The definition of Taoism presents us with an Eastern religious and philosophical doctrine based on the belief that there is an absolute unifier of all things that has a transcendental character. Like many other Eastern doctrines, the importance lies in the “path of perfection” that man travels to this higher unit.
Inserted in the group of dualistic religions and in the Chinese tradition of yin and yang, the doctrine of Taoism contemplates within the superior unity a set of opposites that make up the totality of the transcendent being. Next, its historical trajectory and its principles are explained in more detail.
- You can also read: 44 precious Confucius phrases about love and friendship.
What is Taoism?
After the death of Master Confucius, who had endowed the ancient Chinese tradition with a whole philosophical and religious thought based on humanism and the dualistic conception of the natural order , various masters tried to develop his ideas. Among them I highlight the “second teacher”, Lao-Tseu.
This mystic and philosopher developed his dogma under the mantle of Hoang Ti, the Yellow Emperor, at a time when both had already been deified. During his dynasty, in the sixth century, Lao-Tseu wrote the Tao-te-Ching or sacred book where his principles are collected .
After the master’s death, Taoism dissolved into sectarian ramificationsthat incorporated imported religious elements such as the Vedic divinities of Buddhism or the apostolic succession of Christianity.
Therefore, we can speak of a primitive philosophical Taoism that offers a series of codes and laws to order the cosmos and the natural order and explain the existence of man and his meaning. Only later did it serve as a basis for introducing religious elements and a series of rituals and traditions of a sacred nature.
During the communist dictatorship of Mao Tse-Tung, Taoism was banished, forcing the Celestial Master to go into exile on the island of Taiwan, where he still resides. However, the influence of the principles of Taoism continues to spread throughout China and the Asian continent, and garners interest around the world.
Principles of Taoism
The definition of Taoism comes from its etymological root “Tao” which names the supreme unifying authority that creates, orders and transforms everything that exists. The Tao, as such, is an inherent and temporary force: it is not seen, heard or felt ; but it is the primary force of the universe, of the world and of all its things.
The perfection of nature
Tao, in its original language, means “way” or “path”, and therefore is not conceived as something attainable but as a force that acts directly. In the case of man, he is a teacher who teaches the path to spiritual perfection , and this is found in the fusion of man with nature.
Unlike Confucius, who was a purely urban teacher, Lao-Tseu repudiated the city as a focus of vices and transgressions, and defended the superiority of nature as the founding order of balance and harmony.
Taoism defends that the opposites that are concentrated in negativity (ying) and positivity (yang) are unified in the Tao, but while for Confucius that unity had to be achieved through politics, Lao-Tseu was much more spiritualist and considered that the unity was expressed through the Tao itself as long as politics did not prevent it with its malpractice.
That is why the teacher gave the order of nature a pre-eminence: the natural order is perfect, any external interference violates it and acts in a negative way. The role of man is to follow the laws and rules of conduct pre-established in the sacred book by Lao-Tseu to deepen humanism and respect for nature .
The achievement of immortality
Taoist philosophy considers that man is finite while the Tao is infinite and immortal. However, man can also achieve immortality , transcending his own being through virtue and his fusion with nature.
The guiding principle of Taoist dualism is that everything is made up of a unity of two opposites. Therefore,a good action causes the opposite , while a bad action causes a good one. Man cannot alter this state of affairs, so his method to reach that transcendence is inaction.
Image of a Taoist temple in Taiwan. | Image from: Golfamigo.
Taoist practice consists of meditation and compliance with the 47 directives, which include, for example, giving priority to the internal over the external, contemplating non-action, assuming clarity and stillness , finding the balance of energy and sensitivity, and go in search of happiness, purification and austerity.
The master of Taoism left behind many phrases of a philosophical nature that continue to form part of his doctrinal root:
- He who walks with great strides will not go very far.
- Violence, although well intentioned, always rebounds against oneself.
- Different in life, men are equal before death.
- In the center of your being you have the answer: you know who you are and you know what you are.
- When you understand that what you do to the other you do to yourself, you will have reached a great truth.
- He who knows how to tie does not use ropes or knots, but no one can untie what he has joined.
- Kindness in words creates trust. Kindness in thought creates depth. The kindness of giving creates love.
- The sage does not covet power and avoids opulence, luxury and lavishness.
- Silence is a source of great strength.
- There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.
- The most valuable thing about a clay cup is the emptiness between its walls.
- The further you go, the less you know.
- Everything difficult must be attempted while it is easy.
- The best fighter never gets angry.
- Gratitude is the heart’s memory.
- To lead people, you have to walk behind them.
Taoism and sexuality
As an Eastern philosophy based on the achievement of unity through opposites and spiritual perfection, Taoism has served as the basis for the construction of tantric sexual practice . Tantra can be considered, in fact, something more than a sexual practice: a philosophical extension of the Taoist concept.
Tantric sex consists of going through the eight chakras or energy points that are found in the man’s body until reaching the eighth, which is located just above his head but outside the body . This point connects the being with the divinity and the cosmos, and culminates the transcendence of that being.
To reach that point, the practice of tantric sex combines massages, dances, alcohol and drug use, aphrodisiac food, meditation and relaxation. The goal is to delay male ejaculation as much as possible, because through it all energy is lost.
Therefore, the concept of Tantra, consisting of two opposites (the yin, the feminine, and the yan, the masculine) find their energetic unity in Tantra (representation of the Tao) connecting their bodies with the divine and the universe, which is the natural order.
- To know more: The 5 great keys to practicing tantric sex.