Posted by: Andrew G | March 3, 2010

Taoism — The Wonderful World As It Is

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My first introduction to Taoism came from “The Tao of Pooh”, by Benjamin Hoff. Pooh-Bear has always been a kind of hero to me. If they were to make an animated version of the Coen Brother’s “The Big Lebowski” (1998) I would sincerely hope Winnie-the-Pooh would be cast as The Dude.

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Taoism (pronounced Dow-ism) steers clear of specific definitions, but can be more or less translated into English as ‘the experienced way’ or ‘the path’. There is a focus on the power which flows through and surrounds all living and non-living things. Taoists seek to be one with the balance or harmony in opposites present in the world. The symbol of the yin and yang is one of the most easily recognized in the world (and still popular in tattoos today).

There is still some debate as to whether Lao-Tse, founder of Taoism, was an individual, a group or simply just a mythical figure, but it appears his (or their) inspiration came from a desire to stop the disruptive, destructive feudal fighting of the time in China. Taoism wasn’t considered a religious faith until about a hundred years after the death of its founder (between 400 and 500 BCE).

Taoism does share many beliefs and ideas with Buddhism and Confucianism. Often enough each of the three faiths can be practiced together within a community or even within one individual. (Imagine having three religions in one brain? That’s a lot of neuron-wiring to negotiate!)

For the Taoist, there isn’t exactly a deity to hear prayers. Instead meditation and observation are the tools they use to resolve living in the world. There is some use of spirits and demons in trying to describe the nature of things in the world, but this view is generally not encouraged by most of the religion’s priesthood. Health and vitality are strongly promoted, as well as the development of the main virtues of compassion, moderation and humility.

A possible slogan for Taoism is “wu wei”let nature take its course. There is a lot of trust in nature in Taoism, and willingness to let things flow. And with this in mind, it can be seen how Taoism has adapted over time and grown in accepting new discoveries and insights. Reciprocation is an observed behaviour in nature, and so kindness to other individuals is practiced.

The number of Tao followers has diminished due to the political climate of China over the past one hundred years. However, the gifts of Taoism have been adopted around the world – acupuncture, martial arts (Tai chi), herbal medicine and meditation.

For a more complete introduction, please go here. (Like I suggested earlier, religioustolerance.org is an incredibly fulfilling resource.)

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast? said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.

Benjamin Hoff, in The Tao of Pooh

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Responses

  1. […] some ways, they were experiences that brought me to respect Taoism a great deal more than pursue some monotheistic deity’s divine […]


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