RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 06:48 AM)
Development of Taoism
The Blessed Union of Yin and Yang.
the death of Chuang Tzu (in 295 B.C.) Taoism continued to grow in
popularity although as a philosophy it changed rather little for the
next six hundred years or so. There were a few philosophers, however,
who made a contribution to its development.
1.Yang HsiungYang Hsiung (53 B.C. to 18 A.D.) was an exponent of what he called Tai Hsuan
(Great Mystery). This philosophy combined classical Taoism with
elements of Confucian ethics. He is well known for his doctrine that
human nature is a mixture of good and evil. He was also noteworthy in
rejecting the notion of immortality. This was significant because at
that time a large number of Taoist alchemists and the developing
religious cult of Taoism, were deeply immersed in doctrines and
practices seeking immortality and an 'elixir of life.'
Hsiung correctly pointed out that this practice was contrary to the
Taoist philosophy of indifference to life and death and the acceptance
of the natural course of things.
Sounding like Lao Tzu, his classical Taoism emerges in formulations such as:
Supremely Profound Principal deeply permeates all species of things but
its physical form cannot be seen. It takes nourishment from emptiness
and nothingness and derives its life from Nature. It penetrates the
past and present and originates the various species. It operates yin
and yang and starts the material force in motion. As yin and yang
unite, all things are complete on Heaven and on Earth. The sky and sun
rotate and the weak and strong interact. They return to their original
position and thus the beginning and end are determined. Life and death
succeed each other and thus the nature and the destiny are made clear.
Looking up, we see the form of the heavens. Looking down, we see the
condition of the earth. We examine our nature and understand our
destiny. We trace our beginning and see our end. ... Therefore the
Profound Principle is the perfection of utility. In this we can clearly see the application of Taoist metaphysics to a set of Confucian ethical concerns.
see and understand is wisdom. To look and love is humanity. To
determine and decide is courage. To control things universally and to
use them for all is impartiality. To be able to match all things is
penetration. To have or not to have the proper circumstance is destiny.
The way by which all things emerge from vacuity is the Way. To follow
the principles of the world without altering them and to attain one's
end is virtue. To attend to life, to be in society, and to love
universally is humanity. To follow order and to evaluate what is proper
is righteousness. To get hold of the Way, virtue, humanity, and
righteousness and put them into application is called the business of
life. To make clear the achievement of nature and throw light on all
things is called yang. To be hidden, without form, deep and
unfathomable, is called yin. Yang knows yang but does not know yin. Yin
knows yin but does not know yang. The Profound Principle alone knows
both yin and yang, both going and stopping, and both darkness and
--Tai Hsuan Ching (Classic of the Supremely Profound Principle) (9)7: 5a-9b
important thinker of this era was Wang Ch'ung (27 to 100 A.D.). Like
Yang Hsiung he was a Taoist in terms of his metaphysics which he
combined with certain Confucian ideas. He was less interested in ethics
and more concerned with human institutions, however. His chief
contribution was to try and clear the air of atmosphere of superstition
which was clouding both Taoism and Confucianism.
declared that Heaven takes no direct action; that natural events occur
spontaneously; that there is no such thing as teleology; that fortune
and misfortune come by chance; and that man does not become a ghost at
death. In all these beliefs is stood against a prevailing current of
superstition and divination.
"When material forces (chi) of Heaven and Earth come together, all things are spontaneously produced, just as when the vital forces (chi)
of husband and wife unite, children are naturally born. Among the
things thus produced, blood creatures are conscious of hunger and cold.
Seeing that the five grains are edible, they obtain and eat them. And
seeing that silk and hemp can be worn, they obtain and wear them. Some
say that Heaven produces the five grains in order to feed man and
produces silk and hemp in order to clothe man. This is to say that
Heaven becomes a farmer or a mulberry girl for the sake of man. This is
contrary to spontaneity. Therefore their ideas are suspect and should
not be followed."
--Lun-heng (Balanced Inquiries) (54)
Talisman of the Sacred Mountain of the North.
Tzu (died 122 B.C.) [born Liu An] was a prince of Huai-Nan and a
fervent Taoist. He was not original in his writings but gave Taoism
further prominence. He came to a tragic end as he plotted a rebellion,
failed and committed suicide.
covers heaven and supports Earth. It is the extent of the four quarters
of the universe and the dimensions of the eight points of firmament.
There is no limit to its height , and its depth is unfathomable. It
encloses Heaven and Earth and endows things [with their nature] before
they have been formed. ... Compressed, it can expand. Hidden, it can be
manifest. Weak, it can be strong. Soft, it can be firm. ...
it the mountain becomes high and the abyss becomes deep. Because of it,
animals run and birds fly. Sun and moon shine and the planets revolve
by it. The unicorn emerges and the phoenix soars. ...
having been polished and cut, it returns to simplicity. It acts without
action and is in accord with the Tao. It does not speak and is
identified with virtue. Perfectly without leisure and without pride, it
is at home with harmony. The myriad things are all different but each
suits its own nature. Its spirit may be set on the tip of an autumn
hair, but its greatness combines the entire universe. Its virtue
softens Heaven and Earth and harmonizes yin and yang. It regulates the
four seasons and harmonizes the five Elements. ..."
those who understand the Tao return to tranquillity and those who have
investigated things ultimately rest with non-action.
--Huai-nan Tzu (1): 1a-2a, 6b
4. Lieh Tzu & Yang ChuOne
final chapter in the development of Taoism is the hedonism of Yang Chu
(440 to 360 B.C. and the pessimism of Lieh Tzu (5th century B.C.)
[there is some debate by scholars whether the texts attributed to these
two philosophers were, in fact, written by them or compiled later by
followers]. This so called 'Negative' School of Taoism takes the Taoist
idea of inaction (that is undertaking to artificial action) and
interprets it as complete abandon. Spontaneity was replaced with
resignation, and hedonism took the place of selflessness.
The Empty Tao Develops into the World.
hundred years is the limit of a long life. Not one in a thousand ever
attains it. Suppose there is one such person. Infancy and feeble old
age take almost half of his time. Rest during sleep at night and what
is wasted during the waking hours in the daytime take almost half of
that. Pain and sickness, sorrow and suffering, death (of relatives) and
worry and fear take almost half of the rest. In the ten and some years
that is left, I reckon, there is not one moment in which we can be
happy, at ease without worry. This being the case, what is life for?
What pleasure is there?" Lieh Tzu
who maintain that heaven and earth are destructible are wrong and those
who maintain that they are indestructible are also wrong. Whether they
are destructible or indestructible, I do not know. However, it is the
same in one case and also the same in the other. The living do not know
the dead and the dead do not know the living. What is gone does not
know what is to come and what is to come does not know what is gone.
Why should I be concerned whether they are destructible or
usertype:1 tt= 0
Create free forum and click the links below and your donations will make a difference here.
A Huge Online Store for Various Cool Gadgets, Accessories: Laser Pointer, Bluetooth Headset, Cell Phone Jammer, MP3 Players, Spy Cameras, Soccer Jersey, Window Curtains, MP4 Player, E Cigarette, Wedding Dresses, Hearing Aids, eBook Reader, Tattoo Machines, LED Light Bulbs, Bluetooth Stereo Headset, Holiday Gifts, Security Camera and Games Accessories and Hobby Gadgets.
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 06:55 AM)
the development of Taoism as a philosophy another more strictly
religious interpretation of Taoism was evolving. This 'religious'
Taoism had its own temples, priests, rites and symbolic images. Lao Tsu
was venerated as a 'saint' and imperial sacrifices were made to him. It
drew strongly upon the ideas of yin-yang and of the 'Five Agents'
(metal, wood, water, fire & earth).
During this time there began to develop a pantheon of TAOIST DEITIES which were often venerated as gods.
prominent were astrology, alchemy and divination in this stream of
Taoism that it had veered away from philosophy to occultism. This
movement was sometimes known as Huang-Lao, after the legendary Yellow Emperor, Huang-ti and Lao Tsu.
this form of Taoism emerged very strong alchemical currents as Taoist
practitioners (much like Western mystics a millennium later) at the
court of Shih Huang-ti of the Qin (Ch'in) dynasty (221-207 BC) tried to
cultivate powers that would transform base metals to gold, and hence
would serve as a metonym for the transformation of human qualities to
the transcendent. These practitioners were also acclaimed as spirit
mediums and experts in levitation.
Lovers Practicing Taoist 'Hovering Butterflies' Posture: Porcelain, Ch'ing Dynasty.
the important features of Taoist religion were the belief in physical
immortality, alchemy, breath control and hygiene (internal alchemy). It
supported a pantheon of deities, including Lao Tzu as one of the three
'Supreme Ones'. The Taoist liturgy and theology was much influenced by
Buddhism. Its scriptures, the Tao-tsang, consist of over 1,400 separate
works totaling more than 5,000 chapters.
special significance to these mystics were the colour red (symbolizing
the furnaces of the alchemists), the Manchurian Crane with its red spot
of divinity in its crown, and the compound cinnabar (composed of
mercury and sulphur) which could be transformed into a silvery liquid;
and back again into a solid.
is considerable evidence that this religious Taoism came to take on
many 'Tantric' elements, in which the worship of yin-yang takes on a
distinctly sexual and erotic form. The interplay of yin and yang
elements is represented, and celebrated, as a sexual union. There are
some scholars who, in fact, believe that the Tantric schools, which
later were absorbed into Buddhism, evolved first as Taoist ones.
Among the principal Taoist sects to emerge were:
the Heavenly Master sect absorbed most of the beliefs and practices of
the other sects and, in the 20th century, became the most popular
- The Heavenly (or Celestial) Masters
sect, founded in West China in the second century A.D. It was founded
by Chang Tao-ling (AD 34?-156?) who reputedly possessed remarkable
healing powers. It advocated faith healing through the confession of
sin and at one time recruited members as soldiers and engaged in war
against the government.
In the 11th century, the sect obtained a
large tract in Jiangxi province that remained an important Taoist
center until 1927. The sect still flourishes in Taiwan and continues to
pay homage to Zhang Daoling, who is regarded as immortal.
- The Supreme Peace
sect, also founded in the second century A.D., adopted practices much
like those of the Heavenly Master sect and launched a great rebellion
that went on for several years before ending in 205 A.D.
- The Mao-shan (Mount Mao)
sect, founded in the 4th century, introduced rituals involving both
external and internal alchemies, mediumistic practice, and visionary
communication with divinities.
- The Ling-pao (Marvelous Treasure) sect, also founded in the 4th century, introduced the worship of divinities called T'ien-tsun (Heavenly Lords).
- The Ch'uan-chen (Completely Real) sect was founded in the 12th century as a Taoist monastic movement.
The Immortal Soul of the Taoist Adept.
in the Han dynasty (beginning of the 3rd century A.D.) a branches of
Taoism, such as Yellow Turban Movement and the Celestial Masters Sec, ,
became a popular revolutionary cults. The former, led by the three
Chang brothers, promised immortality to ordinary people. Hundreds of
thousands of destitute people flocked to their banner, holding great
public gatherings, confessions of sins and even uninhibited orgies.
Although the movement fell apart, it was one of the key factors that
de-stabilized the Han dynasty and lead to its downfall.
even in the time of the Six Kingdoms (220 to 618 A.D.) Taoism continued
to attract many refugee intellectuals, fleeing from the barbarians in
important to the development of Taoism in China was the rein of the
Emperor Li Lung-chi (a.k.a. Hsuan Tsung) who ruled for 44 years and was
a fervent adherent of Taoism. Deeply absorbed in its study he tried to
create a Taoist state in which capital punishment would be abolished
and animals would be treated humanely. He established hospitals for the
sick and poor and was an accomplished musician, equestrian,
calligrapher and astronomer.
true mystic Li Lung-chi once had a vision of Lao Tsu who told him where
to find a true likeness of him. The image was, in fact, discovered and
replicas of it were made and installed in temples across the realm. He
also told his ministers that once while burning incense in a shrine he
had been wafted up to Heaven.
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 06:57 AM)
the third century and fourth centuries A.D. (the so-called Wei-Chin
period) there was a second flowering of Taoism. Historians sometimes
ascribe this at least partly to the chaos and corruption of the late
Han dynasty and the repeated wars, droughts and floods of the time.
These adverse circumstances lead a number of thinkers and philosophers
to withdraw both from the corruption of the state and from the dry
academic debates which had turned state Confucianism into dry
scholasticism. This rejection of the social and philosophical dogmas
developed in two directions.
is a name given to a group of younger thinkers and poets who explored
issues of Taoism from a 'light' and poetical aspect very much in the
spirit of Chuang-Tzu, seeking to free the spirit and sharpen the
imagination. Their writing and poetry displays lofty ideals and a
certain wit, whether on matters of sex or of poetry.
The most famous of this group were the Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove who included Juan Chi (210-263 A.D.) who advocated becoming one with the universe and transcending all distinctions; and Hsi K'ang
(223-262 A.D.). According to Wing-Tsit Chan; "These men often met in
bamboo groves to drink, write poems, and talk and behave in utter
disregard for social conventions or worldly values."
This important school of thought was lead by philosophers such as Wang Pi (A.D. 226 - 249), Ho Yen (died 249 A.D.) and Kuo Hsiang (died 312 A.D.). These philosophers sought to both expand Taoism and to reconcile Taoism and Confucianism.
Talisman for Protection in the Mountains.
Pi wrote commentaries on both the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching. In
relation to the latter he was an early exponent of the idea that an
explanation of being could be found in the I Ching hexagrams, in which
the mingling of the lines in the trigrams illuminate the principles of
being and of how to undertake an analysis of it. These ideas were later
to penetrate into Tai Chi Chuan with a similar association of the I
Ching and the movements of Tai Chi.
he died very young (at age 24) he made a major contribution to Chinese
Cosmogony with his theory of 'original non-being (pen-wu). According to his theory original non-being transcends all distinctions and descriptions. it is the pure, original substance (pen-t'i)
which is whole and strong and always in accord with principal. This
emphasis on 'principal' is prominent in his work in contrast to Lao
Tzu's focus on destiny or fate (ming). In this he anticipates the later Neo-Confucians.
is the explanation of a hexagram? The substance of a hexagram makes
clear the controlling principles out of which it is developed. The many
cannot be controlled by the many. They are regulated by the one.
Activity cannot be controlled by activity. It is controlled by that
which is firmly rooted in the one. The reason why the many can exist is
that their ruling principal returns always to the one and all
activities can function because they have come from the same source.
Things never err -- they follow principal. There is the chief to unite
them, and the leader to group them together. Therefore, though complex,
they are not chaotic, and though many, they are not confused." -Chou-i lueh-li (Simple Exemplifications of the Principles of the Book of Changes) Ho Yen stressed the idea that non-being (wu-wei)
is nameless and is beyond forms and words. In his social and political
though he (like Wang Pi) was much influenced by Confucianism for in
their view it was Confucius who demonstrated the highest truth in human
Talisman of the Supreme Heavenly Ruler of the South Pole.
in coming into being, is produced by non-being. Affairs, as affairs,
are brought into completion by non-being. When one talks about it, it
has no predicates; when one names it, it has no name; when one looks at
it, it has no form; when one listens to it, it has no sound -- that is
Tao in completeness. Hence it is able to make sounds and echoes
brilliant, to cause material force (chi) and material objects to
stand out, to embrace all physical forms and spiritual activity, and to
display light and shadow. Because of it darkness becomes black and
plainness becomes white. Because of it the carpenter's square draws a
square and the compass draws a circle. The compass and square obtain
forms but the Tao has no form. Black and white obtain names but Tao has
no name." --Tao lun (Treatise on Tao.)
Talisman to establish contact with the Spirits of Earth and Wind.
Hsiang wrote about the interdependency of self and other and of how
these concepts are mirror images, one relying on the other for
existence. Each being needs the universe to be just what it is if it is
to exist at all. If a single principle was violated nothing could
of Kuo Hsiang writing took the form of commentary on Chuang Tzu and
just as Wang Pi developed on Lao Tzu, Kuo Hsiang developed the ideas of
Chuang Tzu. The major concept for Kuo Hsiang was not the Tao of Chuang
Tzu, but rather Nature (tzu-jan). Things exists and transform
themselves naturally and spontaneously. There is no external agent that
causes this process. 'Heaven' is not something that is lurking in the
shadows but is simply the general name of Nature.
exists and transform according to principal. Everything is self-
sufficient and there is no need for an embracing original reality to
govern them (as in Wang Pi's philosophy). In other words while Wang Pi
emphasizes non-being, Kuo Hsiang emphasizes being. Where the former
emphasizes the one, the latter draws attention to the many. For Wang
Pi, principal transcends reality while for Kuo Hsiang it is immanent
was also a fatalist since he believed that everything has its own
principal and hence is determined by it. He therefore believed in
attempting to achieve contentment in whatever situation one found
oneself. He did not have a place for choice or free will in his
Kuo Hsiang considered Confucius as the true sage and employed the principles of Taoism to reinterpret the Analects
of Confucius. he felt that the true sage was not someone who withdrew
into solitary contemplation in the mountains but rather one who
remained in the center of human affairs and accomplished all things by
taking no unnatural action. Thus for him Confucius was the true sage
and not Lao Tzu or Chuang Tzu!
music of Nature is not an entity outside of things. The different
apertures of pipes and flutes, in combination with all things, together
constitute Nature. Since non-being is non-being, it cannot produce
being. Before being is produced it cannot produce other beings. Then by
whom are things produced? They spontaneously produce themselves, that
is all. By this is not meant that there is an 'I' to produce. The 'I'
cannot produce things and things cannot produce the 'i'. The 'I' is
self-existent. Because it is o by itself we call it natural. Kuo Hsiang also wrote that:
is what it is by nature, not through taking any action. Therefore
Chuang Tzu speaks of Nature. The term 'Nature' (literally 'Heaven') is
used to explain that things are what they are spontaneously, and not to
mean the blue sky. But someone says that the music of Nature makes all
things serve or obey it. Now, Nature cannot even posses itself. How can
it posses things? Nature is the general name for all things. Nature
does not set its mind for or against anything. Who is the master to
make things obey? Therefore all things exist by themselves and come
from nature. This is the Tao of Heaven." --Commentary on the Chuang
"Not even to have the desire for the state of non-desire is the constant quality of the sage." Thus
the antithesis of Taoism becomes, by a peculiar twist of reasoning, the
very acme of Taoism itself! This notion of 'non-desire' shows the clear
influence of Buddhism in China by this time. Kuo Hsiang sought to
extend the role of Taoism from a sense of removed contemplation, to a
more active one in society, but one in which the place of man was seen
in a different light.
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 06:58 AM)
Tai Chi & Taoism
The cosmographic 'tai-chi'.
exists a long history of movement and exercise systems which are
associated with Taoism. In some sense one can see elements of all of
these as contributing to the climate from which Tai Chi emerged.
Lao Tsu, the founder of Taoism, wrote:
Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight.
-- Tao Te Ching (22)
He who stands of tiptoe is not steady.
He who strides cannot maintain the pace.
-- Tao Te Ching (24)
Returning is the motion of the Tao.
Yielding is the way of the Tao.
-- Tao Te Ching (40)
What is firmly established cannot be uprooted.
What is firmly grasped cannot slip away.
-- Tao Te Ching (54)
Stiff and unbending is the principle of death.There are some interesting inspirations for the movement philosophy of Tai Chi within the writings of Chuang Tzu, for example:
Gentle and yielding is the principle of life.
Thus an Army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.
-- Tao Te Ching (76)
pure man of old slept without dreams and woke without anxiety. He ate
without indulging in sweet tastes and breathed deep breaths. The pure
man draws breaths from the depths of his heels, the multitude only from
sage] would not lean forward or backward to accomodate [things]. This
is called tranquility on disturbance, (which means) that it is
especially in the midst of disturbance that tranquility becomes
Talisman of the Jade Lady.
approach is reflected in the entire movement philosophy of Tai Chi
Chuan. There is, moreover, a long tradition of Taoist monks practicing
exercises. Some of these were referred to as tai-yin or Taoist
Breathing. Exactly what these were and what their origins were is
obscure but they are mentioned in Chinese chronicles as early as 122
Then in the sixth century A.D. Bodihdharma (called Ta Mo
in Chinese) came to the Shao-Lin Monastery and, seeing that the monks
were in poor physical condition from too much meditation and too little
excersize, introduced his Eighteen Form Lohan Exercise. This approach gave rise to the Wei Chia or 'outer-extrinsic' forms of exercise.
Later in the fifteenth century A.D. the purported founder of Tai Chi Chuan, the monk Chang San-feng, was honoured by the Emperor Ying- tsung with the title of chen-jen,
or 'spiritual man who has attained the Tao and is no longer ruled by
what he sees, hears or feels.' This indicates that already at this time
there was a close association between the philosophy of Taoism and the
practice of Tai Chi.
In the Ming dynasty (14th to 17th centuries), Wang Yang-ming
a leading philosopher preached a philosophy which was a mixture of
Taoism and Ch'an Buddhism which had certain associations with movement
any event the principles of yielding, softness, centeredness, slowness,
balance, suppleness and rootedness are all elements of Taoist
philosophy that Tai Chi has drawn upon in its understanding of
movement, both in relation to health and also in its martial
applications. One can see these influences (of softness and
effortlessness) in the names of certain movements in the Tai Chi Form,
the contemplation and appreciation nature, which are central features
of Taoist thought seem to have been reflected in the genesis of many
Tai Chi movements such as:
- Cloud Hands
- Wind Rolls the Lotus Leaves
- Brush Dust Against the Wind
- Push the Boat with the Current
- Winds Sweeps the Plum Blossoms
story comes to us that Chang San-feng watched a fight between a bird
and a snake and in this event saw how the soft and yielding could
overcome the hard and inflexible. Particularly significant here is the
reference to the White Crane (The Manchurian Crane, Grus japonensis), with its red crest an important symbol for Taoist alchemists.
- White Crane Spreads Wings
- Snake Creeps Down
- Repulse Monkey
- Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain
- White Snake Sticks Out its Tongue
- Grasp Sparrow's Tail
- Golden Cock Sands on One Leg
- Swallow Skims the Water
- Bird Flies into Forest
- Lion Shakes it's Head
- Tiger Hugs its Head
- Wild Horse Leaps the Ravine
- White Ape Devotes Fruit
- Yellow Bee Returns to Nest
features of Taoist alchemy and talismanic symbolism have also
penetrated the Tai Chi forms. As part of their contemplation of nature
the Taoists observed the heavens and were keen students of astronomy
and astrology. Movements of the Tai Chi Form such as :
- Step Up to Seven Stars
- Embrace the Moon
- Biggest Star in the Great Dipper
- Encase the Moon in Three Rings
- The Smallest Star in the Big Dipper
- Meteor Runs After Moon
- Heavenly Steed Soars Across the Sky
Meditating Under the Protection of the Big Dipper.
Reflect this Taoist astrological concern.
was a potent force in Taoist thinking. Taoist magic diagrams were
regarded as potent talismans having great command over spiritual
forces. They invoked the harmonizing influence of yin-yang and Eternal
Change; the Divine Order of Heaven, Earth and Mankind; and the workings
of the Universe through the principal of the Five Elements. These were
symbolized by the Five Sacred Mountains (Taishan, Hengshan [Hunan],
Songshan, Huashan and Hengshan [Hopei]), central places of Taoist
development and pilgrimage.
it is no surprise to find that the symbolism of names has, in important
ways, infiltrated the forms of Tai Chi. There was a numerological
component to this symbolism as well. The number '5' has a special
mystical significance to Taoists (and to Chinese in general). There are
the symbolic five mountains, five elements, five colours, five planets,
five virtues, five emotions, five directions, etc. all of which have a
mystic significance. Hence we see five Repulse Monkeys or Five Cloud Hands
in the Tai Chi form. There are many instances where the numbers '1',
'3', '5' and '7' figure prominently in the structure of Tai Chi.
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 06:58 AM)
TAOISM (a.k.a. Daoism)
| ||"Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river." Lao Tse|
Chinese philosophers, writing probably in 5-4 centuries B.C., presented
some major ideas and a way of life that are nowadays known under the
name of Taoism, the way of correspondence between man and the tendency
or the course of natural world." Alan Watts, from his book: "Tao: The Watercourse Way."|
believe in the formless and eternal Tao, and we recognize all
personified deities as being mere human constructs. We reject hatred,
intolerance, and unnecessary violence, and embrace harmony, love and
learning, as we are taught by Nature. We place our trust and our lives
in the Tao, that we may live in peace and balance with the Universe,
both in this mortal life and beyond." Creed of the Western Reform Taoist Congregation 1|
History of Taoism:
Tao (pronounced "Dow") can be roughly translated into English as path, or the way. It is basically indefinable. It has to be experienced. It "refers
to a power which envelops, 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.)" 2
founder of Taoism is believed by many to be Lao-Tse (604-531 BCE), a
contemporary of Confucius. (Alternate spellings: Lao Tze, Lao Tsu, Lao
Tzu, Laozi, Laotze, etc.). He was searching for a way that would avoid
the constant feudal warfare and other conflicts that disrupted society
during his lifetime. The result was his book: Tao-te-Ching (a.k.a. Daodejing). Others believe that he is a mythical character.
started as a combination of psychology and philosophy but evolved into
a religious faith 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 one of 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 treasures. Several
million monks were reduced to fewer than 50,000" by 1960. 3
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.
currently has about 20 million followers, and is primarily centered in
Taiwan. About 30,000 Taoists live in North America; 1,720 in Canada
(1991 census). Taoism has had a significant impact on North American
culture in areas of "acupuncture, herbalism, holistic medicine, meditation and martial arts..." 3
Taoist Beliefs and Practices:
| ||Taoism has provided an alternative to the Confucian tradition in China. The two traditions have coexisted in the country, region and generally within the same individual.|
| ||Tao is the first-cause of the universe. It is a force that flows through all life.|
| ||"The Tao surrounds everyone and therefore everyone must listen to find enlightenment." 4|
| ||Each believer's goal is to become one with the Tao.|
| ||The priesthood views the many gods as manifestations of the one Dao, "which could not be represented as an image or a particular thing."
The concept of a personified deity is foreign to them, 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
| ||In contrast with the beliefs and practices of the priesthood, most of the laity have "believed
that spirits pervaded nature...The gods in heaven acted like and were
treated like the officials in the world of men; worshipping the gods
was a kind of rehearsal of attitudes toward secular authorities. On the
other hand, the demons and ghosts of hell acted like and were treated
like the bullies, outlaws, and threatening strangers in the real world;
they were bribed by the people and were ritually arrested by the
martial forces of the spirit officials." 3|
| ||Time is cyclical, not linear as in Western thinking.|
| ||Taoists generally have an interest in promoting health and vitality.|
| ||Five main organs and orifices of the body correspond to the five parts of the sky: water, fire, wood, metal and earth.|
| ||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.|
| ||Taoists follow the art of "wu wei,"
which is to let nature take its course. For example, one should allow a
river to flow towards the sea unimpeded; do not erect a dam which would
interfere with its natural flow. |
| ||One should plan in advance and consider carefully each action before making it.|
| ||A Taoists is kind to other individuals, largely because such an action tends to be reciprocated.|
| ||Taoists believe that "people are compassionate by nature...left to their own devices [they] will show this compassion without expecting a reward." 5|
The Yin Yang symbol:
This is a well known Taoist symbol. "It
represents the balance of opposites in the universe. When they are
equally present, all is calm. When one is outweighed by the other,
there is confusion and disarray." 4 One source
explains that it was derived from astronomical observations which
recorded the shadow of the sun throughout a full year. 5
The two swirling shapes inside the symbol give the impression of change
-- the only constant factor in the universe. One tradition states that
Yin (or Ying; the dark side) represents the breath that formed the
earth. Yang (the light side) symbolizes the breath that formed the
heavens. "The most traditional view is that 'yin' represents aspects
of the feminine: being soft, cool, calm, introspective, and healing...
and "yang" the masculine: being hard, hot, energetic, moving, and
sometimes aggressive. Another view has the 'yin' representing night and
'yang' day.5 However, since nothing in nature is
purely black or purely white, the symbol includes a small black spot in
the white swirl, and a corresponding white spot in the black swirl.
the 'yin' and 'yang' can symbolize any two opposing forces in nature.
Taosts believe that humans intervene in nature and upset the balance of
Yin and Yang.
There is a long history of involvement by Taoists in various exercise and movement techniques. 6 Tai chi in particular works on all parts of the body. It "stimulates
the central nervous system, lowers blood pressure, relieves stress and
gently tones muscles without strain. It also enhances digestion,
elimination of wastes and the circulation of blood. Moreover, tai chi's
rhythmic movements massage the internal organs and improve their
functionality." Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that illness
is caused by blockages or lack of balance in the body's "chi"
(intrinsic energy). Tai Chi is believed to balance this energy flow.
| ||Tao-te-Ching ("The Way of Power," or "The Book of the Way")
is believed to have been written by Lao-Tse. It describes the nature of
life, the way to peace and how a ruler should lead his life.|
| ||Chuang-tzu (named after its author) contains additional teachings.|
Taoist web sites:
| ||Taoist course, books and objects: |
| || |
Lao Tzu and Taoism Revealed:
A 40-day course delivered by email. You may learn more about the life
and philosophy of Lao Tzu, including the study of Tao Te Ching, and
concepts like tao, wu-wei, wu, and more. Register here. More information
| ||"Tao Resource" is a web site that imports authentic Taoist products to help people improve their "personal or sacred space, to build a small Taoist shrine or even to construct a large Taoist temple."
This site is well worth perusing. It has sections showing altar tables,
bells & chimes, jewelry, statuary, personal altars, etc. See http://www.taoresource.com/ |
| ||Sacred Mountain Press publishes Taoist works. Their "...
goal is to make interesting, beautiful, and reliable Taoist information
as accessible to the general public as that of any other major
religious or spiritual tradition." See: http://www.smpress.com|
| ||MoreLight.net publishes a number of books from the Taoist canon, including The Primordial Breath, Volumes 1 & 2, and Oneirocritica (The Interpretation of Dreams). See: http://morelight.net/originalbooks/ |
| ||Tai Chi: |
| ||Taoist message board: |
Books on Taoism:
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 06:59 AM)
Taoism really has to do with flowing with the Tao
( Dao ) - a word translated to English as "The Way," and has to do with
"the natural flow of things", the "course of nature", and is sometimes
called "The Watercourse Way."
Water is used as a representation
of Tao because water always seeks the path of least resistance. It does
not compete; it simply spiders out, finds the easiest path and follows
it, yet there is nothing stronger. Water will carve through rocks, run
around steel or anything which resists it. And it does so by simply
rising or using gravity.
The Tao Te Ching (or Dao De Jing) is a collection of writings or thoughts said to be written by Lao Tzu around 600 B.C. The Tao Te Ching is the second most translated publication in the world next to the Bible.
So what is this Tao? Historically there have been three uses of the word in Taoism. For this discussion of the three meanings of Tao and three approaches to Te (below), I am most indebted to Huston Smith and his book The World's Religions. Here we touch on a few points, but the reader is encouraged to pick up Smith's book and enjoy his excellent chapter on Taoism.
The common, literal sense of the word Tao is a path or a way, but it is used in three ways:
1. Tao is the transcendent Way of ultimate reality -
unnamable, ungraspable, ineffable. This is hinted at in the opening
words to the Tao Te Ching: The Tao that can be spoken is not the true
or eternal Tao. Huston Smith writes of this sense of Tao, "Above all,
behind all, beneath all is the Womb from which all life springs and to
which it returns." It is clear, quiet, eternally existing, yet beyond
our intellectual grasp, so that words never quite reach it: "Those who
know do not say; those who say do not know."
2. Tao is not only transcendent, but is the immanent, observable way of the universe,
"the norm, the rhythm, the driving power in all nature, the ordering
principle behind all life" (Smith). We see it in the yin and yang
polarities underlying everything, in the self-balancing Organism of
Nature, the flow of forces making up the universe.
3. Tao is also the way of human life when it flows in harmony with the way of the universe as described above. This life enjoys the supreme effectiveness of operating by Tao's power, or te.
There is a being, wonderful, perfect;
It existed before heaven and earth.
How quiet it is!
How spiritual it is!
It stands alone and it does not change.
It moves around and around, but does not on this account suffer.
All life comes from it.
It wraps everything with its love as in a garment,
and yet it claims no honor, it does not demand to be Lord.
I do not know its name, and so I call it Tao,
and I rejoice in its power ("te").
~Tao Te Ching 25, quoted in Huston Smith's The World's Religions
The little word "Te" in the title Tao Te Ching
is usually translated "virtue" or "power." Virtue is a good translation
if it is understood in the old sense of the word, as in the healing
"virtue" of certain plants, medicines, practices, etc. There are
occasions where te seems to translate well as virtue in the
sense of goodness, but do not confuse it with the moralistic sense in
which we think of virtue in the West. Te is the Tao at work, so te is goodness inasmuch as person of te
is adept at living in harmony with the dynamic flow of Tao in the
world. Indeed, goodness in this sense has nothing to do with societal
conventions of goodness (Taoists decry conventional "goodness" as too
contrived, shallow, or complicated), and has everything to do with
living in understanding of and harmony with the Way (Tao). The character's typical translations include: power, virtue, success, effectiveness, integrity, and goodness. So "virtue" or te as goodness here must be seen in light of these other translations; what is good
is living by the supreme effectiveness of harmony with the powers of
the natural universe and unity with the unnamable, ungraspable reality
underlying the universe. The title Tao Te Ching might be translated "The Classic Book (Ching) of the Way (Tao) and It's Power (Te)." In his book "The Way and Its Power," Arthur Waley quotes a description of Te:
is close at hand, stands indeed at our very side; yet is intangible, a
thing that by reaching for cannot be got. Remote it seems as the
furthest limit of the Infinite. yet it is not far off; everyday we use
its power. For the Way of the Vital Spirit fills our whole frames, yet
man cannot keep track of it. It goes, yet has not departed. It comes,
yet is not here. It is muted, makes no note that can be heard, yet of a
sudden we find that it is there in the mind. It is dim and dark,
showing no outward form, yet in a great stream it flowed into us at our
Three Taoisms and Their Approaches to Te
The Taoist's desire to live life by the power (te)
of the Tao has developed into three currents within the stream of
Taoism. The first, with which Yakrider.com is mostly concerned, is
commonly called "Philosophical Taoism," which is reflected in
the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu, the writings of Chuang-Tzu, and Lieh-Tzu.
Philosophical Taoism is reflective, usually meditative, and involves
some vitalizing programs to conserve Tao's power as it flows
through human beings. In the philosophical Taoism of the Tao Te Ching,
and Chuang-Tzu, the emphasis is on conserving te by using it efficiently.
A second current of Taoism might be called "vitalizing Taoism" because it seeks to increase or augment the supply of the Tao's power which it finds in the life-force, or ch'i,
through three means: movement, matter, and mind. In this stream you
will find ch'i increasing training programs based on movement (Tai Ch'i
Chuan, Kung-Fu exercises, etc.) which also worked as ch'i unblocking
practices. Acupuncture was developed for the same reasons. Matter has
vital energy as well, so Taoists developed the pharmacopoeia of the use
of herbs to increase this vital power bodily, and experimented
(sometimes fatally!) to find elixirs of immortality. Air is the most
rarified matter and thus we find the famous Taoist breathing techniques
to rejuvenate health and energize the body. Thirdly, the mind itself
becomes important for the free flow of Tao's power. Here we find the
contemplatives and hermits who developed Taoist meditation. Huston
Smith summarizes well: "This practice involved shutting out
distractions and emptying the mind to the point where the power of the
Tao might bypass bodily filters and enter the self directly." Some call
the practice Taoist yoga because of its similarity to the raja yoga of
India. The Taoist yogis had a peculiar point of departure from their
Indian counterparts: they believed that the yogi could accumulate
enough ch'i through meditation that it could be "transmitted
psychically to a community to enhance its vitality and harmonize its
This brings us near the third stream of Taoism and its approach to the power of the Tao. It can be called "religious Taoism" because it is more organized than the other two and its approach to te
is as vicarious power through a Taoist priesthood. Where philosophical
Taoism sought to conserve and manage power, and vitalizing Taoism
sought to increase the supply of this power, a third approach was still
needed. The first two took time which not everybody had and practices
which not everyone could perform consistently. There were still
villages of work-a-day people who needed help, plagues to be stopped,
malevolent ghosts to be dealt with, rains to be induced, etc. And this
is where the priests helped. They used their understanding of the flow
of ch'i to correct situations (think Feng-shui here), and used their
store of power for those who were not adept in the correct manipulation
forces. This became what some call "Church Taoism" - the folk religion
of China with its shamanistic priests, rituals, and vicariously
are a few other terms in Chinese that need to be understood in order to
better understand the meaning of Tao. These terms are "Li" - which we
translate as "organic pattern", "Tzu-jan" which we translate as "that
which is so of itself", and "Wu wei" which is translated as "without
effort" or perhaps better stated "without forcing."
Before we get started on these terms let us also share that Lao Tzu stated "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao."
It cannot be put into words, we can generalize but the part can never
understand the whole. We can only describe that which we have
experienced, and since we cannot experience the entire cosmos, we do
not have words or symbols for it. In the ancient scriptures of most all
religions of the world, there was no word for what we now so readily
call God, Brahman, Allah, Buddha, Tao, or whatever symbol we choose to
use to describe that which we do not know. In fact some scriptures
wrote in letters or symbols that made no sense in order to get that
exact message across. Sadly somewhere along the line it was decided to
put names to this and it is here that many of our troubles began. God
versus Tao, Buddha, Allah, Brahman, etc.
With that said, let us go into these three Taoist terms and see what we can learn about Taoism.
Alan Watts described three basic philosophical ideas of nature. The western mechanical
view of nature which stems from ancient Greek science as well as from
the Bible in which God made a man out of clay and breathed the breath
of life into him. Viewpoints that everything in nature was "made", as
man was made of clay. So we in the west generally have a mechanical
view toward nature, that all things in nature are "made" of something
other than itself and that each has a function or reason for being. Our
very language is rooted in this viewpoint. What is quite interesting is
that western mans' scientific quest to find out exactly what
everything is made of has led us to some amazing discoveries, which
seem to point towards what many people in various parts of the world
have known for thousands of years. (See our unified field of behavior and science pages for more on this.)
The second philosophical viewpoint toward nature is that of the Hindu tradition, where nature is a drama. Brahman
Supreme Being) is basically bored, the principle being that if you had
full control over everything it would be a lot of fun for a while but
you would soon become extremely tired, lonely and bored, you would know
absolutely everything that was going to happen... there would be no
surprises, no fun. So, for fun, Brahman cycles through periods of time
(Kalpas), one of which he falls into a deep sleep and dreams. In these
dreams he is playing the parts of all things in nature, including you
and I. He does this to live in the myriad of unknowns and surprises,
thoroughly convinced that everything is real (not his dream). So this
viewpoint takes the stance that everything is Brahman playing out a
drama. Brahman is playing out all the parts, wearing all the masks.
Nothing is to be taken seriously, because it is all just a play, a
drama put on by Brahman. This is a circular cycle that goes on and on
and on, never ending.
|The third viewpoint of nature, and the one we will discuss at length here, is from the Chinese, who use the word Li, to describe nature as organic pattern,
translated as the markings in jade, the grain in wood, and the fiber in
muscle. All of it is just infinitely beautiful, flowing in all sorts of
complicated patterns. There is an order to it, but you cannot put your
finger on it. It simply cannot be measured or put into words or
symbols. When you look at a cloud, it is not a cube, nor is it
circular. It has no specific order to it that we can describe and yet
it is perfect. Look at a tree, a mountain, or the foam on water when it
hits the shoreline, even the stars; all amazingly beautiful, in all
kinds of wild and crazy patterns. All of it has an order to it that we
simply cannot measure or describe. This is Li - organic pattern. || |
is not something different from nature, the birds, the bees, the trees,
or ourselves. The Tao is the way all that behaves. So the basic Chinese
idea of the universe is that it is an organism. You cannot find the
controlling center of it, because there isn't any. Everything is a
system of interrelated components, all interdependent on the other.
Like bees and flowers; you will not find bees where there are no
flowers, nor flowers where there are no bees or other insects that do
their equivalent. Therefore though they look very different, they are
in fact inseparable. They arise mutually. There is no cause and effect
as we study with such veracity here in the west. Light and dark, high
and low, sound and silence - all are only experienced in terms of their
This complete system of interdependence is Tao.
*See our page on unified field of behavior for more on "interdependence".
This brings us to a Chinese term, tzu-jan,
which we also translate as nature. Not a class of things as we in the
west classify nature, but rather an entire point of view. It means
literally, that which is so of itself. Our word for it might
be spontaneity. Like your heart beat, or controlling your body
temperature, and replacing the millions of cells in your body each day,
it does all of this by itself. Nothing has to be controlled, it simply
is. In western religions we take comfort in a higher being, a
controller, a maker, but how many of us have asked the question "well
who watches God?", who guards the guards? Oh, you say God doesn't need
to be watched, well then why does all of this? This is tzu-jan - "that which is so of itself."
The third term we'd like to discuss is wu wei - without effort, without forcing. Huston Smith describes wu wei
as "creative quietude" and "pure effectiveness", which he describes as
the most efficient and natural way of acting. The person of wu wei
operates in the naturalness, suppleness, and spontaneity of the flow of
Tao, not forcing, not self-consciously "achieving" things. It can also
be translated as "not doing" or "do-nothingness", yet is the supreme
activity, arising naturally when the deepest levels of the self are in
tune with Tao.
Eternal Tao doesn't do anything,
yet it leaves nothing undone.
If you abide by it, everything
in existence will transform itself.
When, in the process of self-transformation,
desires are aroused, calm them with
When desires are dissolved in the primordial presence,
peace and harmony naturally occur,
and the world orders itself. [Tao Te Ching 37]
The soft overcomes the hard in the world
as a gentle rider controls a galloping horse.
That without substance can penetrate where there is no space.
By these I know the benefit of nonaction [wu wei].
Teaching without words, working without actions--
nothing in the world can compare to them. [Tao Te Ching 43]
In the pursuit of learning,
every day something is added.
In the pursuit of Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less is done until
one arrives at nonaction [wu wei].
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.
The world is won by letting things
take their own course.
If you still have ambitions,
it's out of your reach. [Tao Te Ching 48]
The great Tao flows everywhere,
both to the left and to the right.
It loves and nourishes all things,
but does not lord it over them,
and when good things are accomplished,
it lays no claim to them.
The Tao having done everything, always escapes
and is not around to receive any thanks or acknowledgement.
Like water, the Tao always seeks the lowest level, which man abhors.
It does not show greatness and is therefore truly great. [Tao Te Ching 34]
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 07:00 AM)
What Is Tao?
Tao has reality and evidence, but no action and no form. It may be
transmitted but cannot be received. It may be attained but cannot be
seen. It exists by and through itself. It existed before Heaven and
earth, and indeed for all eternity.
What gives life to all creation and is itself inexhaustible-that is Tao.
It is the unmanifest potentiality from which all manifestations proceed.
Tao is the everlasting rhythm of life, the unity of the polarity of non-being and being.
Ellen M. Chen
Tao is the pointing finger and, at the same time, the direction.
Something mysteriously formed,
Born before heaven and earth.
In the silence and the void,
Standing alone and unchanging,
Ever present and in motion.
Perhaps it is the mother of ten thousand things.
I do not know its name.
Call it Tao.
Tao Te Ching
Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao." So begins the Tao Te
Ching (Daodejing) of Lao Tzu (Laozi), written some 2,500 years ago. "I
do not know its name, so I call it Tao. If you insist on a description,
I may call it vast, active, moving in great cycles."
then, to describe the indescribable? How to fit into words that which
is beyond words? The Tao can only be pointed to, or referred to, say
the ancient sages. It cannot be held, only experienced. It cannot be
touched, only felt. It cannot be seen, only glimpsed with the inner eye.
we see by the quotes at the beginning of the chapter, there are many
ways of talking about Tao, but, like trying to describe the taste of
chocolate to someone who has never had it, one can only approximate.
Imagine then, trying to describe the be all and end all of existence.
Lao Tzu began the Tao Te Ching by saying that the Tao itself cannot
even be talked about-though he did manage to come up with a little over
five thousand characters after that! What he actually meant was that to
try to fit the Tao into a neatly packaged definition for once and for
all is impossible, for in reality, Tao is something quite beyond all
puny definitions and categories.
word Tao (Dow), has many translations. It is an elusive word, meaning
much more than can be explained. It has been called the Law or the Way
or simply All That Is. Some Christian writers have even translated it
as God, though it certainly does not mean the personal, judgmental
deity we in the West usually think of as God.
is at once the universal pageant of the constellations and the budding
of each new leaf in the spring. It is the constant round of life and
death and all that falls between. It resides in us as we reside in it.
It is the source as well as the end of our being. It neither judges nor
condemns but continually blesses, in all moments, an unending cycle of
change and renewal.
is what has always been and always will be, regardless of whether we
humans blow ourselves into the astral. It actually has no need of us
yet continually and forever sustains us. Alan Watts once wrote:
order to Tao is not an obedience to anything else. As Chuang-tzu says,
'It exists by and through itself,' it is sui generes (self generating),
tzu-jan (of itself so), and has the property of that forgotten
attribute of God called aseity-that which is (by) se (itself).
then, is the Way, as in direction, as in manner, source, destination,
purpose, and process. In discovering and exploring Tao the process and
the destination are one and the same. John Blofeld says that in Chinese
thought "the notion of a Supreme Being, so essential to Western
religions, is replaced by that of a Supreme State of Being, an
impersonal perfection from which all beings, including man, are
separated only by delusion."
other words, this Supreme State of Being is not some unattainable
something "out there," far removed from the mundane affairs of
humankind, but rather something that we too are integrally a part of.
After all, it is much harder to identify with a wrathful, personified
deity or even a perfect, shining glory of a deity than something so
simple, so natural, so all encompassing as Tao. As Alan Watts said, "It
may reign but it does not rule. It is the pattern of things but not the
Tao itself does not judge, it does not condemn, it does not punish.
Rather we ourselves, in our refusal to go along with its majestic flow,
punish ourselves and cause ourselves all sorts of worries and problems.
I like to think of it as a giant celestial merry-go-round. Around and
around it goes, in its great and heavenly way. It is up to us to either
jump on and ride in the direction it is already turning, or to attempt
to jump on the other way. Of course, if we do that, we sooner or later
get thrown off and land on our faces in the mud! As Lao Tzu says,
whatever goes against the Tao comes to an early end. This is not a
punishment or a judgment. It simply is the way things are. Spit into
the wind and you receive it back into your face. Simple, natural.
just think of the vast amount of whirling energy that is contained in
that effortlessly revolving merry-go-round. And just imagine tapping
into that energy, that force, by simply finding our own place on that
wheel and going for the ride. When we are going along with the flow or
direction of the Tao, or the natural flow, we derive great impetus and
direction. It is like having the wind against our backs, filling our
sails. We feel we can doing anything and everything our hearts desire.
But try to go against it and once again we land on our faces in the mud.
It is in finding just the right way to jump aboard, the right timing, the right position, that is the tricky part.
What, Then, Is Taoism?
...a unique and extremely interesting combination of philosophy and religion, incorporating also 'proto' science and magic.
Taoism represents everything which is spontaneous, imaginative, private, unconventional...
A Taoist laughs at social conventions, and eludes or adapts himself to them.
is not an "ism." It is also not an ideology, or a New Age movement. It
is a living philosophy. It is a way of thinking, a way of looking at
life, a way of being-being with change rather than against it. Life is
made up of cycles, say the Taoists, cycle upon cycle. The only constant
is change. Change is inescapable. We have no control over it. The only
thing we have control over is our own responses to the changes life has
to offer. For really, what else can we do?
there's plenty we can do. Rant and rave, complain, whine,
procrastinate, fight back, resist. But to what avail? To resist only
weakens us. To the Taoist, resistance is a joke. It is utterly futile
and without honor. To resist only makes that which we are resisting
stronger. Lao Tzu speaks over and over again of the principle of the
soft overcoming the hard, the weak overcoming the strong.
Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight;
Empty and be full;
Wear out and be new;
Have little and gain.
Later on he says:
The softest thing in the universe
Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.
yielding we can find strength and succor and in softness we can find a
way to overcome even the worst tribulations. What we are talking about
here is not a mushy, weak kind of softness, but a resilient, decisive
softness, the springy softness of the bamboo which bends and springs
back in contrast to the hard and stiff oak which is blown down in a
Tzu describes a Taoist as the one who sees simplicity in the
complicated and achieves greatness in little things. He or she is
dedicated to discovering the dance of the cosmos in the passing of each
season as well as the passing of each precious moment in our lives. Lao
Tzu calls him the sage; Chuang Tzu calls him the True Man (or woman).
who seek for and follow (the Tao) are strong of body, clear of mind,
and sharp of sight and hearing. They do not load their mind with
anxieties, and are flexible in their adjustment to external conditions.
was already long established when Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching. It
originated in the ancient shamanic roots of Chinese civilization. Many
of the practices and attitudes toward life were already established
before Lao Tzu's time. He did, however, bring a much more philosophical
bent to traditional Taoist teachings. As a matter of fact, this path
was not even called "Taoism." Indeed, it was not called anything. It
was only much later when Buddhism came to China and found royal favor
that Taoism came to be called by that name. This was also when Taoism
diverged from being a strictly philosophical path to a religious one,
complete with liturgy, priests and even a Taoist pope!
has a long long history, stretching back to the Yellow Emperor (Huang
Ti) who is said to have reigned during the middle of the third
millennium BCE. It continues down through the sages such as Lao Tzu,
Chuang Tzu, Ko Hong, Lu Dong-bin and countless other "invisible" sages,
both men and women who have carried on the ancient traditions and
created new practices even up to today.
original form of Taoism, and the form that this book is most concerned
with, is sometimes called philosophical Taoism or classical Taoism. For
many centuries Taoism was an informal way of life, a way followed by
peasant, farmer and gentleman philosopher and artist. It was a way of
deep reflection and of learning from Nature, considered the highest
teacher. Followers of the Way studied the stars in the heavens and the
energy that lies deep within the earth. They meditated upon the energy
flow within their own bodies and mapped out the roads and paths it
traveled upon. They felt no need for official temples and liturgy. Each
man and woman was their own priest. The connection with the divine or
Tao was the sacred trust of each individual.
Then, as Eva Wong tells us:
history of Taoism took an interesting turn between the first and
seventh centuries CE: a form of Taoism that combined magic and devotion
emerged. Under the influence of a charismatic spiritual leader, Chang
Tao-ling, Taoism became a religion.
one can visit Taoist temples in China, such as the famous White Clouds
temple in Beijing and see crowds of devotees lighting clouds of incense
and bowing down to statues of fierce looking gods in order to have "a
good life" or for blessings in a new business enterprise. The Taoist
canon consists of thousands of volumes and monks and nuns perform
services complete with chanting, singing, exorcisms and talisman making.
of these monks and nuns are true students of the Way. They practice
self cultivation very seriously and perform rites and rituals for
pilgrims and tourists while understanding that the true Tao is not
contained in any religious box.
Chinese people today view Taoism as just another old fashioned
religion. The Taoism that I believe will take root in the West is not
that religious form. It is instead a non-religious, deeply personal
form of Taoism that speaks to the Westerner as deeply and richly as the
we shall see, Chinese medicine, qigong, tai ji, internal alchemy,
energy meditation, all of these have their roots in the Taoism of Lao
Tzu and Chuang Tzu and the ancient achieved ones. It is a form of
Taoism that can be approached by anyone.
is a belief in life, a belief in the glorious procession of each
unfolding moment. It is a deeply spiritual but decidedly non-religious
way of life. It involves introspection, balance, emotional and
spiritual independence and responsibility and a deep awareness and
connection to the Earth and all other life forms. It requires an
understanding of how energy works in the body and how to treat illness
in a safe, non-invasive way while teaching practical ways of
maintaining health and avoiding disease and discomfort. Taoist
meditation techniques help the practitioner enter deeper or more
expansive levels of wakefulness and inner strength. But most of all it
is a simple, natural, practical way of being in our bodies and our
psyches and sharing that being with all other life forms we come into
believe in the divinity, specialness and deep down holiness of each
individual, including themselves. As Hua-Ching Ni, a contemporary
Taoist master, tells us, "An undistorted human life is the real model
of all universal truth." The Taoist seeks to dig deep under all the
layers of cultural and psychological silt that has accumulated in us
humans over the millennia and bring forth the shining pearl that lies
beneath. As Hua-Ching Ni says:
religions can turn you into a pole; the naked electric pole on the side
of the busy street, stark and barren, whereas Tao makes you sprout,
blossom, and yield fruit as you sway and dance in the breeze of life.
So What Does This Have
To Do With Me?
The simplest actions and the simplest language are needed to develop ourselves spiritually and present the whole truth.
When people say they're looking for the meaning of life, what they're really looking for is a deep experience of it.
who understands the Way is certain to have command of basic principles.
He who has command of basic principles is certain to know how to deal
with circumstances. And he who knows how to deal with circumstances
will not allow things to do him harm. When a man has perfect virtue
(te), fire cannot burn him, water cannot drown him, cold and heat
cannot affect him, birds and beasts cannot injure him.
modern world bombards us on every side with sensory, emotional, and
psychological impressions. We often feel alone and cut off from our
foundations, both spiritually and emotionally. For most of us,
"reality" consists of spoon-size treatments of other people's lives fed
to us in a steady diet by newspapers, radio and especially television.
Everyone's life problems are solved in one half hour to one hour
segments, including commercials. We feel disappointed and inferior if
we are not able to do the same with our life problems and challenges.
modern religions emphasize the basic separation between creator and
creation. God is somewhere "out there" and is to be supplicated,
placated and feared. This intensifies our feelings of alienation,
making them more unbearable. To use an economic term, we are heading
into a state of spiritual bankruptcy. This is reflected in the ever
deeper and wider range of psychological disturbances we see all around
us. The "village idiot" has multiplied many times and is now living on
the streets with nowhere to go. Carl Jung, writing in 1933, said, "Much
of the evil in the world is due to the fact that man in general is
realized that many psychological disturbances of modern humankind are
actually a spiritual problem. We in the West have been cut off from our
spiritual roots. And in the process, says Jung, "science has destroyed
even the refuge of the inner life. What was once a sheltering haven has
become a place of terror." "Modern man is solitary," he says, and "is
so of necessity and at all times, for every step toward a fuller
consciousness of the present removes him further from his original
participation with the mass of men-submersion in a common
has this happened? Why are modern men and women increasingly alienated
from themselves and each other and seemingly from the rest of humanity?
The Book of Genesis describes how Adam and Eve, the primordial man and
woman, ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge and were consequently
forced out of the Garden of Eden, doomed to live a life cursed and
filled with pain and travail. Just what is this tree that caused such
grave consequences for poor Adam and Eve? It is the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil (or yin and yang, as the Taoist would say).
It is the knowledge of opposite and complementary conditions and
forces. The serpent, as the temptor, says to Eve that "God doth know
that in the day ye eateth thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and
ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5)
course once they are found out they are cast out of paradise. Eve is
told she shall henceforth deliver her children in sorrow and shall be
ruled over by her husband, setting the scene for male domination for
the next four thousand years. Adam is told he shall eat sorrow for all
the days of his life. Not only that but the very ground under them will
be cursed! All in all, things look pretty grim for humankind from this
time forth. And while most of us today know that many stories of the
Bible are myth and allegory, there are still plenty of people who
believe these stories are literally true and are bound and determined
to live out their days in sorrow and suffering, just as God commanded
Adam to do.
Taoists, however, this is absurd. The knowledge of good and evil or
self knowledge is the right and legacy of every individual. Hua-Ching
let anyone tell you that you cannot know the truth for yourself or that
you cannot achieve yourself spiritually without being tied to a temple
or church. You were not born a spiritual slave. You are the authority
who distinguishes what is true and untrue, spiritual and unspiritual.
is so easy to just let spiritual or temporal authority figures tell us
what to believe and how to live our lives. It is much easier than
consciously choosing the journey of self discovery and self knowledge,
a journey which can be very rocky indeed. In the immortal Brothers
Karamazov, Doestoevsky relates the story of how Christ, when he returns
to earth in the Middle Ages, is snatched immediately by the Grand
Inquisitor and thrown into a dungeon. There he is told that his
presence is not needed, that the Grand Inquisitor has everything under
control. People like being told what to believe and how to live their
lives. They don't need some upstart to stir things up. Christ's gift of
spiritual freedom is not welcome here, the Inquisitor tells him. Not
only do the people have no use for it, they would not know what to do
with it if they had it. It would only be a problem and a burden to
them. He then has Christ killed again.
Doestoevsky was talking about then is still true today. Most people
would rather be told what to believe in and how to live their lives in
that belief. They don't want the dubious and highly dangerous gift of
spiritual freedom any more than did the people of the Middle Ages.
Wilhem Reich wrote about the killing of Christ, in which he posited
that Christ has been crucified continuously for two thousand years. He
is crucified every time we submerge and deny the Christ within us, that
part of us that represents the love of life, of discovery, of ever
evolving creativity, or our own undeniable divinity.
to Taoists this is all quite absurd. Taoists, like many primal people,
believe that everything is sacred, not just musty old "holy" books or
special buildings or even special people whose job it is to act as
intermediaries between the sacred and the profane. To the followers of
the Way there is no difference between the sacred and the profane.
There is no escaping Tao or sacredness. It is contained within
everything as everything is contained within it.
are still in the garden of Eden! Or as Christ put it, "Heaven is at
hand." Just look around at the amazing variety of life that is going on
around us all the time, in all its splendiferous color and shape and
form. Webs of energy connect us all; trees sway rhythmically in the
breeze high over our heads; water runs merrily or sedately over stones
and sand, forming ripples and eddies and making delicious music;
grasses and flowers grow boisterously, seductively, whether we even
care or not. The rich panoply of life goes on all around us, always,
too are a unique and wonderful creation all your own. Feel the blood
rushing through your veins as your heart pumps continuously and
obligingly. Your lungs breathe effortlessly in and out, drawing rich
oxygen and qi energy. Your eyes scan the page, deciphering the little
blobs of black on white, while your marvelous brain interprets them to
your consciousness. Your every cell hums with life, with energy, with
consciousness. And who knows what further adventures await us when we
tire of these bodies and leave them behind, setting our spirits adrift
into the arms of the great and loving Tao?
up and smell the miraculous fragrance of your own life and of all the
life forms around you! The very richness of existence is contained in
all that you know and are and all that you wish to know and be. Accept
it into your consciousness, your own expression of the Tao.
Taoists, we are artists of life. We are creators of our own
masterpieces, directors of our own movies, writers of our own stories.
We are not afraid to ask for help, but in doing so, we do it with
pride, with humbleness, with sincerity, not as "worms" or "wretches"
but as upright free individuals, invested in truth and learning, ever
growing, ever renewed. We take responsibility for our own emotions, for
our own relationships, for our own habits, for our own destiny. We are
all made of the same "stuff," a combination of the divine and the
organic. We are all atomically equal! We all want to be loved and to
love. We all want to be happy and to be able to give happiness to
others. We all want to be safe, to be whole, to be healthy. And that is
our right, our divine inalienable right. We let no man or woman take
that away from us through fear or guilt or intimidation.
take responsibility for our own health. We take care of and treat our
bodies in a healthy and balanced manner. We take responsibility for our
own sexuality. We do not treat it as a weapon or a means of
subjugation. We take responsibility for our own spirituality, for our
own self cultivation. We nurture and weed our own spiritual gardens and
reap the bountiful harvest. We take responsibility for our own
emotional independence, not clinging to others or allowing others to
cling to us in an unhealthy manner. We take responsibility for our own
psyches. We do not trash them or twist them into unnatural shapes for
the benefit of others or for our own immature needs.
lastly, we take responsibility for our own consciousness, our own part
of the dance, our own piece of the great cosmic puzzle. We respect
ourselves and do not allow ourselves to be used in an unhealthy way by
the ones we love, and in turn we do not use them in the same manner. We
respect our origin and we honor our true selves, free of petty
distractions and fears. We respect and honor the true self of everyone
around us, and in that respect and honoring we shine forth as the true
sacred and strong beings that we are.
Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China
Hua-Ching Ni, The Gentle Path of Spiritual Progress
Ellen M. Chen, Tao Te Ching
Gia Fu Feng & Jane English, Tao Te Ching
Eva Wong, The Shambhala Guide toTaoism
Alan Watts, The Watercourse Way
John Blofeld, Taoism, The Road to Immortality
A.C. Graham, The Book of Lieh-Tzu
Clae Waltham, Chuang Tzu: Genius of the Absurd
Hua-Ching Ni, Tao: The Subtle Universal Law and the
Integral Way of Life
Hua-Ching Ni, The Way of Integral Life
Carl Jung, Modern Man In Search of a Soul
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 07:01 AM)
Taoism and A Few Words about Tao
is a philosophy, a religion and also the basis for Traditional Chinese
Medication. It represents the wisdom accumulated over 5,000 years of
Chinese history. Together with Confucianism and Buddhism, it has been
continuously guiding Chinese in behaviors and governing.
are some very basic different approaches taken by the West and Chinese
philosophies. The West treats individual as an independent and separate
entity. Chinese treats individual as an element in the whole universe
and is interrelated. West tends to be self-centered and thus any blame
will be first on others. On the opposite, Chinese is taught to merge
self into the environment as a whole or there is no self at all. Tao
and Taoism are different from "God" and "Bible". To understand Taoism,
one has to "unlearn" or break out from own paradigm to view it from a
completely new angle.
"Tao" means "behavior,
understanding and the constant changing from and to". Taoism is a
philosophy and a belief of simplicity and the very nature of universe.
There is no absolute "stillness". Everything, including the universe,
is changing all the time. The relative "stability" can be achieved when
a harmony is reached between "Yin" and "Yang", which are said to be the
opposite but related natural forces in the universe. There are five
elements in everything. The following diagram described their
teaches Chinese to go alone with the nature, to seek harmony in life
and meditate for mental peacefulness and "emptiness". Any act to one
extreme will cause the opposite reaction in force until the balance is
Toa De Jin was a book published 260BC and the following are some of the translations.
To behave in a society
The best of man is like water,
Which benefits all things, and does not contend with them,
flows in places that others disdain,Where it holds fast to Tao. So the
sage: In dwelling holds fast to the land, In governing holds fast to
order,In talking holds fast to truth, In dealing holds fast to men,In
acting holds fast to opportunity,In crafting holds fast to competence,
In feeling holds fast to the heart;
He does not contend, and so is without blame.Not praising the worthy prevents cheating. Not esteeming the rare prevents theft. Not flaunting beauty prevents lust
the sage controls people by: Emptying their hearts, Filling their
bellies Weakening their ambitions, And strengthening their bodies. If
people lack knowledge and desire. The crafty among them can not act;
If no action is taken
Then all live in peace
Selfish is the first hurdle of one's success
Nature is everlasting because it does not have a Self.In this way the sage:
Serves his Self last and finds it served first;
Sees his body as accidental and finds it endures. Because he does not serve his Self, he is content.
Let nature take its own course and no interfere
Beauty is recognized in the World Ugliness has been learned; When Good
is recognized in the World Evil has been learned.In this way:
Alive and dead are abstracted from growth;
Difficult and easy are abstracted from progress;
Far and near are abstracted from position;
Strong and weak are abstracted from control;
Song and speech are abstracted from harmony; After and before are abstracted from sequence.
The sage controls without authority,
And teaches without words;
He lets all things rise and fall, Nurtures, but does not interfere, Gives without demanding,
And is content.
Control or Nurture the World
The saints said: "Praise and blame cause anxiety; The objects of hope and fear are within your Self."
"Praise and blame cause anxiety" For you must hope and fear to receive or to lose them.
objects of hope and fear are within your Self" For, without Self,
neither fortune nor disaster can befall. Therefore: He who regards the
World as the Self is able to control the World; He who loves the World
as the Self is able to nurture the World.
The world can not be changed by one's will
Those who wish to change the World According with their desire Cannot succeed.
The World is shaped by Tao; It cannot be shaped by Self.
If one tries to shape it, one damages it; If one tries to possess it, one loses it.
Sometimes things flourish, And sometimes they do not. Sometimes life is
hard And sometimes it is easy. Sometimes people are strong..And
sometimes they are weak. Sometimes you get where you are going And
sometimes you fall by the way.
The sage is not extreme, extravagant, or complacent.
Violence upon others will be returned the same
men are well advised not to use violence,For violence has a habit of
returning;Thorns and weeds grow wherever an army goes, And lean years
follow a great war.
A general is well advised. To achieve nothing more than his orders, No matter how strong his army; To carry out his orders.
not glory, boast or be proud; To do what is dictated by necessity,But
not by bloodlust; For even the fiercest force will weaken with time,
And then its violence will return, and kill it.
Self and The World
The sage does not distinguish between Self and World;
the needs of the people of the World are as his own. He is good to
those who are good;He is also good to those who are not good; For love
He trusts those who are trustworthy; He also trusts
those who are not trustworthy; For love is trust. He is in harmony with
the World; So he nurtures the Worlds of others As a mother does her
Love, Restraint, Acceptance and Harmony
bears love;Love bears restraint;Restraint bears acceptance;Acceptance
bears the World;All things begin with love and end with restraint,But
it is acceptance that brings harmony. As others teach, I teach, "Those
without harmony end with violence"; This is my teacher.
Explanation of Toa by a Western scholar
Capitalism and The Tao
Qigong and Taoism
Taoist Restoration Society
Tao Te Ching
Taoism and Links
tells the basic truth. Birth and death, man and women, good and evil
are the very nature of universe. There is no absolute "Right" or
"Wrong". Every thing is relative and may change in time. Let us try to
apply to some situations and see what it may mean:
Be happy in life
One is true rich and happy
if feels having enough in life with nothing unfinished, nothing to
fight about and nothing to complain about.
A richer is not rich if feels never enough in life and thus can't be happy indeed.
To live harmony with the universe and go alone with the nature. This is what Chinese have been told for 5,000 year.
industrial revolution introduced by the "West" has brought great
disasters to the environment. The whole world has to suffer.
Receiving from nature has to be accomplished with giving back to nature. Growing trees first and then trees can be cut.
China and USA Relationship
today has become the only superpower in the world after the dissolution
of USSR. America is proud of their nation and has the strong will to
dominate in the world affairs. The aggressiveness will bring America
the power and self-fulfillment in the short run. But America in fact is
living in fear, despair, lose of directions and great jealous. America
"believes" that they are on the right side of the history and on top of
the world. Their political system is the universal model for all other
countries. Any other country different from "America value" must be
wrong and thus America, the hero nation, will use all means to bring
them back to the "right side of the history". America is living in the
history of wars starting from wars against native Indians, to
Independent Civil War, First and Second World War, Korean War, Vietnam
War, Iran War, Iraq War and recently Kosova War. America leading the
West continuously fights for "America Value" against Russian, Cuba,
China and any other countries that they think will "endanger" their
"position". America is on top of the list that countries participated
in wars against other countries (right or wrong, up to the history to
judge). America is the only country today with armies stationed in
other people's land. All these have shown that America as a nation is
lacking of the necessary confidence in the real world and in its own
future. America is psychologically unprepared to substantiate any
future failure and has no peace of mind. America is richer but unhappy,
strong but weakening in their deep inside.
China is not a
superpower and Chinese never has the will to become the number one of
the world. Recovering from 80 years of suffering from foreign invasion,
civil war and internal turbulence, Chinese finally can live in a stable
environment and enjoy their life peacefully. China is poor, maybe, but
Chinese is mentally rich because they are happy to have enough. Taoism
said that "excessive demand in any thing" will cost great dear at the
end and the real happiness is reached when one knows having enough.
is repeating without being noticed. United Kingdom, once the most
powerful countries in the world, is now giving up all colonies and
being troubled by internal fighting ever since. German and Japan when
they became the superpowers, they started the Second World War and
failed badly. USSR, once the powerful Communist tried to become Number
One, was now dissolved. Will America be able to hold on to its Number
One position forever? America will be living with their ego and fear
until eventually find out that the only enemy is themselves, not
others. No one can succeed in controlling the world. That is the nature
law of the universe.
The West and Japanese led by American
government have tried to block Communist China and failed. Any external
forces pressed on China will make China even stronger. Any external
influence, which tried to force China to improve "human right", will
worsen their position. Chinese has a long history and is capable to
handle own affairs. For the benefit of mankind and the good of America,
let the nature take its own course and leave China alone. Once Chinese
as a nation feels unsafe, the world will be turned upside down. No
matter how strong America today is, the nature force will strike back
Chinese is a nation seeking continuous harmony
with the nature, the universe and their neighbors. Confrontation is not
Chinese culture. Chinese is confident in mastering their own country,
charting their own directions and will fearlessly defend their own
country whenever necessary. Chinese is a nation with great restraint
and yet has the inner strength to react and substantiate proportionally
to any brutal force brought upon them.
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 07:02 AM)
the development of Taoism as a philosophy, another more strictly
religious interpretation of Taoism was evolving. This 'religious' Taoism had its own temples, priests, rites and symbolic images. Lao Tzu was venerated as a 'saint' and
imperial sacrifices were made to him. It drew strongly upon the ideas
of yin-yang and of the Five elements (metal, wood, water, fire &
this time there began to develop a pantheon of Taoist Deities which
were often venerated as gods. These Taoist deities, like the Buddhist
or Hindu pantheon, represented different qualities and attributes and
various ceremonies, depending on circumstances were conducted to appeal
Yu-Huang - The Jade EmperorYu-Huang
is the great High God of the Taoists -- the Jade Emperor. He rules
Heaven as the Emperor doe Earth. All other gods must report to him. His
chief function is to distribute justice, which he does through the
court system of Hell where evil deeds and thoughts are punished.
Yu-Huang is the Lord of the living and the dead and of all the Buddhas,
all the gods, all the spectres and all the demons.
to legend he was the son of an emperor Ch'ing-te and his wife Pao
Yueh-kuang who from his birth exhibited great compassion. When he had
been a few years on the throne he abdicated and retired as a hermit
spending his time dispensing medicine and knowledge of the Taoist
texts. Some scholars see in this a myth of the sacred union of the sun
and the moon, their son being the ruler of all Nature.
Yuan-shih T'ien-tsun - The First PrincipleAlthough
Yu-Huang is the High God, there are other abstract deities above him.
He rules; they simply exist and instruct. First and foremost is
Yuan-shih T'ien-tsun - the First Principal.
has no beginning and no end. He existed "before the void and the
silence, before primordial chaos." He is self-existing, changeless,
limitless, invisible, contains all virtues, is present in all places
and is the source of all truth.
San-ch'ing - The Three Pure Ones
are the so-called Three Pure Ones. They are Yu-ch'ing (Jade Pure),
Shang-ch'ing (Upper Pure) and T'ai-ch'ing (Great Pure). They are
believed to be different manifestations of Lao Tzu. They are not
rulers, but rather seek to save mankind by teaching and benevolence.
a place with Yu-ch'ing lives Yuan-shih T'ien-tsun and the Holy Men
(sheng-jen). With Shang-ch'ing lives Ling-pao T'ien-tsun (Spiritual
Treasure Honoured by Heaven) and the Heroes. T'ai-ch'ing is the direct
manifestation of Lao Tzu. He holds a fan, symbol of his powers, on
which are written the yin-yang symbol and the Big Dipper.
San-kuan - The Three Officials
San-kuan rule over all things in the three regions of the Universe,
keep a register of good and evil deeds and award good or bad fortune
accordingly. T'ien-kuan, the Ruler of Heaven, grants happiness.
Ti-kuan, Ruler of Earth, grants remissions of sins, and Shui-kuan,
Ruler of Water, averts all evil. Their compassion for all people is
unbounded. The San-kuan originated in a rite from the time of the
San-yuan - Three Epochs (or principles)
San-yuan originate from a time in the Eastern Chin Dynasty (317-420
A.D.) when the year was divided into three unequal periods. Shang- yuan
ruled the first six moons (winter and spring); Hsia-yuan ruled the 7th
and 8th moons (summer); and Chung-yuan ruled the 9th to 11th moons
(fall). It was believed that they dwelled in the North Star (Tzu Wei).
was the title awarded to Chang Tao-ling (157-178 A.D.), the founder of
the Yellow Turban Taoists (he is also claimed as founder by the Cheng-I
and Five Bushels of Rice sects). It is believed that he received the
Ling-pao (spiritual Treasure) Scripture written on golden tablets, from
the Gods. He succeeded in finding the elixir of immortality, swallowed
it, and ascended to Heaven, leaving his secrets, including his seals
and demon-dispelling sword, with his son.
then the title T'ien-shih has passed through the family for
generations. The current (63rd) Chang T'ien-shih lives in Taiwan and
heads the Five Bushels of Rice Taoist sect. He continues to retain the
sword and seals of Chang Tao-ling.
There are many others that can be named and the aspiring student of religious Taoism should study them well.
alchemy and divination in this stream of Taoism were so prominent that
it had veered away from philosophy to occultism. This movement was
sometimes known as Huang-Lao, after the legendary Yellow Emperor,
Huang-ti and Lao Tzu.
this form of Taoism emerged very strong alchemical currents as Taoist
practitioners (much like Western mystics a millennium later) at the
court of Shih Huang-ti of the Qin (Ch'in) dynasty (221-207 BC) tried to
cultivate powers that would transform base metals to gold, and hence
would serve as a metonym for the transformation of human qualities to
the transcendent. These practitioners were also acclaimed as spirit
mediums and experts in levitation.
the important features of Taoist religion were the belief in physical
immortality, alchemy, breath control and hygiene (internal alchemy).
The Taoist liturgy and theology was much influenced by Buddhism. Its
scriptures, the Tao-tsang, consist of over 1,400 separate works
totaling more than 5,000 chapters.
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 07:03 AM)
What's it All About
cosmology and theories concerning the nature of existence are
fascinating in themselves, how can we benefit from all this while
living in the real world of today? When reading through most
translations of the Tao Te Ching it becomes obvious that the writing
style refers to an age that has altogether been banished to the back
shelves of history. When it boils down to it, living the life of a
Taoist is living life simply and naturally. Being in tune with the
natural cycles of nature and avoiding conflict. It is very much an
attitude that many will find difficult to adapt to because it requires
that you don't over indulge your ego. This means adhering to the
principles of balance, Wu Wei and remembering the advice - 'Yield and be strong'.
are of course other more disciplined areas that enable you to cultivate
yourself physically and mentally, such as Tai Chi Chuan, Taoist diet,
Chi Kung and many others, and these are looked at on other pages. For
now we will concentrate on attitudes to life. What this means is that
you should avoid extremes and try to take the middle path in all
things. You will also benefit from practicing Wu Wei, which generally
translates to 'non-doing' or 'non-action'. It does not mean doing
nothing but instead refers to following the natural course of events,
or 'going with the flow'. It refers to behavior that arises from a
sense of oneself as connected to others and to one's environment. It is
not motivated by a sense of separateness. It is action that is
spontaneous and effortless. At the same time it is not to be considered
inertia, laziness, or mere passivity. Rather, it is the experience of
going with the grain or swimming with the current. Our contemporary
expression, "going with the flow," is a direct expression of this
fundamental Taoist principle, which in its most basic form refers to
behavior occurring in response to the flow of the Tao.
principle of Wu Wei contains certain implications. Foremost among
these is the need to consciously experience ourselves as part of the
unity of life that is the Tao. Lao Tzu writes that we must be quiet and
watchful, learning to listen to both our own inner voices and to the
voices of our environment in a non-interfering, receptive manner. In
this way we also learn to rely on more than just our intellect and
logical mind to gather and assess information. We develop and trust our
intuition as our direct connection to the Tao. We heed the intelligence
of our whole body, not only our brain. And we learn through our own
experience. All of this allows us to respond readily to the needs of
the environment, which of course includes ourselves. And just as the
Tao functions in a manner to promote harmony and balance, our own
actions, performed in the spirit of Wu Wei, produce the same result.
Wei also implies action that is spontaneous, natural, and effortless.
As with the Tao, this behavior simply flows through us because it is
the right action, appropriate to its time and place, and serving the
purpose of greater harmony and balance. Chuang Tzu refers to this type
of being in the world as flowing, or more poetically (and
provocatively), as "purposeless wandering!" How opposite this concept
is to some of our most cherished cultural values. To have no purpose is
unthinkable and even frightening, certainly anti-social and perhaps
pathological in the context of modern day living. And yet it would be
difficult to maintain that our current values have promoted harmony and
balance, either environmentally or on an individual level.
allow oneself to "wander without purpose" can be frightening because it
challenges some of our most basic assumptions about life, about who we
are as humans, and about our role in the world. From a Taoist point of
view it is our cherished beliefs - that we exist as separate beings,
that we can exercise willful control over all situations, and that our
role is to conquer our environment - that lead to a state of disharmony
and imbalance. Yet, "the Tao nourishes everything," Lao Tzu writes. If
we can learn to follow the Tao, practicing non-action," then nothing
remains undone. This means trusting our own bodies, our thoughts and
emotions, and also believing that the environment will provide support
and guidance. Thus the need to develop watchfulness and quietness of
cultivating Wu Wei, timing becomes an important aspect of our behavior.
We learn to perceive processes in their earliest stages and thus are
able to take timely action. "Deal with the small before it becomes
large," is a well-known dictum from Lao Tzu.
finally, in the words of Chuang Tzu, we learn "detachment,
forgetfulness of results, and abandonment of all hope of profit." By
allowing the Tao to work through us, we render our actions truly
spontaneous, natural, and effortless. We thus flow with all experiences
and feelings as they come and go. We know intuitively that actions
which are not ego-motivated, but in response to the needs of the
environment, lead toward harmonious balance and give ultimate meaning
and "purpose" to our lives. Such actions are attuned to the deepest
flow of life itself.
To allow Wu Wei to manifest in our lives
may seem like a daunting task. And yet, if we pause to reflect on our
past experiences, we will recall possibly many instances when our
actions were spontaneous and natural, when they arose out of the needs
of the moment without thought of profit or tangible result. "The work
is done and then forgotten. And so it lasts forever," writes Lao Tzu.
listening carefully within, as well as to our surroundings, by
remembering that we are part of an interconnected whole, by remaining
still until action is called forth, we can perform valuable, necessary,
and long-lasting service in the world while cultivating our ability to
be at one with the Tao. Such is the power of Wu Wei, allowing ourselves
to be guided by the Tao.
There now follows a number of insightful articles that you may find inspiring: -
Respect for Life - by Derek Lin
do we cultivate the Tao? There are so many spiritual paths out there,
how does the Tao differ from the rest? If differences exist, are they
significant or superficial?
forms of spiritualities are the same - they all teach people to be
good." I come across this sentiment quite frequently in recent years.
Some Tao practitioners say it so much, the expression has all but
become a platitude. Whenever I hear it, I can't help but wonder if they
truly realize what a special treasure the Tao is.
say that the greatness of Tao comes from its transcendence beyond
ordinary teachings, but do we really understand what that means?
cultivation is a journey of constant discovery. At any time during this
quest for wisdom, we may realize that a particular belief, previously
unquestioned, is in fact incomplete. Because we recognize that the Tao
is the ultimate principle we seek, rather than an absolute truth we
already possess, we are free to look beyond for a more complete
concept. As Taoists, we have the liberty - indeed the mandate - to rise
above the limits of any particular school of thought.
can see an example of this process at work in a common teaching of many
Eastern traditions. This teaching holds that all life is sacred, so one
must never kill. Killing takes away the priceless gift of life, and
therefore must always be wrong.
is easy for us to identify with this concept initially. Who can argue
against the statement that life is beyond price and killing is immoral?
Note, however, that the teaching applies literally to all life. In its
most traditional, undiluted form, even the killing of insects is
fact, one can argue that the killing of weaker, relatively
insignificant creatures is a greater wrong. Unlike lions and tigers,
small creatures have no ability to defend themselves, so we need to be
even more compassionate toward them.
is one of the themes in the movie "The Next Karate Kid," starring
Hilary Swank as Julie-san, Mr. Miyagi's latest student. There's a scene
where Julie and Mr. Miyagi sit down for lunch with a group of Japanese
monks. Julie is about to dig into her bowl of rice when she notices a
cockroach on the table. She grabs a shoe and gets ready to smash it.
before her shoe slams down, the monk sitting across from her sweeps the
cockroach into his hand with lightning quickness, saving it from a
messy death. He lets it go with a loving and gentle expression while
Julie stares bewildered. She doesn't get it. She keeps asking, "What?
What?" as all the monks get up and walk away.
Miyagi explains that the monks have an absolute reverence for life.
They refrain from taking any life, even the life of a cockroach. He
then adds that even though he himself does not live in a temple, he too
respects all life.
find this scene troubling for a couple of reasons. The first is that
it's a veiled criticism of the West - Julie represents the "ignorant"
Westerner who has a difficult time grasping the sanctity of life. My
experience tells me this is an unfair stereotype. The second problem I
have with the scene is that the philosophy it dramatizes is in fact
outdated and leads to all sorts of ludicrous conclusions.
may find it surprising that I would question such a familiar doctrine
that's been around for as long as anyone can remember. Isn't it
precisely because we refrain from taking life that we encourage
vegetarianism? If this absolute compassion for all life is flawed, then
what's the basis for our position against eating meat?
is an answer to the above, and we will get to it later. For now, let's
think about this: Do you agree with the monks and Mr. Miyagi? If so,
how do you react when you find a spider in your house? Do you kill it?
want to be consistent in our thoughts and actions. We want to practice
what we preach, so if we agree with the absolute reverence for life, we
must let the spider live. When I posed this question to a Tao
practitioner, she said that she would use a piece of paper to catch the
spider without harming it, and then take it outside.
was being consistent in her belief, but her answer did not resolve the
underlying quandary. The insect does not have to be a spider, which is
relatively easy to capture. It can be a fly, for example, so that a
harmless capture is difficult or impossible. How do you react then?
more. What if it is not a single insect, but a swarm of insects? For
instance, what will you do if your kitchen is crawling with ants? What
will you do if your house is infested with termites?
same thing applies to settings other than one's home. What if you're a
farmer facing a plague of locusts? Will you try to kill as many as you
can in order to minimize their damage? If so, how can you claim to
believe in the absolute sanctity of all life?
traditional study of Tao poses a similar question this way: If you are
holding your baby and you see a mosquito landing on his arm, will you
kill it? Suppose the mosquito is the probable carrier of a deadly
disease fatal to infants. You have only a split second to act. How can
you not kill it?
the centuries, people have come up with all kinds of added complexities
to answer questions like the above. For instance, some advocate saying
a prayer before killing an insect, to speed it on its way to
reincarnation. This practice has never caught on in a big way, because
it creates more questions than it answers. How exactly can prayers
dilute the absolute sanctity of life? If prayers make killing insects
okay, then how about killing animals? How about humans?
thing to consider is that this respect-for-life doctrine was formulated
a long time ago, when people didn't know about microorganisms. Now that
we know they exist, do we extend the doctrine to cover them? Clearly,
that would be absurd. Every time you wash your hands or gargle
mouthwash, lots of microscopic deaths occur. Does our reverence for all
life mean we should never keep ourselves sanitary?
the flip side, if it is okay to kill germs and bacteria, then why not
insects? They're all little bugs, alive and wriggling, aren't they?
to think of it, reverence for all life isn't a great basis for
vegetarianism either. When you consume the fruits or leaves of a plant,
it continues to live, but when you eat the root of a vegetable (potato,
for instance) you have in effect terminated its existence. How can that
be reconciled with absolute respect for all life, no matter how
a vegetarian is stranded on an island like Tom Hanks' character in
"Cast Away," and there are no edible plants anywhere. Should he
temporarily abandon his vegetarian ideals in order to survive? If so,
wouldn't he be violating the sanctity of life just to save his own skin?
bottom line is that if we really think about the doctrine espoused by
Mr. Miyagi and monks, we'll find that we can tie it up in knots with no
effort at all. This is not a teaching we can use as part of the modern
since we are Taoists, we have the freedom and the mandate to find a way
closer to the truth. So we ask ourselves: What can possibly be beyond
the reverence for all life? What might be a principle that applies
equally well in all situations and does not bind itself to all sorts of
a principle does exist. There are several elements to it, but at its
core it is not at all complex. Simply stated, the principle teaches
that what we revere is nature itself, not individual life forms. Our
specialized term for this is Lao Mu - the nurturing, creative force of
life in the universe.
you ever taken a walk through a forest and felt the abundance of life
in all its kaleidoscopic variations? Have you ever sensed the
interlocking relationships among all the components of that
environment, working harmoniously together? Have you ever been taken by
the beauty and power of living, breathing nature and felt yourself a
part of it, and not apart from it?
you can answer yes to any of the above, then you have a gut-level
feeling for this principle we're trying to describe. You will probably
recognize it as the most natural thing imaginable. Nature is something
you want to embrace, not exploit.
your personal connection with nature is such that you can relate to
various animals on a personal level, an unavoidable consequence is that
your desire to kill them and eat their flesh will diminish naturally.
You find yourself not wishing to consume an animal who clearly doesn't
want to die.
reverence for nature extends to every aspect of it, including its
cycles of life and death, the concept of natural balance, and the idea
that each living thing has its own habitat and ecological niche.
means that when nature is out of balance in the local vicinity, it
isn't wrong for you to take the appropriate action to restore the
balance. This restoration may be difficult, but the point here is that
it is not intrinsically evil. The action you take may involve the
preservation of life in some instances, and the taking of life in
others. Extremes (too much or too little) are bad; moderation (just
right) is good.
manifestation of imbalance is an endangered species. It goes without
saying that, if extinction becomes even a remote possibility for a
species, we'll want to do everything we can to increase its total
other side of this coin is when you have too much of some living thing
to the point of an impending ecological disaster. To head off such a
disaster you need to decrease the number of the animal or insect. That
will involve killing, either directly or indirectly.
you're a farmer and there is a plague of locusts, you know something
has gone horribly wrong in your region. You certainly should do
something about it, if you can. That something may well result in the
death of thousands of grasshoppers. This makes you a taker of life in
the old school, but a restorer of balance in the modern Taoist
perspective. Which viewpoint makes more intuitive sense?
if your house is infested with termites, you have a mini-disaster on
your hands. I say you should feel no compunction whatsoever about
exterminating them. Termites are hardly an endangered species. You are
not exactly striking a blow against nature by eradicating the ones
living off your dwelling. You are merely removing them from an
environment (the timber of your house) where they do not belong.
important thing to note is that, as Taoists, we do not delight or take
pleasure in the killing of these insects. We simply take effective
action to do something that must be done, no more and no less. There is
no guilt and no celebration. In fact there should be minimal emotional
attachment. If we must kill them, we do so dispassionately.
nature, killing is always done in this manner. A predator that hunts
down and kills its prey does so to satiate its hunger, not for sport,
self-glorification, hatred, loathing, vengeance, or other unsavory
human deviations. Killing in nature is a pure act undertaken with
neither elation nor remorse.
we must perform such an act, we follow nature's lead and proceed with
untainted intentions. Just as the everyday occurrence of killing in the
animal kingdom can never make animals any less a part of nature, this
does not alter our personal connection with nature one iota. Our
reverence for nature is uplifted, not lowered. Our compassion for
innocent, butchered cattle is strengthened, not weakened.
kids who don't know any better often toy with or torture insects. They
focus a magnifying glass on an ant, or clip the wings of a flying
insect, or cut off a bug's legs. Our respect for nature is such that we
cannot condone this type of cruel and immature behavior.
final element of this modernized principle has to do with human choice.
In nature, human beings are unique from all other creatures in having a
highly developed brain with which to think. Animals do not have the
ability to reason and choose as we do. Having this power of choice
means we should exercise it with care.
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 07:03 AM)
in modern civilization, we always have a choice in what we eat.
Choosing a vegetarian diet means you refrain from contributing to the
overall demand that drives the meat industry. There is honor in that
choice. It is a stance against massive cruelty and environmental
damage, both of which are affronts against nature.
the other hand, if you find yourself far from civilization, in a
situation where your survival is at stake, and the only food available
is meat, then I would say you don't really have the choice. Someone who
eats meat in order to survive when no other option is available has not
done something wrong.
our individual, personal choice is a key to this overall puzzle. We all
have the right to choose for ourselves. Chances are those of us who
choose to reduce our meat intake will enjoy the health benefits
resulting from that choice. Medical science offers a mountain of
evidence all pointing to the improved health and increased energy of
the appropriate vegetarian lifestyle. That's a clue to us that it is
the right choice and the natural choice.
flip side of this coin is that we do not have the right to impose our
personal choice on other thinking, independent individuals. The choice
is meaningless unless it is made willingly, in accordance with one's
there you have it: a logical, consistent and modern framework that
covers all situations. This framework incorporates the "respect for all
life" teaching, resolves its problems, and then takes it a step beyond.
principle can be simply stated, but its simplicity contains profound
ramifications. It is an advocate of vegetarianism without the fanatical
zeal. It recognizes the crucial role of free will, and does not engage
in useless condemnation of those who are not yet ready to make the
natural choice. The reasoning behind this principle is built from sound
structures that will never lead you to illogical extremes.
demonstrates for us that the essence of Tao is the opposite of dogma.
To be dogmatic is to hold certain beliefs (for instance, the Earth
being the center of the universe) as absolutely true and therefore
beyond questioning. The study of Tao, in contrast, is a quest for
enlightenment where we continuously deepen our understanding of
quest begins with the realization that we are not limited to any one
set of teachings. We are not bound by arbitrary rules. We can draw from
any resource - intellectual or intuitive, religious or scientific - to
increase our wisdom.
goal is to approach oneness with the principle underlying all
existence. To engage in this process is to recognize that we do not
possess the full truth at this time. Nor shall we ever claim monopoly
on any proprietary truths in the future. Our attitude will always be
one of humility, and readiness to learn.
Tao stands revealed as the paradigm of ultimate dynamism. It is the
paradigm that reinvents itself. This is how the Tao transcends ordinary
teachings. This is what makes it unique and precious.
And that, my friends, is why we cultivate the Tao!
Half Empty or Half Full? - by Derek Lin
study of Tao often leads to what I call eureka moments. "Eureka" is an
expression of triumph upon discovering a startling truth. Archimedes,
one of the greatest intellects of antiquity, used this expression
(literally "I have found it!") when he figured out how to determine the
purity of gold objects.
get closer to this eureka moment when the study of Tao changes us and
gives us a new way to examine the world. This transformed perspective
lets us take something ordinary and familiar, and suddenly see in it
all sorts of interesting new insights.
example, let's take a glass and fill it with water to the halfway
point. We then ask the customary, time-honored question, "Is the glass
half empty or half full?"
Haven't we all seen this a zillion times? What new insights can we possibly squeeze out of this tired old platitude?
we all know, the glass serves as a metaphor for life, and water
represents the good things in it. So, seeing the glass as half empty
means you're a pessimist, because you dwell on the lack in your life.
Seeing it as half full means you're optimistic, because you focus on
the good things in life. Most people choose the latter and describe
themselves as optimists. In all likelihood, this means you, too.
an interesting social phenomenon here. Most people want to be seen as
optimists, even those who are usually morose and glum. Aren't we just a
planet full of upbeat, sunny cheerleaders? How interesting! Why do we
have such a social pressure to be relentlessly optimistic?
look at it from a completely different angle and turn this paradigm
upside down. Is it always a negative thing to see the glass as half
empty? Suppose such a perception motivates you to fill the glass - so
to speak - whereas seeing it as half full leads to complacency.
Focusing on the lack in one's life can then be a driving force for
success. Not so negative now, is it?
at the overachievers who accomplish great things in any field. They
probably started out life with the idea that there wasn't enough water
in their glass to suit them, so they worked to fill it up. On the other
hand, at the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the underachievers
who dawdle away their lives in torpid passivity. Perhaps they do so
because their focus is on what they already possess, rather than the
areas of life that can use some improvement.
similar idea is to recognize the inherent usefulness of emptiness. In
chapter 11 of Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu makes the point that the emptiness
of a cup gives it utility and function. The lower part of the glass
that is already filled with water cannot accept another drop, and if we
remind ourselves that this represents life, we quickly see that the
empty portion is where all the action can take place.
Taoist concept of emptiness is not a vacuous state of nothingness;
rather, it is a pregnant void bursting with potentialities. Now we can
see how this makes perfect sense. The blank pages in the book of your
life are where the continuing tale of your adventures will be written.
These empty pages are the place where unlimited possibilities exist.
It's where the excitement and the joie de vivre reside.
emptiness is the part that can hold more water (good things). It is
what makes the glass (life) useful and functional. So why wouldn't we
want to focus on it? When you think of it this way, doesn't it seem a
little odd that most people choose to see the glass as half full
instead of half empty?
what's going on here? Even though most of us have heard about the glass
half filled with water many, many times, in all likelihood it has never
occurred to us that we can switch the positive and negative perceptions
around so easily. Evidently there's more to the glass than meets the
also need to examine the unspoken assumptions and see how valid they
really are. For instance, we start out with the unwritten, assumed rule
that we have two choices, half full or half empty, and we must choose
one of them. But must we really? Does it really have to be one or the
other? Why can it not be both, or neither?
a glass with water at the halfway point can be seen as both half empty
and half full. Sometimes it is useful to think of it one way; other
times it's better to see it the other way. This is a completely
accurate description of reality, and probably a much better way to
conceptualize it than to arbitrarily force it into one category or
another. By recognizing that the glass can embody both descriptions
simultaneously, we begin to deal with it from a holistic mindset,
taking into account every aspect of the object.
this mindset, we can see that asking about the glass being half full or
half empty is just like asking about the nature of light. Is light
composed of particles or waves? Well, the true answer is that light
embodies properties of both particles and waves. Sometimes it is useful
to think of it one way; other times it's better to see it the other
way. This is a completely accurate description of reality, and probably
a much better way to conceptualize it than to arbitrarily force it into
one category or another.
let's look at the flip side. How can we say that the glass is neither
half full nor half empty? First, we note that both descriptions can
only be perfectly accurate in theory, and never in reality. When you
pour water into the glass, no matter how careful you are and what
precision tools you use, you will never hit the exact halfway mark. If
you are very lucky, you can get to the point where you're only a few
molecules off, over or under. Thus, the glass is never truly half full
or half empty. Its state can only be described approximately.
second factor is the Taoist concept of constant change. Nothing remains
static. Nothing. As soon as any water gets into the glass, evaporation
begins. At any given moment, the glass is releasing water molecules
into the air. In fact, if we wait long enough, the glass won't just be
half empty - it will be empty, period!
some of us, the water goes away even more quickly, because we have
imperfect glasses with hairline fractures, where water seeps out at an
alarming rate. This means the good things in our lives never seem to
last. You manage to get a great job, only to be downsized; you buy a
new car, only to discover it's a lemon; and so on.
the face of this dynamism, where the only question is how quickly water
goes away, we need to take action. If we remain inactive, then it's a
certainty that the good things in life will soon disappear, never to
return. What we want is a constant stream of incoming water to
replenish the water lost to evaporation and possible leakage.
Let's explore a little further. What does the glass look like from a Zen perspective?
Buddhism recognizes the illusory nature of reality and the ultimate
emptiness of the material world. Thus, when confronted with the choice
of half empty or half full, the Zen Buddhist may answer "neither,"
because the water doesn't really exist, nor does the glass.
may seem far out, but in at least two respects the Zen practitioner is
right. First, both the glass and water are transient. We have already
noted that the water will eventually be gone, either when the glass
breaks (the end of your life) or before. The glass may last somewhat
longer than the water, but we know it will eventually be shattered into
pieces and no longer exist as a container. Like the ephemeral flame of
a candle, life flickers into existence for a while, and then gets
snuffed out without much fanfare. In truth, it can claim no more
permanent reality than the candle flame.
second factor affirming the Zen perspective is our understanding of the
most fundamental level of reality, as revealed through quantum physics.
At the sub-atomic level, we see that what we think of as solid matter
is mostly empty space. The solidity of matter that we perceive is
merely the macroscopic manifestation of energy and information
patterns. In this perspective, the water is indeed illusory, and so is
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 07:04 AM)
that we have sampled the Zen perspective, we will naturally want to
explore the Tao perspective as well. This is an interesting challenge
in view of everything we have talked about so far. We seem to have left
no stone unturned in discussing all the different ways we can approach
the glass. What other insight can the Tao provide us that hasn't
already been said? How can a true Tao sage answer the question in a way
that transcends all other answers on the subject?
sage does not answer. Instead, he takes the glass, drinks from it, and
relishes the thirst-quenching and refreshing water. He puts the glass
back down and remains quiet, perhaps with a smile on his face, as
others scramble to revise their estimation from half full to quarter
full, or half empty to three-quarters empty.
sage knows that the essence of life is to be lived, not debated. The
glass and water serve one purpose admirably well, and that is to slake
thirst. Trying to decide if it is half full or half empty does
absolutely nothing to further that purpose. If anything, it gets in the
way and delays the ultimate objective of drinking fully and deeply.
Tao is beyond mere words. Discussing the glass can never replace the
experience of drinking from it; describing the various perspectives
will never get you closer to the actual act of savoring the water.
Thus, the sage wastes no effort on intellectualization; he cuts to the
The Master's Tea Cup - by Derek Lin
Zen master Ikkyu had always been quick in his thinking. This quickness
came in handy for him in a well-known story from his youth:
a young monk, Ikkyu got himself in trouble one day when he accidentally
dropped his master's tea cup, breaking it into many pieces.
was serious, because the tea cup was the master's favorite. It was a
rare treasure, beautifully crafted from precious material. Of all of
the master's possessions, it was probably the one thing he cherished
the most - and now it was hopelessly smashed!
felt guilty, but before he could formulate a plan to get away, he heard
footsteps approaching. He swept the broken pieces together and,
blocking them from view with his body, turned to face the door just as
the master entered.
When they were within speaking distance, Ikkyu asked: "Master, why must people die?"
The master replied: "It is perfectly natural. Everything in the world experiences both life and death."
"So it is not something we should feel upset about?"
that point, the crafty Ikkyu moved aside to present the broken pieces.
"Master... your cup has experienced its inevitable death..."
first thing we notice about this story is probably its sly humor. It is
the same sense of humor that has always been part of Tao spirituality.
Chuang Tzu, our favorite vagabond philosopher, was perhaps the ultimate
representation of this playful yet profound mindset - a mindset that
made its way into the Zen tradition, giving it a flavor that was
distinctively different from the original Buddhism.
we smile at how young Ikkyu deftly extricated himself from trouble, the
humor has subtly delivered the real lesson. It sinks in at some level
that material objects have a life span too, just like living beings. If
we can recognize our own mortality, then surely we can also see the
impermanence of our various acquisitions. They can leave us at any
time, no matter how much we value them and try to hold on to them.
of us are quite attached to our material possessions, and will continue
to cling to them even after hearing the above story and comprehending
its message. We all get upset when things belonging to us are lost,
damaged or stolen. Protecting them from harm and hiding them from theft
seem to give us a measure of peace - at least temporarily.
as guilty as anyone. I remember how I used to collect comic books in my
teens. Once, by accident, I got a drop of water on the cover of one
particular comic. I flew into a rage because the water made a
noticeable dot, marring the perfection of the cover. There was no
question that I had to buy another copy - even though, like most
teenagers, I was pretty much broke.
never realized my folly as I grew older. My acquisitions changed from
comic books to computer hardware and software, but my basic pattern
remained the same: I had to have more and I didn't want to let any of
was the crucial key. I couldn't let go. I was a pack rat. I accumulated
boxes full of stuff that I hadn't looked at or used in years. As time
elapsed, I found myself unable to recall the contents of some boxes. I
had forgotten much of what I owned; those boxes might as well not
exist. And yet, I refused to dispose of them.
the quantity of the items increased, my environment became more and
more cluttered. I fought the encroaching chaos, but things never seemed
to stay organized very long. This was one consequence of my inability
to let go. Slowly but surely I was drowning myself in a flood of
knew I had a problem, but I was powerless to change myself. I bought
books and tapes on organization, but succeeded only in adding to the
clutter with them. This was prior to my study of Tao philosophy, when I
still didn't understand that I already had everything I needed within
myself. I sought external solutions while sinking ever deeper into the
I read Ikkyu's story, something clicked. I wondered how the master
reacted to the young monk's ploy to escape accountability. If he could
not let go, then the incident would bring him much misery - anger at
Ikkyu's carelessness and sadness about the loss of something so
valuable. If he truly practiced what he preached, and saw clearly the
similarity between the "life expectancy" of material objects and human
life spans, he would be able to let go of the tea cup and accept the
loss with perfect serenity.
me, this connection between material possessions and the weighty issue
of life and death was a new angle. It made me realize that, however
difficult I found it to be to let things go, if I were to suddenly pass
on for any reason, I would have no choice but to let everything go. No
choice at all! This was a mighty sobering thought.
was death the only thing that could separate us from our cherished
belongings. Any disaster, major or minor, could do the job. If your
house caught fire somehow, you would have no choice but to kiss most of
your possessions good-bye.
leads us to the next question: why wait? Why must we wait until we have
no choice to learn to let go in a painful way? Why should we wait until
the final moments on the deathbed, or perhaps the verge of a disaster,
to gain clarity? Why do we not start letting go now?
started to go through my boxes. I found many computers that were too
old to run today's programs. I held on to them all these years for no
sensible reason. I moved them from location to location, struggling
against their collective weight, without realizing what I was doing.
For all the utilities these old systems had for me, I might as well
have dragged massive rocks from one place to another.
clutter began to vanish from my life. I noticed that I had more energy
in a clutter-free work environment. When clutter was present, the mind
needed to tune them out. This required some mental energy - a
relatively small amount, but a constant effort that, over an hour or
two, would add up to quite a drain. I never suspected how much pressure
this exerted on me until it suddenly went away, leaving me with a sense
of tranquility and tremendous relief.
Finally I began to understand chapter 48 of Tao Te Ching:
Pursue knowledge, daily gain
Pursue Tao, daily loss
to understanding the Tao, I was in hot pursuit of knowledge. I acquired
more and more material things, but none of it led to what I truly
wanted. I ended up with clutter, which in turn led to stress and
agitation. I put in a lot of extra effort but did not gain any
significant benefits. I was the very opposite of Wu Wei.
on the path of the Tao, I let go of more and more every day. The more I
discard, the better I can utilize what's left. The more I simplify my
life, the easier it is to attain serenity and peace of mind. The wisdom
of Ikkyu's story is inextricably linked to the wisdom of Tao Te Ching.
this morning, I opened another box and found my collection of comic
books, which I hadn't looked at in twenty years. I found myself no
longer interested in their colorful depictions of fantasy. Instead, I
wanted to work on my own reality so I could make it the colorful
adventure it ought to be - an adventure of challenges, explorations,
discoveries, personal connections and enlightenment.
comic book with the damaged cover and its replacement were nowhere in
sight, forever lost in the passage of time. I let them go. Reflecting
back on the fanaticism to acquire in my teenage years, I had to laugh
I found amusement in my own foolish struggles over the years, my
pointless zealotry of material acquisitions. I began to see why the
ancient sages regarded the world with a twinkle in their eyes and a sly
smile on their lips. In learning the life lesson of how to let go,
humor is not only the best way to convey the teaching... it is also the
reward of a lesson well learned!
The Tall Hat - by Derek Lin
In chapter 22 of Tao Te Ching, we find the following four lines about the behavior of a sage:
Without flaunting oneself - and so is seen clearly
Without presuming oneself - and so is distinguished
Without praising oneself - and so has merit
Without boasting about oneself - and so is lasting
In chapter 24, we find the same idea expressed with almost the exact same words:
The person who flaunts oneself is not seen clearly
The person who presumes oneself is not distinguished
The person who praises oneself has no merit
The person who boasts about oneself does not last
the overall brevity and terseness of the Tao Te Ching, this repetition
is remarkable and interesting. It's a cue to us that this is an
important lesson, so we should pay extra attention to it.
people may think that this is an easy lesson to master, since they do
not see themselves as show-offs. They may be the shy type who do are
not normally flaunting, presumptuous or boastful, so they feel they
have nothing new to learn here. If we look just a little deeper though,
we'll see that reality is not quite that simple, because the ego's need
to elevate itself takes many subtle forms.
instance, it is very easy for Tao practitioners to see themselves as
head and shoulders above people who are ignorant of the Tao. Because
Tao philosophy is more sophisticated, elegant and consistent than other
belief systems, we tend to assume - without any other basis - that it
makes us superior somehow. We are presumptuous even if we don't
externalize it with words or actions. This is something most of us will
recognize in our hearts, if we are brutally honest with ourselves.
me share a story with you that further illustrates the subtleties. It
is an interesting tale having to do with tall hats - but probably not
the kind you have in mind.
"tall hat" is a Chinese expression meaning flattery. In ancient China,
headgear signified one's position in society. Government officials wore
elaborate hats specific to their level of authority. Thus, giving
someone the tall hat is to presume in him a high level of power,
thereby flattering him.
story took place back in the days when the emperor's government ran on
the Confucian system. In that system, bureaucrats were chosen from the
ranks of Confucian students based on their performance in an official
students had done well in this exam and won government posts in a city
far away. They were visiting with their teacher, to ask for his leave
and also to solicit his advice, in accordance with the customs of the
teacher told them: "In our society today, if you are too bluntly honest
or too direct, you will surely encounter obstacles. So, when you
interact with others, give them the tall hat and things will go much
are right, master," one of the students nodded in agreement. "As I look
at the world today, I see very few people out there who dislike tall
hats as you do."
The teacher was enormously pleased by this remark.
continued to exchange a few more pleasantries, and then it was time for
the students to leave. As soon as they got out of the teacher's house -
and earshot - the student who spoke turned to his classmate and asked:
"So, what do you think of the first tall hat I handed out?"
story is rich with irony. The teacher lamented the common people's
weakness for flattery without realizing that he himself was just as
susceptible. Because he saw himself as being above other people, he
became a prime target for the tall hat. His self-elevation above the
masses was the very thing that lowered him back down to the same level.
point of this story is especially important to those of us who are on
the path of cultivation. If we feel superior for having learned the
lesson of humility, well... we really haven't learned anything at all!
teacher was the type of person who praised himself. In his mind, he was
already convinced of his own virtues. He would never say it out loud,
of course - that would be too obviously immodest. What he did not
realize was that his internal self-praise was already obvious to the
students. He was blind to a tailor-made tall hat, because it matched
his own private thoughts exactly, and therefore passed right through
his critical faculties.
Te Ching tells us that such a person has no real merit, because his
inflated self-image is based on insecurities rather than true
capabilities. Someone who has not accomplished much tends to be quite
eager for others to know everything about his little achievements.
Conversely, someone who is truly accomplished probably doesn't have
much interest in elevating himself, because his focus is on his work
and not on self-promotion.
seems to be a permanent part of human nature that we will always be
able to see other people much more clearly than we can see ourselves.
This is how we can perceive the lack of substance in a braggart, and
the real value in someone who does much more than he or she claims.
Slick talk and fancy footwork may obscure the truth for a while, but
sooner or later we figure it out. This is why show-offs do not last.
cautious about your ego's tendency to position yourself too high,
especially if you think the teaching from the two chapters is an easy
lesson to master. The teacher from our story did not see himself as a
show-off or braggart either, and yet he stood revealed as the very
opposite of who he thought he was. There's a lot we can learn from his
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 07:05 AM)
conscious Taoism seems to have emerged about 300 BC but its roots
stretch back much further in time - many thousands of years, in fact.
As a growing philosophy Taoism was influenced by a number of strands of
thought which were popular in China long before this time such as
Ancestor Worship and Shamanism, and later Buddhism and Confucianism.
common folk of ancient China held a strong belief in spirits and magic,
and would have relied on shamans or holy-men to interpret and influence
the unseen world; Carvings on bone and metal show that Ancestor Worship
was common in China as long ago as the 11th century BC. Later, Buddhism
arrived from India bringing with it a host of Gods, and as Confucianism
began to emerge complex rituals were added to the mix.
strands were constantly intermingling as China developed, and even
today they are all followed to a greater or lesser extent. And all the
while the more enlightened Chinese were training themselves with
meditation and physical exercise such as martial arts, all of which
looked to, and in turn influenced, the emerging philosophy that we now
know as Taoism.
Eventually Taoism became a religion. This was
a natural progression from the philosophy that had already developed,
especially considering the popularity of the Buddhist Pantheon, and for
some time Taoism was the State Religion of China. But this site is
interested in the philosophy of Taoism, which stands separately from
the religion, and has its basis today in the texts left over from
ancient times. For more on Taoist religion, click here
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 07:05 AM)
early Taoists combined their study of nature and their scientific
approach to the world in the study of herbalism - by painstaking
experimentation on themselves a huge body of lore was built up
regarding the properties of different herbs. Today, that knowledge is
one of the main parts of Traditional Chinese Medicine,
and herbs are often prescribed for a number of ailments. In the West
the active components of herbs and other plants are often synthesised
for use as medicine but in Chinese medicine the herbs are used whole,
either powdered and taken in capsules or, more often, infused in water
and drunk as tea. Herbs in their natural form are often less harmful
than synthesised versions as chemicals will be present which can aid
the main action of the herb and help the body deal with its effects,
thus boosting effectiveness and minimising side effects.
are also used to supplement the diet to prevent disease and aid health,
the most famous being Ginseng which is now widely available in the
West. However, the Taoist approach is to make use of what is around us
in the natural world, so modern Western Taoists often study the
applications of herbalism with herbs that are more readily available to
them. Thus, while Chinese herbs are used by trained Chinese
practitioners, the body of Western herbalist lore is of great use to
those without Chinese training.
Traditionally, in the West as
well as in Ancient China, many herbs were used regularly to strengthen
and tone the bodily systems. A group of herbs known now as alteratives
and previously as 'blood cleansers' are of particular interest. In
addition to any specific actions the alterative herbs, such as nettle
and cleavers, have a general beneficial effect on all the bodys
systems, a rather vague and diffuse assertion can only be understood
from a wholistic viewpoint in which all aspects of health are related.
Alteratives typically have a diuretic and cleansing action and many
work on cleansing the kidneys or liver. They often have high vitamin or
mineral content, and tonify the body at a basic level, helping the
whole body by working on the vital systems. As digestion, elimination
and circulation are strengthened and toxins are disposed of the whole
body begins to move to a state of health.
usertype:1 tt= 0
RE:The Way of the Taoist
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 07:06 AM)
Taoist & Meditation
dictionary definition of meditation is 'to think about something
deeply', and in essence this is what you are doing. Thinking about
something in such a way as to block out all other sensory input. There
is a lot of crossover between meditation and visualisation, though
there are forms of meditation that do not involve the use of visual
images, such as Tai Chi Chuan.
Taoist Meditation Methods
meditation methods have many points in common with Hindu and Buddhist
systems, but the Taoist way is less abstract and far more down-to-earth
than the contemplative traditions which evolved in India. The primary
hallmark of Taoist meditation is the generation, transformation, and
circulation of internal energy. Once the meditator has 'achieved
energy' (deh-chee), it can be applied to promoting health and
longevity, nurturing the 'spiritual embryo' of immortality, martial
arts, healing, painting and poetry, sensual self-indulgence, or
whatever else the adept wishes to do with it.
two primary guidelines in Taoist meditation are jing ('quiet,
stillness, calm') and ding ('concentration, focus'). The purpose of
stillness, both mental and physical, is to turn attention inwards and
cut off external sensory input, thereby muzzling the "Five Thieves".
Within that silent stillness, one concentrates the mind and focuses
attention, usually on the breath, in order to develop what is called
'one-pointed awareness', a totally undistracted, undisturbed,
undifferentiated state of mind which permits intuitive insights to
masters suggest that when you first begin to practice meditation, you
will find that your mind is very uncooperative. That's your ego, or
'emotional mind', fighting against its own extinction by the higher
forces of spiritual awareness. The last thing your ego and emotions
want is to be harnessed: they revel in the day-to-day circus of sensory
entertainment and emotional turmoil, even though this game depletes
your energy, degenerates your body, and exhausts your spirit. When you
catch your mind drifting into fantasy or drawing attention away from
internal alchemy to external phenomena, here are six ways you can use to 'catch the monkey', clarify the mind, and re-establish the internal focus: -
attention back to the inflow and outflow of air streaming through the
nostrils, or energy streaming in and out of a vital point, such as
between the brows.
- Focus attention on the rising and falling of the navel, the expansion and contraction of the abdomen, as you breathe.
eyes half-closed, focus vision on a candle flame or a mandala
(geometric meditation picture). Focus on the center of the flame or
picture, but also take in the edges with peripheral vision. The
concentration required to do this usually clears all other distractions
from the mind.
a few minutes of mantra, the 'sacred syllables' which harmonize energy
and focus the mind. Though mantras are usually associated with Hindu
and Tibetan Buddhist practices, Taoists have also employed them for
many millennia. The three most effective syllables are 'Om', which
stabilizes the body, 'ah', which harmonizes energy, and 'hum', which
concentrates the spirit. 'Om' vibrates between the brows, 'ah' in the
throat, and 'hum' in the heart, and their associated colors are white,
red, and blue respectively. Chant the syllables in a deep, low-pitched
tone and use long, complete exhalations for each one. Other mantras are
the 'Heavenly Drum' as a cool-down energy-collection technique. The
vibrations tend to clear discursive thoughts and sensory distractions
from the mind.
a deity or a sacred symbol of personal significance to you shining
above the crown of your head or suspended in space before you. When
your mind is once again still, stable, and undistracted, let the vision
fade away and refocus your mind on whatever meditative technique you
Taoist meditation works on all three levels of the 'Three Treasures': essence (body), energy (breath), and spirit (mind).
first step is to adopt a comfortable posture for the body, balance your
weight evenly, straighten the spine, and pay attention to physical
sensations such as heat, cold, tingling, trembling, or whatever else
your body is comfortable and balanced, shift attention to the second
level, which is breath and energy. You may focus on the breath itself
as it flows in and out of the lungs through the nostrils, or on energy
streaming in and out of a particular point in tune with the breath.
third level is spirit: when the breath is regulated and energy is
flowing smoothly through the channels, focus attention on thoughts and
feelings forming and dissolving in your mind, awareness expanding and
contracting with each breath, insights and inspirations arising
spontaneously, visions and images appearing and disappearing.
Eventually you may even be rewarded with intuitive flashes of insight
regarding the ultimate nature of the mind: open and empty as space;
clear and luminous as a cloudless sky at sunrise; infinite and
as all the rules of Chi Kung practice can be boiled down to the three
Ss - slow, soft, smooth - so the main points of meditation practice may
be summed up in the three Cs: calm, cool, clear. As for proper postures
for practice, the two positions most frequently used in Taoist
meditation are: -
Sitting cross-legged on the floor in 'half-lotus position, with the
buttocks elevated on a cushion or pad. The advantages of this method are
that this position is more stable and encourages energy to flow
upwards towards the brain.
erect on a low stool or chair, feet parallel and shoulder width apart,
knees bent at a 90-degree angle, spine erect. The advantages of sitting
on a stool are that the legs do not cramp, the soles of the feet are in
direct contact with the energy of the earth, and internal energy tends
to flow more freely throughout the lower as well as the upper torso.
meditators who follow Taoist Meditation use both methods, depending on
conditions. When sitting cross-legged, Western practitioners, whose
legs tend to cramp more easily than Asians', are advised to sit on
thick firm cushions, perhaps with a phone book or two underneath, in
order to elevate the pelvis and take pressure off the legs and knees.
This also helps keep the spine straight without straining the lower
way the hands are placed is also important. The most natural and
comfortable position is to rest the palms lightly on the thighs, just
above the knees. However, some meditators find it more effective to use
one of the traditional 'mudras', or hand gestures. Experiment with
different combinations of posture and mudra until you find the style
that suits you best.
meditation masters teach three basic ways to control the Fire mind of
emotion with the Water mind of intent, so that the adept's goals in
meditation may be realized.
The first method is called 'stop and observe'. This involves paying
close attention to how thoughts arise and fade in the mind, learning
to let them pass like a freight train in the night, without clinging to
any particular one. This develops awareness of the basic emptiness
of all thought, as well as non-attachment to the rise and fall of
emotional impulses. Gradually one learns simply to ignore the
intrusion of discursive thoughts, at which point they cease arising
for sheer lack of attention.
The second technique is called 'observe and imagine', which refers to visualization.
The adept employs intent to visualize an image - such as Buddha, Jesus,
a sacred symbol, the moon, a star, or whatever - in order to shift
mental focus away from thoughts and emotions and stabilize the mind in
one-pointed awareness. You may also visualize a particular energy
center in your body, or listen to the real or imagined sound of a bell,
gong, or cymbal ringing in your ears. The point of focus is not
important: what counts is shifting the focus of your attention away
from idle thoughts, conflicting emotions, fantasies, and other
distracting antics of the 'monkey mind' and concentrating attention
instead on a stable point of focus established by the mind of intent,
or 'wisdom mind'.
The third step in cultivating control over your own mind is called 'using the mind of intent to guide energy'.
When the emotional mind is calm and the breath is regulated, focus
attention on the internal energy. Learn how to guide it through the
meridian network in order to energize vital organs, raise energy from
the sacrum to the head to nourish the spirit and brain, and exchange
stale energy for fresh energy from the external sources of heaven (sky)
and earth (ground). Begin by focusing attention on the Lower Elixir
Field below the abdomen, then moving energy from there down to the
perineum, up through the coccyx, and up along the spinal centers into
the head, after which attention shifts to the Upper Elixir Field
between the brows. Though this sounds rather vague and esoteric to the
uninitiated, a few months of practice, especially in conjunction with
Chi Kung and proper dietary habits, usually suffices to unveil the
swirling world of energy and awareness hidden within our bodies and
minds. All you have to do is sit still and shut up long enough for your
mind to become aware of it.
always a good idea to warm up your body and open your energy channels
with some Chi Kung exercises before you sit down to meditate. This
facilitates internal energy circulation and enables you to sit for
longer periods without getting stiff or numb. After sitting, you should
avoid bathing for at least twenty minutes in order to prevent loss of
energy through open pores and energy points. If you live in the
northern hemisphere, it's best to sit facing south or east, in the
general direction of the sun; in the southern hemisphere, sit facing
north or east.
Some Meditation Techniques Useful for the Beginner
Breath and Naval Meditation
and Navel Meditation is the oldest meditation method on record in China
as well as India, and it is the method usually taught to beginners.
Breath and Navel Meditation works directly with the natural flow of
breath in the nostrils and the expansion and contraction of the
abdomen. This Taoist meditation is a good way to develop focused
attention and one-pointed awareness.
cross-legged on a cushion on the floor or upright on a low stool and
adjust the body's posture until well balanced and comfortable. Press
tongue to palate, close your mouth without clenching the teeth, and
lower the eyelids until almost closed.
naturally through the nose, drawing the inhalation deep down into the
abdomen and making the exhalation long and smooth. Focus your attention
on two sensations, one above and the other below. Above, focus on the
gentle breeze of air flowing in and out of the nostrils like a bellows,
and on exhalation try to 'follow' the breath out as far as possible,
from 3 to 18 inches. Below, focus on the navel rising and falling and
the entire abdomen expanding and contracting like a balloon with each
inhalation and exhalation. You may focus attention on the nostrils or
the abdomen, or on both, or on one and then the other, whichever suits
time to time, mentally check your posture and adjust it if necessary.
Whenever you catch your mind wandering off or getting cluttered with
thoughts, consciously shift your attention back to your breath.
Sometimes it helps to count either inhalations or exhalations, until
your mind is stably focused. If you manage to achieve stability in this
method after ten to twenty minutes of practice, you may wish to switch
over to one of the other two methods given below. All three of these
methods may be practiced in a single sitting in the order that they are
presented here, or in separate sittings.
Time: Twenty to thirty minutes, once or twice a day.
Central Channel Meditation
is an ancient Taoist method modified and taught by Master Han Yu-mo at
his Sung Yang Tao Centers in Taiwan and Canada. It is a simple and
effective way for beginners rapidly to develop a tangible awareness of
internal energy and a familiarity with the major power points through
which energy is circulated and exchanged with the surrounding sources
of heaven and earth. It relaxes the body, replenishes energy, and
invigorates the spirit.
- Adopt a comfortable sitting posture.
take a deep breath and bend forward slowly, exhaling audibly through
the mouth in order to expel stale breath from the lungs; repeat three
sit still and breathe naturally, letting the abdomen expand and
contract with each breath. However, instead of focusing attention on
the flow of air through the nostrils, focus on the beam of energy
entering the crown of the head at a point about two inches above the
hairline, called the 'Medicine Palace'. Feel the beam of energy flowing
in through this point as you begin each inhalation and follow it down
through the Central Channel into the Lower Elixir Field below the
navel, then follow it back up the Central Channel and out through the
Medicine Palace point on exhalation. The sensation at the crown point
is most noticeable at the beginning of inhalation and the end of
exhalation and feels somewhat like a flap or valve opening and closing
as energy flows through it. There may also be feelings of warmth,
tingling, or numbness in the scalp, all of which are signs of energy
moving under the scrutiny of awareness.
practicing this method for a few weeks or months and developing a
conscious feel for energy as it moves through the Medicine Palace
point, you may start to work with other points of exit during
exhalation, always drawing energy in through the crown point on
inhalation. For example, you may bring energy in through the crown and
down to the abdomen on inhalation, then push it back up and out through
the 'Celestial Eye' point between the brows. This point usually brings
rapid results - a distinct tingling or throbbing sensation between the
brows. The Celestial Eye is the point through which adepts with
'psychic vision' perceive aspects of the world that are hidden to
ordinary eyesight. The mass of magnetite crystals between the forehead
and the pituitary gland is sensitive to subtle fluctuations in
surrounding electromagnetic fields. In other words, psychic vision
perceives by virtue of its sensitivity to electromagnetic energy rather
than the light or sound energy perceived by eyes and ears. So-called
'psychics' are those who have learned how to interpret the
electromagnetic signals from the magnetic organ between the eyes in
terms of ordinary perception and rational thought.
addition to the brow point, you may also practice expelling energy on
exhalation through the points in the centers of the palms, the centers
of the soles, and the perineum point midway between genitals and anus.
In each case, look for sensations of warmth or tingling at the point of
practicing this method for a while, your head may start to rock
spontaneously back and forth or from side to side after fifteen or
twenty minutes of sitting, or else your entire body may start trembling
and shaking. This is a good sign, for it means that your channels are
opening and that energy is coursing strongly through them. Try neither
to suppress nor encourage these spontaneous tremors; instead just let
them run their course naturally.
Time: Twenty to forty minutes, once or twice a day, preferably around dawn and midnight.
Microcosmic Orbit Meditation
is the classic Taoist meditation method for refining, raising, and
circulating internal energy via the 'orbit' formed by the 'Governing
Channel' from perineum up to head and the Conception Channel from head
back down to perineum. Activating the Microcosmic Orbit is a key step
that leads to more advanced practices. Taoists believe that microcosmic
orbit meditation fills the reservoirs of the Governing and Conception
channels with energy, which is then distributed to all the major
organ-energy meridians, thereby energizing the internal organs. It
draws abundant energy up from the sacrum into the brain, thereby
enhancing cerebral circulation of blood and stimulating secretions of
vital neurochemicals. It is also the first stage for cultivating the
'spiritual embryo' or 'golden elixir' of immortality, a process that
begins in the lower abdomen and culminates in the mid-brain. This is
probably the best of all Taoist methods for cultivating health and
longevity while also 'opening the three passes' to higher spiritual
often refer things in symbolic languages. (See the section on Human
anatomy from the Taoist perspective for a description of the symbolism
used in referring to the human anatomy.) 'Opening the Three Passes' is
another name for this meditation method and refers to the three
critical junctions which pave the way for energy to travel up from the
sacrum through the Governing Channel along the spine into the head.
first step is to still the body, calm the mind, and regulate the
breath. With this settled mind, sit alone in a quiet room, senses shut
and eyelids lowered. Turn your attention within, and inwardly visualize
a pocket of energy in the umbilical region; within it is a point of
golden light, clear and bright, immaculately pure. Focus attention on
the navel until you feel the 'pocket of energy' glowing in the
umbilical region. The breath through your nose will naturally become
light and subtle, going out and in evenly and finely, continuously and
quietly, gradually becoming slighter and subtler. When the feeling is
stable and the energy there is full, use your mind to guide energy down
to the perineum and back up through the aperture in the coccyx.
visualize this true energy as being like a small snake gradually
passing through the nine apertures of the coccyx. When you feel the
energy has gone through this pass, visualize this true energy rising up
to where the ribs meet the spine, then going through this pass and
right on up to the Jade Pillow, the back of the brain.
imagine your true spirit in the Nirvana Chamber in the center of the
brain, taking in the energy. When this true energy goes through the
Jade Pillow, press the tongue against the palate. The head should move
forward and tilt slightly upwards to help it. When you feel this true
energy penetrating the Nirvana Chamber, this may feel hot or swollen.
This means the pass has been cleared and the energy has reached the
focus attention on the Celestial Eye between the eyebrows and draw
energy forwards from the midbrain and out through the point between the
brows. This may cause a tingling or throbbing sensation there. Then the
center of the brows will throb - this means the Celestial Eye is about
to open. Then move the spirit into the center of the brows and draw the
true energy through the Celestial Eye. If you see the eighteen thousand
pores and three hundred and sixty joints of the whole body explode open
all at once, each joint parting three-tenths of an inch, this is
evidence of the opening of the Celestial Eye.
is what is meant when it is said that when one pass opens all the
passes open, and when one opening is cleared all the openings are
may wish to stay and work with this point for a few minutes, before
letting energy sink down through the palate and tongue into the throat
to the heart. This may feel as though there is cool water going down
the Multistoried Tower of the windpipe. Do not swallow; let it go down
by itself, bathing the bronchial tubes.
Then the vital energy will bathe the internal organs and then return to the genitals. This is what is called return to the root.
the heart, draw it down through the Middle Elixir Field in the solar
plexus, past the navel, and down into the Ocean of Energy reservoir in
the Lower Elixir Field, where energy gathers, mixes, and is reserved
for internal circulation. Then begin another cycle up through the
coccyx to the mid-spine behind the heart and up past the Jade Pillow
into the brain.
naturally with your abdomen, and don't worry whether energy moves up or
down on inhalation or exhalation; coordinate the flow of breath and
energy in whatever manner suits you best. However, if you reach the
stage where you can complete a full Microcosmic Orbit in a single
breath, it's best to raise energy up from coccyx to head on exhalation
and draw it down from Upper to Lower Elixir Field on inhalation.
you practice this way for a long time, eventually you can complete a
whole cycle of ascent and descent in one visualization. If you can
quietly practice this inner work continuously, whether walking,
standing still, sitting, or lying down, then the vital energy will
circulate within, and there will naturally be no problem of leakage.
Chronic physical ailments, Taoists believe, will naturally disappear.
once the inner energy is circulating, the breath will naturally become
fine, and the true positive energy of heaven and earth will be inhaled
by way of the breath and go down to join your own generative energy.
The two energies will mix together, both to be circulated by you
together, descending and ascending over and over, circulating up and
down to replenish the depleted true energy in your body.
true energy harmonises and reforms, so that the vital fluids produced
by the energy of daily life again produce true vitality. When true
vitality is fully developed, it naturally produces true energy, and
when true energy is fully developed it naturally produces our true
you have any physical problems or discomforts in a particular section
of your body, focus your energy at the pass closest to the discomfort
and let it throb there for a while. This will help heal and rejuvenate
the injured tissues. For example, if you have pelvic problems, focus
energy on the coccyx pass; for lower-back pain focus on the lowest
lumbar vertebra just above the sacrum; for upper-back and shoulder pain
focus on the fifth thoracic vertebra, and so forth.
This meditation may also cause the head to rock or the body to tremble, which, Taoists believe, are signs of progress.
Time: Thirty to forty-five minutes, once or twice a day.
usertype:1 tt= 0