dmattwads

What is Taoism

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Yes I know this might seem like a strange question on this forum, but it seems like the concept of Taoism is in China versus the West is very different. 

 As I read the blog posts and watch the youtube videos of most westerners there seems to be the idea that Taoism IS Qigong, or some type of martial art, or some kind of alchemy. 

 On the other hand when I read about how the Chinese practice it it seems to be more of a religion with temples and gods and rituals and incense and texts.

 I realize this divide isn't exclusive only to Taoism because I know that the Western vs Asian view of the practice of Buddhism it's quite different as well with Westerners tending to view more as a philosophy and Asians tending to approach it more as a religion. 

 A lot of things that I used to assume were Taoist I have come to find did not originate with Taoism, but rather a lot of it is from Chinese folk religion or has been integrated from other systems. Such as many of the gods and goddesses come from Chinese folk religion. The concept of yin and Yang and the five elements come from the naturalistic school. The I-ching predates taoism by quite a bit. 

 So this begs the question. What exactly is Taoism? I think largely part of the ambiguity of how to practice Taoism let me to see more definitive answers and things like Buddhism. so I'm sure I'll get a plethora of the responses but basically what I want to know is what is Taoism and how does one practice Taoism?

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Daoism isn't one thing but a convergence of different currents- shamanism, yin-yang five phase philosophy, the philosophy of Laozi and Zhuangzi, and the methods of the fangshi including various magical and alchemical practices. We could argue back and forth about it but, for the sake of having meaningful classification of ideas, I would argue that none of these by themselves are quite Daoist. They became part of Daoism when they converged in different ways in Han dynasty movements like the Celestial Masters, Shang Qing, and Ling Biao. Qigong and martial arts aren't particularly Daoist. That is, there are Daoist forms of them, and their underlying theory/cosmology is mostly or wholly compatible with some form of Daoist cosmology, but just practicing qigong is not inherently Daoist. You could practice some form of qigong regardless of your religious or philosophical outlook.  

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2 hours ago, dmattwads said:

What I want to know is what is Taoism and how does one practice Taoism?

 

Taoism is a science of a way of living, and people don't really 'practice' Taoism, since it is a way of living.  The only practice (other than the religious going to temples) is to learn one or more of the Taoist sciences so that it can inform your way of living.

 

Taoism is like a great river, which consists of several streams, some times the streams flow together and sometimes they diverge and flow in their own channels, only to re-converge later.

 

The idea that the philosophy is separate from the religion, is separate from the internal arts, is nothing but classification by 'Western imperialism which choses to focus on only one thing at a time.

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Dao is not a word, or a thing.

 

Daoism is a word, associated with mental imagery and as such dependent on the individual and cultural connotations of such.

 

To me, the definition of Daoism is akin to the Druidic definition of man.

A man is three things simultaneously.

He is who he thinks he is.

He is who others think he is.

He is who he actually is.

 

Daoism is a word, a mental notion, concept.  Internally generated and culturally influenced.

Daoism is what you think it is.

What others think it is.

 

what it really is (all and beyond and none of the prior two)

 

in my experience, not selling this as 'the' truth, only sharing my experience.

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1 hour ago, Starjumper said:

 

The only practice (other than the religious going to temples) is to learn one or more of the Taoist sciences so that it can inform your way of living.

 

So let's go with that as a starting place then. When one goes to a Taoist temple, what are they doing and what is the purpose(s) (I assume there is more than one thing one would go to one for) and what do they do?

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6 minutes ago, dmattwads said:

So let's go with that as a starting place then. When one goes to a Taoist temple, what are they doing and what is the purpose(s) (I assume there is more than one thing one would go to one for) and what do they do?

 

I'm not up much on the religious end of Taoism as far as going to temples is concerned, I'm sure others here are more informed about that, but I figure it's kind of like in Churchianity when people go to church.

 

There is one aspect of the Taoist religion that is relatively unknown, and that is that real nei kung, the hidden spiritual path of the (Taoist) warrior/wizard, is an official part of the Taoist religion, and I do know about that part.  The cool thing is that the high level spiritual practices are recognized as part of the religion, and yet they are usually propagated along secret or hidden lineages.  I don't know how much of that exists in China now, but it is probably carried on by some hermits living in huts.  The good news is that some of it escaped China before the red curtain dropped and the red boot came down to stomp on all the masters.

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16 minutes ago, Starjumper said:

 

 

There is one aspect of the Taoist religion that is relatively unknown, and that is that real nei kung, the hidden spiritual path of the (Taoist) warrior/wizard, is an official part of the Taoist religion, and I do know about that part.  The cool thing is that the high level spiritual practices are recognized as part of the religion, and yet they are usually propagated along secret or hidden lineages.

 

That is interesting but what that makes me want to know is, what is the purpose or goal of this practice?

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7 minutes ago, mrpasserby said:

dmattwads said:

'I want to know is what is Taoism and how does one practice Taoism?'

 

My personal practice is similar to Wu wei, exercising my functional spirit body, researching knowledge/spirit science from within the spirit/unseen world, exploring world gates/planes of existence. I only achieved a functional spirit body after many decades of effort similar to Neidan.

 

Wu wei means – in Chinese – non-doing or 'doing nothing'. It sounds like a pleasant invitation to relax or worse, fall into laziness or apathy. Yet this concept is key to the noblest kind of action according to the philosophy of Daoism – and is at the heart of what it means to follow Dao or The Way.

 

If you don't mind would you be so kind as to break that down a little more simply as to what that means and entails please?

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1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

 

So let's go with that as a starting place then. When one goes to a Taoist temple, what are they doing and what is the purpose(s) (I assume there is more than one thing one would go to one for) and what do they do?


Worshiping the enshrined deities and getting their blessing (whether as an individual visitor or attending a liturgy of some sort); getting your fortune told; getting talismans for particular needs; commissioning the priest to do some special service for you or your family; getting instruction of some sort if it’s being offered. 

 

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13 minutes ago, SirPalomides said:


Worshiping the enshrined deities and getting their blessing (whether as an individual visitor or attending a liturgy of some sort); getting your fortune told; getting talismans for particular needs; commissioning the priest to do some special service for you or your family; getting instruction of some sort if it’s being offered. 

 

 

So it tends to be very practical it would seem.

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2 hours ago, dmattwads said:

That is interesting but what that makes me want to know is, what is the purpose or goal of this practice?

 

This answers your question, just ignore the visuals of the people performing magic tricks.  Real nei kung masters don't put on public displays

 

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1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

So it tends to be very practical it would seem.

 

Those are decorations for mortals, not a real tradition.

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49 minutes ago, GSmaster said:

 

Those are decorations for mortals, not a real tradition.

 

What do you mean?

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Posted (edited)

The religion stuff, is meaningless decorations for ordinary people for a practical financial income, to build temples and e.t.c 

 

Religious taoism has nothing in common with Dao.

Edited by GSmaster

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10 hours ago, GSmaster said:

 

Religious taoism has nothing in common with Dao.

 

 

What do you base that on?

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On 30/03/2020 at 11:16 PM, dmattwads said:

 

So let's go with that as a starting place then. When one goes to a Taoist temple, what are they doing and what is the purpose(s) (I assume there is more than one thing one would go to one for) and what do they do?

 

Burning incense and paying respects in prayer to ancestors and past historical figures of the country. Said figures have become immortals/Gods. You'll even find a Buddha in one of the temples in Wudangshan!

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On 31/03/2020 at 1:11 AM, SirPalomides said:


Worshiping the enshrined deities and getting their blessing (whether as an individual visitor or attending a liturgy of some sort); getting your fortune told; getting talismans for particular needs; commissioning the priest to do some special service for you or your family; getting instruction of some sort if it’s being offered. 

 

 

And with that comes the question "What? But some of those things aren't Daoist"

 

If you ask a philosophy bum. Herein lies the difference between what we perceive as "Daoist" by reading books and actually acknowledging how it actually is in China :)

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19 hours ago, dmattwads said:

 

 

What do you base that on?

 

His opinion.

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3 hours ago, Rara said:


 

If you ask a philosophy bum. Herein lies the difference between what we perceive as "Daoist" by reading books and actually acknowledging how it actually is in China :)

 

One of the main reasons I asked this question is because that was pretty much my experience with Buddhism. I was the typical Westerner who read the books and practiced on my own until I did a meditation retreat at a Buddhist temple and found that the Asians weren't reading the same books that I was reading lol.

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It's not that Western expressions of Daoism (or Buddhism) are necessarily inauthentic (though some of them are), but Westerners who are interested in these religions do tend to be bookish types who want nothing less than what they think is the most advanced or esoteric teaching. They are usually put off (often with good reason) by popular expressions of Christianity and want nothing that looks like that. They are inclined by culture and upbringing to think they are ready for the "serious" stuff and that devotion, piety, etc is for the peasants. So if your entry into Daoism is through its lofty philosophy or its more arcane meditation practices, that's not necessarily wrong, it's just not a complete picture. All ancient religions have these multiple layers. Perceiving the spiritual depths hidden in an apparently popular, shallow piety is perhaps a spiritual art in itself.

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26 minutes ago, SirPalomides said:

 Perceiving the spiritual depths hidden in an apparently popular, shallow piety is perhaps a spiritual art in itself.

 

Love that! 😌

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1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

 

One of the main reasons I asked this question is because that was pretty much my experience with Buddhism. I was the typical Westerner who read the books and practiced on my own until I did a meditation retreat at a Buddhist temple and found that the Asians weren't reading the same books that I was reading lol.

 

Haha. To use the cliché, "It's all a part of the journey, maaaaan"

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49 minutes ago, SirPalomides said:

It's not that Western expressions of Daoism (or Buddhism) are necessarily inauthentic (though some of them are), but Westerners who are interested in these religions do tend to be bookish types who want nothing less than what they think is the most advanced or esoteric teaching. They are usually put off (often with good reason) by popular expressions of Christianity and want nothing that looks like that. They are inclined by culture and upbringing to think they are ready for the "serious" stuff and that devotion, piety, etc is for the peasants. So if your entry into Daoism is through its lofty philosophy or its more arcane meditation practices, that's not necessarily wrong, it's just not a complete picture. All ancient religions have these multiple layers. Perceiving the spiritual depths hidden in an apparently popular, shallow piety is perhaps a spiritual art in itself.

 

That's a big thing too - methods of learning. We just learn stuff differently here.

 

Even mannerisms and speech. If someone is western and short with you, they are probably rude or pissed off. If they are Chinese and short with you, they are just being themselves and probably mean well.

 

A western person will absorb the DDJ with a western mindset until they remove themselves and become a product of a different environment.

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