Taoist Concepts, Beliefs And Practices
Tao is the first-cause of the universe. It is a force that flows through all life.
Each believer's goal is to harmonize themselves with the Tao.
Taoism has provided an alternative to the Confucian tradition in China. The two traditions have coexisted in the country, region, and generally within the same individual.
The priesthood views the many gods as manifestations of the one Dao, "which could not be represented as an image or a particular thing." The concept of a personified deity is foreign to them, as is the concept of the creation of the universe. Thus, they do not pray as Christians do; there is no God to hear the prayers or to act upon them. They seek answers to life's problems through inner meditation and outer observation.
In contrast with the beliefs and practices of the priesthood, most of the laity have "believed that spirits pervaded nature...The gods in heaven acted like and were treated like the officials in the world of men; worshipping the gods was a kind of rehearsal of attitudes toward secular authorities. On the other hand, the demons and ghosts of hell acted like and were treated like the bullies, outlaws, and threatening strangers in the real world; they were bribed by the people and were ritually arrested by the martial forces of the spirit officials."
Time is cyclical, not linear as in Western thinking.
Taoists strongly promote health and vitality.
Five main organs and orifices of the body correspond to the five parts of the sky: water, fire, wood, metal and earth.
Each person must nurture the Ch'i (air, breath) that has been given to them.
Development of virtue is one's chief task. The Three Jewels to be sought are compassion, moderation and humility.
Taoists follow the art of "wu wei," which is to let nature take its course. For example, one should allow a river to flow towards the sea unimpeded; do not erect a dam which would interfere with its natural flow.
One should plan in advance and consider carefully each action before making it.
A Taoists is kind to other individuals, in part because such an action tends to be reciprocated.
Taoists believe that "people are compassionate by nature...left to their own devices they will show this compassion without expecting a reward."