Taoism's primary focus rests upon man's spiritual existence, whereby humanity is likened to that of a bamboo: straight and simplistic by design with a vacant center that yearns to be filled, yet flexible enough to overcome resistance. Both a philosophy and religion, Taoism shares its roots with ancient Shamanism and is cataloged inside the only book that has been translated more than the Bible: the Tao Te Ching.
Nine basic principles serve to guide the fundamental Taoist teachings and belief system, all of which seek to enlighten people with greater clarity of, and a better approach toward, the human-spiritual existence. 1. The goal is contentment; how to navigate through life. 2. Oneness: A holistic view, which unifies all existence. 3. Manifestations of the Tao; duality of nature versus society. 4. Nature is unkind; the strong prey upon the weak. 5. Society versus the individual; virtue and self-sacrifice. 6. Humanity and justice are artificial values; man-made principles aren't authentic. 7. Non-interference; rise to action to ensure personal contentment. 8. Camouflage; disguise beliefs that benefit self-interest to avoid being chastised. 9. Desires and limitations; beware unchecked desires and unrealistic expectations.
Water's symbolic importance of all things real and alive equates to the highest good, representing life itself within Taoist belief. This association is significant for a strong sense of self and society, encouraging people to conduct their lives according to water's inherent qualities: gentleness, truth and depth. Literally translated as "the path" or "the way," Taoist principles strive to impart the very essence of strength by emulating the purest properties of water.
Taoism teaches that everything has a particular nature; to fight against that intrinsic truth is to welcome unhappiness. Lao Tzu, a contemporary of Confucius who searched for a solution to the conflict and warfare that surrounded his life, embraced Taoism as the universal regulator of being. Accordingly, he taught that non-being is the catalyst for tangible and intangible entities entering this state of existence.
A basic tenet of Taoist teaching utilizes the universal energy of chi, the all-encompassing, life-giving force drawn from the dynamic interchange of polarities: yin and yang. The flow of chi, considered an essential element of life's continuum, is believed to promote prosperity, good fortune and health, while simultaneously blocking sickness, conflict and difficulty. Adherents believe it is the constant ebb and flow of chi that governs the welfare of individuals and the world around them, utilizing a combination of Taoist pantheism with an active expression of Chinese spirituality.
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