice. If we are not able to do so, we will be swept aside and the Tao will restore balance to the planet without us. There has never been a more important time in human history.
The Activists Tao Te Ching will combine ancient revolutionary wisdom with a modern presentation that will speak forcefully to this crucial period.
Transformation and revolution accompanied the teachings of Quietist Taoism in Lao-Tzus time as well. He wrote and taught sometime during the Warring States” period of Chinas history in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE, when various powerful states and leaders were vying for consolidated power. Warfare was shifting from chariot battles between noblemen to mass armies of foot soldiers. The more affluent states were able to take advantage of the new technology of casting individual weapons for these foot soldiers. Warfare began to affect great masses of ordinary people for the first time.
Confucian teachings of duty, honor, obedience, order, and sacrifice were firmly in place and were used by the states to insure compliance and recruit armies. Duty and sacrifice for the state were considered primary. Lao-Tzus teachings were seen as a threat to the ordered social structures of Confucian society and those who followed his way were branded as lazy, antisocial, unpatriotic, anarchists because they followed a way of effortless flow, simplicity, flexibility, and had a tendency to opt out of the societal structures in favor of a more rural, simple, and cooperative way of life. They sometimes opposed the authority structure, but often chose to simply ignore it, feeling that the Tao did not seek notice but went about its purpose hidden and without fanfare.
Though he was reluctant to put his teachings into writing because he felt they would be misunderstood and misused, he was finally persuaded to write the brief collection of poetic wisdom verses, about 5,000 Chinese characters in all, that became The Tao Te Ching.
In much the same way as the teachings of Jesus have been marginalized by power structures, so throughout Chinese history Lao-Tzus ideas have been marginalized by political and financial structures; either by relegating them to monasteries where the focus was on esoteric magical thinking, or to universities where they became the stuff of dry scholarship. To let these ideas become embedded in the hearts and minds of the common people was to invite revolution. Today the work of Lao-Tzu is considered anti-social” in China.
But the common people have held on to these inherent truths. The book has resonated through the ages and been translated into over 100 languages. Almost every year a new approach to the texts emerges, illustrating the power of the simple words.
The deeper message of The Tao te Ching, that of a vision of society that is counter to the conventional structure, is easily ignored. It is time to recapture the deep revolutionary power of Lao-Tzu and The Tao te Ching.
Elements in the Tao Te Ching that undergird a revolutionary view of life are many:
Leadership must be unnoticed, hidden, and not seeking for power.
The common person can be trusted to order his or her own life in local communities that ?enable contentment and happiness.
Greed and acquisitiveness lead inevitably to injustice and inequality, while simplicity leads to balance.
Aggressive effort and militarism does not accomplish its aims without doing harm, while wu- wei” - or working without conscious strain, accomplishes all things.
Flexibility is more powerful that rigidity - in structures, ideas, and persons.
Words cannot be trusted. Too often they are simply propaganda so the Taoist uses only those that are clear and necessary.
Human beings have a Te” or natural virtue” that will guide them in actions that heal the planet if they can learn to trust themselves.
The Activists Tao Te Ching will call attention to these and other universal precepts, accessible to all people regardless of cultural context, to provide the needed encouragement and confidence for the road ahead.
Change and anger are in the air. Looking for answers to today s wrenching challenges, William Martin turns to the Tao Te Ching and finds that while Taoism is known for its quiet, enigmatic wisdom, the Tao can also have the cleansing force of a rushing river.
Through his interpretation of this ancient Chinese text, Martin elucidates revolutionary messages condemning power-seeking and greed. He emphasizes that humans have a natural virtue that can help them heal the planet; shows how Taoism s simplicity can be subversive and its flexibility a potent force; and reassures that when injustice is the rule, justice always lies in wait.
Provocative and stirring, Martin s Tao flows within and through those who ride the waves of anger and frustration and gently guides them to true freedom.
We have learned the secret of transformation: Injustice feeds our determination. Hate increases our love. Wounds bring forth our healing, and fear uncovers our courage and serenity.
from The Activist s Tao Te Ching
Change and anger are in the air. We are the 99%,” black lives matter,” and love is love” have become part of the lexicon. Previously unquestioned institutions (police, military, the NSA) are under scrutiny. Heat waves, floods, and earthquakes seem to be increasing. Could there be a silver lining? William Martin turns to the Tao te Ching and finds that while Taoism is known for its quiet, enigmatic wisdom, the Tao can also have the cleansing force of a rushing river. Martin elucidates these revolutionary messages condemning power seeking and greed. He emphasizes that humans have a Te” that can help them heal the planet; shows how Taoisms simplicity” can be subversive and its flexibility a potent force; and reassures that When injustice is the rule, justice lies in wait.” Provocative and stirring, Martins Tao flows within and through those who ride the waves of anger and frustration, and gently guides [them] to true freedom.”
About the Author
William Martin is the author of six books of Tao te Ching interpretation including titles highlighting parenting, love, aging, and caregiving. He lives in Chico, CA.