Daoism and Cct

Leadership, Authority, and Religious Roles

Is there such a thing as a Daoist saint?

Perhaps the closest thing in Daoism to what many people mean by “saint” is the ideal of human development called the sage (zhen ren). Unlike ordinary people, the sage keeps his knowledge hidden, because there is no need to impress or persuade others. A sage is thus like the silent, unobtrusive Dao. Neither does the sage labor over the right course of action, for love is squandered when spent on specific deeds rather than lavished equally on all. The sage understands that failing to yield is not to be confused with courage. The sage knows how to give without being emptied, how to take in without being filled. Completely in harmony with nature, the sage acts without intent, learns without studying intently. Chinese religious traditions often have elevated otherwise ordinary human beings to a status above the merely human. But there is no standard formal process by which this elevation takes place. In this respect Daoism is closer to Islam than to Christianity, for example, where sainthood requires elaborate and lengthy investigation and verification. Emperors and others in authority have sometimes announced honors of this kind by decree, but sages are generally acknowledged as such as a result of grassroots movements rather than by pronouncement from on high. There is at least one other distinctive feature of the making of a Daoist sage. Whereas saints in some other traditions arrive at a level of spiritual perfection as a result of divine grace, the Daoist sage is a product of self-help.


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