Taoism in china
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Taoism in China. Tao Te Ching. The Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) was compiled around 500-400 BC (Confucius’ era) Tao – The way of the universe Te – virtue Ching – classic/book Attributed to Laozi (The old one/master) But is probably a collection of works by many authors. Origins.

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Taoism in china

Taoism in China

Tao Te Ching



Laozi on his water buffalo
Laozi BC on his water buffalo

Themes in the tao te ching

  • It is made up of 81 short poems focusing on the balance of Yin Yang in the universe and in a person and society.

    • Live simply and letting be …union with emptiness/primordial/passive/yin

    • Relativity of good and bad or yin/yang balance – the duality of nature

    • Three Jewels: Compassion, Moderation, Humility

    • Government being the least involved in people’s lives.

Themes in the Tao Te Ching

Tao te ching on knowledge wisdom

Knowing others is wisdom; Knowing the self is enlightenment. Mastering others requires force; Mastering the self requires strength. He who knows he has enough is rich. Perseverance is a sign of will power. He who stays where he is endures. To die but not to perish is to be eternally present.

Pick one sentence to copy down and journal a few of your own thoughts about that line (why it is significant to you – what we can learn).

Tao Te ching on Knowledge & Wisdom

The tao te ching on non being emptiness

We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want. We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable. We work with being, but non-being is what we use.

Empty your mind of all thoughts. Let your heart be at peace. Each separate being in the universe returns to the common source. Returning to the source is serenity.

The Tao Te Ching on Non-being/emptiness

The tao te ching on letting be passivism

Keep sharpening your knife and it will be blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water. Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it. The soft overcomes the hard.

Pick one sentence to copy down and journal a few of your own thoughts about that line (why it is significant to you – what we can learn).

The Tao Te Ching on Letting Be/Passivism

The tao te ching on relativity

  • The Tao doesn’t take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil.

  • What difference between yes and no? What difference between success and failure? Must you value what others value, avoid what others avoid?

  • Throw away morality and justice, and people will do the right thing. Throw away industry and profit, and there won’t be any thieves.

  • Journal on do you think people are innately good or will naturally do the right thing? OR journal on the second bullet (answer questions).

The Tao Te Ching on relativity

The tao te ching on government

  • When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists. Next best is a leader who is loved. Next, one who is feared. The worst is one who is despised.

  • If you don’t trust people, you make them untrustworthy.

  • Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men doesn’t try to force issues or defeat enemies by force of arms. For every force there is a counter force. Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon itself.

    • Copy down the bolded area above and just write “agree” or “disagree”

The Tao Te Ching on Government

The tao te ching on ritual

  • When the Tao (Way) is lost, there is goodness. When goodness is lost, there is morality. When morality is lost, there is ritual. Ritual is the husk of true faith, the beginning of chaos.

    • Though Taoists do celebrate holidays and have festivals and rituals (like burning ghost money)

  • Explain the significance of the above quote “When Tao is lost there is goodness...” What is being said about ritual? Can you give any examples where ritual is the husk of true faith and the beginning of chaos?

The Tao Te Ching on Ritual

Gods in taoism

  • Pantheon: evolved from Chinese folk religions (everything in nature has a god)

  • The Three Pure Ones

    • Heaven, Earth, Humanity personified

  • The Eight Immortals

    • Associated with medicine, defense, magic, judge, poet, music, immortality, lotus flower

  • Demons – forces of nature like earthquakes or ghosts of people who died violently or meaninglessly

Gods in Taoism

Taoism under mao

Under Mao’s rule Taoism nearly went extinct with the injunction that religion was “the opiate of the people” and was unscientific and outdated.

In 1954, the Religious Affairs Bureau and Land Reform movement expelled Taoist (and Buddhist) monks/nuns from temples and destroyed the temples and artifacts.

After a decade of Communist rule Taoist monks were reduced from 5 million to 50 thousand.

Taoism under Mao

Today s practitioners of taoism

Deng Xiaoping (Mao’s successor) created the Religious Freedom Clause in 1982 that allowed Taoists the “right of religious belief.”

Temples and Monasteries were reopened and fundraising initiatives rebuild some of what was lost.

31 million practitioners worldwide – but mostly in China (some in Cambodia, Singapore and a huge following in Taiwan)

Today’s Practitioners of Taoism