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Today, we resume our Blueprint Diagnostic series with CARS Passage 4! Tune in to dissect it with us.
We’re joined by Evan from Blueprint MCAT. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to premed.tv.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[03:10] Going Into CARS with a Good Mindset
Evan advises that with CARS, focus on reading the passage because everything you could possibly need to know to answer every question is there on the page in front of you.'The level of stigma almost when you're walking into the CARS section with that is just distracting your energy away from what you should be really focused on.'Click To Tweet
No matter what you know, or what opinions you bring from outside, those can not help you. In fact, they can hurt you. They can get in the way but they cannot help you. The only thing that’s going to help you answer those questions is the passage they give you on test day.
[04:52] Passage 4 (Questions 16 – 20)
While the central otherworldly concerns of the Taoist religion have led some commentators to assert that Taoism is a “religion without religious texts,” nothing could be further from the truth. The key texts of Taoism may lack the same coherence and historicity of the Talmud or the Qur’an, but there are nonetheless various works that have profound influence, and no small authority among nearly all Taoist sects.
The author presumably wrote this passage in order to accomplish some goal to explain something, argue for something, or to describe something. And if they’re giving a bunch of attention to something, it’s probably important.
Evan says that if you have to highlight important points here it would be “some commentators to assert that Taoism is a “religion without religious texts,” nothing could be further from the truth.” It’s setting us up for the fact that for the rest of this passage, the author is probably going to be talking about why that’s not the truth.
[08:40] Paragraph 2
It goes without saying that the Tao Te Ching is the central work of all Taoist religion. Despite two and a half millennia of debate over its origins, authorship, and date of origin, it remains the foundational work of Taoist philosophy and a central component of Taoist ritual. So important is this work that even commentaries on it (themselves many hundreds of years old) have become important religious texts themselves.
Here, it talks about how the Tao Te Ching is the central work of the Taoist religion. And so, if this is mentioned in a question, we know where to look for it.
[10:57] Paragraph 3
If the Tao Te Ching lays down the foundational ideas of Tao and Te themselves, the practical application of these ideas in life is more fully explored in the Zhuangzi and the I Ching. The Zhuangzi, much like the Tao Te Ching, has an ancient origin (ca. 400 AD) shrouded in no small amount of legend. Supposedly written partly by Zhuangzi himself and later expanded by his disciples, the work eschews the abstract poetry of the Tao Te Ching. Instead, it uses more down-to-earth parables and short dialogues to help readers bring their lives into alignment with the concept of tzu-jan, or naturalness, in their daily lives. It also encourages following the Tao of the elements.
In the first sentence, they’re making a comparison and a contrast between the Tao Te Ching, one example of a Taoist text versus the other two ones they introduced. Also, notice in the last sentence how it talks more about the Zhuangzi. You don’t need to understand every one of these words, but understand that what it’s doing is it’s trying to make it easier for these people to follow things.
[15:06] Paragraph 4
Unlike the Zhuangzi, or any other Taoist text, the I Ching predates the Tao Te Ching by centuries. The system of fortune-telling described in the I Ching dates to somewhere in the 12th century BCE. The I Ching is meant to guide practitioners in choosing the right action based on some understanding of the current situation and the future. Early in Taoist development, Taoist scholars adopted the I Ching as their own and advocated it as a central text through which one could meditate on the right way. The cosmological notions at the foundation of the I Ching became so intermingled with Taoist cosmology and Yinyangism over time that by the 16th century there was no meaningful distinction for most practitioners.
Notice the very first sentence already making the comparison. This might seem very scary. It might seem like a sheer cliff face that we don’t have anything to grab on to, but we’re going to want to fall back on those footholds and handholds.
First off, this paragraph talks about the I Ching. Then there’s a very straightforward way of describing what’s just repeated over and over again, in complicated terms later on.
[17:52] Paragraph 5
Finally, in addition to these three core texts, scholars in the fourth and fifth centuries AD attempted to collate all major texts, commentaries, manuscripts, and apologies into a single collection. This work came to be known as the Tao Tsang, typically translated as “Treasury of Tao” or “Taoist Canon.” The Tao Tsang was collected and re-collected many times over the centuries, but scholars generally recognize four major Tao Tsangs. The first, compiled circa 400 AD, consisted of a bit more than a thousand scrolls and developed the tripartite division that would remain through future efforts. The second and third Tao Tsangs expanded the collection to nearly 5000 separate scrolls, and the fourth and final Tao Tsang of 1444 in the Ming Dynasty settled the compilation at just under 5300 works.
We can highlight some names there just so we know where to find them when needed.
[19:48] Paragraph 6
The Tao Tsang (all four major compilations) divides its constituent works into three broad categories, typically termed “grottoes,” each of which is split into a dozen chapters. The three grottoes are concerned with meditation, rituals, and exorcisms, with meditation always considered the highest and most pure set of writings. When someone is working to be initiated as a Taoist master, the grotto of meditation includes the writings used in the final phase of training.
There’s just a bit more new information about the Tao Tsang here. It also tells about what the specific grottoes are and spends extra time talking about one of them. They mentioned “meditation” three or four times in these last couple of sentences so it could be important.
[21:54] Question 16
Which of the following best characterizes the author’s attitude towards the position the Tao Te Ching holds among Taoist texts?
A.Assurance of its foremost position
B.Tentative belief of its status as the least important text
C.Studied agnosticism about its relative position
D.Ignorance about how it relates to other texts
Tao Te Ching was mentioned in the second paragraph. And A is the only thing that makes sense here because in the paragraph, it says, “It goes without saying that the Tao Te Ching is the central work of all Taoist religion.”'Rephrasing and putting your own words to make it simple and direct, figuring out what the question is really asking is so important.'Click To Tweet
Correct Answer: A
[24:06] Question 17
Suppose archaeologists discover a previously unknown text that discusses Taoist themes and advocates for the practice of Taoist rituals. The author would be least likely to believe which of the following about this text?
A.Such a text would have been incorporated into the Tao Tsang if the compilers had known of it.
B.The text may have been written at about the same time as the I Ching.
C.Any discussion of cosmology included in the new text may have significant overlap with important themes of the I Ching and Yinyangism.
D.It may have been considered an important religious text in its own right if it were an influential commentary on the Tao Te Ching.
The question asks what the author would be least likely to believe.“Just to be safe, highlight the LEAST, NOT, and EXCEPT questions.”Click To Tweet
A – We highlighted in the passage that this Tao Tsang is a collation of all of the major texts, commentaries, manuscripts, and apologies into a single thing. So if people would have known about it, it would have been in there. This is then the wrong answer to the question because the author would believe it.
B – The I Ching is in the first sentence of Paragraph 4, saying that “Unlike the Zhuangzi, or any other Taoist text, the I Ching predates the Tao Te Ching by centuries.” It’s pointing out how exceptional the I Ching is because it’s super old. And so, the author would probably be surprised or disbelieving if he found another text that’s just as old as I Ching.
C – The passage does talk about cosmological notions. And so, maybe there’s some overlap if those were common themes of that time. We can cross this one out as well.
D – The passage mentions that the commentaries have been important religious texts themselves. So the author will believe this statement as well. Hence, this answer choice is also out.
Correct Answer: B
[31:38] Question 18
The author asserts that the major difference between the Tao Te Ching and the Zhuangzi is that:
A.the Zhuangzi attempts to show how to apply Taoist concepts in daily life by using short, abstract poems.
B.the Tao Te Ching developed after the Zhuangzi as a distillation of the core concepts of Tao and Te expressed in the Zhuangzi.
C.the Zhuangzi attempts to be more practical, both in its subject-matter and in its style.
D.the Tao Te Ching requires its readers to have fully contemplated the works of the meditation grotto for full appreciation.
Tao Te Ching has abstract poetry, while the Zhuangzi is more down to earth format and short dialogues.
A – This is saying that Zhuangzi is the abstract poem when it’s actually the Tao Te Ching that had the abstract poem. That’s intentional on their part and wrote that in there as a wrong answer. They knew it would be tempting because it has familiar language, but they actually flipped the term.
B – There’s actually an inference or implication of what the timetable was in the next paragraph. It seems like the I Ching is the only thing that predates the Tao Te Ching. Therefore, we would infer that it’s very unlikely that Zhuangzi came before the Tao Te Ching.
C – This was mentioned in the paragraph about Zhuangzi.
D – This is clearly wrong since the Tao Tsang talks about the meditation grotto, not the Tao Te Ching.
Correct Answer: C
[38:39] Question 19
Which of the following would most weaken one of the author’s central arguments?
A.In several major schools of Taoist teaching, the grotto of meditation is taught as the middle grotto in the progression towards becoming a master, with the final grotto being the grotto of rituals.
B.The parables presented by the Zhuangzi are held as infallible representations of the Tao in action in daily life, and questioning the core truth of these stories is typically punished by banishment from the community.
C.During Taoist ceremonies, the priest’s copy of the Tao Te Ching is treated reverently, placed on a special dais between readings, with only the priest being permitted to touch the book.
D.Despite the existence of many works that discuss Taoist themes, the texts themselves are not seen as sacred by most Taoists and the ideas expressed in these works are taken as general guidance that can be disregarded by any local priest or follower of the religion.
Evan says it helps to highlight the words “most weaken” and “central argument” in the question to make sure we’re in the right direction. It’s not just any of our author’s opinions, but the central argument of our author.
And so, just be careful because some of the tempting wrong answers here are going to be things that are just mentioned that might even be weakened, but they are going to be little side arguments or little throwaway details that are not related to the main argument.
The question wants us to find out what’s going to contradict or weaken the central argument. In order to do that, we have to know what the central argument is first.
The author’s central argument is that there are these great religious texts for Taoism that people don’t think about, but are true and that Taoism does have these great central texts.
Answer choice D goes against that and says, those who practice Taoism don’t think that, the priests don’t think it, and nobody thinks it.
Correct Answer: D
[42:13] Question 20
According to the passage, which of the following can be inferred regarding Taoist religious texts?
- The Tao Te Ching lacks the historicity of the Qur’an.
- The authorship and structure of the Zhuangzi, unlike the Tao Te Ching, has been clearly established by historians.
III. The Tao Tsang lacks the coherence of the Talmud.
C.I and III only
D.I, II, and III
II is not the right answer here since the answer choice says “clearly” but the passage says “supposedly.” So we’re down to answer choices A and C here.
Going back to Paragraph 1, the passage talks about “The key texts of Taoism may lack the same coherence and historicity of the Talmud or the Qur’an.” Therefore, the correct answer here is C.
Correct Answer: C