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The Taoist Spiritual Tradition 
Taoism (Daoism)

Historical Perspective

Many names describe the Tao or Dao, the Great Principle or The Way; it eludes  intellectual description because it deals with the big, big picture of life and energy. 

Lao Tzu was the author of the Chinese book of wisdom, the Tao Te Ching. He and the Tao Te Ching are intimately involved with the philosophy and religion of Taoism. The book, which was dictated to a man named Yin Xi in the 6th Century B.C., is an ancient text that is the expression of the Tao, dealing with the origins of life, energy, human nature, society and relationships.

The influence of the Tao on human culture, medicine, and spiritual beliefs is extensive over the last 3,000 years. Perhaps like the Tao itself, Lao Tzu’s influence is as understated as it is pervasive in our lives up to the present day. Lao Tzu is said to have influenced Confucius and other Chinese philosophers as well as Zen Buddhists (the branch of Buddhism that originated in China). 

Taoism is linked to shamanism, the development of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and to the moving meditations of Qigong and tai chi. In Taoist lore, long before Lao Tzu, (2700 B.C., Huang Ti (the Yellow Emperor) created the longevity practices which became Qigong and began the development of Taoist ways of living. The book Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine is the first written account of the concept of Qi (chi) or life force energy. With the rise of holistic medicine, meditation, Qigong and tai chi in the Western world, Taoist principles and practices are widely experienced and embraced in the present day.

Beliefs: What Taoists Believe
The goal of everyone is to become one with the Tao. Taoists believe that people are by nature, good, and that one should be kind to others simply because such treatment will probably be reciprocated.
Qi or Chi is the vital energy of the Universe from which the world was created. It exists in all living things. The source of chi has a cosmic origin and is elusive and mysterious, but its manifestations are real and can be practically applied in such Taoist disciplines as Qigong and martial arts. The purpose of Taoism is to release the confusion of society and bring individuals closer to Nature (the natural flow).

Lao Tzu

Principles of Taoism
The principles of Taoism are based on the ancient polarities of Yin &Yang and Wu Wei. This pair of complementary opposites creates the flow of nature. Yin is the negative balance, and has qualities such as femininity, mystery, relaxation, etc. Yang is the positive balance and has qualities such as masculinity, heat, aggressiveness, etc. These forces are always at work together; they keep the universe vital and alive. They are the agents that actually produce the mysterious flow of life.


Non-physical beings
According to Taoist belief, the world is full of non-physical beings or spirits who need to obtain energy (feed) to survive. Some of these spirits must get their energy from humans. Taoist Diagrams are used to protect individuals’ health, wellbeing, homes and relationships from the influence of certain non-physical beings. Diagrams are brush strokes conforming to specific configurations that modify a person’s aura.

Taoist Practices
Individuals create a link to the source of Qi or the Great Ultimate by using images of the Gods and the Spirits in meditation and ceremonies. These connections bring persons closer to the Great Ultimate to help them clarify and straighten their path in life. 
The effect of this connection makes an individual mentally stronger, less confused and able to rectify mistakes of the past with a clear understand if the Reality of life. The stronger the connection between the individual and the Great Ultimate, this Absolute Reality, the clearer is the picture of the world and the person’s place in it.

Dragon-Tiger Mountain: Birthplace of Taoism in China

Tao Quotes***
What we mean by Tao is the way or course of Nature. This way has nothing good or bad, it is a mere flowing of things following the development and decline attributes of the moment. (From Jhian Yang: A Short Introductory Lesson to Tao and Taoism)
Reading the Tao Te Ching and other Taoist texts felt like "someone was looking over my shoulder," explaining to me things that really had relevance to my life. The most appealing aspect of Taoism, though, was that it didn't claim to be "divinely-inspired." Laozi never claimed to have been visited by a deity and commanded to write the Tao Te Ching. He wrote it because he observed patterns in the world around him -- patterns that didn't require blind faith and acceptance of logical contradiction to recognize -- and realized that everything must be connected somehow. 
(From: www.westernreformtaoism.org/introduction.php ).

Symbol of Taoism    Yin and  Yang

The symbol of Taoism is called the 'Tai Ji' which means the 'great ultimate'. It is represented by a circle which is divided into two parts. The dark side is called Yin while the dark side is called Yang. The small circles suggest that each half has a 'seed' of the other half. To Taoists, Yin and Yang are not opposites. In fact, each must exist with the other and cannot exist without the presence of the other. The impact of human civilization is believed to upset the balance of Yin and Yang.



Wu Wei means "non-action" and is the practice of doing nothing to accomplish everything. Someone who understands and adheres to Wu Wei does not try to force things. The way can only be found in humility, in serene acceptance of life and things as they are, and in finding the flow of nature, rather than trying to produce and form people and situations to your own desires. 

The Tao Te Ching illustrates: The more laws you make, the more thieves there will be. (Chapter 57)

The sage does not boast, therefore is given credit. (Chapter 22) 

He who acts harms, he who grabs lets slip. (Chapter 64)


Meditate on the dual symbol, the Ying/Yang. 
-Tune into the Yang energy--the masculine dynamic energy of force and expansion and ask for further insights into this energy and how you use it in your life. 
-Now tune into the white section of the symbol--the Ying energy. This receptive, nurturing energy, is where creativity starts. Ask for further insights into this energy and how you use it in your life. 
-Now meditate on the flow of energy back and forth from Yang to Ying, etc. How is this flow manifesting in your life? 
-Share your insights with others.


Further Learning

Art Institute of Chicago   Philosophical Taoism  

Tao Page     Taoism info  


--- Article ---

Discovery, Through Intuition, Two of the Ancient Traditions Of China

It was said a long time ago that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. The man who made this timeless and inspiring statement was Lao Tzu in the 6th century BCE, the legendary father of Taoism, in an ancient Chinese book of only five thousand characters called the Tao Te Ching. This is where he lived, 100 miles west of Cheng Du in Sichuan province in Western China, immediately adjacent to Tibet. Listed by the United Nations as one of the 100 most culturally significant locations on the planet, a Taoist monastery now exists here on a mountainside covered in a tropical jungle of over 4000 feet in elevation, consisting of 10 major ashrams dedicated to the leaders who worked with this spiritual thrust for over 2000 years.

This short article describes in pictures, and in a few words, an intuitive journey to discover through experience two of the world’s great religious traditions – Taoism and Buddhism – from my travel to China and my consequent marriage in September 2004. What occurred a long time ago and yet is still alive and thriving today cannot be adequately described intellectually, so must be experienced by the Heart. Only in our feelings can the true story be known.

The Path Of Stillness

Taoism embodies the Tao, which means path or a way of life in harmony with the environment and one’s self – completely authentic, sincere, natural and innocent. It is a life of balance – a thought for every feeling and a feeling for every thought. This is the original cave on the Taoist mountain, now a six-story ashram, where Lao Tzu had his original vision of the higher purpose of our lives.  After some six miles of arduous hiking up narrow and steep walkways, I approached the temple dedicated to this man and his eternal message.  All alone I entered his courtyard, 


tended to by two old Taoist women with piercing brown eyes and a golden glow that reflecting their love within. 

I was moved to kneel at his representation and take in the immensity of what Spirit had brought through this man. As I bowed in reverence, the old women rushed over and gently tapped an iron bell as I leaned forward three times. Suddenly, a profound yet moving calm deeply filled my heart, and I was completely still and focused in the moment.

I was taken back by the spiritual backing that Taoism has behind it, even today. My life was forever changed by this experience. My inner stillness that I discovered within now gives me the insight into people and situations I need, when it is time. Otherwise, I live in my love of myself in the flow of the moment. I live and I let live.


Deeply Grounded In Eternity

To the right is the largest sitting Buddha in the world, a 250 foot stone representation built in the 7th century near Leshan, in Sichuan province, by dedicated monks at the confluence of three large and raging rivers almost too impossible to cross. The local legend is that the founder of Buddhism in Sichuan, Hai Tong, who carried hand scribed scrolls from India in a 10 year solo journey, felt compassion for the countless fisherman who drowned in the dangerous currents below this cliff. Moved by Spirit to build a monastery that would elicit a deep inner calm whenever people in distress gazed upon it, this figure projects a sense that, no matter what, everything is going to be alright. As stated in Astro-Soul, our true home is the universe. I do not belong to planet earth. I am just visiting. I am a soul in a physical body, directed by my love within.

The Heartbeat of the Universe

In downtown Cheng Du, also in Sichuan province, I had the opportunity to witness an initiation ceremony for new monks entering the local monastery. Built in the 8th century on over 10 acres of land, now surrounded by the city, it was opened to visitors just last year. A deep rhythmic chant led by this unusual gong permeated the ashram grounds and brought to the entering monks and visitors alike a deep sense of the eternity of life. The ceremony went non-stop for six hours. I was impressed by the local leaders who had no material possessions but the love in their heart and the fulfillment of their eternal destiny. I immediately awakened a respect for all that I had come to accomplish this lifetime and to remember that, when I get stuck in the next traffic jam, it’s no big deal. What counts is my profession, what I’ve come to do spiritually in my life, and to never make something or someone more important than what I’ve come to do.

My Life Today

Often, it is not what I read about or intellectually know, but what I feel within that counts. In my journey to China, I discovered a part of my spiritual past and a kinship with all who are sincerely searching. I discovered that if I give to myself from within, that if I listen to my true feelings first, my needs will be met abundantly. By simply living my life by my sensitivity, I am an example, a prototype for my apprentices who are sincerely searching – just like me. My life becomes my eternal discovery of who I am.

At home in my Heart forever …

John Pease – Pei Si Jiang “Discerning the River”
Portland, Oregon

(C) Copyright  2001-2008 W.C.F., All Rights Reserved