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a. Taoism is the indigenous religion of the Chinese. The key purpose of the religion is to learn the “Dao”, cultivate the “Dao”, and practice the “Dao”. As “Dao” is central to the belief of this faith, the religion is called “Daoism” or “Taoism”.
b. Taoism has existed since the time of the Yellow Emperor some 4700 years ago. Promoted by Lao Tzu during the Spring and Autumn Period, it was organized as a religious movement during
the late years of the Eastern Han Dynasty by Celestial Master Zhang Daoling.
C. Lao Tuz(Dao De Jing), regarded as the main scripture of Taoism, establishes that one can attain immortality through self-cultivation.
d. Although there are many Taoist schools today, their core ideology is all based on the principles of “Dao”.
a. The fundamental belief of Taoism is “Dao”, a belief that myriad things of the universe are created by “Dao”.
b. Taoists believe that “Dao” is eternal and everlasting, and hence through cultivation one can achieve the “Dao”, enjoy good fortune and blissful life on earth, and also live on eternally in the heavenly realms.
c. Taoists strongly believe in accumulating merits and doing good deeds to benefit society, and also in educating and encouraging others to develop their morality and value system. There is a Taoist saying which goes like this: “Doing 3,000 good deeds, and acumulatings”, which means that if one hopes to attain immortality, he/she must at least perform 3,000 good deeds & 800 merit.
a. “Dao” originally refers to the “way’ or the “path”. The meaning has expanded to incorporate rules and regulations as well timly. The movement and changes between Heaven and Earth, it is believed, also follow a set of rules and orders, and that is how the concept of “Heavenly Dao”, or the “Heaven Way” was developed.
b. “Dao”, an eternal and interminable element, is considered the life force of the universe which surrounds us all the time, regardless of time and distance, although it cannot be seen, heard, or touched.
c. According to Taoist belief, deities are the manifestations of “Dao”, and they have been created by the formless vapor of “Dao”. In Taoism, Saint Lao Tuz is the manifestations of “Dao”.
The “three treasures” of Taoism are compassion, frugality and humility.
Compassion: All things in the universe nurture in the “Dao”, and everything should follow the nature of the compassionate and loving Dao. If one can cultivate the “Dao” with a kind and compassionate heart, the merits will be doubled.
Frugality: It is a Taoist tradition to uphold frugality and simplicity, and to avoid extravagance and waste.
Humility: One should have a peaceful heart and live harmoniously with others. If a person is humble and complacent everywhere, and does not compete for the first, everyone will naturally appreciate him and support him to become the head of all things.
“Qing-jing” (Purity and Tranquility), another basic Taoist belief refers to a calm mind, free of worries and troubles. All Taoists are urged to subscribe to this belief as it would benefit them. The purpose of developing a pure and tranquil state of mind is to reduce selfishness, minimize desires, and not to oppose the laws of nature.
Taoism places great emphasis on attaining this pure and tranquil state which is believed to be characteristic of the “Dao”. If one can learn to acquire equanimity and minimize desires, the closer that person would be to attaining the “Dao”. The Scripture of Purity and Tranquility (Qing-jing or Jing), mentioned that “If one can achieve Purity and Tranquility, the heavens and earth will return to the primordial”. Indeed, Lao Tzu stressed the importance of cultivating Purity and Tranquility, and regarded it as the essential elements in the promotion of self-cultivation, good health, and effective governing of a country.
Taoists treasure life greatly, and places emphasis on living well. This includes exploring how to lengthen lifespan and attain immortality. In chapter fifty of the DAO DE JING, Lao Tzu mentioned that our lifespan is limited and very fragile; it is exposed to many critical situations. Therefore, he encourages us to pursue longevity.
Taoism advocates the following views on life:
a. To respect and cherish our life, denounce suicide and other acts that may harm our body, while emphasizing the cultivation of virtues and pursuing longevity
b. To respect the lives of animals, and appreciate that they all have life, feelings and intelligence too. Hence, we should not harm or be cruel to them.
c. To respect nature and the environment where humans, animals and plants all co-exist.
If we can fulfill the above, we can cultivate ourselves and deliver others, that is, the divine “Dao” values life and endlessly delivers human beings.
a. Taoists pray to the heavens and also to their ancestors as a mark of respect. Prayer is also a form of cultivation of the “Dao” and a way of practicing the teachings. Taoists strive to help others and save the world. When Taoist priests are reciting the scriptures and chanting the repentance rituals, they are beseeching the Holy Scriptures to erase our wrongdoings and sins and at the same time preach the teachings of the “Dao” to others.
b. It is a must for Taoists to practice and understand the scriptures. According to Taoist texts, reciting the scriptures can absolve misfortune, eliminate illnesses, prolong life and benefit healthy.
c. By reciting scriptures, one can declare his wishes to the heavenly realms and also remember his ancestors
By chanting the scriptures. Taoists can rinse and purify their heart to communicate with the deities. It is an important key to immortality and to ascend the heavenly realms.
Reciting of the scriptures also allow Taoists to practice and study the scriptures, so that they would not forget the teachings of the Patriarchs. Reciting the scriptures daily reminds us to earn merits and cultivate ourselves diligently.
a. The Taoist Calendar is a system of reckoning time used by Taoists. It is based on a cycle of sixty years and modeled after the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The first year of the Taoist Calendar dates back to the first year of the Regime of the Yellow Emperor(2697BC). For example, the year 2015 is the 4712nd year of the Taoist Calendar.
b. During the Tang Dynasty, Lao Tzu was honored as the ancestor of the Tang Imperial family, and the year Lao Tzu was born(1300BC) was regarded as the beginning of the Taoist Calendar. However, since the Song Dynasty, Taoists reverted to the calendar based on the year the Yellow Emperor ascended the throne.
a.(i) A priest who renounced worldly pleasures to cultivate the Dao will keep his hair long and tie it into a bun. It is to signify the priest’s determination to practice and cultivate the Dao” and also to keep the long hair neat by tying it up as such。
(ii) Among the reasons, a priest keeps his hair long is to follow the laws of nature whereby the hair is allowed to grow freely. It is also to signify filial piety. Taoists believe that our hair is a gift from our parents and it should not be easily cut away.
iii) Taoists believe that keeping long hair will promote good health. Frequent combing and washing of hair is a form of massage for the scalp and this promotes blood circulation, thus reducing the chances of falling sick. Hence, Taoists keep long hair and tie it up neatly into a bun.
b. Taoist Priests wear the traditional costume(robes) to preserve the rich traditional Chinese culture. The Taoist robes illustrate the distinctive ethnic characteristics of the Han Chinese Culture.
a. Taoists pray to the deities to seek blessings, and pray that their wishes will come true, and at the same time they also make promises to the deities.
b. Repaying wishes means repaying what the person promised the deities when the wishes are fulfilled.
c. There is no need to select an auspicious day to make wishes. One can make wishes or repay wishes anytime.
d. It will be good if one can bathe and cleanse himself/herself abstain from meat and refrain from uttering vulgarities before making wishes. Offer three sticks of incense and pray sincerely to the deities, silently express the wishes and entreat the deities to answer them.
e. The scale of making wishes can be minor or major, and it can be by doing some good deeds, reciting scriptures, making offerings, sculpting of images and statues of deities, printing and distributing the sacred scriptures or by donating to and repairing temples.
f. One must remember to honor his/her promises when the wishes are fulfilled.
a. (i) One can address Taoists as “dao-zhang” , “xian-zhang”, “shi-xiong”, “shi-fu” (Master), “da-shi”( Great master),”Ye”.
(ii) Taoism is different from Buddhism. Taoist priests do not change or renounce their surname. One can address them by their surname, for example “Chen dao-zhang'”(Master Chen), or “Chen Ye”.
(iii) Taoist priests may have different appointments and duties in the temple, and one can also address them according to their appointments, like “Chairman”, “Abbot”, “Supervisor”, etc.
b. When Taoist priests meet, they will great each other by cupping up their hands in front of their chest, bow and respectfully say “ci-bei”(Mercy) or “Fu Sheng Wuliang Tianzun” (Happiness bestowing Lord of Boundless Heavens).
The Chinese “Ghost festival” is also known as the “Zhong Yuan” Festival, or the Taoist festival of the Middle Origin which falls on the 15th day of the lunar 7th month. Taoists celebrate the birthday of the Earth Official (Di Guan Da Di ) on this day. According to the Taoist Texts, the Earth Official will descend to the mortal world on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month to observe and determine our merits and sins. On this occasion Taoists temples will set up altars for the priests to recite scriptures and perform salvation rituals for all beings.
Taoists believe that on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, spirits will leave the netherworld to be examined and judged on their wrongdoings and sins. Devotees may take part in Taoist fasts and rituals to seek the Earth Official’s mercy to pardon the sins of their ancestors and lead them to the heavenly realms. Because of the Taoist belief that spirits will leave the netherworld, many folks will pray to the wanderings spirits and lost souls on this day and gradually it became a popular Chinese tradition and festival.
There are innumerous Taoist scriptures and texts available. Nonetheless since the founding of Taoism, all Taoists sects regard Dao De Jing as the most important sacred scripture and all Taoists ought to read this text. It stresses “Naturalness”, “Purity and Tranquility”, and “Wu-wei”, which are the core beliefs of Taoist practitioners. Other than Dao De Jing, Taoists are also encouraged to read short texts like the “Scripture of Purity and Tranquility”, “Book of the seal of the Heart and the “Passage on Supreme Correspondence”. The “Scripture of Purity and Tranquility” teaches us to practice the sacred scriptures with a clear mind, without desires; the “Book of the seal of the Heart” is an important text for cultivation and inner alchemy practice; the “Passage on Supreme Correspondence” guides and encourages Taoists to be responsible for their own thoughts and actions. Taoists will benefit from the teachings of these books.
Cultivating the “Dao” gives man a deep insight into issues of death. Everyone will face illness and death; these are inevitable. Our body has limitations and is subjected to all sorts of conditions; we are bound to age as the years go by. Taoists believe that only “Dao” is eternal and everlasting. Hence, if man can unite and be together with “Dao”, we can surpass these limitations and live forever in the heavenly realms.
Cultivating the “Dao” also brings us innumerable merits and benefits. Through cultivation, we can calm our heart and soul, prevent illness, prolong life, and increase our wisdom. Performing good deeds and accumulating merits will bring harmony to our society and to everyone. The deities will take note of our merits, in turn will bless us and eliminate disasters on our behalf.
Taoists who are initiated (gui-yi) not only have to be sincere in the faith, but must also learn the art of “cultivation of the Dao”. If a Taoist does not practice cultivation, he will have to undergo endless cycles of rebirth. There are many methods of cultivation; the four main ones are as follows:
a. Comply with the five basic Taoist precepts:
(i) Abstain from killing,
(ii) Abstain from meat and alcohol,
(ii) Abstain from false speech Abstain from theft,
(iv) Abstain from sexual misconduct.
b. By loving and caring for others and accumulating merits.
c. Recite the sacred names and titles of the deities, practice and recite the Taoist scriptures, repent and follow the teachings where all beings are led to salvation.
d. To take good care of our health, revitalize our mind and to refine the “Golden Elixir”.
Burning of incense is a practice that has its roots since ancient times。 Taoists believe that smoke from the lighted incense can convey wishes and messages to the deities. It is documented in the Taoist Scriptures that: “One should learn the “Dao” sincerely and wholeheartedly, and our sincerity can be expressed to the deities by the burning incense”. The smoke can carry our wishes to the deities of the nine heavens. When the incense is being lighted, the Taoist would have to visualize the sacred Image of the deities being invoked, and believe that the deities have descended to the altar to listen to their petitions. Incense is also used as an offering to the deities, for it is believed that the smoke emitted can purify and rid the area of negative energies and smell.