What is the Tao? Taoism 101



Taoism (also spelt Daoism) is the original philosophical tradition of ancient China. It emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (also spelt as Dao). When translated into English, the term Tao mean “the way”, “the path”, or “the principle”, and can also be found in Chinese philosophies and religions other than Taoism. When you dig into the classical textbooks on the subject of Taoism, the Tao represents the ultimate creative principle of the universe. Everything in life is unified and connected in the Tao.

As we move forward on this subject, it needs to be pointed out that following the Tao is not a religion. It is a way of harmonizing with the natural world that can be practiced regardless of your position on religion or belief system. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a prophet or scientist, that would have a problem with following the principles of the natural world. Following the Tao is a very practical matter.





History

Taoism has no specific founder and no founding date. It grew out of various philosophical traditions in ancient China, including shamanism and early versions of the study of nature. These Taoist studies on nature can also be called the roots of what we refer to today as “modern science”. Taoism was first recognised as a unique belief system during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. The publication of the now famous text “Tao Te Ching” (also spelt Dao De Jing) and other works provided a spotlight for Taoist thinking.


Taoism became a semi-official Chinese belief system during the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 A.D.) and continued to grow during the Song dynasty. As Confucianism, another ancient Chinese belief system gained popularity with the government Taoism gradually fell from favour. After the communist takeover of China, Taoism was banned and its followers “re-educated”, with the result that the number of practicing Taoists fell drastically within 10 years. During this era, Taoism began to flourish in other parts of Asia, including Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore & Borneo. After the end of the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese government began to allow more religious freedom. Taoism is beginning to have a new renaissance in China, and Taoist temples and practitioners can now be found throughout the country.



Beliefs


Tao and Te

Tao (Chinese: 道; pronounced Dao, like the Dow Jones index) literally translates as “way”, but can also be interpreted as road, channel, path, principle, or line. According to the Asian Handbook for Theological Education, the Tao is “the One, which is natural, spontaneous, eternal, nameless, and indescribable”. The Tao is the beginning of all things and the way in which all things pursue their course. Many scholars who have devoted themselves to the study of Tao refer to it as the “flow of the universe”. The tangible expression of Tao is called Te (Chinese: 德; pronounced Duh). The term Te is often translated as Virtue or Power. This is because Te results from an individual living and cultivating the Tao.


Think of the musical notes in a piano chord, each note has its’ own harmonic frequency & method in which to be played. If you get the nature of all the elements right, you get a beautiful sound.  The notes are Tao, and the delightful sound is Te. This concept can easily be applied to your health, if you treat yourself well and stay well nourished, your genetic expression will be much more vibrant and healthy. The Tao is in your genes, the Te is how you express them.


Wu-wei

The term wu-wei (無爲; pronounced woo way) represents the leading ethical/psychological idea in Taoism. Wei means any intentional or deliberated action while wu signifies “there is no …” or “lacking, without”. This is typically translated as “non-action”, “effortless action” or “action without intent”. This concept is often misunderstood to mean that you “do nothing” and everything is “done for you”, which is very telling of our instant gratification society. Wu-wei, however, does not mean being lazy.


In ancient Taoist texts, wu-wei is related to water through its yielding nature. Taoist philosophy suggests that the universe works harmoniously according to its own natural means. When someone exerts their will against the world in a manner that is out of rhythm with the cycles of change, they may disrupt that harmony and unintended consequences may more likely result rather than the willed outcome. Think of the negative health consequences of industrial vegetable oils, as well as the impact of packaged food in general. Taoism does not identify one’s intentions as the root problem. Rather, it asserts that one must place their will in harmony with the natural world. Thus, a potentially harmful interference may be avoided, and in this way, goals can be achieved effortlessly.


Naturalness

Naturalness or Zi Ran (Chinese: 自然; pronounced Zuh Ran) can be translated as “self-such”, or “self-organized”. This concept describes the “elemental state” of all things. It is also a basic factor in following the Tao.  The idea of naturalness is often associated with spontaneity and creativity. To attain naturalness, one has to identify with our natural needs and requirements; this involves freeing oneself from things like harmful chemicals/drugs and other forms of artificialness like man-made lighting.


To put this element of Naturalness into perspective, think of our natural day and night rhythms and how artificial light has disrupted our sleep. We should sleep when we are tired, generally speaking this happens at the end of a day spent actively working. If we off-set the melatonin our bodies release at sunset, we interfere with the natural order of our bodies. Each day is unique, especially in regard to the seasons. Our bodies should naturally and creatively respond to these changes, thus promoting a sound and regenerative sleep.


A regular metaphor for naturalness is pu (Chinese: 樸; pronounced Pu). This character means the “uncarved block”. It signifies the original nature of an individual, before the impact of society and civilization. This could easily be explained, again, in terms of genetics. We are built to be strong and powerful, productive & healthy. It is what we choose to do with that gift that determines the outcome. The chemically generated oils, sugars, food dyes, pharmaceuticals, lack of natural & nutritious movement, ETC … is what “does us in”. If we can return to our “original natural”, we will get optimal genetic expression.


Three Treasures

The Taoist Three Treasures (Chinese: 三寶; pronounced San Bao) comprise the basic elements of health, and most importantly longevity. These treasures are: jing, qi and shen (Chinese: 精氣神; pronounced Jing, Chee and Shen). Jing is usually translated as “essence”. Qi is typically translated as “Energy”, or “Vitality”, or “Breath”. Shen is ordinarily translated as “spirit”. These terms are elements of the traditional Chinese concept of the human body, which shares its foundation with Taoism. Within this framework, they play an important role in health & longevity.


By harnessing our “factory-setting” through understanding the three treasures of Taoism, we reap the benefits of happiness, health and longevity.

An excellent way to explain the theory of the three treasures is to compare it to the way a lamp works. As an old Chinese saying goes, “when the oil runs dry, the lamp goes out”. Where Jing is the oil, Qi is the spark that converts the essence of oil into the flame, which creates the light of the spirit. Using modern science we can say that the essential hormones stored in fat drive our energy production through the conversion of fat into ATP. Without low insulin levels and plenty of oxygen to convert stored fat into energy, we literally stagnate and have low vitality and decreased neurotransmitter levels. This situation leads to depression, weight gain, and fatigue. However, if we harness the theory of the three treasures we can reverse the situation.


We start by consuming nutrient-dense foods that supply plenty of energy and metabolism enhancing vitamins & minerals. Once we have built a foundation of quality oil/fuel, we create more energy through the application of low-level cardiovascular activity & deep breathing. This converts the oil/fuel (jing) into energy (Qi). Once we have an extra amount of energy, our bodies naturally go to work creating neurotransmitters (shen) like serotonin, nore-epinephrine & dopamine. This has been proven repeatedly in clinical research, and moderate exercise has no side-effects (unless you include better self-esteem and a reduction in every other disease risk).

By harnessing our “factory-setting” through understanding the three treasures of Taoism, we reap the benefits of happiness, health and longevity.


The goal of this blog is to help everyday people apply these key principles in their daily lives. It is in our nature to be strong, fit, and healthy. We are not the victims of genes and illnesses. We have been sold, literally, on the idea that we are at the mercy of the medical establishment to create solutions to our health problems. If we plug into our natural ancestral heritage the world is ours.


Get Energetic. Get liberated.

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