Throughout history, Taoism has been one of the most influential
religions of Eastern culture. This is certainly one of the most unique
of all religions. Many Taoists, in fact, do not even consider it a
religion; and in many ways it is not. Taoists make no claim that the
Tao exists.1 That is what essentially separates Taoism from the rest of
the world religions: there is no heated debate or battle over Taoist
doctrine; there have been no crusades to spread the religion. The very
essence of Taoism is quite the opposite. Taoism?s uniqueness and
open-endedness have allowed the religion to flourish almost undisturbed
and unchanged for over two thousand years.
The founder of Taoism was a man named Lao Tzu, who lived around the
year 604 B.C.E. According to Chinese legend, Lao Tzu was an archivist
in the imperial library at Lo Yang was known for his knowledge, although
he never taught.2 When Lao Tzu left his position at the library, he
went to the Chinese province of Chou. At the border, however, he was
stopped and forced to write down his teachings. During this time, he
wrote the Tao Te Ching, the major scripture of Taoism.3
After Lao Tzu?s death, a man named Yang Chu (440-366 B.C.E.) took up
his teachings.4 A naturalist and philosopher, Yang Chu believed highly
in self-regard and survival as the core of human nature and direction.
His ideals were personal integrity and self-protection, and said that he
was unwilling to pluck one hair from his head even if all humanity were
to benefit from it.5
The next influential Taoist philosopher was Chang Tzu, who lived from
350-275 B.C.E. He defined existence using Lao Tzu?s teachings.6 He
wrote fifty-two books in response to the Tao Te Ching, thirty-three of
which still survive today.7 Using exaggeration and fantasy, he
illustrated Lao Tzu?s teachings and how the Tao acted in nature. His
theories spoke of a cosmic unity which encompasses all reality and
guides it naturally, without force, to its proper end.8
The Yin and Yang theory became part of Taoist philosophy around 300
B.C.E. when they were mentioned in the Hsi tz?u, an appendix to the I
Ching.9 Yin and Yang are defined as the two forces in nature. They are
often called the two ?breaths? or ch?i.10 Yin is the feminine
principle, representing darkness, coolness, and dampness; Yang is the
masculine principle, representing brightness, warmth, and dryness.11
Neither principle is good or bad; they are not opposites, but each is
needed to maintain stability in the universe.12 This belief holds that
everything is defined through opposition; consequently, the virtues of
balance and understanding are highly valued.13
Taoism became an official religion between 100 and 200 C.E.14 Due to
competition from Buddhism, Taoists adopted many Buddhist beliefs.
During this pivotal point in the religion?s history, searching for
self-knowledge and wisdom were replaced by searching for solutions to
sorrows and other physical problems.15 Alchemy and superstition became
highly popular during this period of time, as Taoists tried to escape
reality rather than to control the artificial and unnatural. Many
Taoists used magic and the concept of Tao to try to extend the physical
life rather than to focus on the afterlife.16 Gradually the religion
becomes more complicated, with a wide pantheon of gods and a ruling
The leader Chang Ling took the title ?Heavenly Teacher? in 200 C.E. He
created a dynasty of high priests who manipulated Taoism to support a
superstitious doctrine of magic and mysticism.18 Seizing higher power
as a religious leader, he pioneered a merging of Taoism and
Zoroastrianism into a system called Five Bushels of Rice Taoism.
Eventually this developed into a society based on Mazdaism, a
Zoroastrian sect, where every believer was charged five bushels of
rice.19 Although the believers followed the basic Zoroastrian worship
format, they worshipped different gods: the Tao instead of Ahura-Mazda,
and the various Chinese folk gods in place of the Persian Angels.20
Three hundred years later, the philosopher Honen moved away from
Mazdaism and combined Taoism with Buddhism. This simplified religion he
created became known as the Pure Land School, or Amidaism. Gradually,
however, Taoism again became tied to magic, and it failed as a
religion.21 Today, only its original philosophies survive and there are
very few followers of Taoism, mostly found in Taiwan.22 Although
Taoism?s religious practices deteriorated with advancing Western
influence, its philosophical aspects have outlasted those of
Confucianism and Zen Buddhism.23
For centuries, Taoism has been known as the Way of Harmony.24 This is
because Taoists believe that the Tao leads all nature toward a natural
balance. The Tao, however, is not
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Related TopicsTaoismTao Te ChingTaoLaoziWu weiEastern religionsThree TreasuresDeEastern philosophyEast Asian religionsTaoist musictaoist philosopherfounder of taoismtao te chingcosmic unitylao tzupersonal integrityworld religionsself regardchinese legendimperial librarytaoistseastern culturechinese provinceself protectionyin and yangarchivistexaggerationcrusadesnaturalisthuman nature
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The Connection between Confucianism and Taoism
Confucianism and Taoism are some of the major religions in China. They have greatly influenced the culture of the Chinese people as well as their world view. The connection between the two religions has influenced many people over time. It can also be said that when the principles of both philosophies are put together, the outcome is a well-rounded person. The following is a discussion of the principles and philosophies behind these two religions as well as how the two religions interact and connect to influence an individual.
Confucianism is a religion that bases its philosophy and principles on the teachings of Confucius, a Chinese philosopher who lived between 551 and 478 BC. The Philosophy behind Confucianism is humanism. Confucian adherents have a positive view of human beings and human nature. The world in the Confucian religion in seen through the ideal of humanism. This means that adherents of Confucianism hold it true that human beings are improvable, teachable and perfectible. Human beings can become perfect through individual and communal effort for example self creation and cultivation. The general philosophy of Confucianism emphasizes individual and governmental morality, rightness of social relationships, sincerity and justice of the whole community.
All adherents of Confucianism should practice ethics that are exemplified by the propagation of virtues or principles. There are many virtues that adherents of Confucianism should follow for instance loyalty, continence, piety, bravery, gentleness, among others. However, there are five fundamental principles in Confucianism that include humaneness (Ren), Righteousness (Yi), Knowledge (Zhi), Etiquette (Li) and Integrity (Xin).
Humaneness obliges people to show altruism to other people in a community. This means that one should be loyal to his true nature, should show reciprocity to good deeds, be kind and show piety. Humaneness dictates that people observe the Golden Rule, ‘Do not do to others what you do not want done to 0yourself’. Being righteous means being morally disposed to do good. Etiquette on the other hand is a system of propriety and norms that dictate what proper and improper behavior within a community is. Knowledge means to appreciate the true and deep significance of something. Integrity on the other hand means honesty and standing by ones words.
Taoism is a Chinese religious tradition that stresses the importance of living harmoniously with the essence and source of all that exists or the Tao. In Chinese, Tao means the path, way or principle but it can also mean nature or reality. In Taoism, the right path is working in harmony with nature or reality. Taoism ethics stress the three jewels of the Tao which include moderation, compassion and humility. The philosophy of Taoism centers on nature and how human beings should relate with the cosmos. Inner fulfillment can be achieved through contemplation of nature. Nature is like a stream of wisdom and by experiencing it through innocent eyes, we are able to internalize its pleasantness, its intrigue and its excitement and achieve serenity.
There are four fundamental principles in Taoism including Tao, De, Pu and Wu wei. Tao in Taoism is the natural, spontaneous, eternal and indescribable way everything began and took course. It is the force that is behind natural order, the natural flow of the universe or that which keeps the universe ordered and balanced. De on the other hand is the integrity, virtue and power that are an active expression of the way or Tao. It is the living out or cultivation of the way. Wu wei, the third principle in Taoism which literally means ‘without purposeful action’. It means effortless doing and the unseen power in all things. In practice, it means that people should not exert their will in the world as this will cause a disruption in the harmony that is within things. Human beings should put their will in harmony with that which is natural or the nature. This way, their objectives would be achieved without effort. Pu in Chinese is translated to mean simplicity. It is used to symbolize pure perception and potential without discrimination. Taoists believe that everything should be perceived as it really is without illusions. Pu is the true and pure nature of the mind, uncontaminated by experiences or knowledge. When someone is in Pu, there neither is beautiful nor ugly, right nor wrong, only pure awareness.
When the principles of both Confucianism and Taoism combine, they are able to make a well rounded and self actualized person. First off, both philosophers advocate for people to move from having an ‘individual’ attitude and adopt a more communal attitude. Selflessness is therefore advocated for. The greater whole is give precedence over the individual. This is probably the reason why the Chinese as a people are very communal. If people adopted this notion, then a lot of useless conflicts between people would be done away with. This is because according to these philosophies, left to his means, the individual would not only hold himself back but also fragment the society. When individuals come together, the society is made stronger because people do only that which is advantageous to society. If therefore people adopted this principle as taught in both Confucianism and Taoism, the world would be a peaceful place to live in and our political leaders would work for the electorate instead of protecting themselves and the haves.
Another way in which the combination of the two philosophies can help make a well rounded person is that they both advocate for virtues that would make an individual better. While Confucianism emphasizes on humaneness, Righteousness, Knowledge, Etiquette and Integrity, Taoism centers on nature and how it can bring harmony to the human being and society. If one combined the two, he would in essence be a person who does good, follows societal norms and also conserves the environment. This in essence would be a law abiding citizen who respects the role of nature in the world. The environment and nature which we salvage any how would be safe and global warming and the extinction of some species of animals would not be there. Crime would be a thing of the past. The society would be full of well rounded people.
Both philosophies encourage people to live well conducted lives, to fulfill all their obligations and duties and balance their lives. This means that people should respect their different roles in social relationships as mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, siblings, friends, relatives, ruler, subject etc. The two religions encourage that one should be able to balance all his roles and perform them to the fullest. This balance is also encouraged in other issues in life as such as there should be a balance between cowardice and courage. Striking a balance between things and observing moderation is makes a well conducted life which is encouraged in both religions. If people adopted the principles of Confucianism and Taoism, issues like violence, negligence, divorce, adultery, deceit would be unheard of as everyone would know their place and execute their roles efficiently.
If people adopted Confucian and Taoist principles, we would believe in the inherent potential in human beings to be changed and transformed to be good people. If one went wrong for example, they would really believe they could change and therefore they would work towards becoming better people because they truly believe in transformation. People would be aware of their inner self and cultivate it for the betterment of humanity. Our Judicial and justice systems would also be tailored with this notion in mind, with their primary role being to fully rehabilitate people.
If a person combined both Confucian and Taoist principles in their lives, they would learn to appreciate the little things that we take for granted like the sun, the rain, the air and even art among other. Such a person would appreciate uncontaminated beauty and thus give way for art to develop. Such people would use art to unify society. This is the reason why the Chinese appreciate art so much. In conclusion, Confucian and Taoist principles combined would make a person happy, contented, fulfilled and self actualized. It would make a person not to burden themselves with the insignificances of life but rather to live life to the fullest. The principles of both religions combined would ensure that individual, the society and indeed the world over is focused on what really matters. It would make an individual to be at peace with himself and the society.
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