Original Tao

Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism

Translated by Harold D. Roth

Columbia University Press

Original Tao

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Pub Date: November 2004

ISBN: 9780231115650

272 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£25.00

Pub Date: November 1999

ISBN: 9780231115643

272 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $95.00£74.00

Original Tao

Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism

Translated by Harold D. Roth

Columbia University Press

Revolutionizing received opinion of Taoism's origins in light of historic new discoveries, Harold D. Roth has uncovered China's oldest mystical text—the original expression of Taoist philosophy—and presents it here with a complete translation and commentary.

Over the past twenty-five years, documents recovered from the tombs of China's ancient elite have sparked a revolution in scholarship about early Chinese thought, in particular the origins of Taoist philosophy and religion. In Original Tao, Harold D. Roth exhumes the seminal text of Taoism—Inward Training (Nei-yeh)—not from a tomb but from the pages of the Kuan Tzu, a voluminous text on politics and economics in which this mystical tract had been "buried" for centuries.

Inward Training is composed of short poetic verses devoted to the practice of breath meditation, and to the insights about the nature of human beings and the form of the cosmos derived from this practice. In its poetic form and tone, the work closely resembles the Tao-te Ching; moreover, it clearly evokes Taoism's affinities to other mystical traditions, notably aspects of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Roth argues that Inward Training is the foundational text of early Taoism and traces the book to the mid-fourth century B.C. (the late Warring States period in China). These verses contain the oldest surviving expressions of a method for mystical "inner cultivation," which Roth identifies as the basis for all early Taoist texts, including the Chuang Tzu and the world-renowned Tao-te Ching. With these historic discoveries, he reveals the possibility of a much deeper continuity between early "philosophical" Taoism and the later Taoist religion than scholars had previously suspected.

Original Tao contains an elegant and luminous complete translation of the original text. Roth's comprehensive analysis explains what Inward Training meant to the people who wrote it, how this work came to be "entombed" within the Kuan Tzu, and why the text was largely overlooked after the early Han period.
In his rigorous scholarship of textual archaeology and mystical hermeneutics, Harold Roth has given us invaluable insights, the analytical tools and a perspective to examine the religious traditions of not only China, but of the rest of the world as well. Franklin J. Woo, China Review International
Searching for the origins of things remains a perennial favorite of Western scholars. For millennia, this quest has been at the core of innumerable scholarly projects.... Harold Roth'sOriginal Tao: Inward Training and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism continues this time-honored investigation, applying it to Taoist mystical writings, in a search for what Roth calls 'the original tao.' John A. Tucker, Philosophy East & West
Here is a work that does justice to the beauty of this long poem, for so long neglected to the virtually exclusive benefit of Zhuangzi and Laozi.... The reader will find in the quality of the textual edition, in the numerous translation discoveries, and in the willingness to provide maximum coherence to this text, a profound and original effort. Romain Graziani, T'oung Pao
An estimable achievement by one of the foremost scholars of early Taoism in North America... powerful and original. Paul Rakita Goldin, Sino-Platonic Papers
Introduction
A Textual Revolution
"Textual Archaeology"
A "Mystical Hermeneutic"
The Significance of Inward Training
Beyond "Lao-Chuang"
Chapter 1: The Text of Inward Training
The Literary Genre of Inward Training
The Nature and Filiation of the Kuan Tzu Collection
The Formation of the Kuan Tzu Collection
The Dating and Authorship of Inward Training
A Confucian Inward Training?
Chapter 2: A Critical Edition and Translation of Inward Training
The Critical Edition of Inward Training
Technical Terminology
Translation of Inward Training
Chapter 3: The Teachings of Inward Training
A Thematic Overview of Inward Training
The Philosophical Foundations of Inward Training
Cosmology: Vital Essence and the Way
Psychological Dimensions: Tranquility Inner Power, and the Numinous Mind
The Practice of Inner Cultivation in Inward Training
The Fourfold Aligning
The Cultivated Mind
The One
The Holistic Benefits of Inner Cultivation
Chapter 4: Inward Training in the Context of Early Taoist Mysticism
What Is Mysticism?
The Mysticism of Inward Training
Mystical Practice in Inward Training
Mystical Experience in Inward Training
Mystical Philosophy in Inward Training
Inward Training and the Lao Tzu
Inward Training and the Chuang Tzu
The Stages of Meditation in Inner Cultivation Practice
Inner Cultivation and Physical Hygiene
Chapter 5: Inward Training in the Context of Early Taoism
Towards a Definition of Early Taoism
The Six Schools of Ssu-ma T'an
The "Techniques of the Way"
Inward Training and the Lao Tzu
Inward Training and the "Lore of the Way"
A New Approach to the Evolution of Early Taoism
Inward Training and Early Taoism
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Harold D. Roth is professor of religious studies and East Asian studies at Brown University. He is the author of The Textual History of the Huai-Nan Tzu.