TheDragon20

The god(s) in Taoism?

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As I am sure you would see if you spent some time on these boards, Taoism is a very loose term that means different things to different groups of people throughout Chinese history and today.

 

To philosophical Taoists (and others), there is no god to worship. The Tao is an impersonal force of nature with which we try to align ourselves. No personification or prayer involved.

 

Folk Taoism and certain forms of monastic Taoism accept the existence of spirit beings (immortals, fairies, fox spirits, dragons, ancestor-heroes) or even gods (the Three Pure Ones, Guan Yin). For those who believe in spirit beings, it is akin to wildlife in the forest: most people just try to avoid trouble rather than trying to make friends with the lions, tigers, and bears. Some sects believe in spirit beings but not cosmic gods, some believe in both categories but worship neither. It is a mixed bag. Mostly, if you are looking for who you would pray to in religious Taoism, the answer is largely contingent upon what your problem is. You would not ask the immortal of scribes and academics for protection in a dark alley.

 

Also in Folk Taoism you will see a lot of ancestor worship. So, if you have been burning money for your grandpa' ghost to spend in the afterlife, he might be inclined to help you out with something when you pray to him. And he might also get pissed when you do something that is not in the best interest of the family, in his opinion.

 

Of course, most non-Chinese Taoists do not subscribe to this folk belief, or practice it even if they do believe.

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Well I just became apart of this forum recently and I so far don't know alot about Taoism which is why I asked the questions I did cause I wasn't sure if there was a god(s) in taoism.

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I am curious who is the god in Taoism like if I am praying or something who would I be praying to?

There's thousands of gods in taoism, and you don't pray to any of them the way you pray in other modalities. You do it by performing certain actions and, to a greater extent, by avoiding certain actions. E.g., every star of the Big Dipper has/is a resident god, and you would have to find out more about them before attempting to be heard -- for instance, what color they govern, what foods they like (so you can offer them), who of the lesser gods has their ear (because you don't get to talk to the boss just because you want to, the boss is usually busy), what offends them (so you take measures not to offend them), and so on. To get the Jade Emperor to view you and your requests favorably, you might want to follow a no-grains diet (because the Grain Monsters that live inside you report to him once a month and spill all the beans about all your wrongdoings, not just dietary but moral and ethical failures and intellectual blunders too -- in other words, if they tell him you're being stupid, he won't want to listen to you because he is offended by stupidity.)

 

To get a god/goddess to behave more like those of other religions, they had to borrow a few from other religions -- e.g., Quan Yin, a Buddhist boddhisattva promoted to a taoist goddess, can be prayed to in the ordinary manner, but the subject matter of your prayer has to fall into the area of her primary interests -- family, children, female health, protection of women and children, forgiveness, stuff like that. If you want to win a conflict, you might want to contact Quan Di who will help provided your cause is just; if it isn't, better not. If you want to contact Laozi (also promoted to one of the leading deities, not merely a writer), clearly state your purpose (usually of spiritual nature) or he will ignore you. Not as easy as it sounds, because once you start digging for the true purpose of your prayer, you discover it's an onion of many layers... you have to find out what you really need, not what you happen to want at the moment.

 

You can't really pray to a god you don't know anything about, and to know things about taoist gods, you have to learn. Unless you are a future taoist priest in training, you learn these things best indirectly, via practices -- you don't even find out that you've been doing a practice dedicated to a particular god until you master it at least on the student's level. Example: when I started learning feng shui, I merely did what I was told -- this year the Grand Duke is in the southwest, so don't face that direction, don't do any renovations, hammering, loud music in that area, etc.. But why? Well, eventually you find out that the Grand Duke, Jupiter, is not so much one deity as an office of the deity, and 64 gods take the office in succession, each with his personality and peculiarities. A temple dedicated to this deity will have statues of all 64. You start getting into the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching and you gradually discover what those 64 gods' personalities are like. You find out about the current one and what his personality is, you can predict what the year will be like. If he is a military commander, there will be war, if his successor is also a general, the war will go on. Gods of taoism are both persons and energies, cosmic forces AND people with personalities, stars and planets and former mortals who cultivated themselves into stars and planets and gods... they are a colorful bunch. You need a professional (a taoist priest) to help you with contacting them, just like in shamanism, lay people don't normally communicate with other planes directly, the shaman is their messenger and go-between.

 

The feel-good soothing rites of other religions where you pray based on "faith" are used by some taoist sects (the ones the farthest removed from shamanism and the closest-tied with buddhism), but taoism being a mysterious science rather than a faith-based need-based religion, you can get more mileage out of learning and practicing than out of wanting and asking.

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This thread reminds me of a scene from the movie "Police Academy". The police chief or commissioner is at an Oriental restaurant with the police academy instructor. Anyway, there's this Asian guy who is doing this elaborate ritual with the wok or whatever. And in his frustration, the police chief says "is all that crap necessary?" when all along the Asian guy just had to buckle down and cook the food.

 

My point is that there is no point in getting so caught up in the rituals, gods goddesses, demons, spirits of Taoism--especially not for a Westerner. It isn't necessary. If you practice Taoism for greater inner peace, just practice. Do Tai Chi, qigong, or meditate. This is not about acquiring a new set of beliefs. Don't even believe in the Tao; strive to become the Tao.

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you might want to follow a no-grains diet (because the Grain Monsters that live inside you report to him once a month and spill all the beans about all your wrongdoings, not just dietary but moral and ethical failures and intellectual blunders too -- in other words, if they tell him you're being stupid, he won't want to listen to you because he is offended by stupidity.)

 

Taomeow in da House! A tremendously informative post, as per your usual, thank you :D

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This thread reminds me of a scene from the movie "Police Academy". The police chief or commissioner is at an Oriental restaurant with the police academy instructor. Anyway, there's this Asian guy who is doing this elaborate ritual with the wok or whatever. And in his frustration, the police chief says "is all that crap necessary?" when all along the Asian guy just had to buckle down and cook the food.

 

My point is that there is no point in getting so caught up in the rituals, gods goddesses, demons, spirits of Taoism--especially not for a Westerner. It isn't necessary. If you practice Taoism for greater inner peace, just practice. Do Tai Chi, qigong, or meditate. This is not about acquiring a new set of beliefs. Don't even believe in the Tao; strive to become the Tao.

Yup.

 

Unless one or more of the gods should show up in your kitchen and empty a bucketful of shrimp over your head, and then smack you with a heavy bag of rice, and then toss a bottle of sesame oil at you, and stomp down on a clove of garlic so that the earth shakes, and crush a chili pepper with a bolt of thunder, and light the fire in your stove with a lightning from the sky, and then tell you, in a most authoritative voice, what it is they want you to do with the wok. Then you'll have to do the cooking the elaborate way whether you like it or not. :)

 

Taomeow in da House! A tremendously informative post, as per your usual, thank you :D

thanks, and may you soar high! :)

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taoism being a mysterious science rather than a faith-based need-based religion, you can get more mileage out of learning and practicing than out of wanting and asking.

I'm not saying this is what you implied, but Buddhism is not a "faith-based need-based religion". Buddhas and Bodhisattvas aren't simply benevolent sky-fairies that one prays to asking for worldly goods and success, as Chinese folk religion seems to think.

Edited by nac

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Although I'm a Philosophical Taoist, I'd like to learn about the deities of Taoism, and, like Taomeow mentioned (sorry if that's wrongly attributed), their areas of "expertise" rituals, food offerings, prayers, colours and what not. Any where that I might learn these things without actually becoming a priest? Are they listed in the Daozang? I've read somewhere that rituals and other things are described in the Daozang, so can anyone recommend a translation (even if I'm completely barking up the wrong tree, I'd like one all the same, just out of interest =]).

 

Much love people.

 

Sam

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some info:

 

Yuan-shih T'ien-tsun -- The First Principal

 

"He has no beginning and no end. He existed "before the void and the silence, before primordial chaos." He is self-existing, changeless, limitless, invisible, contains all virtues, is present in all places and is the source of all truth".

 

 

 

Some may exchange the word, "He" with She.

 

For me "Mystery" is beyond definitions or limitations of only personal or only impersonable, etc..

 

Best wishes,

Om

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some info:

 

Yuan-shih T'ien-tsun -- The First Principal

 

"He has no beginning and no end. He existed "before the void and the silence, before primordial chaos." He is self-existing, changeless, limitless, invisible, contains all virtues, is present in all places and is the source of all truth".

Some may exchange the word, "He" with She.

 

For me "Mystery" is beyond definitions or limitations of only personal or only impersonable, etc..

 

Best wishes,

Om

 

Where did you get your information, Om? Can you point me in the right direction?

 

Sam

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Thanks for the great thread everyone!

 

I'd like to add that there are lots of disagreements on the nature of Taoism Gods even within Taoism, but in my view, Taoism Gods did not create the universe or anything like that... they were simply normal mortals who over the kalpas learned about the existence of the Celestial Realm and learned how to get there. Once a few mortals made that attainment, then getting to the Celestial dimension becomes easier for later generations of Taoism Gods, Immortals, and us mortals. Very much like immigrating to America... it's easier when you've had some family members get there already.

 

But if they are going to help you get a visa, green card, find a job, and make a life in the Celestial dimension then they have to like you and think that you are an asset to the team.

 

Per the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Lord Guan was simply granted godhood by the Jade Emperor as the Jade Emperor approved of his strong sense of honor... and it didn't seem like he was a great student of Taoism in other respects... he wasn't overly respectful of Master Sleeping Dragon and even disregarded Master Sleeping Dragon's direct military orders on at least two occasions... a big no no in the Chinese military. Lord Guan did it with style, so what can you say?

 

Also, if one is interested in having any sort of worship or relation with the Taoism Gods, it's best to find a good teacher as a lot of things can go wrong... like worshiping ghosts posing as gods (like in the Journey to the West) or doing something wrong... Master Sleeping Dragon was interrupted during a ceremony and died as a result!

 

The best crash course about how religious taoism works are the chapters in Journey to the West in my signature line... you'll get the general vibe.

 

The mindset doesn't fit perfectly with the modern ideals of freedom, equality, and enlightenment. The religious taoism mindset is more military/corporate: stronger relations on the one hand but less freedom on the other and very hierarchical.

 

Yoda

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I feel slighted. I have no gods in my Taoism.

 

I guess I will have to create a couple.

 

But then, maybe not.

 

That would just be more things to keep track of.

 

Peace & Love!

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I feel slighted. I have no gods in my Taoism.

 

I guess I will have to create a couple.

 

But then, maybe not.

 

That would just be more things to keep track of.

 

Peace & Love!

not "more" so much as "different ways" to keep track of things. You do keep track of the weather and don't wear flip-flops when it's snowing, nor ski boots to the beach, etc.? You keep track of the speed limit when driving (I used to not to till the fines got astronomical), of when it's time to pay your bills, of your body temperature if you get the flu, may you be blessed with never getting it? -- we all keep track of things mundane as best we can, lots and lots of them. Keeping track of taoist gods makes it easier, not harder. Many taoist gods are about timeliness and efficiency of actions undertaken, which are ways to facilitate harmony, peace and a serene heart. One could say that timeliness and competence are the god of taoist gods. :)

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I'm not saying this is what you implied, but Buddhism is not a "faith-based need-based religion". Buddhas and Bodhisattvas aren't simply benevolent sky-fairies that one prays to asking for worldly goods and success, as Chinese folk religion seems to think.

Chinese folk religion thinks no such thing! It is Chinese folk religion that has introduced Nuwa, the goddess creatress of humans, who is venerated but not prayed to because what's there to pray about? -- what's done is done! :lol: However, the most popular buddha of China and Japan, Amitaba, the Buddha of the Pure Land, is exactly the benevolent sky-fairy who responds to faith and need and nothing else. It took centuries, and political action, to enforce other Buddhas on the Chinese and other Southeast Asians. The last people to accept them were taoists, and far, far from "all of them" at that. Source: Lin Yutang, "My Country and My People."

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I used to not to till the fines got astronomical

 

 

sigh... do I know how that goes... they couldn't even catch us for awhile and now we are the model citizens. :lol:

 

Yoda

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InShang Ch'ing Taoism, the gods can be viewed as a projection of the microsm within. For example, the word for "Tao" in Shang Ch'ing sect is "San Tao" which means "the Three Fold Path" which corresponds to the three pure ones. The three pure ones in the Macrocosm are also projections of the three dan tiens in the micrcosm. So, one very effective way to worship the Three Pure Ones is to strengthen, purify and balance the Three Dan Tiens in the Body. When one has aligned the energy centers in the microcosm (body) with the corresponding dieties in the Macrocosm (Universe) then one becomes a Celestial immortal and is transformed to a higher state of being...

In the Shang Ch'ing view, the best way to worship the gods is to take care of oneself. This is the real reason for energy work in Shang Ch'ing Tao...

 

And in answer to the question... in some sects, there is a creator god similar to the western idea of "God"...

Edited by fiveelementtao

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sigh... do I know how that goes... they couldn't even catch us for awhile and now we are the model citizens. :lol:

 

Yoda

:lol::lol:

 

When I went to court to dispute a speeding ticket (unsuccessfully of course, they have sticky fingers, you can't peel your money off them once it's stuck), the judge referred to that blindfolded statue adorning every court, Justicia the Roman goddess of justice, as Lady Justice (the public can't be expected to keep track of the names and peculiarities of the gods set up to decide their fates, right?..) He told me that she can't possibly take any of my "emergency" explanations into account because, well, as you can see, she is blind. I wanted to point out to him that she's supposed to be blind to social status, gender, race, creed, etc., not to the facts of the case -- that's blind, not deaf. I didn't though, the fine was high enough without risking additional "contempt of court" charges.

 

Knowing what our gods are really about is empowering, which is why the public is kept ignorant -- why add to the power of those who aren't supposed to have any?.. "Just go with the flow.... just go with the flow... you're getting sleepy... just go with the flow..."

Edited by Taomeow

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not "more" so much as "different ways" to keep track of things. You do keep track of the weather and don't wear flip-flops when it's snowing, nor ski boots to the beach, etc.? You keep track of the speed limit when driving (I used to not to till the fines got astronomical), of when it's time to pay your bills, of your body temperature if you get the flu, may you be blessed with never getting it? -- we all keep track of things mundane as best we can, lots and lots of them. Keeping track of taoist gods makes it easier, not harder. Many taoist gods are about timeliness and efficiency of actions undertaken, which are ways to facilitate harmony, peace and a serene heart. One could say that timeliness and competence are the god of taoist gods. :)

 

Oh well, since I already have those things in my life I guess I better just stick with what I have. Thanks for the engouragement though. ;)

 

Peace & Love!

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[quote

The feel-good soothing rites of other religions where you pray based on "faith" are used by some taoist sects (the ones the farthest removed from shamanism and the closest-tied with buddhism), but taoism being a mysterious science rather than a faith-based need-based religion, you can get more mileage out of learning and practicing than out of wanting and asking.

 

 

Thank you for this - It rings true. Faith is not what is needed in seeking, courage is needed. BEING a part of the whole in a meaningful manner, conscious of yr thoughts & actions on a profound level, while taking responsibility for who you are & what you are creating in yr life... The rest is filler to my way of thinking-

 

love to all- Pat

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quote (Wayfarer) courage is needed

 

Yes, exactly! :)

 

If as 5ET says gods are all within, courage to "know thyself" is needed. If they are both within and without as I think they are, courage to "know thyself and accept that others are different" is needed. If they are all outside... well, this is the only scenario that can be faith-based rather than courage-based, and this one I don't subscribe to.

 

So a popular Western interpretation of taoism -- all is tao, therefore it doesn't matter what you do with yourself, you can trust the tao to do all the right things anyway, and whatever you yourself come up with is just "ego" (not a taoist concept to begin with, by the way) -- is a symptom of disconnection from the tao, IMO. The Way is Power. Taoism is a teaching/art/science/practice of how to use and not abuse power, not a teaching of non-use. Looks like this is the single most difficult task there is -- to have power and not abuse it. Mostly, those who have any abuse it, and those who don't want to abuse it surrender it and have none. Just to be on the safe side.

 

Which circles back to what Wayfarer said about courage. Courage is not being on the safe side. Tao is not about being afraid of power. It is about using power without abusing it. If I were to give a definition of tao, taoism, taoists the real thing, that would be it.

 

Gods of taoism are varieties of power tao has. Ones that know how to use power without abusing it become gods. Ones who have power and abuse it become demons. Ones who don't use power because they're afraid to do something wrong become cowards, and tao has zero use for cowards. Ones who don't have power and say no one should are hypocrites, and tao has zero use for these too.

 

IMHO of course. :)

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Gods of taoism are varieties of power tao has. Ones that know how to use power without abusing it become gods. Ones who have power and abuse it become demons. Ones who don't use power because they're afraid to do something wrong become cowards, and tao has zero use for cowards. Ones who don't have power and say no one should are hypocrites, and tao has zero use for these too.

 

IMHO of course. :)

 

That was a good post until you got to this paragraph.

 

Tao refuses nor denies none. All things are Tao, remember? Even the cowards and the powerless. Shucks. Even the hypocrites are of Tao.

 

(Of course, this need not control our personal preferrences.)

 

Peace & Love!

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Where did you get your information, Om? Can you point me in the right direction?

 

Sam

 

Hello Sam,

 

I signed off with the word "Om' in my last post in this string in the sense of using a word like "peace", but I go by the handle of 3bob at this site.

 

We may go in a multitude of apparent and or relative directions, but where do they all ultimately lead back to?

 

I'd say "cultivate" unconditional love in whatever path you may walk, and you will travel well.

 

Om

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