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Taoism On Death

Death mirror picture
Taoism sees death as a kind of coming-going process , that is nothing special, just the universal law of change and transformation
Contrary to our expectations, Taoism is not interested in death. Death is seen as part of the whole, more precisely a compensation and continuation of life. We basically born out of emptiness and go back to emptiness. Nothing else can be said about death (and life).

Death also means the release of bonds, and thus can be regarded as genuine liberation (in the Buddhist sense).

The ancient wise men who are models of conduct for the Taoist disciples were indifferent to death as well to life. Here's a quote from Chuang-tzu about a wise man who thinks in a very peculiar way: "Death and life are great considerations, but they could work no change in him. Though heaven and earth were to be overturned and fall, they would occasion him no loss. His judgment is fixed regarding that in which there is no element of falsehood; and, while other things change, he changes not. The transformations of things are to him the developments prescribed for them, and he keeps fast hold of the author of them." (Book 5, Part 1, Section 5, Translation James Legge).

Finally, death and life (like other opposites) are only byproducts of circumstances as in the following quote: "'Death and life, preservation and ruin, failure and success, poverty and wealth, superiority and inferiority, blame and praise, hunger and thirst, cold and heat; - these are the changes of circumstances, the operation of our appointed lot. Day and night they succeed to one another before us, but there is no wisdom able to discover to what they owe their origination." (Book 5...).

Further resources:

  • Several papers provided through our Paperstore address the problem of death in Taoism:

    =>
    Taoism on Death (PDF)
    Further notes and quotes.

    =>
    At the Death of Lao-tzu (PDF)
    Commentary of the story signed by Chuang-tzu.

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