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Daoism PhilosophyEssay

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Asian Philosophy: Daoism

Daoism, is the first religion of China. Religion, as is generally understood the world over, in practicing certain tenets, following rituals, belief in a particular philosophy and all that constitutes a religion. However, in its narrative as in practice, Daoism is a vastly different tradition of the Chinese people. It is a way of life, or better still, it is a way of looking at life. Daoism is wholly rooted in China. In the western world, Daoism is known as Taoism, which is the equivalent translation of the original Chinese word. The most appropriate way of explaining Daoism is to understand the meaning of Dao- it is the 'way' (the right way) or the 'path'. The meaning imbibed in it is that of flowing aligning oneself along the nature's way. The main premise of Daoism is to be one with nature, to be at ease with the flow of nature. According to this way of life, acting against natural forces in any way is not the 'right way' to live life. The most obvious observations are those of health practices of Daoism. They comprise of Taijiquan and Qigong, wherein structured and deliberate breathing patterns, stretching and ease in motion is practiced. The religion is much deeper than meets the eye in its theology and health practices. It professes a wholesome perspective towards socio-political realms, practices a whole gamut of spiritualistic traditions and has a strict priesthood embedded within. It also professes belief in 'other world' effects and provides space for evil-warding devices, witchcraft, or black magic, as also for esoteric and heavenly experiences whilst in the human bodily form. This complex form of Daoism has been understood only recently in the twentieth century in the western world. Earlier travelers were unable to comprehend fully the philosophy and practices of Daoism. They had studied Laozi and Zhuangzi and could not reconcile to the idea of indulging in the practices like meditation and rituals that would bring enlightenment and spiritual growth. (Kohn, 2001).

In China, the theme of adherence to human feelings and nature has been followed since times unknown as have been belief in godliness. These traditional beliefs and theology of China are the focus of my work in this paper. I will then steer these concepts into the domains of the Neo-Confucian thought process that are largely atheistic in nature and then proceed to underline the unification of the two to understand the Chinese religious inclination in its entirety. It will be brought out that the two are not separate entities and that they are instead an intricately interwoven Chinese religious threads.

Confucianism is one of the three main religious thoughts followed of the Chinese. The other two are Dao and Buddhism. Together, these three are described as the three mainstays of Chinese religion. Confucianism is tolerant of all human beings and universal in its appeal. It is not solely tolerant of 'other' religions and their practices. The earliest traces of Confucianism and Daoism have been traced to the years between 5th and 3rd century BCE. The first impressions of Buddhist thought in China on the already existing Confucianism and Daoism can be traced back to the 1st century CE. Buddhism has it origin in the 5th Century BCE in India. These three main strands confluence and gave birth to the local traditional religious connotation with much wider national following. The socio-political churning that followed this period in China engendered state-sponsored religion that had embraced Daoist as well as Confucian traditions but was more inclined in its following to Confucianism (specifically after 2nd century BCE) right into the early twentieth century (Adler, 2011).

The basic premise of religion in china is that it is futile to embrace analysis as it is causative of manipulations and restricts the path of life. Such accumulation gained through intellectual dissection causes confusion and heaps misery. The real truth dawns upon man by delving into the 'self' and it is a spark that ignites on its own in the human mind, rather than by intellectual accumulation and deduction. That was the path shown by both Zen (Ch'an) and Taoism. Enlightenment can be experienced through spiritual intuitiveness according to these Chinese traditional thoughts. Reasoning causes one to have a pseudo- belief of the 'Truth' and acceptance of the make-believe nature of the world (Lin, n.d). That the traditions of Daoism encouraged unequal behavior towards other living beings should be a thoroughly rejected notion in the light of the fact that the preaching's and paradigms profess very high levels of spiritual content and tolerance. Such demeaning interpretations attached to Daoism hold no water against the highest values and traditions of moral and ethical conduct of the religion (Kemmerer, 2009).

In Daoism one is taught to have regards for nature and strive to protect the channel Catfish and The Water Dragon in their natural surroundings. According to the penultimate line in Daodejin, the way to ultimate happiness lies in helping, not hurting others. (Chan, 1963:176). One needs to practice the dual virtues of Ci and Jian (restraint, frugality), and thus be compassionate towards all fellow beings, rather all living beings, and live blissfully in the ecosystem without harming any living being's interest. Compassion is to live simply, to be tolerant and acceptable of all living beings, maintain, and promote the habitat, and thus is generous in their attitude to all living beings. Daoism teaches oneness with the nature. It teaches people to accept nature in its entire splendor. Being one with nature, according to Daoism is the ideal state one should always strive to be in (Marshall, 1992: 19). Nature teaches us the right way to live -- the one that should always be followed. Dao preaches abandonment of materialistic cravings and self-aggrandizement. We should instead, be gentle and follow nature's way in all our actions. We should be careful of not upsetting nature in any way. To be exhibitive, provocative and create nuisance is not in consonance with nature and impedes the way to a peaceful and content life. (Kemmerer, 2009). In my experience, we apply Daoist philosophies in our daily lives without any conscious effort. Let's take Wei Wu Wei as an example, Action without Action. It means that an action takes place without any effort. Like when you are walking, you don't consciously think that you have to lift your left foot and then place it on ground and then lift your right foot and then place it on ground.

There are two main posits held against Daoism- those of the possibility of rendering a man frail, helpless and vulnerable and that of lack of heavenly bliss. These have to be attended to if Daoism has to be critically analyzed. The first notion demands human behavior to be minimalist in nature and shun all the excesses of life. One school of thought offers that this premise was thought of as a reaction to the stressful lives befallen on man from a once blissful state. The other paradigm is that of emulation. The Daoist thought is allegedly constricted in its view of the contradiction of the static nature's dynamic behavior. Nature has been worshipped ethereally in this premise of Daoism, according to the critics, and a return to nature has been imagined to be the most peaceful and 'right' solution for mankind. These concepts seem to have been inspired from the Christian construct of primal fall and extreme indulgence with nature. However, the original Daoist propositions encourage tolerance and compassion with all its deliberations and as such, the criticism seems rather uncalled for. Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi have emphasized on a recourse to natural action rather than a return to primal state or minimalistic state. These processes of natural selection must have been chosen to disengage people from the critical phase in history they must have been passing through. Indeed, as Wenning (2011) explains, nature is the spontaneous action that is challenged by the misdirected domination of human mind. He attacks the critics' doubts who castigate Daoism's 'return to nature' premise as a reactionary one to the 'fall from paradise' one (Wenning, 2011).

To a Daoist, one should view life and death as natural things without any distinction. Accordingly, to depend on nature for sustenance (food, shelter etc.,) is also to accept its vagaries and fury (flood, famine etc.,) whereas Laotse chooses to make life more nature loving, Chuangtse treats both with equal ease and even makes no differentiation in their ultimate analysis and hence he celebrated the death of his wife by beating of drums. Ch'an transcends life as if in still waters and meets both of them with equal regards, peacefully, solemnly and without trepidation. Material possession holds no value for Ch'an and he views them as fleeting, illusionary and temporary. His followers hence shun all worldly desires (Lin, n.d). Daoism is all about closeness to nature. Immersing yourself in the Dao every day in not too difficult. We can manage to immerse ourselves in the natural world keeping ourselves… [END OF PREVIEW]

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