Taoism is the philosophy that began in ancient china. It is the philosophy or way of life that intends to achieve harmony within the universe. Happiness is said to be attained when balance within one’s self and the universe is achieved (“Taoism”). Followers of Taoism believe in the Tao (pronounced as Dao) or the Path. For the Taoist, the Tao is natural force that surrounds everything in the universe. It is the supernatural force that regulates and controls natural processes with the end goal of achieving balance and harmony (Robinson). Taoism is best represented by the Yin and Yang symbol.
This represents the harmony and balance between two opposites that are ever present in the universe. It is believed that the Yin represent the feminine aspect of the universe or everything that is soft while the Yang on the other hand represents everything that is hard and masculine. Balance between the Yin and Yang is the primary objective of the faithful. This is the model which aids an individual in achieving personal balance in one’s self. Enlightenment, like Buddhism, is achieved through inner meditation and outer observation (Robinson).
Since the Tao cannot be represented in any form, Taoists have no deity to pray to. Taoism holds several beliefs that are unique to the religion. Being more of a life style than a religion, Taoists believe in the promotion of good health and vitality. Tai chi, the traditional Chinese exercises, is said to have been develop in order to attain balance within the body(Robinson). The Chi must be balance, which according to Traditional Chinese medicine, disruption in the flow of the body’s energy leads to illness and diseases.
They also attribute the five main body organs and parts to the five elements namely: water, fire, wood, metal and earth. Virtue must also be developed in order to achieve balance. Taoist are guided by The Three Jewels which are compassion, moderation and humility. It is also their belief that a person is naturally compassionate and every Taoist tends to show this compassion in order for others to reciprocate the good virtue. Alan Watts summarized the Taoist belief and philosophy with that of the Watercourse Way.
The author stressed on the value of adaptation. Like the water that surrounds and engulfs objects within the its flow, the Taoist should adapt with the changes in the environment but still keeping intact the inner essence or the core of the individual’s being (Watts). Taoism History According to Taoist history, Taoism is said to have been founded by Lao Tze, a Chinese scholar who lived in China between 604 to 531 BCE. He was living in a time when China was filled with turmoil and war that he sought ways to help avoid the chaotic situation in his homeland.
His endeavors resulted to the creation of the book, Tao-te-Ching, which is believed to be the foundation that brought about Taoism (“Taoism”). Although others argue that Taoism originated from the ancient book I Ching, The Book of Changes (“Taoism”). Lao Tze’s writing discusses the nature of one’s life. How to attain peace and enlightenment by the advocating good virtue and by embracing the Tao is also part of Lao Tze’s preached philosophy. And most importantly, how a good ruler should act and live his life.
The Taoist beliefs hold many concepts in similar to the Confucianism, which was the popular standard for ethics and way of living being followed during those times. The concept of action through inaction or wu wei was introduced with the proliferation of the Taoist beliefs (“Taoism”). The core of the concept is to achieve your objective with the minimal action exerted by the individual. But inaction does not entail subservient attitude. It is the other way in fact, since a Taoist will fight and kill for his beliefs provided that no better course of action has been identified.
This also entails the teaching of thinking well about one’s action first before doing them (“Taoism”). Taoism gained popularity due to the ideas Lao Tze presented. The order and natural harmony is more enduring than the social conditions and political powers prevalent during those times. However people did not choose between Confucianism and Taoism instead most of them chose to practice both in times that it was convenient for them. The Tao Te Ching and later on the Chuang tzu¬ were said to be the foundations for the Taoist philosophical beliefs and ideas.
It has, however, later on gained a reputation for cultism and gained religious fanaticism (Desmond). The religious Taoism originated from Chiang Ling, who claimed was given a revelation by Lao Tze himself with explicit instructions on the foundation of Taoism as a religion. This cult was headed by the Heavenly Master and preaches the tenets of Lao Tzu’s philosophical teachings for doing good and on taking the right actions (Desmond) . Though Taoist have no real deity, there are a few sects who venerates Lao Tze as their deity (Dominguez) And over the years Taoism have evolved in the realms of the mystic and magical.
It has become synonymous with the old animist religion of ancient China wherein the shaman can make healing rituals, have alchemical powers and has spiritual powers to influence the realms of the dead and the living. . The Oracle has the power to divine the destiny of men by speaking with free spirits. The role of seer, healer and keeper of justice is delegated to the Oracle of the village. The medium, on the other hand, during one of its trance, may speak with the ancestral spirits and has the power to make divinations and see the future. The Priest is the one who presides in the temple and heads the rituals and ceremonies (Dominguez).