THE YIN-YANG SYMBOL - In this worldview, the opposite forces underlying
all things are termed yin and yang. Taoists believe that
these complement each other. Yin is associated with darkness,
negative, passivity, earth, winter and the female. Yang is
representative of light, positive, activity, heaven, summer and the male.
Each force contains the seed of its opposite.
Pronounced "Dowism," this Chinese philosophical and
religious worldview is believed to have begun around the sixth century B.C.
Taoism claims Lao-Tzu as its founder, believed to be a contemporary of
Confucius. His name means either "wise old child" or "old
master." Certain traditions claim Lao-Tzu was born a white-haired
philosopher, after being carried seventy-two years in the womb of his mother.
Some Taoist scholars admit he is only a legendary figure. However, according to
the Shih-chi, he was actually a custodian of the archives in the court of
the King of Chou. Disagreeable situations in this royal court motivated Lao-Tzu
to resign and travel west.
At the mountain pass of Hsien-ku he was constrained by Yin
Hsi, the guardian of that pass, to preserve his views by putting them into
writing. The result was the Tao-te Ching, a document made up of 5,000
pictograms. It is the main sacred text on which this religion is based. After
transferring his beliefs to paper, Lao-Tzu disappears, walking off the pages of
history. He was later deified by his followers, some even suggesting that he was
a manifestation of the primordial chaos and that he had previously reincarnated
numerous times in order to guide the human race with his teaching. Another
famous and greatly influential leader in Taoism is Chuang-tzu (369-286 B.C.).
Eva Wong, in The Shambhala Guide to Taoism, identifies
five different and primary paths within Taoism: Magical Taoism (the Way of
Power), Divinational Taoism (the Way of Seeing), Ceremonial Taoism (the Way of
Devotion), Internal-Alchemical Taoism (the Way of Transformation), and Action
and Karma Taoism (the Way of Right Action).
The Tao-te Ching describes the Source of all things as
being Tao (meaning "the Way"). It is "eternal,
nameless." Yet whenever it is manifested, it is given "different
names." (Tao-te Ching 1, 32) Any name given to a manifestation of
Tao is only earthly and temporary"”"The name that can be named is not the
eternal name." (Tao-te Ching 1). On the highest level, Ultimate
Reality is an impersonal energy force.
In Taoism, the secret to a successful life is to come into
harmony with Tao. This harmonious union is called wu-wei (quiet
non-striving). The superiority of this way of life is compared to water (that
appears shapeless and weak) wearing away stone (that appears permanent and
strong). The "parent of all teachings" is that "the violent man
will come to a violent end." (Tao-te Ching 42, 78)
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