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TAO ismMalaysian Studies Group Project on

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What is Taoism?

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Taoism is an ancient tradition of philosophy and religious belief that is deeply rooted in Chinese customs and worldview, originated in China 2000 years ago.

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It is a religion of unity and opposites; Yin and Yang. The principle of Yin Yang sees the world as filled with complementary forces - action and non-action, light and dark, hot and cold, and so on

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Origin of Taoism

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Taoism is the first religion originated from China.

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Taoism has no founder and no founding date. It grew out of various religious and philosophical traditions in ancient China, including shamanism and nature religion.

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Early religious Taoism was rooted in the ideas of the Taoist thinkers, to which were added local religious rituals and beliefs, both to provide examples of Taoist philosophy, and integrate Taoism into the existing world views of all levels of the Chinese people.

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Taoism was first recognised as a religious system during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. The publication of the Tao Te Ching and other works provided a focus for Taoist thinking.

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Taoism = Philosophy + Local beliefs (Culture)

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Philosophy of Tao

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The Tao is the ultimate creative principle of the universe. All things are unified and connected in the Tao.

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It is also regarded as the way of nature.

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The way of nature includes:

Wu Wei living by or going along with the true nature of the world - or at least without obstructing the Tao - letting things take their natural course

 Wu Jilives of balance and harmony, this doesn't stop a person living a proactive life but their activities should fit into the natural pattern of the universe,

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Things related to Tao

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Feng Shui

Fortune telling

Tai ChiBa Gua

Jin Dan

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Why Tao?

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achieving harmony or union with


the pursuit of spiritual immortality

being 'virtuous'



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Taoism's rich palette of liturgy and ritual makes the Tao more real to human beings and provides a way in which humanity can align itself more closely to the Tao to produce better lives for all.

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Some followers believe that the ways of Tao can lead them to immortality and eternity. Their main objective is to gain immortality so that they can achieve eternity, like goddesses.

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What do Taoists do?

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• Honor Heavens and Gods• Worship and respect their ancestors• Practice monastery – Refining of inner self • Practice Taoist rituals• Save people• Benefit others

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Moral Concept

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In practice Taoism recommends the same sorts of moral behaviour to its followers as other religions.

It disapproves of killing, stealing, lying and promiscuity, and promotes altruistic, helpful and kindly behaviour.

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Cultivate the Tao within oneself; and one's virtue will be perfected.Cultivate it within the household, and one's virtue will be abundant.Cultivate it within the neighbourhood, and one's virtue will be enduring.Cultivate it within the nation, and one's virtue will be overflowing.Cultivate it within the entire world, and one's virtue will be universal.

Tao Te Ching 54**Philosophically, the virtues of Tao can benefit the universe.

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Taoists practice good virtues so that

They can become immortal and godly

They can avoid punishments from gods of hell

**These two conventional objectives have made Taoism highly popular in traditional societies

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The Concept of Hell

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Ancient Taoism had no concept of Hell, as Morality was seen to be a man-made distinction and there was no concept of an immaterial soul. In its home country China, where Taoism adopted tenets of other religions, popular belief endows Taoist Hell with many deities and spirits who punish sin in a variety of horrible ways. This is also considered Karma for Taoism. Incorporating ideas from Taoism and Buddhism as well as traditional Chinese folk religion, Diyu is a kind of purgatory place which serves not only to punish but also to renew spirits ready for their next incarnation.

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Taoism sees hell as a kind of boot-camp where most people would go through in the almost eternal cycle of birth, life, death and reincarnation. The good guys would pass through the 10 “courts” of hell and its 18 levels with little or no suffering while the evildoers would get their due, such as being burned by fire, boiled in hot water, tongues cut, etc – images of these processes are duly represented in the many paintings hung in the shrine of hell. In addition, the God of Hell, in Taoism, is not evil Satan, but a mere administrator who have to perform the task of reforming the evildoers.

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What happens when Taoists sin?Have a peek at China’s Taoist Temple- Cheng Huang Miao

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The Tao Culture

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Taoism is considered as animism.

Animism encompasses the beliefs that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical (or material) world, and souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but also animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment, including thunder, wind, and shadows. Animism may further attribute souls to abstract concepts such as words, true names, or metaphors in mythology.

Let’s wiki animism:

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The Gods of Tao

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Taoism includes many deities, that are worshipped in Taoist temples, they are part of the universe and depend, like everything, on the Tao.

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The Three Purities

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Jade EmperorYu Huang Da Di

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The Eight Immortals

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Goddess of the Gates Men shen

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Goddess of JusticeGuan Di

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The Three Star-gods of Happiness, Rank and Affluence, and Longevity

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Taoism's Nine Cardinal Principles

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Taoism is comprised of several texts, including the Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, the Book of Lieh-Tzu, the Canon of Reason and Virtue and additional Taoist texts. The most central and well known book of Taoism is the Tao Te Ching.

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1. The Goal is Contentment2. Oneness — A Holistic View3. Manifestations of the Tao4. Nature is Unkind5. Society versus the Individual6. Humanity and Justice are Artificial Values7. Non-interference8. Camouflage9. Desires and Limitations


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Who can find repose in a muddy world?

— Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu defined contentment as the only measure by which we should gauge personal success and how to use it as a filter through which society's values should be passed. By adhering to this strict test, dysfunctional impulses, like fame and fortune, can be warded off. Finally, the religious aspects of Taoism teach us that a content physical existence will best prepare the soul for that time when the body is cast off. Whether physical, mental, or metaphysical, contentment is the ultimate goal.

1. The Goal is Contentment

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Taoism is a philosophical and religious system built on a holistic view of reality. It unifies all existence with principles that cut across both the seen and unseen dimensions. Its famous yin/yang symbol represents universal oneness with black and white colors rotating in a circle. This iconic image represents the duality of all phenomena — whether summer and winter, male and female, or life and death — as opposing manifestations of the same principle and not to be viewed as independent.

2. Oneness — A Holistic View

In that he saw the unity, he was of God;in that he saw distinctions, he was of man.

— Chuang Tzu

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Taoism acknowledges man's inherent intellectual limitations and consequently avoids concepts that cannot be tested and verified by practical application — reason alone is not to be trusted. This prerequisite requires the Taoist to learn by observing concrete manifestations ("teh") of larger universal forces and not rely upon speculation alone. In this regard, Nature serves as the uncorrupted manifestation of the Heavens and the model from which a Taoist should take his instruction.

3. Manifestations of the Tao

Do not develop the nature which is of man,but develop the nature which is of God.

— Chuang Tzu

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Despite pastoral representations that the natural world is an environment of polite coexistence, observed reality exhibits a harsher truth typified by the strong preying on the weak in the ever-present food chain. Apparently there is little mercy in the natural world as all effort is devoted towards survival. Therefore, Lao Tzu insists "the Sage is unkind," urging the Taoist to avoid the Siren call of Universal Love and instead embrace a mindset of harsh indifference towards all but a few loved ones. Enlightened self-interest would be the best way to describe this principle to modern sensibilities.

Nature is unkind:It treats the creation like sacrificial straw-dogs.The Sage is unkind:He treats the people like sacrificial straw-dogs.

— Lao Tzu

4. Nature is Unkind

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Taoism is a philosophy for the Individual. It regards Society as including confused people who voluntarily submit to beguiling social conventions. Lao Tzu cautions that social conventions may include virtues and behaviors which benefit society at the expense of the individual; i.e. — sacrificing personal contentment for the good of anonymous others. Thus the Taoist separates ineffective virtues from effective ones by understanding that there are helpful individual values and potentially unhelpful social values.

5. Society versus the Individual

The people of the world all have a purpose; I alone appear stubborn and uncouth. I alone differ from the other people, And value drawing sustenance from the Mother.

— Lao Tzu

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With the duality of Society versus the Individual clearly described, Lao Tzu goes further by unambiguously identifying the source of detrimental social values. He writes that "humanity and justice" are virtues that may be beguiling, but are in fact harmful to individual contentment. This is a hard concept for many to accept: How could humanity and justice be bad? The answer lies in recognizing that society largely promulgates artificial and not natural notions of virtues. "Humanity" is really artificial love and "Justice" is actually artificial punishment.

6. Humanity and Justice are Artificial Values

On the decline of the great Tao,The doctrines of "humanity" and "justice" arose.

— Lao Tzu

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The Taoist acknowledges his inherent limitations and how much effort it takes to develop one's mind, body and spirit. As such, Lao Tzu's philosophy recommends dedicating all of one's energy towards achieving personal contentment and not waste precious time interfering with others. This means not trying to change things that do not bring tangible personal benefits. For example, Taoists remain uninvolved in politics because attempting to improve society wastes focus, time and energy with little personal gain. But there is a deeper implication too: Taoists let things achieve harmony on their own, according to their natural traits.

He responds only when moved, acts only when he is urged,and rises to action only when he is compelled to do so.

— Chuang Tzu

7. Non-interference

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Recognizing that the Individual may hold different values from members of Society has important consequences for appropriate behavior. Since the values of a Taoist feature natural self-interest, they can appear superficially selfish — and possibly earn resentment from one's surrounding community. To deal with this undesired animosity, Lao Tzu maintains that one needs to disguise such beliefs using a strategy of camouflage. Thus, Lao Tzu has been called the "First Philosopher of Camouflage."

Only the perfect man can go about the worldwithout attracting attention to himself.

— Chuang Tzu

8. Camouflage

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One of its most prescient warnings in the Tao Te Ching is to avoid the popular notion that "the sky's the limit." This myth causes people to jeopardize themselves with plans motivated by unchecked desires and unrealistic expectations. Thus our inherent desires, including pride, make contentment unachievable without practical tests to remind us of our limitations. This ensures that our mental model of the world is firmly grounded in reality, arresting tendencies to chase chimeras and remain in a content state of what is attainable.

He who knows where to stop may be exempt from danger.

— Lao Tzu

9. Desires and Limitations

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Thank you.