Indeed, I also came upon Tao & Longevity, and I was very surprised that such a book existed. After years of Daoist practice, I finally found so many answers I had been looking for. But really, the amount of content still wasn't enough to answer all my questions. After I came upon the appendix on Buddhist cultivation of samadhi, I was impressed and shortly thereafter dropped Daoism entirely, taking up an interest in Buddhist meditation instead. I agree very much with the the way you characterize Nan and Bodri as well, and this is better than I could have done. Also, I believe Nan Huaijin is extremely eclectic as well, but he would not present himself as such or give that away. When lecturing on Buddhism, he will make some connections here and there, but his overall train of thought is clear and continuous.
I can relate to that, but Master Nan and William Bodri did not so much close the door on Daoism as much as open the door to Buddhism for me. I read Bodri and Nan's Measuring Meditation Progress and Success
first, and then Tao and Longevity
second. These texts did steer me away from confused and pointless aspects of Daoism though.
It's unfortunate that there is so little of the Daoist canon available in translation. So much more Buddhism is available in English. I like Daoist writings very much, but they can often be cryptic and there is a tendency to talk in poetic metaphors and so on. There are some more straightforward texts like The Book of Balance and Harmony
, but then ones like Understanding Reality
seem needlessly esoteric, much in the manner of european alchemy books from the middle ages. My current favorite is the Huainanzi
, a massive Han Dynasty text that was just published last year after 12 years of translation work.
While Buddhism can have this obfuscation as well, i find that there can be a pure rational clarity to it that I have not seen in Daoism yet. The theory can seem much more transparent to me. On the other hand, Daoism can have a poetic simplicity that I havent seen in Buddhism. Master Nan talks about this when he is discussing Yogacara theory. He says the Chinese usually dont like the complexity of things like Yogacara, they want simplicity instead. Hence Yogacara is not widely understood in China according to him.
At any rate after various half hearted attempts to read various Buddhist scriptures over the years I took the advice of Nan and Bodri and ordered some of the books they refer to allot. And now I am getting more of what I want out of it. Their explanations of Buddhism and also their comparisons of it to Daosim have opened up the literature for me. Also their comparison of Zen and Tantric Buddhism has been very useful. Having read ancient Greek Philosophy and German Idealism, as well as Kaballah and various other metaphysical theories, I find their eclectic approach helpful and interesting. I can see how it is not really for everyone though. One can easily get overwhelmed by Bodri's website. In fact that is what seems to happen to all the people I tell to look at it. Their brains all melt, they dont know where to start, and so they just give up. Information overload.
True, nobody really sits around arguing about Daoist theory, and it is not so sectarian. Huainanzi
was certainly an important work, but honestly I have never read more than excerpts from it. The basic symbolism and approach in many later Daoist works is basically the same as that in other alchemical traditions, albeit with different terms and so forth. Still, Daoism retains a basic purity and scientific approach that is unscathed by the sectarianism that has plagued Buddhism over the centuries. On the other hand, the obscurity of Daoist texts has led to a lot of confusion, and many people following incorrect routes. This is unfortunate in its own way. The Mahayana sutras also have a great deal of obscurity in their details, so that only people with some degree of prajna and accomplishment can really understand. Of course the main themes will come across to any reader, but the vast majority will gloss over their details. For example, in the shorter Sukhavativyuha
, the Buddha tells Sariputra not to speak of the birds of Sukhavati as being retribution for evil actions. Each time I read this passage, the awkwardness of its conventional meaning makes me wonder how many readers even question it, or for that matter wonder why the Buddha would say this to Sariputra.
I think in one of his books, Nan made some sly remark about the Chinese just wanting to achieve enlightenment upon seeing plum blossoms, or something to that effect. Indian culture did tend more toward systematic logic and details, whereas Chinese culture preferred eloquence and simplicity. Neither is really better, but from this trend it becomes clear how Indian Mahayana emphasized the gradual path of a bodhisattva, whereas the Chinese emphasized the immediacy of perceiving the Dharmakaya. Still, the basic principle of the three bodies makes these two aspects fundamentally inseparable in the overall path.
mr. gordo wrote:
Those are some real SEO rich posts.
. A load of ads you guys have produced here without much contribution.
Are you really steering the discussion in this direction? If I wanted to turn people toward Nan Huaijin's teachings, I would add content about him to my own website. Besides this, although the thread is about Bodri and Nan, most of the discussion was actually a pointless debate over gradual vs. sudden cultivation. I also doubt Nan benefits from his translations in any tangible way, and it is more likely that his translators such as Wen Kuan Chu, Thomas Cleary, and J.C. Cleary, etc., would be the benefactors. I don't care if anyone on this thread reads this or buys that, and I don't think there is any market for books by Nan or Bodri. The same goes for translations of the Buddhist sutras. Nobody buys them, which is one reason I won't bother trying to publish mine or benefit from them.