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Taoism is considered as an entity that defies definition, which can be properly understood only by experience. The most approximate meaning with respect to English language is “the way” or “the path”.   Taoism corresponds to a power, which envelops, surrounds and flows through all things, living and non-living. In simple words, it can be considered as a way of spiritual living.

Origin

Taoism evolved from both a philosophical tradition linked with the Tao-te Ching (Lao-tzu); Chuang-tzu,Lieh-tzu and other texts, and a Taoist religious tradition. (Tao-chiao). This religious tradition has got an organized doctrine, formalized cultic activity and institutional leadership. Both these traditions are well connected though there are some conflicting ideas.  By tradition, Taoism is accredited  to three sources- Yellow emperor, Lao Tse’s Tao Teh  Ching  and Chuang Tse’s untitled work. Many consider ‘I Ching’, the book of changes as the original source of Taoism.

Philosophical attributes

Like most of the eastern philosophies Taoism too is a combination of inward introspection and external observation. The nodal point of Tao is in the art of ‘wu wei’ (action through inaction). This indeed matches with Indian yogic tradition as well. This does not mean to remain idle! It is the art of minimizing action, particularly violent action. Planning or thinking about one’s action before implementing it is another aspect of Tao. But a Taoist is not a pacifist to the core. There is a scope for  military action, when   he feels it is inevitable. If initiated to violence he will fight until the goal is achieved.  On accomplishing the goal, saddened at the usage of the ultimate tool and bloodshed, he would then move on with the resolve to foresee better into the future.       

The early discourses of Taoism envisaged the synchronization of Tao and nature as the solution for human problems, and there by considered it as a spiritual approach to living. Taoists preached to live harmoniously with nature empowered with simplicity as a vital requisite for a pleasant environment. Different techniques were used by the sages to concentrate the mind to inner spiritual strength and set aside concerns with external thoughts relating to monetary rewards, fame and praise. Body health was also given due importance. Herbal medicine, macrobiotic cooking and certain systems of gymnastics and massage were used to keep the body strong and youthful.   

Taoists consider various Gods as the manifestation of one Dao. A Taoist priest has been ritually trained, and through the process of meditation and visualization he harmonizes and reunites with one Dao. The uniqueness of this way of life with other religions is the absence of a personified deity. Hence they don’t pray as Christians do.

Some important pronouncements

The following words spells out the close relationship attached with Taoism and the way.

“Humans model themselves on earth,
Earth on heaven,
Heaven on the Way,
and the way on that which is naturally so.”

-- Laozi (Lao Tzu)
Daodejing (Tao te ching), #251
 

"I am good to the man who is good to me, likewise, I am also good to the bad man."

-Tao Te Ching

The Yin Yang symbol:

This Taoist symbol represents the balance of opposites in the universe. When they are equally present, all is calm. When the other outweighs one, there is confusion and disarray. The two swirling shapes inside the symbol denote change, which is the only constant entity in the universe.  According to one saying, ‘yin’ (darker side) represents the breath that formed the earth; ‘yang’ (the bright part) denotes the breath that formed the heavens. Another view is that ‘yin’ represents the feminine aspects while ‘yang’ represents masculine part. Generally speaking yin and yan can symbolize any two opposing forces in nature.

Tai Chi

Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that illness is caused by blockages or lack of balance in body’s ‘chi’ (intrinsic energy). Tai Chis rhythmic massage balances this energy flow. This effectuates the stimulation of central nervous system and lowers blood pressure. 

Ever since the emergence of Taoism it has influenced the practitioners in coping with the vagaries of life with a high spiritual inclination.

 

Yin and Yang The Seven Lucky Gods
The Eight Immortals The Art of Feng Shui
 
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