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___ Taoism, Daoism (Chinese: 道教; pinyin: Dàojiāo)

Chinese philosophy to signify the fundamental or true nature of the world: simplicity and selflessness in conformity with the Tao, leading a life of non-purposive action, a life expressing the essence of spontaneity..
 

Taoism, also known as Daoism, arose about the same time as Confucianism. Laoze (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ, also Laotzi, Laotse, Lao-Tse, Lao-tzu, Lao Zi or Lão Tu), is considered to have written a book of 81 chapters, named Tao Te Ching, also Daodejing (trad. Chinese: 道德經; simpl. Chinese: 道德经; pinyin: Dàodéjīng), a classical Chinese text, mainly concerning 道 tao/ dào "way," and 德 te/dé "virtue”, life, strength.

Taoist thought focuses on genuineness, longevity, health, immortality, vitality, wu wei (non-action, a natural action, a perfect equilibrium with tao), detachment, refinement (emptiness), spontaneity, transformation and omni-potentiality.

This religious and philosophical tradition of Taoism had its roots in the nature worship and divination of the earliest Chinese people.

The word ‘Tao’ 道 (or Dao) translates into "path", ”method”, “principle” or "way", the character 教 translates into ‘”teach” or “class” and Taoist belief is based on the idea that there is central or organizing principle of the Universe, a natural order or a "way of heaven", Tao, that one can come to know by living in harmony with nature and hence with the cosmos and the Universe.

The philosophy of Tao signifies the fundamental or true nature of the world, it is the essential, unnameable process of the universe. Tao both precedes and encompasses the universe.

Nothing in the Universe is fixed, static or non moving; per se everything is transforming all the time.
The flow of ‘chi’ energy, as the essential energy of action, existence and active principle forming part of any living things, is compared and believed to be the influence that keeps the universal order of Tao balanced.

Analogies exist between all levels of existence: the Universe, the cosmos, Earth and mankind are structured analogically and are equal in detail, forming an interconnected whole.
Through an understanding of natural laws, an individual can be one with the Tao by living in accordance with nature (cosmos/ Universe) and all its transformations and changes, adopting and assimilating to these, and hence can gain eternal life.

With and due to the transformations and changes of the phenomena everything and every being spontaneously, by intuition and in impulse establishes its own ‘way’.

From an ethical point of view it is considered correct not to interfere with the spontaneity or alter it by any means, expressed by ‘wu wei’ (chin. 無爲 / 无为, wúwéi or also in Chinese: 爲無爲 / 为无为, wéi wúwéi, non- action as in abstention of any action opposing nature).

All things with their transformations and changes are considered to be self regulating, self expressing in their natural form.

‘Wu wei’ does not signify not acting at all, but rather not forcing things on their way. Wu wei signifies that the action should be immediately in accordance with the Tao, hence the necessary will be done without exaggeration, hyperbole or overeagerness as these are considered obstructive, though rather in an easy, facile, non disturbing way, leading to overall harmony and balance. It is a state of inner tranquillity, which will show the right effortless action at the right time.
(i.e. the harmonious complexity of natural ecosystems- the tao- works well without man made changes- wu wei.
Wu wei could be characterised by the adaptability of the flow of water in a stream. I.e. Water flows without awareness, or naturally, downriver (principle of tao). It might be blocked by an object (branch or stone), though without contriving to do so, finds it way around the object. Water acts without motive, it acts with wu wei.
If one wants to travel on water, one will use a boat or ship, since it is suitable as she moves around adequately on water. If one wants to walk on land, a boat is not suitable to move around. One will only be annoyed and only have difficulties, not gaining anything but inflicting damage to oneself.)

Taoism does not identify man's will as the root problem. Rather, it asserts that man must place his will in harmony with the natural universe.
Taoist philosophy recognizes that the Universe already works harmoniously according to its own ways; if a person exerts his will against or upon the world he would disrupt the harmony that already exists, he would go ‘against the flow of life’. (i.e. the harmonious change of seasons of summer, autumn, winter, spring - the tao- works well, though through man made global warming, the harmony is disordered. Damming rivers might result in devastating flooding- unwanted by mankind, though produced by the same.
On the other hand, the yearly flooding of the river Nile provides the soil with natural fertiliser. Damming the river would result in less fertilised soil, hence weaker crops, less harvest, less income, more hunger.)

The return to tao, the return to the interconnected whole and unity, can only be accomplished if dualistic thoughts are abolished and acts are conducted naturally and spontaneously.
Completeness in Taoism is thought of as empty, soft and spontaneous, and likewise should be the action: without the interference or intervention of a dualistic intellect, intuitive and adapting to a situation. The completeness or perfection of any act detects by intuition the best way to proceed, and it is considered absurd to put one’s energy into an unfruitful, unsuccessful act just in order to act at all and hence exhaust and diminish one’s energy. Any act should be in accordance with the surrounding, circumstances and means. In this manner, wu wei is ‘not interfering’ or ‘action through non acting’ and can be considered as creative passivity.
Resulting from this attitude of ‘letting it happen’ results consequently as well the approach of non violence and lack of resistance.

The wu wei is characterised by an activity undertaken to perceive the Tao within all things and to conform oneself to its "way."
The practice and efficacy of wu wei are fundamental in Taoist thought.
The goal of ‘wu wei’ is alignment with Tao, revealing the soft and invisible power within all things.

When following the ‘wu wei’, the goal is called ‘pu’ (simplified Chinese: 朴; traditional Chinese: 樸; pinyin: pǔ, pú; lit. "uncut wood", translated as "uncarved block", "unsewn log", or "simplicity"), representing a passive state of receptiveness. It is believed to be the true nature of the mind, unburdened by knowledge or experiences. Pu is a symbol for a state of pure potential and perception without prejudice, without illusion.
Pu describes an aimless action, because with a goal, one would develop anxiety about this goal. Pu describes the ‘just being’ without the aim of being.
(i.e.: Playing an instrument just for playing, not thinking about the playing, since otherwise one will get in ones own way and interfere with one’s own playing.)

The ‘te’ (Chinese: 德; pinyin: dé, "power; virtue", ‘”heart”, "inherent character, personal character; inner power inner strength; integrity") is the manifestation of the Tao within all things, the active expression, the active living, or cultivation, of the "way" Tao, the implementation and manifestation of the Tao through undesigned actions.
The Tao implements and manifests itself through undesigned actions.
If Tao is honoured and if ‘te’ is considered precious, than there is no need for any regulations: all is working durable by itself. Therefore, allow Tao to create, generate, nourish, proliferate, accomplish, ripen, mature, foster and protect; produce without owning, affect without keeping, increase without domineering: that is secret Tao.
Thus, to possess the fullness of te means to be in perfect harmony with one's original nature.

All things in the Universe, including mankind, are a microsomes of the Universe, to which all natural laws such as The Five Elements Theory, Feng Shui, the concept of the bagua and especially the the yin - yang philosophy, being an important concept of taoism since yin and yang emerge from the tao- apply.
‘The way of life’, rituals, certain foods (Five Elements), meditation, visualisation, imagination, mystical worlds, qigong, t'ai-chi-ch'uan, certain techniques of breathing, sexual practices (spiritual and cosmic pursuit, maintaining health, enhance one’s lifespan) and substances and medicine effect the believers physical and mental health, as well as the knowledge of nature with its natural herbs, traditional chinese medicine and knowledge of alchemy does.

By understanding himself, man may gain knowledge of the universe, and vice versa.

In Laotzi’s definition, tao is considered to be the pervasive principle of all things in the universe, being the highest reality and the highest mystery, the primordial originality and unity, a cosmical law and an absolute. From the tao diverted the ‘ten thousand things’, namely the cosmos, as well as the order of thing, similar to a law of nature. But tao itself is not an omnipotent being, but the genesis, the source and the alliance, the conjunction of opposites and as such not definable.

Tao is ‘the nameless', because neither it nor its principles can ever be adequately expressed in words.

From a philosophical point of view tao can be seen apart and beyond from all defining abstract concepts, because it is the reason for and the reason of being, the transcendental origin and transcendental philosophy and as such incorporates all, including the antipode of being and non being.

Based on that, nothing can be said referring the tao, because every single definition would impose a restriction. But tao is both, unlimited transcendency as well as the immanent principle of the cosmos and the universe.

The effects of tao create the genesis by generating duality, yin and yang, light and shadow, since every action creates a counter-action as a natural, unavoidable movement within manifestations of the Tao. From the metamorphosis, movement, motion, flow, interaction and interplay of the duality emerges and arises the world.

 

The ‘Three Jewels of Tao’ (Chinese: 三寶; pinyin: sānbǎo) refer to the three virtues of taoism:
1) compassion, kindness, love
(Chinese: 慈; pinyin: cí; literally "compassion, tenderness, love, mercy, kindness, gentleness and implies the term ‘mother’, ‘mother’s/ parental love’)

2) moderation, simplicity, frugality
(Chinese: 儉; pinyin: jiǎn; literally "frugality, moderation, economy, restraint, be sparing")
When applied to the moral life it stands for the simplicity of desire.

3 ) humility, modesty
The third treasure is a six-character phrase instead of a single word: Chinese 不敢為天下先, Bugan wei tianxia xian, "not dare to be first/ahead in the world", referring to the taoist way to avoid premature death.

Taoist Deities
Taoist deities include nature spirits, ancient legendary heroes, humanized planets and stars, Hsien (humans who became immortal and achieved divinity through Taoist practices and teachings, see: 8 Immortals), ancestor spirits (see: Ancestor Worship in Taoism, Joss paper) and animals such as dragons (see: dragon dance), tigers, phoenixes, snakes (see: Animal symbolism) and lions (see: lion dance). All human activities—even such things as drunkenness and robbery—are represented by deities as well.

Heaven, the pantheon (of which the Chinese taoist culture has over 30) mirrored the political system of China at that time with all of its civil servants, bureaucrats, having an army, a royal family, parasitical courtiers, higher or lower ranking deities, who could be promoted or demoted according to their actions (see: 8 Immortals, Chang’e,
Guan Yu (revered as Saintly Emperor Guan), Guan Yin, Jade Emperor, Kitchen God, Tsai Shen Yeh). Reflecting the order of the Chinese political system, each single department of the pantheon is overseen by a particular deity, spirit or god.
The highest Taoist deity, Yù Huáng -ti (see: Jade Emperor), is associated with the ancient Chinese god Shang Di, ruler over all Heaven, Earth and the Underworld/ Hell.
The Jade Emperor, also referred to as Yù Huáng -ti, adjudicates and metes out rewards and remedies to actions of saints, the living, and the deceased according to a merit system loosely called the Jade Principles Golden Script.

 

The seven brightest stars of the constellation are Ursa Major, the Great Bear, also called the Big Dipper.
In Eastern Asia, these stars compose the Northern Dipper. They are colloquially named "The Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper" (Chinese: 北斗七星; pinyin: běidǒu qīxīng).
Taoist believe that this star constellation is the seat of the celestial bureaucracy of the gods.
Sometimes there are said to be nine stars - two invisible "attendant" stars, one on either side of the star Alkaid.

Meditation with Big Dipper in mind

The Dipper Mother, Dou Mu (斗母 - dǒumǔ), a star deity and a Taoist adoption of the Tantric deity Marici, is the mother of the stars of Ursa Major, the Big Dipper and is considered to be a personification of light and dawn.
As a saviour and healer, she is invoked through visualizations that unite the adept with cosmic light and “oneness with cosmic principles”. As the cosmic mother of the nine star-gods of the dipper and supposed to be in charge of all star deities, she nurtures and instructs, but the Dipper Mother also maintains her own salvific powers and authority.

Thought to derive from one of the devas (inhabitants of the heavenly realms) of Buddhism, she is associated with healing and childbirth. Often she is depicted as sitting on a lotus throne and wearing a crown. She has a third eye in her forehead, and her eighteen arms hold a variety of sacred weapons and vessels.

Legend has it that many ages ago, a great queen vowed to give birth to children who would help to guide the movements of the Tao. One fine spring day, she disrobed and entered a pool to bathe. Suddenly, she felt "moved," and nine lotus buds rose from the pond. The lotus, a symbol borrowed from Buddhism, signifies purity and spiritual enlightenment since it rises from the mud (representing the physical impurities of the world) to become a brilliant flower. Each of these lotus buds opened to reveal a star, including the seven stars of the Northern Dipper (Big Dipper), one of the most important constellations in Taoism. Subsequently, this queen was deified, becoming known as the "Dipper Mother."

(Note: Chinese Buddhism, which when first introduced into China, was largely interpreted through the use of Taoist words and concepts.)


In contrast to the Confucian program of social reform through moral principle, ritual, and government regulation, the true way of restoration for the Taoists consisted in the banishment of learned sageliness and the discarding of wisdom. "Manifest the simple," urged Lao-tzu, "embrace the primitive, reduce selfishness, have few desires."

As the Tao operates impartially in the universe, so should mankind disavow assertive, purposive action. The Taoist life is not, however, a life of total inactivity. It is rather a life of nonpurposive action (wu-wei). Stated positively, it is a life expressing the essence of spontaneity (tzu-jan, "self-so").

See also:
Ancestor Worship in Taoism
History of China
 


 

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The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be defined is not the unchanging name.
Non-existence is called the antecedent of heaven and earth;
Existence is the mother of all things. 老子
 
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