Taoism The original form of Taoism is sometimes called philosophical Taoism or classical Taoism. Taoism never even had a name until Buddhism came to China. It was nameless. Lao Tzu even states that “Tao” is only used because it is the closest word in meaning. Nothing can be said about the Tao without taking away from the meaning. When Taoism finally was acknowledged, it changed from its strict philosophical path to a religious one, with its own priests and holy men.
For many centuries Taoism was just a way of life followed by peasant, farmer and gentleman philosopher and artist. They reflected and mediated. They learned from the highest teacher, nature. They meditated using the energy moving through their bodies and mapped out the roads and paths it traveled upon. Each man and woman was his or her own priest.
The connection with the divine or Tao was the sacred trust of each individual. Taoism was said to have been created by the father of Taoism, Lao Tzu, which means “Old Sage.” Lao Tzu was born in 1321 B.C. He was the keeper of the archives at the imperial courts. The legend has it that he went to the west border at age 80, sad because men were unwilling to follow the path of natural goodness. At the western border, a guard named Yin Xi asked Lao Tzu to record his teachings to him.
Lao Tzu then wrote the Tao Te Ching. In Lao Tzu’s view things were said to create wei or unnatural action by shaping desires or yu. The process of learning the names called ming used in the doctrines helped people to decide which what good and evil, beautiful and ugly, high and low, and “being” (yu) and “non- being” (wu). He believed that those who seek for and follow the Tao are strong of body, clear of mind, and sharp of sight and hearing. Followers of the Tao do not load their mind with anxieties of the world, and are flexible to change.
This meant that wanting and desire was unneeded because it was part of the Way. To abandon knowledge was to abandon names, distinctions, tastes and desires. Thus spontaneous behavior (wu-wei) resulted. Wu-Wei, which is a major theme in Taoism, is to do things in such a way that it does not seem like there is any effort involved. To do this meant to exist without conscious thought just like nature exists. It is letting go of the worldly thought and action so that the Tao might enter. Later in 399 B.C followed Chuang Tzu, who was labeled as the next great voice after Lao Tzu.
Chuang Tzu developed even further what Lao Tzu had written about. He adapted what Lao Tzu taught about mystical learning and perspectives. Chuang Tzus writing was more developed and clearly stated then Lao Tzu. He also emphasized the place humans have in nature. He believed that people should be at peace while moving with the world.
He thought that different emotions lead to certain actions like compassion leads to courage or humility leads to leadership. Taoist ideas and images inspired the Chinese to love nature and to occasional retreat to it from the cares of the world to rest and heal. It also inspired an intense affirmation of physical life from health, well-being, and vitality, to even immortality. Taoism took a turn toward the occult. Some Taoists searched for “isles of the immortals,” or for herbs or chemical compounds that could ensure immortality and magic but Taoists were more interested in health and vitality the search for immortality.
Bibliography Feibleman, James K. Drugs: Interactions. New York, New American Library, 1976.