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Hints on the Taoist Philosophy

The Taoist philosophy is expressed mainly in the book of Lao-tzu, Tao-te ching. Generally speaking, Lao-tzu's philosophy can be summed up in a few words as Ssu-ma Ch'ien (in his Historical Records) does when he speaks about the Master that he preaches the retreat from the world and the keeping of a low profile.

Yet in Tao-te ching we find many other ideas expressed more clearly or more elusively.

For example, there is much talk about what Tao is, the key concept of Taoism. There are also notes about the creation of the universe that has taken place in stages, starting from a state of void that doesn't exclude a primordial something.

Taoism meditation
Taoism inner contemplation leading to the projection of the mental content

Starting from Tao and its characteristics - nondoing, emptiness, return, etc. – Lao-tzu proposes a way of life based on these characteristics. Thus the disciple practices nonaction, cultivates mental emptiness and does not interact with world events, preferring a secondary, low place. The virtue of water is given as an example, because it really occupies a lower place and at the same time nourishes all beings.

Water offers also the model of prince's conduct. He must practice nonaction, avoid violence, and desire to impose himself to the public attention, show restraint, and cultivate respect for all that exists.

Taoist philosophy therefore includes several theoretical and practical aspects. The theoretical ones refer to the main concepts developed by Lao-tzu and his disciples Chuang-tzu and Lieh-tzu.

They took over the ideas of Lao-tzu and embraced them, enriched and even expanded.

An important emphasis is placed on the state of meditation that differs entirely from its yogic variants. Meditation in Taoism is not a fusion with everything that exists, but is conceived, on the one hand, by a reflexive state that observes events and discerns their meaning, and, on the other hand, it detaches from them, as Lieh-tzu shows in a passage of his book often quoted by specialists

The Taoist philosophy insists much on the virtue of the emptiness, which is not only presented in correlation with the fullness, the existence. The emptiness of Taoists is the origin of all that exist, and thus it is very close to the Buddhist philosophy which gives a primordial place to the emptiness in a theoretical and experimental sense.

Finally, Taoism does not specifically deal with death that is seen as an effect of the law of  transformation like birth and can not be avoided. Death is not really the end of life but an alternation of it.

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