Taoism or Daoism (道教) is a type of belief, or a way of thinking about life. It is at least 2,500 years old and it comes from China. Taoism is now said to be a philosophy. Tao (or Dao, 道) is the name of the force or the "Way" that Taoists believe makes everything in the world. Taoists think that words cannot be used to correctly describe Tao. The very first line of the Dào Dé Jīng (道德经), the most important text in Taoism, says "the Way that can be explained in words is not the true Way." There are many other sacred writings by the teachers of Taoism.
Instead of spending a lot of time trying to explain what the Tao is, Taoists focus on living a simple and balanced life in harmony with nature. This is one of the most important principles in Taoism. Taoists also believe that conflict is not good and that if you have a problem with something, it is better to find a way around it.
Taoism first showed up in writing in China about 2500 years ago. People do not always write about their religions at first, so this religion may be much older. Some important people of the history of Taoism are:
- Laozi, or Lao Tzu (老子). He is assumed to have written Tao Te Ching.
- Zhuangzi, or Chuang Tzu (庄子). Like Lao Tzu, his sayings and stories are today put together as a book, and translated into English and other languages.
- Huangdi (the Yellow Emperor, 黄帝). He is assumed to have been the first Taoist, but nobody knows for sure if he was a real person or not.
Beliefs and practicesEdit
The main central idea of Taoism is the Tao which serves as the namesake for the religion. The Tao can best be understood as “the way things are”. According to the doctrine of the Tao, there is no logical explanation for things such as why there is something instead of nothing existing or what the meaning of arbitrary chaos and order is. Instead of trying to explain these things with gods and myths, Taoism just admits these things are, just because that’s the way things are, and they can be given no real explanation. The irrational yet existent presence of existence itself is what is meant by “The Tao”.
Taoists believe that humans should be in harmony with the flow of the arbitrariness of the world instead of trying to impose order onto nature so it is purely self-serving for humans. This idea of harmony is called Wu-wei. Wu-wei means “flowing with the moment” and tells us to do things not through force, effort, and deliberation. Going against wu-wei and attempting to bend nature to our will is presented as an action that warrants consequences due to its unnaturalness.
In Taoism it is assumed that opposites rely on each other to exist. For example, big and small. Or, Light and dark. This is represented in the Yin and yang Symbol in Taoism. The concept also advocates for people to live their lives never indulging into too much of one side more than the other and to be neutral. For example, eating too little food makes you skinny, and eating too much makes you obese, so the best option is in between, eating neutrally.
Taoists believe in a esoteric force called “Qi”. Qi is essentially the vital energy of a living thing. One’s health depends on how much Qi is balanced in the body. An imbalance of Qi in the body is responsible for bad health problems and balanced Qi is responsible for good health that if maintained could allow for extended life longevity.
There are several practices involving Qi for good health and better physical agility and strength. Such as meditation, breathwork, Tai Chi, and Qigong. One can also heal the Qi of others with Dantian. Dantian involves placing one’s on a Qi meridian, parts of the body medically recognized as nerve bundles, and applying pressure to restore the body back to good health. Needles can also be inserted under the skin into meridians in the practice of Acupuncture.
Media related to Taoism at Wikimedia Commons