Taoism

 
History. Tao (pronounced "Dow") can be roughly translated into English as path, or the way. It refers to a power which envelopes, surrounds and flows through all things, living and non-living. The Tao regulates natural processes and nourishes balance in the Universe. It embodies the harmony of opposites (i.e. there would be no love without hate, no light without dark, no male without female.) 

The founder of Taoism was Lao-Tse , a contemporary of Confucius. (Alternate spellings: Lao Tze, Lao Tsu). He was searching for a way that would avoid the constant feudal warfare and other conflicts that disrupted life during his lifetime. The result was his book: Tao-te-Ching

Taoism started as a combination of psychology and philosophy but evolved into a religion in 440 CE when it was adopted as a state religion. At that time Lao-Tse became popularly venerated as a deity. Taoism, along with Buddhism and Confucianism, became the three great religions of China. With the end of the Ch'ing Dynasty in 1911, state support for Taoism ended. Much of the Taoist heritage was destroyed during the next period of warlordism. After the Communist victory in 1949, religious freedom was severely restricted. The new government put monks to manual labor, confiscated temples, and plundered treasured. Several million monks were reduced to fewer than 50,000 by 1960. During the cultural revolution in China from 1966 to 1976, much of the remaining Taoist heritage was destroyed. Some religious tolerance has been restored under Deng Xiao-ping from 1982 to the present time. 


Beliefs and Practices. Tao is the first-cause of the universe. It is a force that flows through all life. The goal of everyone is to become one with the Tao. The concepts of a personified deity is foreign to Taoism, as is the concept of the creation of the universe. Thus, they do not pray as Christians do; there is no God to hear the prayers or to act upon them. They seek answers to life's problems through inner meditation and outer observation. Time is cyclical, not linear as in Western thinking. Yin (dark side) is the breath that formed the earth. Yang (light side) is the breath that formed the heavens. They symbolize pairs of opposites which are seen throughout the universe, such as good and evil, light and dark, male and female. Intervention by human civilization upsets the balances of Yin and Yang. According to Taoism, each person must nurture the Ch'i (air, breath) that has been given to them. Development of virtue is one's chief task. The Three Jewels to be sought are compassion, moderation and humility.
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