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Taoism and Communal Religious Change

The Old Master

Steve Phillips

on 4 November 2015

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Transcript of Taoism and Communal Religious Change

Some Americans look to Taoist mental and physical health practices to relieve stress.
Taoism in the West
Similar to the Taoist story of enlightenment:
Old master ascends, middle master trains new one
The split personality featured in Fight Club is an example of yin yang
As well as Wu Chi- The idea of ending where you began. His split personality ends where it began.
This movie shows examples of the Tao;
This being the "force."
When Obi Wan Kenobi is fighting Darth Vader, he mysteriously disappears. He is assumed to be dead but in reality he is just one with the force.
"I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures."
- Lao Tzu
Taoism is a philosophy, religion and a way of life that originated in China. It's origins date back about 5,000 years, but it's identity as a religion began in 550 CE.

The accepted founder of Taoism was a man named Lao Tzu.
Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism are religions/philosophies that share ideas and are linked in many ways.
Taoism is still a popular religion in China today, and its influence continues to spread throughout the world.
Taoism grew out of various religious and philosophical traditions in ancient China.
Taoism arose around the year 550 C.E.
After a massive communist take-over of China, Taoism was banned and its followers were re-educated.
As a result of the take-over, the percentage of the population practicing Taoism fell by 99% in 10 years.
Zhang Daoling
Ancient Chinese Taoist Master
Tien Hau Temple
Built in 1852 in San Francisco
One of the main focuses of Taoist philosophy and religion is health and the human body.

Many Taoist ideals and concepts are in some way connected to living a happy healthy life.
In it's purest sense, Taoism is a very personal religion, though it has been institutionalized and many schools with varying beliefs have formed.
Taoism also has more supernatural beliefs.

Many Taoists seek
longevity and immortality.
In ancient China, this lead to the creation of alchemy (in this case potion-making.)
Chinese medicine
is linked to Taoism and is still practiced today.
Living in harmony with nature is an important aspect of Taoist beliefs.
Living in
harmony with
one's environment is essential to live a
long, happy life.
Living separate from nature is believed to cause misery and disease.
This idea is reflected in Taoist
and even in
"Shan Shui" is a traditional Chinese style of painting. They depict landscapes and scenery as well as
Taoist themes
Painted with ink and brushes.
Landscapes are oftentimes mountainous. Mountains are seen as
sacred places
in China.
Sometimes shows houses and temples in nature.
The paintings emphasize how minor humanity's presence is compared to the scale of the universe.
The Tao
“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.”
Taoism gets its name from “The Tao.” This translates to “The Way."

The Tao is is difficult to describe because by its definition,
the Tao is undefinable
Any description simplifies the meaning, and the Tao is beyond human comprehension.
It is only human to want to attach a definition to such an abstract concept. So the Tao, most simply put, is the driving force, nature and flow of the universe. Humans live within the Tao, but cannot know it.
The Tao is not exclusive to Taoism.
The goal of Taoist spiritual practice is to become one with the Tao through means such as meditation. Once this state is reached, one can achieve effortless action (Wu Wei.)
The force of the Tao can be observed in nature.
Wu Wei
the spiritual goal of Taoism

Action through non-action
Beings in harmony with the Tao behave in a way that is completely natural and uncontrived. Having a motive to one's actions would upset the balance of the Tao.
While some religions use selfless acts as part of their belief system, Taoists teach that “good is unknowable.”
Taoists believe that because humans have egos, there are no truly selfless acts. Every action - even “selfless” ones - have some personal reward such as love, power, or just feeling good about one's self.
According to Taoism, a selfless act can only be performed by someone who behaves according to Wu Wei.
Martial arts such as “neijia” also use this idea in fighting techniques. The idea is to be free of an ego that diminishes ability and desired to intimidate and push an opponent.
Yin Yang
Yin and yang is a fundamental idea in Taoism. It means “shadow and light.”

Balance, unity, and opposites.
The principal of Yin and Yang is that the universe is filled with opposite but
Examples are dark and light, cold and hot, female and male, high and low, etc.
If they stood alone, these would not make sense. You would not know light if there was no shadow, nor shadow without light.
These forces work in
. Yin and yang always give way to one another. When one quality reaches its
, it will naturally move to the
Examples are ripples on water, a low point transforms into a high. Plants grow in a "yin yang" cycle- they grow tall in the spring, then die off in the winter only to be reborn.
The connections between the
five elements
and the way they oppose and compliment each other is a
of yin and yang.
The symbol for yin yang is widely recognized around the world. It is called a
Spiritual immortality is the ultimate goal of Taoism.
Death is seen as the final step in achieving unity with the universe.
Attaining immortality involves intense meditation and other practices, and eventually bypassing death.
Beliefs about life after death vary among Taoists.
Some believe you may gain access to other worlds and paradises, many believe you simply return to the Tao.
Many believe that the afterlife becomes what you believe to be true. Generally Taoists do not fear or look forward to death, and accept it as a part of nature.
Taoism has a pantheon of gods and spirits that are worshiped. Many are rooted in general Chinese mythology and some are borrowed from other religions and cultures.
The Three Pure Ones
“The Tao produced one, one produced two, two produced three. Three produced all things.” -Tao Te Ching
These gods are the highest ranking in the Taoist pantheon. They are thought to be pure manifestations of the Tao.
The 8 Immortals
These are 8 humans who achieved immortality through various means.
They maintain their immortality by attending the “Queen Mother of the West's” birthday party every 3000 years.
The 8 immortals are beloved and revered all over China.
There are many references to the eight immortals in pop culture.
Today, traditional Chinese medicine shops which contain herbs and supplies for treatment are still popular in China.
Traditional Medicine

of Taoism
Mount Longhu- A Birthplace of Taoism
Lao Tzu, a main founder of Taoism
Taoist Philosophy and Religion
The idea of
five elements
is crucial to Taoist traditional medicine.
Water, earth, wood, fire, metal.
Everything in the universe falls under one of the elements.
The interaction of the elements is applied to treatment of the human body
Ideally, each element is kept in
for a healthy body. Imbalance results in negative effects.
Example: Fire is associated with the color red, the heart, vessels, and the emotion anxiety.
Taoist Temples
"Neijia" Martial Arts
Often portrayed as three men sitting on thrones wearing robes. Each represents a primary color.
Unlike their ghastly reputation in the West, dragons are sacred and divine mythical creatures in Chinese culture.
81 scales are infused with yang energy and 36 scales with yin
"Nine Dragons" was a scroll painted by famous Taoist poet Chen Rong one fateful night in the 13th century.
Yoga and acupuncture are a few encouraged methods of stress relief.
Taoism in the Media
The cartoon "Avatar: the Last Airbender" is influenced by many elements of Chinese, Tibetan and Indian cultures and religion.
Religious influences include Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism
The story involves 4 nations-each representing an element-and the dangers when one element upsets the balance. This is a clear example of yin and yang.
Taoism Today
Quiz Question 1:
Why was Taoism banned by the communist leaders of China?
Quiz Question 2:
What is one example of a force of "Yin yang?"
Quiz Question 3:
What Taoist idea is prevalent in "Star Wars?"
"The Nameless Philosophy"
His work and teachings took Taoism from a philosophy to a religion.
Communal Religious Change - Part 2
Think about the rise of early Christianity among Classical Judaism - What prompted the separation of Christianity from Judaism?
Jewish War of 67 - 70
Increased number of gentiles joining the Christian faith
Development of ideas about Jesus as God - Christology
The emergence of Christianity as a religion separate from Judaism is a dramatic example of communal religious change.
The shame is that over the years, Christians have forgotten the debt owed to Judaism.
The reform of religions from within.
Protestant Reformation
The Counter Reformation
Vatican II
Corrupt practices of the late medieval church
Protestant Priest and Ministers allowed to marry
Reading and study of scripture in popular languages
Use of Technology (printing press) to spread the Gospel

Many Europeans felt they were hearing the Gospel for the First Time!
Declaration On the Relation Of the Church to Non-Christian Religions
Declaration On Religious Freedom
Decree On the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite,1964.
Decree on Ecumenism
Social Change as a Catalyst for Religious Change
Rise of Marxist Ideology in Latin America and other Third World Areas
Assimilation of Jews and Catholics in North America
Islamic Revolution in Iran - 1979
Conversion of Black slave to Christianity
Religion as a catalyst for Social Change
First and Second Great Awakenings
Rise of the Social Gospel
Temperance Movement
Resistance to Change
Backlash to Vatican II and Liberation Theology
Response to a new Hymnal or Prayer Book
Churches reverting to Latin Mass
Full transcript