Level 16 - Colossus
Taoism is not only important to its believers, but also to the whole human race. The Tao is one of the most ancient religious concepts of the Chinese culture. This concept has influenced many religions, such as Buddhism, and Confucianism, two major religions in the world (Hume 150). The religion Taoism preaches that if people lived naturally, did things naturally, and lived life by the Tao, they would be free of evil (Wolcott 77). This belief soon influenced many people to follow the life of wu wei, the Ying and the Yang (Smith 207). Taoism’s philosophical ideas were accepted by people all over the world and soon many people were giving offerings to Taoist temples, and believing in the purity and of the peacefulness of the Tao (Wolcott 77). Taoism was slowly, but surely, starting to rise to be one of the greatest Chinese religions.
Taoism is one of the most influential ancient Chinese religions. Taoism has influenced many religions as well as people. Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism all influenced each other with their ideas and beliefs (Gaer 170). Taoism is the belief that all natural things are good to man and that all materialistic things are a sin and can ruin one’s future in the afterlife (Hume 143-145). The Yin Yang is one of the most important symbols in Taoism. The Yin Yang symbol looks like two tadpoles. The Yin stands for female, moist, night, cool, dark, and passive energy. The Yang stands for male, dry, day, warm, bright, and active energy. These two symbols represent the balance of the universe. The Yin and the Yang are always opposite of each other. If one side is either less or more than the other, the balance of the universe is corrupted and terrible things in the world will happen. These beliefs preach that an individual should always keep the balance in the universe well and adjusted and not corrupt it in any way. These concepts relate to the Tao because the word Tao means “way,” and it is like a road. If one stays on the road, one will reach the destination, but leaving the road gets one lost (Wolcott 72-73). This means that if one follows a certain divine “way,” then one will be rewarded, but if disobedient of the natural, and divine “way,” then one will be punished. These concepts and beliefs originated in China around Sixth Century BC by Lao-tzu. Lao-tzu was the first among all the religious teachers to understand the true meaning of the Tao (Hume 133). Lao-tzu believed in the goodness of nature, sins in life that should be avoided, and of the Divine “Way” (Gaer 147-148).
Lao-tzu started to form Taoism by his questioning of justice and humanity and what they mean to the human race. He did not like the way the Tao was being taught by his teachers, with everything good and always good. He began to question his own teachers about the meaning of the Tao even as a child. Lao-tzu soon began to observe the world on his own and came to a conclusion that the world is not always at peace, and everyone was not always happy. The truth was that the Chinese Empire seemed to be crumbling. Lao-tzu also came to the conclusion that people did not really understand the Tao and was so disgusted by this that he wanted to leave civilization. Right before Lao-tzu was about to leave, his friends wanted him to write down all his ideas about the Tao. Lao-tzu agreed, and the book he wrote was called Tao Te Ching, “The Book of the Right Way.”
The first scholar to actually understand the book was named Chuang-tzu. He was a scholar with a sense of humor and a love for everything in nature, an attitude perfect for believing and spreading the newly founded religion, Taoism. Chuang-tzu soon started to explain the meaning of Taoism all around to the Chinese. He explained that the Tao is the natural way the world goes (Wolcott 75-76). The beliefs and practices of Taoism says that a perfect man must follow the divine “Way.” The divine “Way” is made up of the major acts one has to perform during his/her lifetime, so he/she can go on to the afterlife (Hume151). A practitioner celebrates life and lives it to the fullest with new experiences and physical exercises, like yoga, which makes the body strong. A Taoist also does breathing exercises which also make the body strong (Smith 201). A person must also live naturally and act naturally, not being rude, selfish, greedy, or ambitious for fame. These are all sins of the Tao. If one does not commit these sins but follows the divine “Way,” he/she should have a good afterlife and be rewarded (Wolcott 77). Therefore in Taoism, one who helps the balance of the universe, does not corrupt it in any way, and follows the divine “Way,” will live a good life and also a good afterlife.
Taoism has been steadily in decline for many years (Hume 148). The old estimates of Chinese Taoists ran as high as fifty million, but no one really knows how many Taoists are left. The estimates for U.S. Taoists range from 10,000 to 15,000 (Gaer 148). Taoism has changed over the years and has lost some of the original ideas, like social disorders and the measures of moral principles. Even with some of the lost beliefs, Taoism still has some of its original concepts (Hume 148). Modern Taoists have two schools, a Northern and a Southern. The Northern school emphasizes meditation and metaphysical speculation, and practices breathing exercises. The Southern school is headed by a so-called pope, who is in charge of all the priests (Hodous 139). Even though Taoism is on the verge of extinction, there are still temples to worship the religion in countries outside of China (Wolcott 77). Taoism still has a great impact on life and the human race, even though it is almost gone and forgotten. The ideas of Taoism influenced many other religions. For instance, Taoism and Buddhism share many of their ideas on the afterlife and how they worship. Buddhism has gotten some of its ideas on the afterlife from Taoism, like how to behave and how to worship the spirits (Gaer 150). It has also influenced modern day China, particularly in medicine. The Chinese use a lot of natural substances in their medicines, in many of their household items and their food. Chinese people make their medicines mostly from the nature around them (Bishop 283-287). They seldom use artificial substances in anything they use. The Chinese also have a great respect for the earth and what it can give them.
In conclusion, if Taoism were never made a religion by Lao-tzu, maybe life on earth would be different. People wouldn’t even care about the nature surrounding them and would be taking advantage of it. I think that since Taoism preached to people that nature was important to life and not to unbalance nature, people now respect nature more than they would have if there were never Taoism at all. Taoism taught the human race that doing good things leads to good things. This concept is the true meaning of Taoism, and it is the concept that has affected us all in one way or another.