Taoism Core Beliefs – A Comprehensive Guide

Taoism originating from China and often referred to as Daoism, is a religious and philosophical tradition. Its profound influence has spanned centuries, shaping the culture, rituals, and beliefs of the Chinese people and beyond. This guide provides an exploration of Taoism core beliefs, facts about Taoism and offer insights into its unique approach to understanding the universe, human existence, and the art of living in harmony with the natural world.

Origin and Evolution of Taoism

Taoism came into existence alongside Confucianism, approximately around the same timeline. A seminal figure in the development of this philosophical tradition is Laozi (Lao Tzu), who is believed to have authored a seminal text of 81 chapters called the “Tao Te Ching” or “Daodejing.” This classical Chinese text delves into the concepts of the ‘Tao’ or ‘Dao’ (the Way) and ‘Te’ or ‘De’ (Virtue). Taoism as a religious and philosophical tradition has its roots deeply entrenched in nature worship and divination practices of the earliest Chinese people.

Evolution of Taoism has been organic, adapting, and assimilating to the transformations and changes of the cosmos and universe, thus continuously influencing the spiritual and cultural landscape of its followers.

Taoism Core Beliefs

Concept of ‘Dao’

Central to Taoism is the concept of ‘Dao,’ which translates to “path,” “method,” “principle,” or “way.” Dao is seen as the organizing principle of the Universe, a natural order, or the “way of heaven.” By living in harmony with nature one is believed to align with the Dao, thus understanding the fundamental nature of the world. Dao, both precedes and encompasses the universe, embodying the essential, unnameable, and transcendental process of the universe. This underpins the belief that nothing in the Universe is static. Everything is continuously transforming, guided by the flow of ‘chi’ energy, believed to keep the universal order of Dao balanced.

Principle of ‘Wu Wei’

A vital principle in Taoist thought is ‘Wu Wei,’ which translates to non-action or natural action. Rather than signifying inaction, the concept emphasizes not forcing things, suggesting that actions should align with the Dao. This results in necessary tasks being performed without exaggeration or overeagerness, leading to overall harmony and balance. Principle of ‘Wu Wei’ underscores the importance of inner tranquillity. It lets you take the right effortless action at the right time. It signifies a state of creative passivity, where actions are driven by intuition.  Adapting to a situation without the interference of a dualistic intellect.

Notion of Te (Virtue)

Within Taoism, ‘Te’ or ‘De’ signifies virtue, inherent character, inner power, and integrity. It is the manifestation of the Dao within all things.  An active expression of the ‘way’ of the Dao through undesigned actions. Fullness of ‘Te’ implies being in perfect harmony with one’s original nature.

Philosophy of Yin and Yang

The philosophy of yin and yang is an integral concept within Taoism and is believed to have emerged from the Dao. This philosophy says that all things in the Universe, including mankind, are a microcosm of the Universe, to which all natural laws apply. A continuous interplay of the dual forces of yin and yang is considered vital to maintaining the balance and harmony of the universe.

Photo by Magda Ehlers:

Three Jewels of Tao

Taoism cherishes the ‘Three Jewels,’ also known as the three virtues.

  1. Compassion, kindness, and love.
  2. Moderation, simplicity, and frugality.
  3. Humility and modesty.

These virtues guide Taoists in their moral and ethical conduct, leading them towards a harmonious and balanced life.

Taoist Deities

They are diverse and include nature spirits, ancient legendary heroes, humanized planets and stars, and beings who attained divinity through Taoist practices. These deities represent various human activities and aspects of existence. They reflect the order of the Chinese political system. Each deity oversees a particular department of the pantheon, reflecting the intricate cosmic bureaucracy according to Taoist beliefs.

Taoist Practices at Home

Taoism advocates for the daily practice of its principles even at home. These practices are compliance with the five basic Taoist precepts.

  • Doing good deeds.
  • Reciting sacred names and titles of the deities.
  • Taking good care of health.

Such home-based practices help cultivate the ‘Dao’ and lead to a joyful and harmonious life.

Taoist Calendar

This is basd on a cycle of sixty years and is a system of reckoning time used by Taoists. First year of the Taoist Calendar dates back to the first year of the Regime of the Yellow Emperor (2697BC). This calendar influences the rituals, fasts, and celebrations observed by Taoists throughout the year.

Role of Incense in Taoist Rituals

Burning incense is a significant part of Taoist rituals. Smoke from the burning incense is believed to carry the prayers and wishes of Taoists to the deities in the heavenly realms. Incense also serves as an offering to the deities, helping to purify and rid the area of negative energies.

Taoism offers a unique lens through which to view the world and our place within it. Its core beliefs guide leads towards a harmonious existence, aligned with the flow of the universe. It underscores the importance of balance, humility, and respect for the natural world.

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