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Taoism is a culture of the Orient based around nature, mankind destiny, and the end of the universe. Taoism teaches its members how to progress in life and evolve as immortal aspects of the divine and that there is an ultimate reality for everyone and everything in the universe (Wong, 2011). Tao religion was introduced by Lao- Tse who was searching for a way to end constant tribal warfare that had been experienced at that time.
Tao (pronounced as Dao) is translated to mean the way or the path to a power that envelopes, surrounds, and flows through all things both non-living and living. The Tao often regulated the natural processes and their balance while embodying harmony among opposites (Wong, 2011).
According to Wong (2011) Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism became major and the main traditions of China at the end of the Ch’ing dynasty in 1911. At that time, the government stopped supporting Taoist, thereby leading to destruction of many of their heritages. In addition, religious freedom was curtailed with the coming into power of the communists in China in 1949 when the communists decided to put Tao monks through hard manual labor, confiscated ancient temples and plundered the Tao heritage. Deng Xiao- Ping later restored leniency towards Taoism.
Despite such challenges, Tao religion has been thriving in North America, especially in the areas of martial arts, acupuncture, herbalist, and holistic medicine. Taoism is also believed to be a source of wisdom, teachings, and knowledge which cannot be destroyed. It teaches that the ultimate and sacred objective of the religion`s followers is to become one with Tao who is the first cause of the universe. in addition, teaches that conforming to the course of Tao and following the natural process of heaven and earth is going with the flow of life and will find it easy to manage the world (Li, 2006).
Taoism was associated with legalism and the Yellow Empire cult. Its experimenters practiced alchemy and superstitions of seeking immortality. Experimentations were on sexual practices, meditation and the search for long life. According to Li (2006) major sects like the celestial masters’ movement led by Daoling and the Yellow Turban Movement battled for imperialism in the government.
There are a number of Taoist symbols most common being the ‘Yin- Yang,’ which represent opposites in the universe and their balance. Equality and balance between the Yin and the Yang is a representation of balance portraying calm and harmony. Dominance by either Yin or Yang is a show of an impending confusion and disarray (Li, 2006). The Yin represents feminine aspects of being soft, calm, cool, and introspective. The Yang, on the other hand, represents masculine aspects of being hard, energetic, hot, and aggressive. In the broader sense, the Yang represents the sun and the heaven, whereas the Yin represents the earth.
Confucius was a philosopher born in 550 B.C. and his teachings have laid a foundation to Asian cultures. His writings, such as The Five Classics and The Four Books were used for a long time as the standard curriculum for the Chinese education. Confucius lived during the Chou dynasty, when land was divided among feudal lords and the moral and social order was at its worst. Confucius endeavored to restore the politico- cultural order by educating the leaders in classics and in his philosophy from which he believed reform would come. In Taoism’s view such state of disorder could easily be resolved by introducing the aspect of legalism. This is based on the understanding that restoring politico-culture as advocated by Confucius cannot be attained by educating feudal leaders. Taoism’s critique on Confucius attempt to restore politico-culture is justified by the fact that he failed to attain political leverage. It is from such failure that Confucius exposed on values such as family loyalty, education, conformity to traditional standards, and unquestioning obedience to superiors, education, and the honoring of ancestors that still remain entrenched in the Asian culture (Li, 2006).Comparisons and Contrasts of the Metaphysics of the Confucianism and Taoism
Confucius and Taoism Belief on Religion and natural Cord
As much as Confucianism has been considered by Chinese as a religion, Taoism perceives it to be more of an ethical code and not a religion in the traditional sense. This is because it was stepped in a belief of gods, spirits dwelling in natural formations, and the worship of the dead as a sign of honor and care by the living family members (Taylor, 1990). This is contrary to what its founder, Confucius believed. That is belief in the supernatural. What is controversial in this case is the fact that Confucius was not, interested in the way most of its beliefs operated. In Taoism’s view a religion should be concerned with how its beliefs operate so as to be able to understand its people. Moreover, Taoism held supernatural being in higher esteem as opposed to humanity because it had the solution to various social and cultural problems facing humanity; a view that contradicted Confucius’ belief (Taylor, 1990).
Moreover, the importance of understanding functionality of a religion as advocated by Taoism is critical in understanding most why people suffer. In the past, people starved because their leaders ate too much desires, thereby making the people not to fear death/ to take death lightly (Kohn, 1993). Consequently, social problems resulted from political domination of leaders rather than misappropriation of desired values and their modes of realization. In Lao’s eyes the cultural institutions in the ancient days of China were a form of domination hindering man’s communication with nature and with Tao (Kohn, 1993).
Confucius and Taoism Belief on Natural Law
Confucian system that the natural law and moral order within things is in the mandate of heaven and all must be keen not to violate the heavenly will contradicts view of religion. It is not logical to cite that a divine being does not have a significant role since man is sufficient to attain character through self reflection, education and self effort while at the same time arguing that natural law and moral order is the mandate of heaven and no one is expected to violate it (Hoobler & Hoobler’s, 2009). If divine being does not have a significant role since man is sufficient to attain character through self reflection, education and self effort then there is no need for moral law and natural law to exist. Taoism argues that the true goal of life is living a good life, which is attained through education and living an exemplary moral life. He articulated that proper conduct in ceremonies, the government, and in relationships claiming that the problem of mankind was that they did no know how to carry out their societal roles (Hoobler& Hoobler, 2009).
Confucius acknowledged a supreme power, which he believed established the moral order of the universe; the moral power was what he called the mandate of heaven. The mandate of heaven also meant the fate and events, which occurred in life and were beyond the control of the individual to whom they occurred (Hoobler & Hoobler, 2009). The virtuous man was expected to live according to that moral order and each one had to be careful not to violate the will of heaven since there would be no expiation left for any such man. This implies that every action that a man takes is good or wrong; harmonious or non harmonious and there exists an asymmetry to show a notion of virtue. Most of the above aspects in Taoism’s view are in agreement with its teachings which are based on mysteriosity of undefineability of the Tao force. It is such Tao force that is believed produces all things, the greatness of life over all possessions, which are attained through attunement with Tao, living life in primitive simplicity, and letting all things take their course, despising glory and pomp since it is the humble and the weak that overcome the weak and the proud. It insisted that the least government was the best and that weapons were instruments of ill omen and whoever had Tao would have nothing to do with them. The early Taoism was more concerned with the quality of life with hardly any interest on gods, the heavens and life after death or rituals. This contrasts with the Confucians, who believe in an idealized feudal system and social propriety. As such, Confucius taught on the values of loving one man to another, a pacifism that promoted self defense.
At some point, Confucius belief on natural law coincide with Taoism thought on cycles of nature which is known as are movements of qi that are shaped by the changing patterns of the Yin and Yang and the five phases. Qi moves inwards for regeneration and outwards for transformation. Likewise, time, seasons, planets, the moon and the stars move in regular cycles. The transformation and regeneration forms the basis and foundation of internal and external alchemy. In Tao perspective, the Chinese metaphysics and cosmology were of non dualistic character stressing on process than on stasis. Human beings transcend the world by transforming it. That is, assisting in the nourishing and transforming process of heaven and earth (Adler, Menze & Herder, 1997). Therefore Confucian philosophy which implies that human ethical values are reflections of developments and/or patterns of obtaining a natural world with a formal assumption that human behaviors reflect the natural patterns are in themselves non-dualistic and not in agreement with Confucius’ denial of ethical conceptualization. This is also a common belief among the Taoists (Adler, Menze & Herder, 1997).
Taoists and Confucius on Deities
Yu- huang: - He was also known as the high god of the Taoists- the jade emperor, who ruled the heavens the same way emperors did on the earth. All other gods bowed to him and had the chief function of distributing justice through the court system of hell where all evil whether of thought, speech or actions were punished. He was and still is the lord of all the dead and the living, all specters, all gods and all demons. He had spent a few years on the throne, when he retired as a hermit and spent his time sharing knowledge and dispensing medicine to the Taoists. This has been seen as the sacred union between the sun and the moon, which resulted in a son, the ruler of all nature.
Yuan-shih T’ien- tsun: -This was also called the first principal and was an abstract authority over Yu- Hang. He existed to give instructions on his expectations and was believed to be self existing, invisible, changeless, limitless, and omnipresent and was the source of all truth.
San-Ch’ing: Also called the three pure ones, they sought to save mankind by benevolence and teaching and were believed to be different manifestations of Lao Tzu. The three were Yu Ch’ing (jade pure), Shang- Ch’ing (upper pure) and T’ai- Ch’ing (great pure).
San kuan- the three officials :- The San kuan ruled over the three regions of the universe; the heaven, the earth and the waters, kept records of good and bad and awarded good or bad fortunes based on a person’s deeds and words. T’ien –kuan the heaven ruler granted happiness, Ti- kuan the earth ruler pardoned sins and Shui- kuan the water ruler averted evil.
The three epochs/ principals: -Shang- Yuan was the ruler of the first six moons that controlled winter and spring, Chung – Yuan ruled the fall and the Hsia- Yuan ruled the summer. They dwelt in the North Star. There were also the eight immortals that were belived to live in heaven and had the responsibility of teaching and demonstrating immortality.
Looking at the presence of dirties in Taoism; there is strong evidence that Taoism was a religion with a god responsible for every occurrence that ever happened. This aspect has been used by Taoism to refute Confucianism as a form of religion (Wong, 2011). Whereas Confucianism emphasized metaphysics, Taoism argues that such theory has close relation with ethics theory. This is what is believed to one has obey (social ethics) if they are to experience longevity of life. It is important for everyone to accumulate virtues and do good deeds apart from being loyal to his country and obeying parents as failure to do so would result in reduced lifespan (Liu, 2009). In Taoism, ethics forms the basis on which relationships are built including relationship between a community and the celestial realms. Since relations are build on ethical principles, Confucius ought to place great importance on ensuring that its followers behaved ethically for the benefit of the community (Liu, 2009).
The second principle of the Confucian teaching is based on Jen’s principle, which was the virtue of goodness and was expressed by the recognition of value and clear show of concern for others irrespective of their social class. This principle was encompassed in a rule that stated the importance of doing unto others what you would want them do to you. While Li provided the social structure for interaction, Jen made the moral system under which the social structures operated.
The third concept of moral behavior and ethics based on the gentleman’s principle that was found in the Taoist Chun-Tzu was, however, not found in the Confucian rule (Kohn, 1993). The principle stated that a gentleman displayed five virtues namely generosity, self respect, persistence, sincerity and benevolence. It follows that as a son remained loyal; as an official he remained faithful and loyal; as a husband he remained just and righteous and as a father he remained just and kind (Kohn, 1993).
Both the Confucian teachings and the Taoist rule promoted moral grounds on which behavior is gauged with the Confucian moral structure and the Taoist having moral codes that governed and set out rules on how an individual and/or community may behave towards certain concepts.
Taoism taught that things went wrong, when there was an imbalance between the Yin- Yang energies and equilibrium could only be attained when man stopped manipulating nature through dominance (Liu, 2009). The consequences of selfish desires that resulted from dominance were disastrous occurrences that manifested the Tao. Setbacks were temporary and nature triumphed; much damage occurred, however, if man forced his will and perceptions on nature. There were ten precepts that governed behavior of a Taoist namely: Do not kill but always be mindful of the host of living beings; Do not be lascivious or think depraved thoughts; Do not steal or receive unrighteous wealth; Do not cheat or misrepresent good and evil; Do not get intoxicated but always think of pure conduct; I will maintain harmony with my ancestors and family and never disregard my kin; When I see someone do a good deed, I will support him with joy and delight; When I see someone unfortunate, I will support him with dignity to recover good fortune; When someone comes to do me harm, I will not harbor thoughts of revenge and finally, As long as all beings have not attained the Tao, I will not expect to do so myself (Kohn, 1993).
According to Franke & Altenmuller (2000) most Taoism’s beliefs on the case of mistakes and behavior are closely related with the Confucius ethical beliefs based on the Li principles that emphasized on proper worship of spirits in the universe and the order of ruler ship.