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213 Interviewing Daoist Masters A Reality Check CHRISTOPHER COTT Much of the confusion and misinformation that have plagued Daoist studies until recently is due to Western scholars interpreting Daoist texts and teachings on their own terms. Had early missionaries and sinologists allowed living Daoists to have more of a voice in their research, rather than relying on often poorly translated texts and other sources from, for example, the Neo-Confucian tradition, a different picture may have emerged. Thus, while it is important that we form our own scholarly opinions about Daoists texts and ideas, we must also be sure to check in regularly with the living Daoist community and allow them a prominent voice in Daoist scholarship. On this background, as part of my dissertation on the utility of Daoism in psychology (Cott 2013), I recently went to China to confer with ordained Daoist practitioners regarding their views on Daoism. Primary Considerations Cott and Rock (2009) outline two primary sources of material for the academic study of Daoism. The first is the textual tradition as contained in collections such as the Daozang 道藏 and Zangwai Daoshu 藏外道書. The second is the living tradition as found in predominantly the Quanzhen 全真 and Zhengyi 正一 movements. Needless to say, scholars of Daoism spend a great deal of time with textual sources. These are relatively easy to come by and can be accessed without leaving the office. Fur- 214 / Journal of Daoist Studies 7 (2014) thermore, they cover the entire spectrum of Daoism from virtually any point in its history. However, it is important that we do not neglect the living tradition for a number of reasons. The Black/Green Ram of Qing Yang Gong.1 Perhaps the first and most obvious reason for conferring with the living Daoist tradition, rather than relying solely on textual sources, is the Chinese language. Although many scholars of Daoism are proficient in literary Chinese, there are still often many possible interpretations of a given passage. It is common practice in Daoism to have verbal transmissions that go along with the texts but are passed on only by word of mouth. Indeed, the author has encountered complex explanations of the various components of single characters, let alone whole texts. It may therefore be beneficial for scholars to confer with living Daoists in order 1 Qing 青 may be translated as either ‘green’ or ‘black.’ The ram appears black now, but is made of bronze so may have appeared green at an earlier date. Cott,‚Interviewing Daoist Masters‛ / 215 to consolidate which of a number of interpretations may be correct in a given context. This is especially true where concepts specific to Daoism are involved . For example, a text might make mention of jing 靜, which might be translated as ‚stillness,‛ ‚tranquility,‛ or the like. A scholar reading this might assume they understand what ‚stillness‛ means and move on. However, the term may indicate a specific meditative state in a given Daoist school, which may or may not be just as we expect it to be, and may have profound implications for the interpretation of the rest of the text. In this case, a scholar who simply reads the text and assumes they understand the concepts based on their prior knowledge of different systems may well be misled unless they confer with living representatives of the tradition. There are also fundamental psychological differences between the Eastern and Western minds (see Nisbett 2003). For example, Western cultures tend to be more individualistic, viewing the self as a unitary freeagent and valuing individual expression and personal achievement. In contrast, Eastern cultures tend to be more collectivist, viewing the self as part of a greater whole and privileging group harmony and collective benefit over individual expression and personal gain. Easterners and Westerners also seem to experience the world in different ways. Easterners, more than Westerners, tend to emphasize background and context, even in simple things such as looking at a photograph , suggesting that they see the world more as a complex series of relationships, rather than a collection of independent components (e.g., Ji, Peng, & Nisbett 2000; Masuda & Nisbett 2001). Another interesting example can be found in Imae and Gentner (1994), who showed Japanese and American participants...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1941-5524
Pages
pp. 213-225
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Open Access
No
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