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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