The later dates of the Eastern Zhou time period marked a great change in the social and political statuses in ancient China. Literacy rates were increasing, upper class individuals and family members were powering over others, and schooling gave people a leading advantage. Both intellectual and moral thoughts were taking over and with this new idea, came a new philosophy. There existed many spiritual thinkers dating way back, however, to this day, the date that Taoism formed is still unknown, a similar case with many other ancient religions.
“Tao” is a term in Chinese, meaning “way” or “path” and referring to the way to live one’s life (Hardy,2002).
Originally, the main concern was guiding individuals with an appropriate behavior for leading and governing others, as well as the balance of harmony between nature and humanity. Although no main authoritative figure represents this religion, the headquarter is situated in the White Cloud Temple, in Beijing, where priests can learn and train (Hardy, 2002).
Taoism, also currently known as Daoism, is the Chinese traditional religion and philosophy that believes in the balance of yin and yang.
Ying and Yang are opposites, and the Ying Yang philosophy explains that nothing is purely one way. There is always good for every evil and evil for every good, yet even though they are so contrasting, one cannot thrive without the other, there needs to be a balance between both. This balance, a union of opposites, represents harmony and peace on earth. Ying and Yang goes by the definition “the nature of change, balanced as two halves of a whole”, a “duality forming a whole” (Littlejohn, 2009).
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This symbol hold a lot of meaning to Taoist as it signifies the unity of opposites, the unity of Tao. The black and white color in the Yin and Yang symbol represents the Yin-gi and Yang-gi, the female and male energies that work together to balance and manifest the world (Wang, 2012).
The smaller circles in the symbol represents the change and the “black and white” opposite in the world, reminding the worshippers of how opposites must balance one another in order to achieve balance between the two.
Yin and Yang also represent the unity of the 5 elements; fire (greater Yang), wood (lesser Yang), water (greater Yin), metal (lesser Yin) and earth (central) which together form the elements that comprise everything in our world (Wang, 2012).
Completely polar opposites can be seen in everyday: night and day, male and female, beautiful and ugly, high and low; everything has its opposite, and without it, there would be an imbalance in the world. Nevertheless, there will always be a contrasting opinion as to what is right compared to what is wrong, as one belief cannot be shared universally (Hardy, 2002).
Yin nor Yang is absolute, but both together can form a whole. There would be an imbalance in the world if death rates did not equal birth rates. Yin and Yang can also become each other even though they are opposites, as they need to support each other to create balance. Taoists believe that there must be an alignment of harmony between human nature and the rest of nature. They believe that one must experience a long and healthy life through practice and perfection of the practice so that self-cultivation is at its peak and everyone can thrive (Littlejohn, 2009).
Taoist believe that everything in the world is in a constant cycle.
If humans do not follow the natural path, “tao”, then unhealthy misfortune and destruction will cloud them and their families (Hardy, 2002).
A strong opposition to punishment is believed, as it does not allow for the natural method of spontaneous behavior and rather a force of good behavior upon an individual. Ruling and governing others is a principal theme in Taoism as it encourages followers to model the appropriate behavior. Taoism focuses on one’s flow with nature through activities such as meditation with themes such as detachment from desires, naturalness , and stress free activities such as tai chi.
Although everything contains Yin and Yang, these are never present in a static 50: 50 proportion, but in a dynamic and constantly changing balance. For example, the human body’s temperature is nearly constant within a very narrow range. This is not the result of a static situation, but of a dynamic balance of many opposing forces. The main points of this interdependence are: Four aspects of ...
Taoism emphasizes the practice on living in harmony through daily life and ritual activities. Taoist is a polytheistic religion and their gods are not personified. They believe that no god can help solve problems in life but that peace can only be solved by personal meditation and observation (Littlejohn, 2009).
People have to work in harmony and help each other to keep balance in the world and to increase the well being of humankind. Unlike other religions, there is no figure to look upon and worship but to solely rely on one another.
Taoist people do not have a particular ritualized way to worship in their everyday life, but the main goal of the laypeople is to achieve harmony with the Tao in their day-to-day lives. They believe in doing this through physical practices, which are made to transform a person mentally and physically into a more harmonious state, a balance between Yin and Yang. One way the Taoist attempt to reach harmony is through alchemy (BBC, 2009).
Merriam-Webster describes alchemy as, “a power or process of transforming something common into something special”.
The Taoists sought to do this in two separate ways; the first is through Wai-Dan, external alchemy, which was used in an older period. At this time, the alchemists were looking for an elixir to turn cheap metal into gold. They then looked for a way to turn humans into immortals. This creation involved various combinations of ingredients by heating, grinding, and mixing together along with other rituals. This is called external alchemy because they add an external force to the body with the hopes of purification (BBC, 2009).
The second type of alchemy is Nei-Dun, interior alchemy. This is a work of the self without the use of chemicals to transform the elements of the body into purer forms, promoting the energy of life. This is done through meditation and martial arts (BBC, 2009).
Taoists attempted to use both of these forces to transform human beings into a more natural state and to rid their body of the bad within, producing only the good and allowing them to reach purification and through that, the Tao. Taoists also believe that sexual energy has the ability to enhance their lives.
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They have developed certain techniques to increase a person’s sexual energy and to retain it. It is said that the men should refrain from ejaculating during sexual activity, to conserver the energy (BBC, 2009).
As for women, there are too different views. The first view suggests that women should also abstain from reaching orgasm to conserve energy, yet the second view states that female orgasm leads to a growth in both male and female sexual energy. This idea suggested that men should have multiple sexual partners in order to gain access to the female release of beneficial sexual energy (BBC, 2009).
The Taoist people see sexuality as a form of attaining purification and positive energy, like that of alchemy, they believe it to help them reach a state of harmony between Yin and Yang. Taoist people also practice purity through meditation, breathing, energy flow and martial arts. The texts teach the worshipers the importance of a pure body to ensure spiritual health. To remain pure, the people have a special diet, which they abstain from alcohol, meat, beans, and grains, all of which can be toxic to the body. Taoists also avoid being greedy, lustful, prideful, and dishonest, which also causes conflict within the body (BBC, 2009).
To avoid these impurities, Taoists practice meditation. This practice is a major custom for the people because it creates mental stillness and enhances mindfulness. This allows the mental space to focus on directly knowing the Tao (BBC, 2009).
Another practice is breathing, which is the easiest professed form of Ch’i. There are many breathing exercises the Taoists use, which are called Qui Gong, as it is the easiest way to relax the body. Taoists also practice energy flow, which is the flow of life energy, Ch’i, in the body.
It can be enhanced, harmonized, and regulated by various forms of exercise and meditation, like acupuncture and Tai Chi (BBC, 2009).
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All of these techniques are used on a daily basis to allow for spiritual growth and a long life. It is through this way of life that the Taoists attempt to develop their bodies to the primordial level of energy, which is the state of the body at the beginning of creation (Kohn, 2009).
By creating bodies that mimic that of the bodies at first creation, the Taoist are reaching a raw level of purity, bringing them that much closer to harmony and balance.
Taoists also practice recitation of passages from the Tao Te Ching, which is their guide to living a spiritual and ethical life. This is a vital expression of devotion and also a way to attain spiritual growth. They believe that the texts have healing powers along with the ability to banish evil spirits, and bring good luck to those who recite it. To the Celestial Masters Group, it is a source of philosophical wisdom. It is also said to have the ability to prolong life and bring human beings to complete unity with Tao (BBC, 2009).
The Taoists use this recitation to create a balance within themselves bringing them closer to that of the natural realm. The Taoists conduct rituals that bring order and harmony to the cosmos – the world of nature, human society, and the inner world of human individuals. The details of rituals are highly complex and technical and they are left to the Taoshi, which are priests. These rituals mostly involve chanting, playing instruments, and dancing (BBC, 2009).
Jiao, which means offering of sacrifice, is performed in communities to confirm the relationship between the community and its deity (Andersen, 2008).
In this case, every household in the village brings an offering for the local deity, at that point, a Taoshi dedicates the offerings in the name of the families, they perform a ritual to restore order to the universe and then ask the gods to bring peace and prosperity to the village (BBC, 2009).
The Taoists also use temple rituals to regulate Chi and balance the flow of Yin and Yang for individuals and also the wider community. In the temple they pray to the Taoists deities for strength, help and anything they think the deity would be able to aid them with.
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They meditate in the temple because it is a place of peace and there is a greater chance of harmony within the body in a place of balance. They also worship on talismans because they are objects of good luck. Talismans are strips of paper with words of power and religious symbols written on them by Taoshi. They are said to focus kind spiritual energies to purify, heal the sick, and to drive away demons. They also use the temple to recite and chant prayers and texts to also purify their minds and bodies (BBC, 2009).
The Taoists use the temple to conduct these rituals, as it is a place of balance and harmony, filled with aspects of the Tao. Taoism is a religion based on healing methods that seek to re-establish the original wholeness of human nature (Girardot, 2009), whether through their rituals or their everyday activities, Taoist people attempt to balance out the Yin and Yang in their lives. They believe that a healthy human life could only be established with accordance to the Tao, by living naturally and peacefully. Their main goals in life are compassion, moderation and humility, which all-lead back to the Tao.
To Taoists, the Yin and Yang are most important in everything they do. When both Yin and Yang are present and equally balanced, everything is calm. Because of this, Taoist people attempt to create harmony in their lives creating a closer gap to the Tao. The Taoist religion is a constant battle between balances of those that are opposing each other to produce a state of constant harmony and union between opposites. By achieving this balance the worshippers will begin to live their lives in accordance of the Tao and live in peaceful life.