Tao, Taoism or the Tao religion as it is often know, is not really a religion as such but is rather another great culture of the Orient, based around the nature and destiny of mankind and of the Universe. Taoism teaches its followers how to progress in life, and evolve as immortal aspects of the Divine. Taoism fundamentally teaches, as with other ancient wisdoms the world, that there is an ultimate reality, the basis for everything and everyone in the Universe.
The Tao can be approximately translated as meaning “the path” or “the way”, and refers specifically to a power enveloping, surrounding and flowing through all things, living and non-living alike. The Tao regulates natural processes, nourishing balance in the Universe, and embodies the harmony of opposites.
The founder of Taoism or the Tao religion, better thought of as a tradition or custom, is believed to have been Lao-Tse, 604-531 BCE, a contemporary of Confucius. Lao-Tse was searching for a way to end the constant tribal warfare and disharmony prevalent at the time.
Taoism, along with Confucianism and Buddhism, became one of the three main traditions of China. With the end of the Ch’ing dynasty in 1911, official state support for Taiosm came to an end and much of the Tao heritage was destroyed. When the communists came to power in China in 1949, religious freedom of all types was severely curtailed. The communist government was particularly hard on Taoism, putting Tao monks to manual labour, confiscating ancient temples, and plundering the Tao heritage.
Several million Taoist monks were reduced to a number of around fifty thousand by 1960. During the cultural revolution of 1966 to 1976, much of the remaining Taoist heritage was destroyed by the communist government. This was in total a typical example of a government who would deny the truth of life and the Universe to its own people for no other reason than self-interests and control. Later Deng Xiao-Ping did restore some leniency towards Taosim and other ancient traditions.
Throughout the world Taosim currently has around twenty million followers, and has had, and continues to have a very significant impact on the culture of North America, particularly in the areas of acupuncture, herbalism, holistic medicine, meditation and the martial arts.
After the decimation of the ancient Tao culture by the communist government of China, Taoism is now making a large and increasing comeback at a time when it is becoming particularly important once again, not only to the people of China but also to many other countries throughout the world. Like other ancient traditions of the East and West Taoism is an extremely important source of wisdom, knowledge and teachings which ultimately no tyranny or suppression can destroy or withhold. The truth must and will always prevail, always being available to mankind, and like other sources of truth and wisdom Tao survived and will continue to survive and become stronger once again.
Taoism teaches that Tao is the First Cause of the Universe. Consistent with all teachings of the ancient knowledge of the East and the West, it is the ultimate and most sacred objective of the followers of Taoism to become one with the Tao. A very well-known Taoist symbol is “Yin-Yang” which represents the balance of the opposites in the Universe. When Yin and Yang are equal and balanced, all is calm and harmonious. When either Yin or Yang becomes dominant then confusion and disarray are the inevitable result. Yin-Yang can be considered to be the same as the principle of gender as taught by the wisdom of the West as we will see later. Yin represents the aspects of the feminine, being soft, cool, calm, introspective and healing,
Yang representing the aspects of the masculine being hard, hot, energetic, moving and sometimes aggressive. However, as nothing in nature is completely positive or negative, the Yin-Yang symbol recognises this reality by including a small black spot in the white swirl and a corresponding white spot in the black swirl of the symbol. Yin and Yang are ultimately considered to the opposing forces for nature in which humans can involve themselves, and in so doing upset the balance of nature, a principle including every aspect of nature from the individual human being, the microcosm, to the entire Universe, the Macrocosm.
Huai Nan Tzu, a philosopher of around the second century BCE said:
“He who conforms to the course of the Tao, following the natural processes of Heaven and Earth, finds it easy to manage the whole world”.
These are certainly profound words indeed, and a reality of which everyone should endeavour to fully understand the significance. It literally means “going with the flow” of life rather than striving to oppose it.
Most people today tend to force their life in the direction their ego, conscious and subconscious Minds insist it should go. This in turn creates ongoing imbalances in the Universe that can escalate until the life of people who approach life in this way will be severely and negatively impacted.
The entire Universe, from the very highest down to the physical world of matter is in a perpetual state of harmony and balance; anyone affecting that inherent harmony and balance will be surely subject to the Universal principle of Cause and Effect whereby personal harmony will become unbalanced; these issues will be discussed in much more detail later in this book.
Living for the present moment, going with the flow of life, is often known as “going with the Tao”. Being in complete harmony with the Universe means in turn enjoying a harmonious life. It becomes easier to manifest anything you need into your life by always living in the present moment, and with the natural and immutable flow of the Universe, the Tao.