"Harmony with Nature"
The idea of Tao is central to understanding the Chinese (Merton)
Task of Taoism?
To recognize the underlying unity at heart of perpetual change
Regardless, the good of the whole is the guiding principle to how one manages continuous change
Tao: the Way
A. Beginnings of Taoism
Lao Tzu b. 604 BCE in China
He wrote a short book, Tao Te Ching "The Way and its Power"
Filled with paradoxical observations of the nature of the universe
Is essentially a psychological and philosophical approach to life and gaining wholeness and serenity. Meaning?
One’s goal is psychological/spiritual peace and balance where all the conflicting parts of oneself are harmoniously
balanced (Jung’s depth psychology)
Became a "religion" in 440 CE when it was adopted by China as a state religion
Currently has about 20 million followers, and is primarily centered in Taiwan
Zen Buddhism (Chan in Chinese )is actually more Taoist than Buddhist
B. Lao Tzu
Shady historical figure, pictured as a simple man
Turned away from his society (feudal warfare) to live as a hermit in nature
A contemporary of K’ung fu Tzu (Confucius)
He was not a…
Descendant of a royal line
Depictions of Lao Tzu
C. The Tao and its 3 meanings
Literal translation: The Way
The way of ultimate reality (The structure of the universe)
"The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao" (parallels Christian apophatic mysticism)
Is an ultimate state of being where all is one; the self, the universe are one and the same
Is not God but a state of being
Has two aspects: the infinite, indivisible, pure void
However, it is also (paradoxically) everything that exists (parallels the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness)
The Tao, 2nd Meaning
2. The way of the universe (Its Flow)
The ordering principle of nature, the rhythm of all life:
The seasons; a waterfall; the morning mist over a valley: all embody the forever changing, forever staying-the-same Isness
Taoists look to nature for wisdom on how to live their lives
The Tao, 3rd Meaning
3. The way of human life (Wisdom)
Should be in accord with the universal Tao
Goal of individual is to develop effective and harmonious modes (ways) of change
One should flow through life like water down a hill: path of least resistance
Water and the Tao
The nature and characteristics of Water are similar to the Tao (the Way) and offer valuable insight into its nature
Like water, the Tao:
is both weak and strong
It can be clear and calm, or raging and destructive
Water and the Tao continued
It always takes the path of least resistance
It takes the shape of whatever container it is in
It can reflect all things and all people, whether good or evil
It gives and takes life
Patterns formed by water like that of Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang
Two main aspects of the Tao
Neither can work separately from the other
It is important to recognize that yin and yang are not opposites but complimentary aspects of the Tao
Like all of reality, they interpenetrate each other
The Way of the Good Man is like Water (?)
The Tao works through the interaction between the polar opposites Yin and yang
Carl Jung’s anima/animus
Opposites or different aspects of same person?
Recognizes the interaction between the yin and yang in his or her life
Is in accord with change in a tranquil way
Recognizes that with no downs, there could be no ups
With no death there can be no life
D. Three Approaches to Tao
Taoist Hygiene and Yoga - Augmented (Increased) Power
Religious Taoism - Vicarious Power
Philosophical Taoism - Efficient Power
D1. Taoist Hygiene and YogaAugmented (Increased) Power
Increase one’s power
Ch’i: literally "breath" interpreted as "vital energy"
Ch’i is used to refer to the power of the Tao flowing through them
It is worked through…
Breathing techniques (air)
Movement (ta’i chi chuan)
Calisthenics: From Greek kalli-, beautiful (from kallos, beauty) + sthenos,
Acupuncture: specific body areas are pierced with fine needles for therapeutic purposes
or to relieve pain or produce regional anesthesia
Because the Chinese seemed to be a bit more social-minded than Hindus, the raja yoga of Hinduism borrowed by the
Taoists took on a new twist:
The Tao that the Taoist yogi harnesses in his meditation is sent out to society
D2. Religious Taoism
Developed in the 2nd century CE as a result of Buddhism’s influence
Lao Tzu is seen as a deity
Centers on faith-healing (power of the Tao)
D3. Philosophical Taoism
Original form of Taoism… philosophical/ psychological principles of living, outlined in paradoxes
Philosophical Taoism remains unorganized
Here is recognized the limits of language and concepts to express/understand ultimate reality
The interest in PT is improving the self
The power of PT is to be conserved by using it efficiently/wisely so as to avoid conflict
Conflict is seen as draining
The object is to align oneself with the Tao by perfecting a life of wu-wei
System of virtues/ethics/morals
Pairs of Virtues
Humility and Non-competition
Leads to victory
"surrender to win"
Nonaggression and Passive Rule
Leads to peace
Naturalness and Naturalism
Lead to oneness with the Tao
The Sage is the perfect embodiment of these virtues and acceptance of the yin yang.
Chuang Tzu (369-286 BCE)
Taoism’s "second founder" (like St. Paul to Christianity
Authored self-titled work that emphasizes:
Cycle of life
How to deal with life’s problems?
One is not good or evil, both are essential to the workings of the universe
Taoists do not think in terms of good or bad but of wholeness
Questions pp. 211-218
How does the poem on p. 211 reflect the core Taoist ideals of humility and serenity?
How does the Taoist’s overall attitude towards nature differ from that of the traditional Westerner?
How are people usually depicted in Chinese art? How does this reflect core Taoist principles?
Where do Taoists and Confucians most differ in their view of society and what’s important?
How does the Chinese yin/yang symbol reflect the relativity of all values?
How does this effect the Taoist view of good and evil? Life and death?
How does Taoism tend to view war and violence?