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Taoism Beliefs

Generally speaking, Taoism comprises religious beliefs as well as philosophical. In short, we deal with a mixture made of ancient traditions, rituals, superstitions, magic and philosophies.

The religious beliefs includes the worship of Lao-tzu deified, seen as an incarnation of Tao itself. Also they include sacrifices and rituals due to local deities, spirits and most of all to the family ancestors. All these are intended for life preserve and good luck.

The faith in the Immortals (Hsien) is also striking. Who are these? Persons who didn't perish after death, like ordinary individuals, that is they didn't departed from their bodies. Therefore they continue to live on earth or above, in the spiritual realms.

Eight Immortals
The Eight Immortals

I read somewhere on the Net that Chinese beliefs in spiritual immortality. This is inaccurate. As I said, the immortals are persons like us, living in their body, only they developed certain skills and spiritual knowledge by practicing specific techniques (such as the inner or outer alchemy).

Religious Taoists show interest in talismans and amulets, meant to protect one for the danger of the malignant spirits. They also practice witchcraft and offers prayers to chase the bad spirits.

Taoists are interested in divination. They use the I-ching and others similar means to reveal the future. Divination accompanied sacrificial offerings and almost everything regarding the life of people and Kings.

Taois talisman
Taoist talisman

Philosophical Taoism, that is the one created by Lao-tzu and mainly described in his Tao-te ching, is not interested in immortality. It simply states that life and death are kind of come-and-go process that can not be reversed or suspended.

There's no God in the Taoist philosophy.

The disciple strives to emulate the Tao, the creator and sustainer of the Universe (the ten-thousand ), through meditation (stillness), wu-wei (nonaction) and indifference to the worldly matters. By doing these, the disciple acquire the nature of a new born child, that is, the pure being.

Lao-tzu wrote about the transformation of the disciple as presented above:

    He who has in himself abundantly the attributes (of the Tao) is like an infant. Poisonous insects will not sting him; fierce beasts will not seize him; birds of prey will not strike him.

    (The infant's) bones are weak and its sinews soft, but yet its grasp is firm. It knows not yet the union of male and female, and yet its virile member may be excited; showing the perfection of its physical essence. All day long it will cry without its throat becoming hoarse; - showing the harmony (in its constitution). (Quote from Tao-te ching, chapter 55, James Legge translation)

Taoist healthpreserving map
Taoist health preserving map (click to enlarge)

Taoists of the philosophic trend don't believe in either life  preserving practices. Contrary to what we may think, they state that the disease appear as naturally as it cured itself.

Proof is Yang-tzu dialogue published in the Lieh-tzu book.

What about Tao? The Tao is the Great Pervader - in the words of James Legge. The Tao is not God (as the Christian God, for example) but the invisible condition of being of everything in the Universe, including the humans.

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