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World Religions. CHAPTER EIGHT: Taoism. Fundamental questions. 1. What is the human condition?

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World religions

World Religions

CHAPTER EIGHT:

Taoism


Fundamental questions

Fundamental questions

1. What is the human condition?

  • Tao, the Way, is our original nature. Nothing is evil, but things are out of balance because humans departed from the Way. Civilization has tried to improve on nature; as a result we have created conflict and chaos.

    2. Where are we going?

  • We are already there, but we have to realize it by becoming fully in accord with the Tao

  • Everything flows out of Tao, and will return to Tao: this is the fu (invariable law of nature that ensures everything returns to a balanced state)

    3. How do we get there?

  • We achieve living the Way by:

    • living a contemplative life in nature

    • taking no action, that is, not interfering with wu-wei (nature)

    • balancing yin with yang: yin being female, dark and receptive; yang being male, bright and assertive

    • reconciling opposites on a higher level of consciousness or intuitive level

    • releasing Ch’i, the life force.


  • Key names concepts and terms

    Yin

    Yang

    Tao

    Lao-tze

    Tao Te Ching

    Chuang-tzu

    Feng Shui

    Taijiquan

    Qigong

    FalunDafa

    Shang Ti

    Key Names, Concepts, and Terms


    World religions

    Timeline

    11th century BCE

    11th century BCE

    6th century BCE

    4th century BCE

    2nd century CE

    3rd century CE

    6th century CE

    9th century CE

    12th century CE

    1445 CE

    1949

    Development of belief in Shang Ti

    Chou overthrow the Shang dynasty

    Life of Lao-tzu, supposedly writes Tao Te Ching

    Chuang-tzu collects Taoist material

    Beginning of organized groups or sects of Daoism

    TsaoChűn, became 1st god of Taoism

    Taoist take up Buddhist pattern of monasticism

    Emperor Wu Tsung, influenced by Taoist priests, persecuted the Buddhists.

    School called Complete Perfection becomes the dominant Taoist monastic tradition.

    The present Taoist canon is compiled, contains over 1,500 scriptures

    Chinese revolution ends with a Marxist government, which persecutes Taoism as a superstition.


    I basic chinese religious concepts

    I) Basic Chinese Religious Concepts

    • Recognition of Multiple Gods and Spirits

      • Polytheism and animism dominate early Chinese religion

      • The gods of heaven and earth are special focus of worship

      • Local deities and spirits worshipped

        • The Shen: beneficial spirits of light places

        • The Kuei: evil spirits of dark places

        • Animals, grain, and sometimes humans, sacrificed


    I basic chinese religious concepts1

    I) Basic Chinese Religious Concepts

    B. Yin and Yang

    • Belief that the comos is a manifestation of an impersonal spiritual substance

      • qi (ch’i): the stuff of which all things are composed; has 2 aspects

    • Ancient Chinese philosophy explained order of universe as a balance between two forces: yin and yang

      • The yin: dark, negative, female, cool, damp, earth, moon, shadows

      • The yang: light, positive, male, warm, dry, sun

    • All things (except sun and earth) are combination of the two primal forces

    • Happiness results when yin and yang in harmony

    • Tao (way): the creative rhythm of the universe


    The basic elements of chinese religion

    The Basic Elements of Chinese Religion

    Yang: dominant in males

    Yin: dominant in females

    • Wet

    • Mysterious

    • Procreative

    • Expansive

    Active

    Warm

    Dry

    Bright

    Lower and slower

    Fertile and breeding

    Dark

    Cold


    I basic chinese religious concepts2

    I) Basic Chinese Religious Concepts

    C. Filial Piety and Ancestor Worship

    • Elder object of special respect in Chinese culture

    • Veneration and ancestor worship

      • Belief in the value of home and family

      • To forget ancestors brings disgrace

      • Dead ancestors in position to help family through contact with spirit world

      • Sacrificial offerings to ancestors essential


    I basic chinese religious concepts3

    I) Basic Chinese Religious Concepts

    D. Divination

    • Order of universe allows humans to predict future events

    • Ancient Chinese sought the future in the patterns of the tortoise shell and/or stalks of grain

    • The I Ching (Book of Changes) contains 60 hexagram patterns used to interpret meaning of coins or stalks of plants cast randomly


    I basic chinese religious concepts4

    I) Basic Chinese Religious Concepts

    E. Development of Belief in the Shang Ti

    • Chou clans overthrow Shang Dynasty, eleventh century B.C.E.

    • Chou Dynasty asserts right to rule based on morality and religion

    • Chou Dynasty teaches existence of one high god named Shang Ti

      • Shang Ti judges good and evil, particularly among rulers; deposed Shang Dynasty because of its immorality

      • Shang Ti prefers righteousness to sacrifice

      • TheShuChing records Shang Ti’s morality

      • Chinese rulers develop something like Hebrew ethical monotheism


    I basic chinese religious concepts5

    I) Basic Chinese Religious Concepts

    F. Decline of the Feudal System

    • Chou Dynasty organizes economic, political, social life according to highly stratified feudal hierarchy

    • Breakdown of Chou feudal system between eighth and third centuries B.C.E. gives rise to warlords, merchant class, and general overturn of old aristocratic structure

    • Great Chinese schools of philosophical-religious thought emerge to deal with the social chaos of the declining feudal system


    Ii introduction to taoism

    II) Introduction to Taoism

    • Taoism—the way of nature and immortality

    • Scholarly label applied to an array of beliefs and practices

    • May involve Taoist practices and Confucian virtues and Buddhist-style rituals

    • Institutional Taoism has tried to distance itself from popular religion

    History and Beliefs of Taoism


    Iii the life of lao tzu

    III)The Life of Lao-tzu

    • Lao-tzu (literally means “Old Man/Old Boy;” real name of founder is Li-poh-yang) lives in sixth century B.C.E.

    • Possibly a bureaucrat in declining Chou Dynasty

    • Legend: attempts to flee China, compelled to write down his wisdom by border-guard; produces Tao TêChing


    Iv the tao t ching

    IV)The Tao TêChing

    • Second only to Analects of Confucius for influence in Chinese literature

    • Written by Lao-tzu

    • Literal title: “The Classic of the Way and Its Power or Virtue”

    • Contains 5,000 words; 80 chapters

    • Translated more than any book in world other than Bible

    • Tao TêChing was likely composed over several centuries and reached final form in fourth century B.C.E.

    • Main theme: all human achievements are folly, especially elaborate government

      • Can live happily by harmonizing self with the universe, being receptive to beauty and nature, and being silent


    V teachings of the early taoist philosophers

    V)Teachings of the Early Taoist Philosophers

    • Chuang-tzualso known as Zhuangzi(fourth century B.C.E.) collects Taoist materials from early Taoists for converting Chinese from Confucianism

      • Best approach to life is detachment

      • Said to be author of book Zhuangzi, composed of writings from various sources.

    • Core teachings of early Taoists

      • Basic unity behind the universe is a mysterious and indefinable force called the Tao, the way

        • Tao is fundamental, impersonal force

        • Tao is like an inexorable river

        • Goal of life: live simply and seek only to be in harmony with and understand the Tao

        • Taoist paradox of wuwei: actionless action

      • Life is the greatest of all possessions

        • All else is subject to decay

        • Prolonging and enriching life, even by magic, becomes a Taoist value


    V teachings of the early taoist philosophers1

    V)Teachings of the Early Taoist Philosophers

    3. Life is to be lived simply

    • Question the value of civilization, wealth, power, family ties, conventional morality

    • Innocence and detachment as ideals

    • Minimal government is the ideal

    • Small village is the social ideal

    • Taoists tend toward pacifism because war is useless and wasteful

    • Infant’s simplicity is the ideal

      4. Pomp and glory are to be despised

    • Pomp and prestige are the roots of social evil

    • Pride and self-superiority are destructive

    • Chuang-tzu refuses prime minister post

      5. Non-theistic philosophy

    • The Tao TêChing makes little mention of gods or heaven

    • One neither prays nor sacrifices to Tao

    • No view of afterlife for individuals


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    “The Tao that can be told of

    Is not the Absolute Tao,

    The Names that can be given

    Are not Absolute Names.

    The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;

    The Named is the Mother of All Things...

    These two (the Secret and its manifestations)

    Are (in their nature) the same;...

    They may both be called the Cosmic Mystery:

    Reaching from the Mystery into the Deeper Mystery

    Is the Gate to the Secret of All Life.”

    Tao teching, verse 1


    Vi later development of taoism

    VI Later Development of Taoism

    • Taoism moves elites to being religion of masses

    • Two types of Taoism develop

      • Adherents to Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu

      • Long healthy life/immortality Taoism

        • Dietary practices to extend life

        • Taoist alchemy seeks to extend life with various kinds of magic

        • Began to offer sacrifices to the stove god: TsaoChűn, became 1st god of Taoism.

      • By second century C.E. Tao TêChing recognized as Chinese classic


    Vi later development of taoism1

    VI Later Development of Taoism

    4. Charismatic Taoist leaders organize the Taoist movement, introduce faith healing, morality, temples, priests, rituals, etc.

    5. Majority religion by third century C.E.

    6. Presence of Mahayana Buddhism in fourth and fifth century China causes conflict with Taoists

    7. Buddhist – Taoist syncretism gradually occurs

    • Taoists borrow Mahayana idea of afterlife

    • Taoists develop Buddhist-style monasticism

    • Buddhists consider Taoist heroes Bodhisattvas

    • Pattern for popular Taoism set by tenth century C.E.


    Vii popular religion and organized taoism

    VII) Popular Religion and Organized Taoism

    • The second century CE saw the beginning of organized groups or sects of Daoism, using longstanding practices such as alchemy, faith­-healing, sorcery, and power objects. Chinese popular religious practice has long included worship of spirits who may affect one’s destiny.

    • The Kitchen God (Stove God) is one of the familiar spirits, and may be propitiated with animal offerings. Folk tradition asserts that the Kitchen God, or spirit, lives in a family’s kitchen and makes an annual report to the Jade Emperor about the family’s virtues and failings. To ensure a good report, during the Lantern Festival at the end of Chinese New Year celebrations, the Kitchen God may be offered something sweet or intoxicating. Villages may make collective offerings to spirits affecting their wellbeing.

    • The use of talismans is also widespread, as well as worship of virtuous people understood to have become divine after death. Families may hire either Daoist or Buddhist priests to perform funeral rites.

    • Some forms of Daoism advocate withdrawal from the hectic activity of everyday life for a life of contemplation and seeking harmony. One means of seeking harmony is fengshui, a form of geomancy which examines the flow of qi to determine the ideal placement of a building, grave, or even home furnishings.


    Viii inner alchemy

    VIII) Inner Alchemy

    • One key component of Taoist practices is individual spiritual practices for self cultivation, longevity, and perhaps immortality. These practices, said to be passed down secretly from teacher to pupil, seek to use the energy available to the body for physical health and intuitive perception of the universal order.

    • The body contains the “three treasures” of generative force (jing), vital life force (qi or chi), and spirit (shen). Breathing techniques, diets, visualization, etc. may be used to activate the three treasures.

    • Literature and folk tradition refer to sages thought to be centuries old; especially famous are the Eight Immortals.

    • The Queen Mother of the West is an important celestial being who guards the elixir of life. There have also been noteworthy female Taoist sages.


    Ix taoism sects

    IX) Taoism Sects

    • Organized Taoist sects developed complex rituals, texts, and had organized clergy. Some sects were founded on the basis of visionary revelations. Some, such as Highest Purity Daoism, advocated celibacy. In the fourth century, the Numinous Treasure group arose, assimilating elements of Buddhism.

      B. It, in turn, was succeeded by a school called Complete Perfection, the dominant Taoist monastic tradition since the twelfth century. Complete Perfecting incorporates Taoistinner alchemy, Ch’an Buddhist meditation, and Confucian social morality. Their White Cloud Monastery is in Beijing.

      C. The present Taoist canon, compiled in 1445 CE, contains over 1,500 scriptures, but has not yet been thoroughly studied by non-­Taoist scholars.


    X taoism today

    X) Taoism Today

    • In communist mainland China as well as Taiwan and overseas Chinese communities, Taoist practices are still pursued. Chinese temples combine Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist elements. Throughout Chinese history, rulers have sometimes demanded allegiance to their own particular form of religion and suppressed others. Under communism, religion has been persecuted as well.

    • The Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China remains officially anti­religious, but there has been a recent resurgence of religious practice throughout the country, and Confucian, Taoist, Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian religious sites are being built.

    • Hong Kong, now part of the People’s Republic of China, has long been home to many Taoist practices, and Taoist organizations there pursue social welfare and educational programs. Academic study of Taoism is intensifying as well.


    X taoism today1

    X) Taoism Today

    D. In both Asia and the West, Taoism continues in three major forms: organized religious institutions, societies for self­-cultivation, and practitioners of techniques for spiritual development, health, and longevity. Taoist ideas are also being promoted to help curb the environmental and social damage cause by rapid industrialization in China.

    E. Spiritual development techniques such as acupuncture, traditional Chinese herbal medicine, and the energy training practice of Taijiquan(which is a series of dance­like postures that look like swimming in the air) are now popular (though not necessarily in a spiritual context, much like some western yoga practice).

    F. Self-cultivation systems incorporating traditional health exercises are generally known as Qigong, used both in China and the West to cure disease and improve concentration and health. An example of such a system is Falun gong or FalunDafa, which combines Buddhism and Taoist energy practices. Falun gong has been repressed in China.


    Fundamental questions1

    Fundamental questions

    1. What is the human condition?

    • Tao, the Way, is our original nature. Nothing is evil, but things are out of balance because humans departed from the Way. Civilization has tried to improve on nature; as a result we have created conflict and chaos.

      2. Where are we going?

    • We are already there, but we have to realize it by becoming fully in accord with the Tao

    • Everything flows out of Tao, and will return to Tao: this is the fu (invariable law of nature that ensures everything returns to a balanced state)

      3. How do we get there?

  • We achieve living the Way by:

    • living a contemplative life in nature

    • taking no action, that is, not interfering with wu-wei (nature)

    • balancing yin with yang: yin being female, dark and receptive; yang being male, bright and assertive

    • reconciling opposites on a higher level of consciousness or intuitive level

    • releasing Ch’i, the life force.


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