Some Basic Facts
The religion derives its name from the Chinese word Tao meaning The Way. Note that Taoism is pronounced as dowism
Lao-tze (604 – 524 BC)
Place of Origin:
Tao Teh King
Chinese New Year
Chio, the festival of cosmic renewal
Very little is known about the life of the founder of Taoism except that he was known to his followers as Lao tze, meaning the Old Philosopher. Lao tze was a contemporary of Confucius and about fifty years his senior. There are historical records indicating that the two had met more than once. Lao tze lived in that golden century of religious awakening when four new religions were being founded in the world: two in India and two in China.
The teachings of Taoism are completely different from Confucianism or from any other major religion. Tao teachings are highly metaphysical and lend themselves to such a variety of interpretation that one doesn’t really know for sure what Lao tze intended them to mean.
The teachings of Lao tze, as they are available today, lack in theology, social laws and institutions. The religion emphasizes living naturally and ethically but not necessarily spiritually.
Very early in its life, this religion branched into two movements: one purely philosophical and the other, religious. As a philosophy Taoism moved towards naturalism while as a religion it deteriorated into superstitious beliefs and occult practices. The followers of Taoism started worshiping nature gods along with Lao tze and many other gods borrowed from Buddhism.
Over the years, Buddhism exerted great influence on the development of Taoist beliefs and acts of worship. Since Taoism lacked a formalized or systematic mode of worship, Buddhism promptly filled this vacuum.
Although Taoism is not a major religious order in China today, it has continued to influence the thinking and ethical standards of the Chinese people who still try to seek mystic and philosophical wonders in the teachings of the Tao sacred book, Tao Teh King.
Most Taoists today worship Buddhist gods, make offerings to their ancestors, and follow many other Buddhist rites and ceremonies. They also believe in spirits both good and bad.
The Wisdom of Taoism
Following are some of the selected sayings from Tao Teh King, the sacred book of Taoism:
- “Nameless are the origins of all creation”
- “The wise man wears a coarse garment, but carries a jewel in his heart”
- “The way of heaven is impartial; but it favours good men”
- “Absence of desires brings tranquility”
- “A thousand mile journey can be made one step at a time”
- “He who conquers others is strong, he who conquers his own will is mighty”
- “The world is lost to those who try to win it”
- “Everything difficult can be dealt with while it is still easy”
- “In serving Heaven and in ruling men, use moderation”
- “To the good I would be good, and to the bad I would be good”
- “The more prohibitions, the more poverty; the more laws, the more crimes; the more weapons, the more chaos”
- “Sincere words are not fine, fine words are not sincere”
- “The wise reject all extremes”
- “The way of Tao is to recompense injury with kindness”
- “Little faith is put in those who have little faith”
- “The value of an act is judged by its timing”
- “Get rid of your preachers and discard your teachers and the people will benefit a hundred times”
- “If you trust people not enough, they may trust you not at all”