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Last update: May 5th 2008
First I would like to complement you people for interacting in the discussion, I very much appreciate it. If you just want to read and don't want to interact, that's fine too. Do whatever feels best for you, but don't be afraid to let yourself be heard.
As you might have noticed, I'm the new Taoism teacher. So I'll be making some adjustments around here, and of course, I will add some more interesting stuff. I'd also like to have a nice discussion going on here, but that's for later. I'll leave the information written by the previous teacher on here for now. I'll sort out later what I want to keep and what not. So if you think his words are very precious, save them while you can ;) So I hope you'll keep a check on the page and enjoy reading it.
Now, you've come across this page, which means that, you are interested and know something about it, or that you've come here by chance. (Probably bored and clicking on every link you see.) Well all is fine.. I'll start by trying to explain a bit about what Taoism is. And in doing this, I immediatly encounter a bit of a problem, because you cannot really say what the tao is. The Tao, is everything. And in fact, it's more. Now this can be a little hard to understand at first. So keep in mind, that language is something we as humans have made. A construct. But language itself is ofcourse not everything there is. (Although we are very prone to believe it is) So language is a layer, a tool by which we describe the world around is. But this tool can never be 100% accurate. Just think about it, if you really want to describe something, let's say a coin. What is a coin? It's a flat, round metal object. Now if I would never have seen a coin, or metal or something flat, I wouldn't have the faintest idea what you are talking about. So can you describe it in more detail? What is flat? Flat is something which is not thick. Now do you see, that you end up in a vicious circle of describing words. Replacing one word for another. So behind language is the reality which we cannot describe.
So, when we say that Tao is everything, we aren't really saying what it truly is, but we are pointing towards it.
This difficulty of language is why the things I am about to tell you further on, may sound contradictional or very strange. So whenever you get stuck on something, feel free to ask me about it, and I´ll gladly give you another puzzling awnser!
Ok, so far for the introduction.
Tao, which is more often pronounced as Dao is life, or the flow of life. A rather obscure statement but as you´ve read before I´m tied up with words.
Now the importance of Tao lies in going with the flow. This does not mean that you don´t have to do anything. Picture the Tao as a river. If you just let yourself go with the flow of the river, floating around, you are bound to hit your head very hard on one (probably more) of the rocks in the river. So going with this flow means not struggling against life. This is futile, we cannot winn that fight. But it also doesn't mean that you have to let yourself hit every rock in your path. It's responding to changes. If you see a rock ahead of you, swim with the current, but just a little bit left or right so you won't hit it.
Now I know this sounds very obvious, but when we take a look at our lives, we can see that we do the opposit. We always try to hold on to things.. which cause suffering. Take death for example. I know I'm pushing you in deep water now.. Because we as Western people ( and nowadays more Eastern people too) are brought up to think that death is terrible. It is the end! And things that end are not good. So we try to cling to life.. extending it to the max. When people are very old and sick, we bring them to the hospital, connect them to all kinds of machinery just to extend their lives for just a few days perhaps. Why are we doing this. Death as we all know, is innevitable. The only certainty we have in life is that we are going to die. So in fighting death, we are swimming against the flow of the river, wearing ourselves out and not being very happy. Wouldn´t we be more happy if we just went along with that flow?
This idea still brings up a lot of negative emotions in people because we are not used to see death as something positive.
This fear or resentment towards death has very deep roots. It comes down to what we think is the point of living. Most people have set certain goals in their lives which they are convinced they must achieve, or else their lives would have been pointless. To die before reaching them would be a disaster. But what if, life was about having fun? Living in the moment and not setting these ridiculous goals for ourselves. Then you might think that death will stop that happy life. And yes death has the tendency to do that. But don't you see that to exists, everything has to end at some point?
Now this brings me to another key point of Tao. The yin yang symbol. Which actually has a name; the Taijitu.
You've probably all seen this symbol at some point in your life. Why is that? Well because it's a darn good one!
Let's digg deeper into the meaning of this symbol. At first glance, what do we see?
Black and white
Two 'drops' that seem to follow eachother
Each drop has a circle with a contrasting color in it.
Now we can look at these attributes of the symbol and think about the meaning of it.
Black and white: Two contrasting colors. If you look at life, at the world, at basically everything, you'll see that everthing comes in contrast. In order to have black, you have to have white and vice versa. Some more examples; Long-short, thick-thin, smart-dumb, cold-warm, sunny-cloudy, positive-negative and maybe most important of all, happy-sad. It's crucial that you understand that the negative side is absolutely needed for there to be a positive side. It's in our human nature to want to get rid of this negative side. Who wants to be sad right? Of course nobody does, but we cannot really escape it. So instead of fighting it and making it worse, we should accept it as part of life. Black and white go together, which brings me to next attribute.
A circle: What would be the first shape that comes to mind if I ask you to take in your minds eye the most perfect shape? I do hope it's a circle or else you are messing up my explanation. Anyways, with me, it's a circle. A circle stands for unity and eternity. This circle holds the two contrasting 'drops' together. "Duality is unity." If the drop shapes are seperate they are sort of incomplete, together they form a perfect shape, a circle.
Drops: Now this section is very similar to the previous one. The drops seem to follow eachother. This implies movement. Movement of the circle. The circle does not have a beginning or an end and so the movement is infinite. This tells us something about taoism that is quite different from most beliefs and philosophies. Whereas most of them try to give us an explanation for where we came from and were we are headed, taoism does not. It simply does not deem that to be of any importance. In taoism the only time that counts is 'now.' What happened in the past cannot be change, why bother thinking about it. What will happen in the future is not something you should be occupied now ( apart from planning the future of course. Going to school, saving money and so on are all very sensible things to do). If you keep thinking about the future you are missing out in life, because life happens now. And this 'now' we are talking about is infinite, as infinite as the circle and the drops we see in the taijitu.
Contrasting circles: One black circle in the white drop and one white circle in the black drop. The older symbols lack these circles, so this is something that was added later. At first glance one might think that these circles ruin the perfectly good drops. And maybe they do. The meaning of circles is to show that nothing is perfect ( and in that way, everything is perfect. [Open for discussion] ). If we think about someone we absolutely hate, we tend to think of them as pure evil. But does pure evil really excist? This person might be the biggest jackass you know and might treat you like shit. But it might just be that he has a kid he adores and treats very well. So even though it is often hard to see, a negative side has always a bit of positiveness in it. And ofcourse, something which seems very positive always has a downside.
That covers the taijitu for now. I find it a very apt symbol. I've looked at it many times and thought about even so many times but I still find new layers and new ways of interpreting it in daily life. And I think that if you keep this in the back of your mind, you'll start to see the many aspects of life where this symbol can be applied.
Writing by previous teacher
This is a classroom intended to teach those that are interested about Taoism and the universal way. Most people see Taoism as a religion, however, I do not see Taoism as a religion, I see it as something similair to Confucianism, not a belief, but a way of life, an ongoing study and understanding of life and the universe. Many of you, I would bet all, have seen a yin-yan symbol before, it is a symbol that represents light and dark, good and evil, or that nearly any opposite has to exist with it's counterpart, or it doesn't exist, sun cannot exist without shade, good with out evil, male without female, etc. With this, you must understand, that no matter what good things happen, bad things will too, but following the path to enlightenment means realizing this... you must embrace good times and shrug off bad. Maybe some of you know that the greatest teacher of the universal way, was Lao Tzu. If you are interested in Toaism (you probably are if you're reading this page), you might want to go to your local library and check out the Toa Teh Ching, and/or the Hua Hu Ching to study Lao Tzu's Teachings. Moving on now, I shall start your education with the universal way...
The Universal Way is the destination
of all spiritual efforts of humankind.
It serves all people's lives,
everywhere and always.
The Universal Way conveys the deep truth
of all conscious elaborations of the human mind.
It Contains the vast and profound essence
of the human spirit.
Thus it transcends all religious teachings,
leaving them behind,
like the clothing of a bygone season.
The Universal Way is the goal of all sciences,
but is not locked at the level of the intellect.
It cuts through all wasteful skepticism
and inexhaustible searching.
Thus it surpasses all sciences,
leaving them behind
like historical relics of the past.
The Subtle Essence that is sought
by all sciences and all religions
transcends all attempts to reach it
by means of thought, belief or experiment.
THe Universal Way leads directly to it
and guides you to reach it yourself
by uniting with the Integral Nature of the Universe.
The Universal Way is like the master key
to all doors leading to the inner room
of ultimate truth.
It is the master teaching of all teachings,
yet it relies on no religions and no experiments.
There is no need for intellectual or emotional detours
that cannot serve the lives of all people
everywhere and always.
Follow the Universal Way Beyond all boundaries.
to the heart and essence of natural life itself.
The subtle Way of the universe
appears to lack strength,
yet its power is inexhaustible.
Fathomless, it could be the origin of all things.
It has no sharpness,
yet it rounds off all sharp edges.
It has no form,
yet it unties all tangles.
It has no glare,
yet it merges all lights.
It harmonizes all things
and unites them as one integral whole.
It seems so obscure,
yet it is the Ultimate Clarity,
Whose offspring it is can never be known.
It is that which existed before any divinity.
Back to Religion or the Elftown Academy
Past teachers: [xTxRex]
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