Taoism

This is my new blog dedicated exclusively to Taoism and Tao Te Ching. It incorporates my experiences growing up in South African and travelling to Shanghai, China for the first time in Feb 2012. This is also 10 years since I began to practise Tai Chi Chuan with my teacher Winken Leong in Johannesburg.

Background

Taoism is one of the three primary Chinese religions. However, unlike the others it has become known primarily in the West for its philosophical outlook on the world. Taoist theology emphasizes various themes found in the Tao Te Ching and such as naturalness, vitality, peace, “non-action” (wu wei), emptiness (refinement), detachment, flexibility, receptiveness and spontaneity.

Taoism Origins

Yin-Yang and I Ching (Book of Changes)

Yin Yang TaoismIs used to describe how seemingly disjunct or opposing forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, giving rise to each other in turn. In the I Ching, yin yang are represented by broken and solid lines: yang is solid (?) and yin is broken (?). These are then combined into trigrams, which are more yang or more yin depending on the number of broken and solid lines (e.g. ? is heavily yang, while ? is heavily yin), and trigrams are combined into hexagrams (e.g. ? and ?).

Tao Te Ching (The Book of the Way and Its Virtue)

The origin of the Taoism philosophy is rooted in the Tao Te Ching, a book written by Lao Tzu, generally regarded as the founder of Taoism in the 6th century BC. He is considered by some scholars to be an older contemporary of Confucius, another well-known Chinese sage. The Tao Te Ching is translated differently, however, I prefer the “The Book of the Way and It’s Virtue.” So what is this “Way” well its simply the way of living in harmony with the universe and all things within it. The “Tao” in Taoism is symbolic for the Universal energy or the Source of all Things. This is not the same as God because in Taoism even God is considered to emanate from the Tao.

Read the full text of the Tao Te Ching free on the Web here:

Firstly I want to tell me own story and my own experience. It all started in 2000 when I was working in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. And I met a friend Ebrahim who was originally from Lebanon. His wife was from Thailand and during the two months I knew him he shared some very interesting books with me. The first of which is the Real Power: Business Lessons from the Tao Te Ching. Previously I had seen the Jet Li movie, Tai Chi Master. And now it all came together. And in 2002 I started regular Tai Chi classes with my teacher Winkin Leong.

Now they way I once described Taoism to a friend was like this: In Tao existence is polar. Its not logical. There can be no humanity without Yang (male) or Yin (female). All human experience is either based on love or fear. There is always opposites and for example there can be no good without bad, there can be no light with darkness. So the eternal Tao is the source of all things. It transcends God as we know it in the Western sense because everything is part of Tao and the Tao is part of everything.

More and more I’ve encountered people I have great respect for and found they are Taoists and there was an underlying feeling of agreement with their way. Here is a list of modern people who may have described themselves as Taoist or in my opinion embodied the Taoist lifestyle:

  1. Mantak Chia, healer, teacher, author
  2. Alan Watts, author, scholar, philosopher
  3. Benjamin Hoff, author of Tao of Pooh and Te of Piglet
  4. Bruce Lee, martial arts pioneer, author Tao of Jeet Kun Do
  5. Osho also known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, mystic, author
  6. Ursula K. Le Guin, author, translator

And here is a list of the modern traditional or sages in Taoist history:

  1. Lao Tzu the historical founder of Taoism, author of Tao Te Ching
  2. Chuang Tzu, the elaborator of Lao Tzu
  3. Lieh Tzu, 3rd greatest Taoist sage

Recommended Books

  • Tao: The Watercourse Way by Alan Watts – Drawing on ancient and modern sources, Watts treats the Chinese philosophy of Tao in much the same way as he did Zen Buddhism in his classic The Way of Zen. Critics agree that this last work stands as a perfect monument to the life and literature of Alan Watts.
  • Real Power: Business Lessons from the Tao Te Ching by James Autry, Stephen Mitchell – In recent years, visionaries and profiteers alike have attempted to apply the 81 simple but profound poems of the Tao Te Ching to everything from sports training to pet breeding. James Autry, an award-winning author and respected former CEO, and Stephen Mitchell, whose previous work includes the New York Times bestseller Tao Te Ching: A New English Version, have applied these poems in a meaningful way to the world of business. Real Power: Business Lessons from the Tao Te Ching is a stimulating interpretation of this ancient classic that will provide the guidance and inspiration missing from most modern management texts. Addressing contemporary business situations with the wise paradoxes that are the hallmark of Lao-Tzu’s 6th-century work (such as “fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill; keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt”), the two propose an ageless approach to the workplace that deals uniquely with various issues of our time like compensation, competition, training, and downsizing.
  • Tao of Pooh & Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff – Following the Seventy-fifth Anniversary Year of Winnie-the-Pooh in 2001, there will will be a year of change for The Wisdom of Pooh list in 2002. To celebrate the 20th year since the publication in the original Tao of Pooh book.
  • Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao by Wayne Dyer – Five hundred years before the birth of Jesus, a God-realized being named Lao-tzu in ancient China dictated 81 verses, which are regarded by many as the ultimate commentary on the nature of our existence.
  • Thousand Names for Joy: How To Live In Harmony With The Way Things Are by Byron Katie, Stephen Mitchell – Inspired by the Tao Te Ching , this is Byron Katie’s inspiring and pragmatic approach to achieving an awakened mind and living more simply and profoundly. Using the template of the 81 chapters of the Tao Te Ching.
  • The Secret Teachings of the Tao Te Ching by Mantak Chia, Tao Huang – Featuring practices and meditations, this book reveals techniques for achieving spiritual immortality through an in-depth exploration of Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching.

Taoist Practises

Further Reading

Bruce Lee – The Lost TV Interview