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Taoism

Posted by Alex Colao on September 14, 2010

Taoism (or Daoism) refers to a variety of related philosophical and religious traditions that have influenced Eastern Asia for more than two millennia, and have had a notable influence on the western world particularly since the 19th century. The word 道, Tao (or Dao, depending on the romanization scheme), roughly translates as, “path” or “way” (of life), although in Chinese folk religion and philosophy it carries more abstract meanings. Taoist propriety and ethics emphasize the Three Jewels of the Tao: compassion, moderation, and humility, while Taoist thought generally focuses on nature, the relationship between humanity and the cosmos (天人相应), health and longevity, and wu wei (action through inaction), which is thought to produce harmony with the Universe. READ MORE
The Tao of Pooh is a book written by Benjamin Hoff. The book is an introduction to Taoism, using the fictional character of Winnie the Pooh. Hoff later wrote The Te of Piglet, a companion book.
Hoff uses Winnie the Pooh and the other characters from A. A. Milne’s stories to explain the basic principles of philosophical Taoism. Winnie the Pooh, for example, represents the principles of Wuwei, or Wei Wu Wei. The book also includes translated excerpts from various Taoist texts, from authors such as Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi.
The beginning of the book starts with a story about the vinegar tasters, which is an actual painting concerning Lao Zi, Buddha, and Confucius over a vat of vinegar. Then the story unfolds backing up this analogy.
The book was on the New York Times bestseller list for 49 weeks and is used as required reading in some college courses.
Hoff wrote the book at night and on weekends while working as a tree pruner in the Portland Japanese Garden in Washington Park.

In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin yang ([yin – simplified Chinese: 阴; traditional Chinese: 陰; pinyin: yīn] [yang – simplified Chinese: 阳; traditional Chinese: 陽; pinyin: yáng] sometimes referred to in the west as yin and yang) is used to describe how polar or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. The concept lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as baguazhang, taijiquan (tai chi), and qigong (Chi Kung) and of I Ching divination. Many natural dualities — e.g. dark and light, female and male, low and high, cold and hot — are thought of as manifestations of yin and yang (respectively). READ MORE

n a general way, Taoism may be defined as a traditional form of thought and religion, based on some central notions, cults, and practices but never subject to systematization as a whole, and syncretic but at the same time self-contained–in the sense that while it integrates many elements from other traditions, it frequently emphasizes its distinction from them. These basic features underlie different formulations of doctrinal notions and a large variety of practices, ranging from self-cultivation to communal rituals.

Once upon a time in ancient China, there was a young man who studied hard to be the best kung fu fighter possible. He entered a tournament to test his skills. He felt good about his chances and told his friends: “No one is perfect, and all fighters have shortcomings. They are either lacking in speed, strength or technique. All I have to do is discover my opponent’s weakness, and that will be the key to my victory.”
He followed this strategy as he went into his match. He went all-out, looking everywhere for his opponent’s weaknesses. To his surprise, he was not able to find any. His opponent, on the other hand, found openings in his defense and landed one successful hit after another. After several rounds, he found himself thoroughly defeated.
Depressed and discouraged, he went to his master. He described the match in detail and then asked: “What was wrong with my strategy, Master? It seemed to make perfect sense—look for an opening where my opponent comes up short, and then use that to achieve victory. Why did it not work?”
His master did not answer immediately, but drew a line in the sand. Then, his master said with a smile: “Here is a puzzle for you. Make this line shorter without touching it or covering it up in any way. If you can figure out how to do that, you will also understand why your strategy did not work.”
The young man considered the line for a moment, and then asked: “Master, is this one of those impossible puzzles with no real solutions?”
“No, most impossible puzzles are given by charlatans who like to pretend they know more than they actually do.” His master laughed: “You can rest assured that this is a real puzzle of the Tao. As such, it has a real and simple solution.”
The young man stared at the line for hours, thinking hard of many different ways to solve the puzzle. Finally, he had to give up. He reported his failure to the master: “There is no way for me to make the line shorter without erasing part of it or making some kind of change to it. Master, I feel I have wasted a lot of time contemplating something that cannot be done.”
“Do you? Now watch carefully.” The master drew another line in the sand next to the first one. He kept drawing until the new line was much longer than the first one. “This is how easy it is to make the first line shorter without doing anything to it.”
The young man’s jaw dropped. His master was right. The puzzle had an actual solution that really was the essence of elegant simplicity. He nodded slowly, “I begin to see why I failed, Master.”
The master nodded also: “Looking for your opponent’s weakness is like trying to make the first line shorter without touching it. It is a waste of time, just as you said. What you should be doing instead is to draw yourself the longer line by becoming faster, stronger and more proficient. When your line is much longer than it is right now, you will make your opponent’s line shorter without doing anything to him. What happens then is that you will suddenly discover all of his shortcomings naturally and effortlessly. This is the real key to victory.”

VL Tao/Dao

Taoism Virtual Library

English-language scholarly and philosophical information

Introductions to Taoism or Daoism
Chinese Language and Culture
Classical Texts
Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing
Chuang-tzu or Zhuang-zi
I Ching or Yi Jing
The Sun-tzu Art of War
Acupuncture, Alchemy, Feng Shui
Buddhism and Confucianism
Chinese Philosophy
Taoism and Martial Arts
Taoism and Modernity
Taoist Commercial Sites
Other Information Sources
NEW: Taoism and the Arts
[To Pregadio’s Taoist Studies ~ To Religion Resources ~ To China Studies WWW VL]


This information source is an Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library Associate site.
Copyright 2009 by Gene R. Thursby ~ Link to the site’s Welcome Page.

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