Taoism Introduction to Terms Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2709 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 17  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion



And so it is clear to the student of Taoism that the followers of this faith / philosophy used the name of a king, or great person, to attach to many other aspects of their lives, and that made sense for them. It is likely the same kind of attachment that modern people make for current events based on symbols of past events.

In a chapter called "The Mysterious Portal" (Taoism: The Road to Immortality, 75), author John Blofeld goes into great literary depths to describe immortality from the point-of-view of Taoism. The absence of a "boundary line" between immortals that clearly elevated themselves from being mere mortals into immortals because they attained great things, and between "mythical immortals" (something like folk heroes who didn't exist in the flesh), was confusing to the average person in ancient Taoism (75-76). Since these simple people weren't sure how immortals obtain their status, it was believed that folk religion entered into some branches of Taoism and the line between immortals who got there by great deeds and immortals who achieved that status by their "race" became blurred, Blofeld writes.

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Still, "simpletons" who believed that humans could "actually transcend nature's laws" and live on dew and wind, for example, were not ridiculed by brighter people who had a good grasp on how immortality was obtained. Why not ridicule the simple-minded in society at that time? Because the popular beliefs of the less sophisticated "provided a protective colouring" for more "enlightened followers of the Way" who believed it was important to protect "spiritual and yogic knowledge from profanation and abuse." That basically means, that precious knowledge held tight to the vest by the enlightened in society must be kept safely out of the hands of the simpletons, and therefore, if the simpletons already have beliefs that satisfy them, then they won't be prying around trying to obtain higher knowledge (spiritual and yogic knowledge).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Taoism Introduction to Terms and Assignment

From a series of meditations written by Taoist scholar Liu I-ming, translated and published by Thomas Cleary (Awakening to the Tao), comes an excellent story called "Drawing Water with a Well Sweep (Cleary, 30-31). The bucket on a well sweep goes down empty "and comes up full ... [which shows] the functions of emptying and filling."

The metaphor is interesting: "Continually becoming empty, continually being fulfilled, continually becoming humble, continually being elevated, so that one is empty yet full, full yet empty, low yet high, high yet low ... " And from that empty-full, full-empty condition, "one attains a state in which above and below are in communion, emptiness and fulfillment correspond."

Another of the mediations by Liu I-ming, called "A Pitcher Full, a Pitcher Half Full" (41), points out in a simplistic yet poignant way that when water fills a pitcher, "it overflows, and when it overflows there is lack." But, the parable goes, when the pitcher's only half full, "it does not leak out, and when there is no leakage there is always a sufficiency."

If people are self-satisfied and complacent, presuming upon their ability and talent ... proud and arrogant, then eventually this will bring on calamity ... [but] when people are humble ... not full of themselves ... knowing when they have enough, knowing when to stop ... then they will rise from lowliness to exaltation."

In the book, Being and Authority (Xunwu Chen, 24-25), the author points out major differences between Confucianism and Taoism, which is pertinent because there is some confusion about these two Eastern religions. The Confucian idea of the authenticity of an individual is focused on creating "a socially distinct and heroic self that has significant social value, vivid individual character, and a reflective mind." The Confucian concept of self, of authentic self, reflects a strong, heroic, and social self" (24).

On the other hand, Chen explains that the Taoist conception of an individual's authenticity is focused on "being true and being original" (25). To "lose" one's self in the "dao" is to become truly within the Taoist belief system. The Confucian "authentic person," Chen describes, is "heroic" and "engages intensely with the society and with others." The Taoist "true person," on the other hand, is "non-heroic," and "engages with the world in a detached manner." The Confucian authentic person is constantly cultivating his or her own self in terms of "moral character, substance, and subjectivity"; as for the Taoist "true person," he or she doesn't self-cultivate, but rather, "follows the course of nature; liberates the self from the social self."

As to the concepts of "truth and virtue," on page 29 Chen describes a notion from the Taoist philosophy that explains very well how the strategy works: "The person of perfect virtue is not conscious of his virtue, and in this way he truly has virtue" (from the Dao De Jing).

Taoism and the environment of the earth is the subject of an essay in the book, Daoism and Ecology: Ways Within a Cosmic Landscape (Birdwhistell, 27-28); the essayist discusses a Taoist story called "Three August Ones," which she writes could be, "with a few changes in language," a description "of the effects of modern industrialization ... "

Birdwhistell makes that comparison because the story "speaks critically of air and water pollution, deforestation, and the destruction of habitat." It may be possible that the language used in "Three August Ones" is metaphorical, but nevertheless, the story makes "vital" connections between " ... human beings and the conditions of their habitat," which is Heaven, Earth, and every living thing.

This story is pertinent because in Chinese history, the destruction of the environment was the result of beliefs that were related to some other specific problem: for example, the Chinese "often destroyed forests," Birdwhistell writes, "because they were viewed as 'hideouts for bandits and rebels' and as places where uncivilized people lived."

Meanwhile, in an article published in UNESCO Courier (Xiong, 1991), the author explains another main difference between Buddhism and Taoism: " ... The Taoists were so enamoured of life that they sought actively to prolong it ... [by instituting] breathing exercises and the consumption of cinnabar-based elixirs." The Buddhists, on the other hand, introduced the idea of reincarnation ... one life could be reborn in the next on a higher plane of existence ... "

Works Cited

About The Tao. "Lao Tzu -- Tao Te Ching -- About Yin & Yang." Retrieved June 29, 2005, from http://www.thetao.info/tao/yinyang.htm.

Birdwhistell, Joanne D. "Ecological Questions for Daoist Thought: Contemporary Issues and Ancient Texts." Daoism and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic Landscape. Ed. Girardot, N.J., &Miller, James, & Xiaogan, Liu. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2001. 23-44.

Blofeld, John. Taoism: The Road to Immortality. Boston: Shambhala, 1978.

Chen, Xunwu. Being and Authenticity. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004.

Eskildsen, Stephen. Asceticism in Early Taoist Religion. New York: State University of New

York Press, 1998.

Girardot, N.J. Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism. Berkeley: University of California Press,


I-ming, Liu. Awakening to the Tao. Boston: Shambhala, 1988.

Kirkland, Russell. Taoism: The Enduring Tradition. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Mackintosh, Paul St. John. "Lao Tzu and modern western philosophy." Contemporary Review

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