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Dao/Tao and Vedanta

Dao or Tao is an ancient chinese philosophy, which means 'path', but which actually indicates the underlying law and order of the Universe. It's like 'Rta' (rhythm/order) and 'dharma' (law) of this Universe. The philosophy says one must live in accordance Dao (rta /order and dharma/law which is the nature of Universe). To live like that, one must detach from the desires that spur human action and align actions to the underlying Dao (nature) of the Universe (the rta and dharma).

How similar is Dao to vedantic thoughts..?

1. Dao/Tao is about detachment (human desire) to make humans act in sync with Dao/Tao with the belief that spontaneity or natural human action is the best to live in sync with Dao/Tao.

2. Vedantic thought is also about detachment from one’s own ‘self’ which appears similar to Dao/Tao. But that detachment from ‘self’ is to observe like a witness or sAksi, our ‘self’ and all other ‘self’. This detached witnessing of our thoughts and actions as ‘we’ observe ours and others thoughts and actions helps the ‘self’ in performing actions with maximal inputs. Instead of emotions being the driver of our actions, we perform action which seems to be in the best interest of everyone.

3. But again they are similar in one sense. In vedanta, there a brahman that exists everywhere expanding/evolving the Universe. Brahman indicates an 'evolutionary zeal' in all of the Universe.  In vedanta, our life journey is to move the 'self' or 'aham' we develop towards the brahman, the evolutionary zeal and in due course become on with the brahman. When we do that, our actions are aligned to that brahman. This concept is similar to Dao/Tao.

4. But again they are different. In vedanta what drives brahman the evolutionary zeal is the witness or sAski, which is the puruSa.  This puruSa is verily the brahman because it is the observation  of puruSa that drives the evolutionary zeal or brahman.  But in Dao/Tao this concept of witness or sAksi or puruSa does not exist. In Dao/Tao the underlying Rta and Dharma themselves are the transformative process. In this way Dao/Tao is atheistic like buddhism and also more close to the current scientific beliefs.

5.  In vedanta, this observing, witnessing sAksi or puruSa is the creator of the rta, dharma and manifests as brahman, the expansion of evolutionary zeal in all of the Universe. If puruSa is only an observer or witness, then wy can't we attribute the expansion or evolution to rta and dharma..? Why should we bring in a non-interfering puruSa..?     It is because in our manas, this observer manifests as manas-sAksi. puruSa is a good template for our manas-sAksi. It teaches us to train our conscience or manas-sAksi to be witnessing everything including our thoughts and actions as equal to others thoughts and actions. This is the detachment from 'self' (not just detachment from desires),  a third party or multi-party perspective of everything we think and do, that will help us evolve truly. In this way vedanta teaches us how to live a normal materialistic life.  

6. Vedanta also leads to concepts like bhakti or devotion. How to develop this third party observation capability..? We start with bhakti or devotion to a divinity which is common to all. First step we acknowledge we could be wrong and divinity knows better. Second step we try to see what divinity sees.. Divinity sees everyone including us. So we start developing this observation capability. Third step, as we move closer and closer to divinity, our observation of ourselves and others increases and becomes deep introspection.  This is a sattvic way.  In tao/dao the attempt to align with that underlying rhythm or order could be through physical exercises, martial arts, meditation etc which are more rajasic ways. 

7. Vedanta acknowledges karma and karma-phala. We are responsible for our actions, though we cannot determine the results completely.  How do we get better results..? It's by detached witness like observation of our thoughts/actions as we do of others, understand multiple perspectives and give our karma the best shot possible for its phala. 

8. Probably these thoughts had a common origin and as the people moved away geographically, they evolved in different ways.