Taoism began about 2,500 years ago in China.
Lao-tzu whom Confucius described as a dragon riding the wind and
The Tao-te-Ching or Book of Reason and Virtue, is the shortest of all
scriptures, containing only 5,000 words.
Taoism is a mystical tradition, so interpretations have been diverse
and its sects are many.
Estimated at 50 million, mostly in China and Asia.
The primary goal of Taoism may be described as the mystical intuition
of the Tao, which is the way, the undivided unity, and the ultimate
Reality. Both imminent and transcendent, the Tao is the natural way
of all things, the nameless beginning of heaven and earth, and the
Mother of all things. All things depend upon the Tao, and all things
return to it. Yet it lies hidden, transmitting its power and
perfection to all things. He who has realized the Tao, has arrived at
pure consciousness and sees the inner truth of everything. Only one
who is free of desire can apprehend the Tao, thereafter leading a life
of “actionless activity.” There is no personal God in Taoism, and
thus no union with Him. There are three worlds and all beings
are within them. The worship is a part of the path.
Path of Attainment:
One who follows the Tao follows the natural order of things, not
seeking to improve upon nature or to legislate virtue to others. The
Taoist observes “wu-wei” or non-doing, like water, which without
effort seeks and finds its proper level. This path includes purifying
oneself by stilling appetites and emotions. This is accomplished
in part through meditation, breath control, and other forms of inner
discipline, generally under a master. The foremost practice is
goodness or naturalness, and detachment from the worldly things.
The term Taoism refers both to the philosophy outlined in the
Daode Jing (Tao Te Ching) (identified with Laozi or Lao-tzu)
and to China’s ancient Taoist religion. Next to Confucianism,
it ranks as the second major belief system in traditional
Three doctrines are particularly important to Taoist:
* Non-being (wu): The creative force brings everything into being and
the destructive force dissolves everything into non-being.
* Return (fu): Everything after completing its cycle, returns to
* Non-action (wu wei): Non-action does not mean no action, but
action in harmony with nature, which is the best way of life.
If we keep still and listen to the inner promptings of the Tao, we
shall act effortlessly, and efficiently, hardly giving the matter a
thought. We will be our true selves.
The prominent features of Taoist religion are belief in physical
immortality, alchemy, breath control and hygiene (internal alchemy), a
pantheon of deities, monasticism, and the ritual of community renewal,
and revealed scriptures. The Taoist liturgy and theology were
influenced by Buddhism.
The Tao, or the Way, has never been put down in words rather it is
left for the seeker to discover within himself. Lao-tzu himself said,
“The Tao that can be expressed or named is not the eternal Tao.”
Taoism is concerned with man’s spiritual level of being. The awakened
man is compared to bamboo; upright, simple, useful outside, and hollow
inside. Radiant emptiness is the spirit of Tao, but no words will
capture its spontaneity, or its eternal newness. The followers are
taught to see the Tao everywhere, in all beings and in all things.
Taoist shrines are the homes of divine beings who guide the religion
and bless and protect worshipers.
Zhuangzi taught that, from a purely objective viewpoint, all
oppositions are merely the creations of conceptual thought and
imply no judgments of intrinsic value (one pole is no more
preferable than its opposite). Hence the wise person accepts
life’s inevitable changes.
Lie Xi said that the cultivation of Tao would enable a person to
live for several hundred years. Taoism teaches the devotee to lead a
long and tranquil life through the elimination of one’s desires and
The Eternal may be understood as the Tao or the Way, which embraces
the moral and physical order of the universe; the path of virtue which
Heaven itself follows; and the Absolute, yet so great is it that “the
Tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao.”
The sage Lao-Tsu is uniquely great as is his disciple Chuang-Tsu.
The Tao-te-Ching and the writings of Chuang-Tsu’s are important
Man aligns himself with the Eternal when he observes humility,
simplicity, gentle yielding, serenity, and effortless action.
The goal and the path of life are essentially the same, and that the
Tao can be known only to exalted beings who realize it themselves —
reflections of the beyond are of no avail.
The omniscient and impersonal Supreme is implacable beyond concern for
human woe, but there exists lesser divinities, from the high gods who
endure for eons the nature spirits and demons.
All actions create their opposing forces, and the wise will seek
inaction in action.
Man is one of the Ten Thousand Things of manifestation, it is finite
and will pass. Only Tao endures forever.
Tao believes in the oneness of all creation, in the spirituality of
the material realms, and in the brotherhood of all men.