Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Taoism Defined

Taoism Defined Cover The Tao, or Way, has never been put down in words; rather it is left for the seeker to discover within. Lao-tzu himself wrote, "The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao." Taoism is concerned with man's spiritual level of being, and in the Tao te Ching the awakened man is compared to bamboo: upright, simple and useful outside -- and hollow inside. Effulgent emptiness is the spirit of Tao, but no words will capture its spontaneity, its eternal newness. Adherents of the faith are taught to see the Tao everywhere, in all beings and in all things. Taoist shrines are the homes of divine beings who guide the religion, bless and protect worshipers. A uniquely Taoist concept is wu-wei, nonaction. This does not mean no action, but rather not exceeding spontaneous action that accords with needs as they naturally arise; not indulging in calculated action and not acting so as to exceed the very minimum required for effective results. If we keep still and listen to the inner promptings of the Tao, we shall act effortlessly, efficiently, hardly giving the matter a thought. We will be ourselves, as we are.

FOUNDED: Taoism began about 2,500 years ago in China.
FOUNDER: Lao-tzu, whom Confucius described as a dragon riding the wind and clouds.
MAJOR SCRIPTURE: The Tao te Ching, or "Book of Reason and Virtue," is among the shortest of all scriptures, Containing only 5,000 words. Also central are the sacred writings of Chuang-tsu.
ADHERENTS: Estimated at 50 million, mostly in China and and other parts of Asia.
SECTS: Taoism is a potently mystical tradition, so Interpretations have been diverse and its sects are many.

One who follows the Tao follows the natural order of things, not seeking to improve upon nature or to legislate virtue to others. The Taoist observes wu-wei, or nondoing, like water which without effort seeks and finds its proper level. This path includes purifying oneself through stilling the appetites and the emotions, accomplished in part through meditation, breath control and other forms of inner discipline, generally under a master. The foremost practice is goodness or naturalness, and detachment from the Ten Thousand Things of the world.

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