Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Freedom and Discipline

I have spent a lot of time wrestling with the issues of “discipline” and “freedom”. This might seem a trifle odd for someone who calls himself a Daoist. After all, am I not supposed to be the ultimate “go with the flow” type? Didn't Alan Watts call Daoism “the water-course way” and use the analogy of the leaf flowing downstream to the sea?

In actual fact, if you spend some time studying Daoist arts and Daoist monasticism, you will find that it is quite a rigorous path. I found this out personally when I went to my first taijiquan class and found that my legs were so tired afterwards that I had to crawl up to my apartment because my feet couldn't clear the treads! People who wish to live in Daoist monastic communities or pursue the path of internal alchemy quickly find out that they have to work, work, work!

Of course, only a very simple-minded person really thinks of freedom as the ability to sit in an easy chair and eat potato chips for the rest of her life. Real freedom is intimately linked with discipline. That is to say, a person who is incapable of choosing to not give in to his desires is not really free. A drug addict or alcoholic does what she “wants” to do (i.e. inject or drink the drug of choice), but people still say that he has a “monkey on his back”.

Having said all of that, there is an important paradox here. Many people become so addicted to discipline that it too becomes another monkey on their back. Take for example the issue of dieting. It is terribly important to watch how much we eat. If we don't, the mountain of poisonous, over-rich food that our modern capitalist society is constantly trying to seduce us into eating; plus our extremely sedentary lifestyle; will push us into eating too much. But if we assign too much of our consciousness to counting calories, we run the risk of becoming obsessive.

The same point can be made about exercise, saving money, cleanliness, etc.

This particular part of the problem seems to come down to the ends that are being sought. We diet in order to keep from gaining weight. But we do not seek to avoid weight gains simply in themselves, but rather as an intermediate end towards the greater goal of being healthy. If we lose too much weight, we risk becoming sick by that means too, so we rationally avoid this. But substitute a more socially defined objective, such as being “attractive”, and we make the issue much more complex. Young women internalize the ideal of “you can never be too rich or too thin” to the point where they see themselves as being overweight long after they have gone below their ideal body weight.
This is the key point of anorexia: people internalize a cultural norm to the point where they ignore their own personal experience.

In a related vein, people often suggest to young people that they should join the armed forces in order to “learn discipline”. I would suggest, however, that what happens when someone goes to boot-camp has a great deal in common with becoming ill with anorexia nervosa. The process of basic training has been designed to take people and get them to so identify with the group (i.e. the armed forces) that they will no longer view their reality from their own individual perspective (e.g. if I go over that hill I will get shot and die), but rather from that of the group they are involved with (e.g. if I don't go over that hill I will disgrace my regiment and let down all my friends.) As such, people in military service are learning a very specific and limited form of “discipline”, one that involves taking orders from others and subverting one's own will to that of a patriarchal institution. Obviously, such a thing has only a limited value in “civvy street”, which is why most ex-soldiers completely return to previous patterns of behaviour as soon as they are demobilized.

Getting back to the issue of Daoism, I would suggest that the important point of following the “water course way” is not to avoid any discipline at all, but rather to pursue a specific form of it. The Daoist would not want to become so identified with some social norm that they damage their health in pursuit of it. Instead, it seems to me that a Daoist path involves picking and choosing a path (or “water course”) that makes sense to the individual Daoist herself, instead of picking up one that society has chosen and heavily promoted for its own purposes.

Of course it is a terrible mistake to starve yourself to death or become cannon fodder in an unjust war. But those are very obvious and clear-cut examples of the danger that come from internalizing an external discipline. And I would argue that we see similar, but less clear-cut examples all the time. In the sad cases of sexual abuse occurring in religious institutions, it strikes me that the fundamental problem is not the sexual abuse, per se, but rather the habit of deference to authority that kept the abused children from fighting back and their parents from making a huge, public stink. Why didn't the altar boys scream at the priest instead of freezing like a deer in the headlights of a car? Why didn't the parents “name names” during church meetings or call in the media? Everyone in the institutions involved was at least a passive participant in the cover-up process. I would suggest that this is because the “discipline” of deferral to ecclesiastic authority had become so ingrained that the people involved that it would not have occurred to the people involved to act in their own best interests.

(Lest someone waggle their fingers self-righteously about this example from the Church, I would suggest that anyone who pursues Daoism should also ask themselves how much of their actions are being guided by cultural icons that came from bad martial arts movies and the “dao of Star Wars”. )

There are further layers of complexity, of course, such as the relationship between our consciousness and the work (i.e. “kung fu”) that we are already doing, and how that influences our choices. As well, there is the further issue of habit and how we use it to solidify the gains that past effort has made and how that relates to the concepts of “will” and “freedom”. All of these are tremendously important to the practice of neidan (or, “internal alchemy”), so with any luck I will get to them in future posts.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Philosophy and Religion

People commonly make a distinction between Daoism as a religion (daojiao) and as philosophy (daojia.) The problem with this neat formulation is that it rests on the fundamentally naïve assumption that philosophy and religion can be always be easily separated into two, distinct categories of human activity. In actual fact, I would suggest that both philosophy and religion are quite wide-ranging and that there are ways of doing them that overlap to a considerable extent.

Part of the problem comes from the particular ways in which philosophy and religion have come be understood in the modern West.

Philosophy is split up into different schools of thought. Some schools restrict themselves completely to the study of logic and the meaning of words (“logical positivism”) and believe that all other forms of philosophy are at best “poetry” and at worst misunderstanding (“category mistakes”.) Others see philosophy as being the study of ideas in society and spend a great deal of time trying to figure out the cultural context of our fundamental notions (“deconstruction”.) Others believe that philosophy is about trying to find some sort of personal accommodation with the inherent absurdity of existence (“existentialism”.) The list goes on and on. But what all of these different schools currently have in common is the fact that they have become professionalized in the university setting. In effect, the only people who “do” philosophy anymore, are professors and students. And the only place it gets “done” is in university classrooms and academic journals.

This contrasts with another, more popular and ancient way of understanding “philosophy”.

The iconic image of philosophy for most of history has been that of people like Diogenes wandering with a lamp in broad daylight looking for an honest man. Or Socrates asking questions of young men in the market of Athens. At those times and places, being a “philosopher” wasn't a job, but rather a vocation or calling. And it was often one that dramatically changed your lifestyle and involved adopting a specific, visible role in society. For example, at the time of the Roman empire the convention was that only men who identified themselves as “philosophers” wore beards. (If you look at Roman coins, the only emperor wearing a beard was Marcus Aurelius---who was also a stoic philosopher and wrote the famous Meditations.)

Beyond such outward signs of eccentricity, philosophers were traditionally known as being people who often had a very well-developed mystical streak. Socrates had his “daemon”, or mysterious voice that would tell him whenever he was about to do something wrong. Descartes, Thomas Aquinas, Plotinus, Plato, etc, all described experiences that they had had which were very similar to those of religious mystics.

Even those philosophers who espouse belief systems that would not seem to have much in common with religion or mysticism often use gnomic language that could easily fit into a religious context. Take a look at this famous quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein:

"My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)"

Isn't this exactly the sort of statement that one would expect from a Daoist, Sufi or Zen Master?

In addition to these superficial similarities between philosophy and religion, there has traditionally been a specific thing known as being "philosophical". For example, you will sometimes hear common folks say things like “He took the news about losing the money philosophically.” In this situation, the term has nothing at all to do with a specific school of academic thought, but rather a habitual way of engaging with and responding to the world around us. One dictionary defines this as being "rationally or sensibly calm, patient, or composed". This isn't exactly the same thing as being “holy” or “saintly”, but it does seem to have some overlap with that way of describing a person.

These superficial similarities between religion and philosophy need not be mysterious in nature, once one realizes that philosophical investigation has a great deal in common with the spiritual practices of many religious traditions. This involves a lot of time spent in quiet reflection, careful analysis of traditional texts, pondering one's assumptions about life, and, deep reflection on what it means to be a human being. In most religious traditions, this activity would all be labeled “prayer”, “meditation” or “contemplation”. The point is that the practice of looking at the world logically is not only an academic discipline, but it can also be very akin to a spiritual practice, one that can have a practical impact on a person's personality.

Just as people often talk about the solace that people gain from religion, so too there is a sense of peace that comes from philosophy. Indeed, one of the most popular works of literature in the middle ages was Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, which was written while the author was in prison waiting to be beaten to death with cudgels for the crime of treason against the Roman Emperor. Another example are the Stoic philosophers who taught that the good life is in the grasp of most people, but must be worked for through the use of reason and self-discipline. Ancients like Epictetus would even sometimes write “self-help” manuals that would contain such pithy advice as "Regardless of what is going on around you, make the best of what is in your power, and take the rest as it occurs." (Think of this as the philosophical equivalent of St. Francis' “Prayer of Serenity” that is hung on the walls of countless Christian households.)

At the same time that the West was driving philosophers out of the marketplace and locking them up in the Ivory Tower, it was also chasing religious people out of the hall of reason. That is to say, a certain way of understanding religion that is antithetical to philosophy has gained public prominence to the point where many folks believe that it is the only way to understand the term, and as such, believe that there is no common ground between “faith” and calm, reasoned reflection. Primarily, this understanding of religion comes from a 20th century reactionary movement against liberal values and the modern world known as “fundamentalism”. (This movement began as a form of North American Christianity, but the same tendency has asserted itself in all the world's religions.) In a nutshell, fundamentalist Christianity is based on the assumption that all “true” Christians believe the following: the literal and total inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the authenticity of his miracles. (Forms of fundamentalism based on other religions would obviously come up with a different set of “fundamentals”.)

For followers of this doctrine, the cornerstone of religion is not how one lives one's life, treats one's neighbours, or grows as a human being, but whether or not one publicly associates oneself with and actually believes these assertions. Please note what an enormous demand this is to make of someone. Our democratic system of government is based on the principles of freedom of speech, association, the press, etc. Parliaments and Congresses are based on the ability of elected representatives to ask the government searching questions in order to find the truth. As citizens we depend on the media to investigate and chase down news that is of public interest. In addition, the material prosperity we enjoy is based on the cultural practice of scientific investigation. Fundamentalism wants the citizenry to turn this deeply rooted intellectual freedom totally on its head and instead simply accept whatever the church teaches them to believe without any hesitation or doubt whatsoever.

Please take another moment to consider how great this demand is. Even Caligula understood how difficult it is to control a person's inner being. That is why he coined the famous dictum: oderint, dum metuant (“Let them hate, so long as they fear”.) The theology of the fundamentalists is even more oppressive than that of the mad Emperor---it is not satisfied with just fear and lip-service but demands total, robotic unity of thought.

As such, the followers of fundamentalism are forced to simply turn off their curiosity and faculty of reason or else accept that they can no longer be members of the religious community. In this formulation, therefore, “faith” is defined as the ability to cease to act like a rational human being who has been socialized to live in a democratic, science-based community.

The important point to realize about this sort of belief system is that it is based on fear. On the surface level, the concern is that if someone isn't able to keep the rational mind at bay a vengeful God (or at least an angry congregation) will cast her into a “fiery pit”. On a deeper level, the fear is that once a person looks at religion using the same thought processes that allow him to wire his home without electrocuting himself, he is inevitably going to find out that it is nothing more than a sham. This puts the fundamentalist believer in the same situation as the man who has a re-occurring cough that he constantly worries about, but who refuses to go see a doctor about for fear that it may turn out that he has lung cancer.

A second thing to remember about the fundamentalist world-view is that it is primarily concerned about the internal thought processes of the practitioner rather than her behaviour. It doesn't matter whether or not this person lives a saintly life, if she doesn't believe, she is doomed by a vengeful God. Indeed, the most wretched sinner who believes or even recants on his deathbed is assured a place in heaven while the secular or even liberal religious saint who cannot find it in herself to believe in the fundamentalist creed is doomed to the fiery flames of Hell. Not only does this offend against people's innate sense of justice, but because a person's behaviour is intimately connected to their psychological state, it would appear that, for the fundamentalist, religion has no impact on a believer's psyche than the simple “leap of faith”.

Not only does this reduction of all religious behaviour to belief dismiss good works as irrelevant, it also rejects the value of any sort of spiritual practice. This means that not only does the fundamentalist believer not have recourse to their rational mind, they are also totally cut off from any sort of personal interaction with the spiritual plane. No insight gained from personal insight or spiritual self-transformation is allowed to trump the viewpoint of the fundamentalist, because the ultimate authority is the literal word of the Bible (as interpreted by the fundamentalist preacher, of course.) In effect, no matter how many years of spiritual practice an individual man or woman has followed, or how wise they appear in both word and deed, they have no authority at all compared to an ancient anonymous scribe writing in bad Greek.

My experience with Westerners who identify with “philosophical Daoism” (daojia) and fight tooth and nail against the idea that Daoism is primarily a religion (daojiao) is that they usually consist of folks who make the assumption that by definition all religion is fundamentalist in nature. Conversely, once in a while, I will come across someone who is upset about Western cultural appropriation of the Daoist “brand-name” and will violently argue that nothing in the religion (as they espouse it) should ever be questioned. As a result, they assert that “philosophical Daoism” as such simply does not and never should, exist. As such, they come very close to espousing a form of “fundamentalist Daoism”, which immediately drives the first group totally ballistic. Since these latter folks only reinforce the assumptions of the former, the result is extreme reluctance for Westerners to entertain the notion that there is anything at all worthwhile in the traditions of any religion, let alone Daoism.

This is unfortunate, for while it is true that the fundamentalist definition of religion life is quite common and has been very forcefully promoted by various institutional forces in modern society, it is not currently, nor has it ever has been, the only one. A different formulation of “faith”, for example, is to see it more as a form of “hope” in the ultimate meaning of life instead of robotic assimilation by some simplistic creed. The distinction is that the fundamentalist is terrified that if he follows his logical faculty wherever it leads him, it will undermine his religion and leave him in a place that he does not want to be. The person who's faith is based on hope, on the other hand, trusts that wherever reason leads her it will eventually take her to a place where she will be comfortable. In effect, a great deal of the distinction comes down to whether or not one lives in spiritual fear or courage.

The Westerner who rejects the religious side of Daoism is not just rejecting fundamentalism, however, he is also cutting off some of the most fruitful parts of the tradition he espouses. Logic is not only deductive, it can also be inductive. That is to say, reason is not only restricted to analyzing statements to find out if they conform to the standard rules of set theory and truth-functional analysis; but it also includes the pursuit of direct experience in a systematic and rational way (i.e. the scientific method.) Reason allows for experimentation as well as logical analysis. And this is where the religious side of Daoism has things to offer that simply reading the Dao De Jing, Zhuangzi and a few other texts cannot.

The Daoist tradition includes a wide variety of martial arts and meditation techniques that are all seen as specific methodologies that allow an individual to directly experience that ineffable entity that writers like Laozi, Zhuangzi and Liezi call the “Dao”. These techniques are also integral to the spiritual project of becoming a better human being (“internal alchemy”.) If someone rejects all of the religious elements of Daoism, they reject this rich heritage too.

Finally, people are much more than thinking machines, we also feel, are inspired, love, appreciate beauty, and so on. The rituals, aesthetics, calligraphy, fengshui, etc, of Daoist tradition all respond to these other elements of what it means to be a human being. The exercise of reason is not opposed to any of these things, and it could become an enormous asset to them by helping the practitioner make distinctions between what should be accepted as a useful ornament to human existence, and what should be rejected as superstition. Simply restricting yourself to reading the Dao De Jing, Zhuangzi and a perhaps a few other texts cuts these people off from this entire artistic universe. This is unnecessary and wasteful.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Funny hats and silly clothes---

One of the archetypes of Daoists is that they are eccentrics who ignore social conventions in their personal life, and if you asked my neighbours, they would say that I fit this mold. But I would suggest that this is not the result of some urge to be "different", but because I see things that they are oblivious to. The clothing choices that I make are a good example.

In an effort to both save money and lower my carbon footprint, I've been experimenting with ways of living comfortably in a cooler home. One of the more interesting things I've found out is that Western-style clothing is poorly designed to keep people warm. I found this out when I heard an interview with a couple clothing designers who had studied Inuit clothing.

What they found was that this clothing is designed to trap hot air within and stop it from escaping. This means that its ability to keep people warm in extreme cold is not merely a case of the insulating properties of the fur, but also the structural design of the garment.

I raise this point because it occurred to me that traditional Chinese clothing was designed to keep people warm in a temperate climate even though their homes lack central heating. I found an on-line company that still sells cheongsams

and ordered one to see how warm they are and found out that they are really warm. To understand why, take a look at the two pictures.

The first thing to note is that the collar of the gown is tight, this stops warm air from escaping out the highest part of the clothing. The other thing is the front. It is double-breasted and the frog closures make sure that an air-tight seal exists all along the closure. The long sleeves also keep air from escaping. In effect, the cheongsam is a pyramid that fits over the body to trap as much of the body's heat in a blanket of warm air.

The second thing to note is the men who are wearing hats. I heard a US army report once cited that says that 40% of a person's heat is released by the head. And my meditation master once told me that wearing a hat is an essential part of keeping healthy. As someone who started going bald at the age of 15, I can tell you that hats are essential to keeping warm!

As I mentioned before, I found a source that makes and sells cheongsams on-line for a very reasonable price. They are made of light cotton, but when you wear them over ordinary Western clothing they make it very comfortable to live in a house where the temparture is as low as 10 degrees Celcius (50 Farenheit.)

Another thing I found out came about as a result of a rash I developed on my feet. I try to avoid wearing street shoes in my house, so I have a pair of bierkenstock sandals for indoor wear and I had a pair of "duck shoes" that I used for when I want to quickly duck outside to do yard work, throw scraps in the composter, etc. This meant I could quickly slip off one and slip on the other at the door, which preserves my hardwood floors. Unfortunately, the rubber shoes made my feet sweat like crazy, which led to a very nasty rash. (My doctor told me to throw away those shoes right after I got home.) I still liked the idea of having easily slipped on footware, though, so I looked for an alternative. What I found that works very well are wooden shoes, or sabots.

These are a traditional Canadien footware, although they are usually associated with the Dutch, who call them "klompen" (obviously for the sound they make when you walk on pavement.) The big advantage they have is that they are made of wood, which has huge advantages over rubber or plastic for footware. First of all, wood has naturally occurring anti-fungal and anti-bacterial chemicals that help trees fight off infections. Secondly, wood is a structured, composite material that wicks moisture away from the surface of the wood, which dries out any bacteria or fungus on the surface and kills it. (I heard a scientist on the radio who had compared wooden and plastic cutting boards and cited these reasons for suggesting that the former are far superior to the latter.)

The point to remember is that our world is a very complex, interesting place and the person who is alive to it has a myriad opportunities to see things in a different, more fruitful manner. Even the clothing one chooses to wear can be an opportunity to flow with the greater Dao.

Monday, October 15, 2007


A lot of modern people are concerned about what they eat. Some of this is probably a good idea, but a lot seems to me to be pretty much besides the point. I heard today on the radio that a lot of people try to add Omega-3 oils to their diet because they are good for us. But the scientist that was interviewed said that there are different types of Omega-3 and that most of the additives are pretty much useless.

At the same time, a co-worker told me that a relative in the grocery business told her that the fastest growing part of the food business is the pre-packaged, micro-waveable meals. (What we used to dismiss as "nuke and puke".) The last time I was in a mainstream grocery store (several years ago) I was amazed to see the huge amount of space that was devoted to frozen entrees. Some of this might be OK, but a lot of what I've seen seems to be pretty poor stuff compared to a meal cooked from scratch.

Daoists traditionally put a lot of thought into their diet. Some of the "wild history" stories include people who refrained from eating any of the grains. (One theory I heard was that at one time all taxes were levied against grain harvest---which meant that if someone never grew grains, they never had to pay taxes!) One autobiography I read talked about a young person who lived on nothing but pine needles. (His master told him to "grow up" and eat rice like everyone else.) I have a wonderful cookbook of recipes collected at Daoist Temples by Michael Saso, which has all sorts of hearty, simple fare.

My experience is, however, that eating should be an exercise in self-awareness instead of trying to accomodate one theory or another. Our body gives us all sorts of feedback from the food we eat. Too little fiber and I get constipated. Too much, and I get gas and cramps. Foods with sugar, protein, caffein or alcohol make me dehydrated and susceptible to colds. Vegetables, fruits and soups give us moisture, which makes helps mucous flow and cleans my head. Rich food makes me loggy and sleepy. "Fresh" food eaten out of season and has been trucked long distances has little flavour and is woody, so I try to do the 100 mile diet.

It pays to listen to your body and develop some awareness about what is going on in it. I once had a taijiquan student who complained about regular lower back pain. When she described it, I wondered if what she meant was really kidney pain, so I asked what she drank. It turned out that she rarely drank anything except juice and milk---both of which are dehydrating (because of the sugar and protein.) She said the pain went away almost immediately when she started drinking several glasses of water a day.

I think that this idea of learning to be sensitive to our body is much more important than trying to follow the latest scientific research (or at least what gets reported in the media.) That's why I have the following poster pasted to the wall of my kitchen.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Dao of Daos

People who talk about Daoism often---if not usually---talk about the Dao as if it is some sort of God. Take for example the following quote, which I pretty much randomly selected from the net using a Google search for "cosmic dao".

Who Is God?

Dao is analogous to God, but Dao is not a being. Rather, Dao is the source of all and the ultimate reality, and Dao is the cause of all change in life. Dao permeates the universe and is the principle behind all that is. Dao can only be experienced through mystical ecstasy. Daoists seek transformation of their self and body into a cosmic, Dao-focused entity. This is achieved through ritual and meditation.

I'm not about to say that there haven't been a lot of people over the ages that have thought the same thing, but I don't. Instead, I believe that this way of looking at the term makes a few pretty substantive mistakes---ones that lead people up a spiritual blind alley.

The first thing to remember is that originally (i.e. at the time of Zhuangzi) "Dao" simply meant "way". And all sorts of jobs had a "dao" to do them. (This means that all those self-help books that purport to teach us the "dao" of something or other are actually not that far off.) For example, there is a "way" or "dao" to being a good carpenter. I'm not talking about following the building code, however, even though that is part of the picture. The closest English word I can think of is "knack" or "gift". A carpenter who has the Dao of carpentry is one that seems to be able to effortlessly do the job in a way that is far superior to everyone else. Indeed, Zhuangzi several times makes specific mention to tradesmen and their ability to perform quite mundane tasks.

What I would suggest is that Daoist is someone who has not only looked at a specific example of someone who has managed to develop a "knack" at a special vocation, but has spent time thinking about what it means to develop a "knack" as a "knack" itself. The point is not to become a master carpenter, but rather to become someone who has spent time trying to understand the concept of "Mastery" in and of itself. In effect, a Daoist is someone who seeks to find the Dao of Daos, or the "knack" of "knacks".

It can be easy to start to see this in the same terms as Western religion.

For example, anyone who really deeply looks at a subject can develop what appear to be magical abilities. The example that just about everyone acknowledges is that of the martial arts master who can do seemingly amazing feats. But there are others. One story I came across was that of two friends who met for dinner and totally surprised each other with a seemingly magical act. The first one surprised his visitor by providing him with a sumptous meal when he showed up. The secret was not clarivoyance, however, just that he happened to be on a hill and see him coming from a long way off, which gave him time to tell his cook to prepare a meal. The other feat was that guest had brough some fruit without any pits. This was not fairy food, however, for the visitor had simply pulled the part of the flower that developed into seeds out after they had been pollinated.

Another fascinating example comes from Arthur Koestler's The Lotus and the Robot, which describes his travels across the orient. He decided that he would investigate the "magical" abilities of fakirs while in India. He went to one place where he was told a very magical person lived who was able to "walk" on water. It turned out that in this part of India no one had ever seen anyone swim, and this fakir had simply learned how to float on water instead of sinking. (This sort of radically diminished expectations might explain why magical abilities seem to decline with the spread of rapid communications and literacy.)

With the above points in mind, it should be clear that people who put a lot of effort into observing the world around them, and how to work best with it, will begin to be able to do things that may seem like miracles. But being able to do the unexpected, as the example with the swimming fakir, is far from evidence of divinity.

Having said the above, there are some very mysterious elements to mastery. Where does the spontaneous ability to see, say or do the exactly right thing at the right time come from? I would suggest that there is evidence that part of this ability comes from understanding how our minds work and what it means to be a human being. (Especially if one seeks to be more than simply a gifted "savant" in particular field.) This is where the meditation practice of Daoists becomes important. But as I see it, this is about personal self-awareness rather than a prayer to some God in the sky.