While I was preparing this article, I was shocked to learn that a soon college graduate was stabbed to death by a stranger in the University of Maryland and some considered it an act of lynching, two courageous men were fatally attacked on a commuter train in Oregon because they spoke up against racial harassment, a candidate running for the U.S. Congress body-slammed a reporter when asked his opinion on the health care bill, a Texas State Representative threatened to shoot a fellow lawmaker who objected his immigration policy, and then an entertainer pretended holding a severed head mimicking Donald Trump’s head. Then, a gunman fired on congressmen during a baseball practice. Enough is enough; the violence in this country has reached a new high. What can be the remedy for this type of savage trend?
Born in Germany, Professor Livia Kohn, Ph. D., is a world-renounced scholar on Daoism (or Taoism). She revealed that her introduction to Daoism was actually incidental. While she was doing a foreign study at Berkeley University (CA), a literature professor in the Chinese language department decided to teach Daoism instead. After graduating from Bonn University, Germany, in 1980, she spent six years at Kyoto University in Japan, and then joined Boston University as Professor of Religion and East Asian Studies in 1988 until 2006. She has also worked as a visiting professor and adjunct faculty at Eötvös Lorand University in Budapest, the Stanford Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto, Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio, San Francisco State University, and the Daoist College in Singapore.
Her expertise is the study of the Daoism as well as Chinese longevity practices. She has written and edited 35 books and over 100 articles, and translated works from the German, French, Chinese, and Japanese. After retirement, she continues to write, serves as the executive editor of the Journal of Daoist Studies, and manages Three Pines Press in addition to serving on numerous committees and editorial boards and leading Daoist Qigong and Core Health workshops worldwide. She is also the lead organizer of a series of major international conferences on Daoism.
According to Livia, Daoism the philosophy “emphasizes the concept of Dao, the underlining power or energy of the universe that creates things, carries things, and flows through everything and you need to find a way to connect with it. Even though you connect with it but you are 100% unique. In your uniqueness, you have to find a relationship to serve the greater cosmos. Part of the relationship is to your environment, your body, your society, to other people, and to who you are. There is a lot of authenticity that has to do with it. So you have to find out who you are in yourself and you need to find the circumstance that allows you to express yourself in the most appropriate way. That is the relationship in between who you are, who you need to be versus what is out there so you are negotiating circumstances.” She believes that Daoism is more important in the 21st century around the world “because many people are doing things for the outside reasons not for the inner urge, for example they do things for money, prestige, getting a bigger job, good looks, and the reasons are multiple….. People are not looking for authenticity or sufficiency – people accumulate too much stuff that they don’t really need. People need a balance in life instead of running after things.” She thinks that more and more people realize the importance of Daoism in the past forty years and there are numerous self-help books based on Daoism. She commented that a good percentage of westerns now taking Tai Chi (Taiji) and alternative medicine. Through Tai Chi, Qigong, mediation, and Traditional Chinese medicine, people directly and indirectly learn about Daoism.
Daoism views the universe as Yin and Yang and everything in between. Yang represents masculinity while Yin femininity; Yang is active while Yin relaxing; Yang is strong while Yin gentle; Yang is the symbol of the sun while Yin the moon; Yang is self-confidence while Yin self-reflective; Yang is controlling while Yin letting go; Yang is action while Yin reasoning; Yang requires aggression while Yin negotiation and tolerance. There are merits and problems resulting from either too much Yang or Yin. And often times, Yin has been looked down upon or is overpowered by Yang. How to seek a balance is the core of the Daoism and its practice. The consensus is that we are facing a serious imbalance of Yin and Yang in today’s world.
Professor Kohn stated that Daoism has a different relationship with females than other religions do. Dao De Jing ( 道德經or Tao Te Jing), the ancient Daoism philosophy written by Lao Zi approximately 400 BCE, praises the Yin energy that women normally are associated with. Therefore, the image of women is changed from being suppressed, secondary, and worthless, as is the case with many other religions, to having a really important, highly-valued quality. Livia indicated that about 200 AD, Daoist groups started to form and the first Daoist group was called the Celestial Masters 天師, which was not a religious, but rather exclusive group and had tens of thousands of followers. In that group, there were women leaders and women workers. She called the ideology and practice is gender neutral. According to Kohn, the Celestial Masters did not judge a person by the gender, they only assessed people by their own traits and merits to assign people the job, and the gender was secondary or not important at all. Kohn further explained that they were looking for carpenters with good craftsmanship and good meditation teachers with good knowledge, and people’s gender made no difference. A few hundred years later, the Daoists started to form monastic institutes with monks and nuns similar to Buddhist organizations, but with the distinction that they went consciously beyond gender neutral to un-gendering people. In the Daoist temples, men and women wore the same outfits and headdress and this tradition has been carried forward even to modern day Daoists. At a Daoist temple, men and women have the same role, the same rights, the same training, the same job, and the same stipend. They live together, but with individual cells. It is a conscious and intentional work of un-gendering. It is fascinating to learn from Professor Kohn that Daoism treats people as a human being first then their gender. Professor Livia mentioned that in many scientific studies that women score much better in math if they think themselves as human beings instead of females. “When we put the gender issue aside, the potential is huge,” stressed Livia Kohn. She emphasized that true gender equality is neither about money nor being politically correct but treating every person as a human being first.
In terms of self-cultivation, Dr. Kohn first learned Tai Chi Chuan during her study year at Berkley. Later, she also studied various styles of Tai Chi and Qigong with few instructors. She also has dedicated herself to Vipassana Meditation for 20 years. She is a certified instructor of Kripalu Yoga, Qigong, and Scottish Country Dancing. Most recently, she is a leading facilitator of Core Health and co-author of Core Health: The Quantum Way to Inner Power.
She is invited to present at the Immortal Sisters Conference on Aug. 25-30 in Catskill, NY. She will join panels to discuss “How to Break the Gender Trap” and “The Power of Spirit” and conduct a post-conference seminar on “Connecting to Spirit: Energy Enhancement and Ritual Activation”. And there is no better time for these types of topics to be addressed by a profound scholar like Professor Kohn.
(Edited by Doc Luecke.)
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