Taoism is an ancient Chinese religion, and the start of this culture dates back way before what most people would have thought. Due to the fact that communication between people back then is not as easy as today, only the really outstanding ones or those with higher level connections in the society will be acknowledged. However, there are many people and minor schools and sects that might have been around way back before what history shows today. In general, Taoism, or Doe Gaau/ Dao Jiao 道教 today is more of a category that labels a whole bunch of Chinese religions which have similarities in some sorts, and most Chinese will admit or feel that these sects are all okay to be fitted under the same label. Taoism’s practice mostly involves some burning of incense, altars, FU talismans, scriptures, and some sorts of cultivations and theories that is used to improve their physical and spiritual health. There aren’t really such things as just “philosophy Taoism” before the western culture kicks in this field, but today there are many who don’t want to dig into Taoism fully or fall under a specific sect, and so they decided to just be a researcher or fans to study Taoism and its history from what’s available in the open field such as bookstores, library, and the internet, and there goes the philosophy Taoism trend today.
You might be confused about why Taoism was never just a philosophy as some would have claimed. The debates will all go back to what defines as a “Religion” in the Chinese culture in general, as compare to what defines a religion in the rest of the world. The eastern culture uses words very differently from the west.
What Defines Religion
In Chinese, the word for religion is mostly the word of Gaau/Jiao 教 as in Doe Gaau/ Dao Jiao 道教 for Taoism. This word means to “teach”, and it’s pretty much composed of two parts. Left is 孝, which means to give off something that is finished in its creation process, and giving birth to a new start, or new life. The other side is a top plus 乂 which means an inheriting of intention or thoughts, etc. Combines together, it is like when teaching is done between a parent to a child. The parent has finished their experience of life for the past years and came up with new ideas and thoughts, which now they will inherit it to the child and give their wisdom to them. The Same pattern goes to teachers and students or sifu(s) and disciples. By the way, the decoding of words is one of the unique knowledge we have inherited in Saam Law Sun Gung, it’s so much better than flipping through the dictionary, to be honest!
As you can see, the word for religion is about teaching and inheriting some kind of thinking, or thoughts, or wisdom, that is found by the previous generations. While the word for Religion in the west is mostly about a belief of some sorts of supernatural powers, and maybe about some sorts of superhuman, and there goes a group of people that follows the trend to believe in this religion’s claims. There is really no teachings involved or required, but pure beliefs and the gatherings are mostly to unite people and bring people’s mind together to be trust and have faith in the path more and more with their activities. While on the Chinese side, getting into a “Religion”, such as Taoism, is for learning and not just to believe, it’s like entering a school more than a fellowship. People get into Taoism to learn things that can benefit them and their families or even friends. It’s a learning and inheriting of wisdom, skills, and knowledge.
For example, people enters our lineage, which is categorized as Taoism, to learn Saam Law Sun Gung, the Taoist magic. By learning it, you can apply the magic powers and methods to everything in your life for solving problems, improving things and their outcomes, or giving your business and work a boost to make them better, increasing potentials, or even avoiding hiccups for a project or vacation. Self-defense with martial arts might be cool to learn, but that is only applicable when you are already being attacked on location, and there is always a risk of failure, leading to more tragic outcomes. But with the practice of Taoist magic in our lineage, we learn to deal with the energy side of things first, and so you can dissolve the chances of this attack to even come to reality before it can shape up itself in this dimension. The idea is like to stop someone’s thinking about doing something before they even do it, and that is the best way to deal with things most of the time because it reduces the chance of yourself getting hurt! As you can see, learning Taoist magic under our lineage can be like a form of self-defense or protection too, and it’s not like you need to start fighting people all day long to prepare for a big blood and gore fight moment. You go through some safe and easy cultivation every day to deal with your energy body, your house’s energy, and clean up the unwanted pollution or negative energies that attract bad things to you. By doing so, you are already avoiding the eyes and senses of those thugs who are looking for a prey. Taoism is very different from what you might think as a religion in the west, right? We don’t “pray to God” for help or ask for blessings from any spirits. It’s all your own spiritual energy work that you will cultivate, use and apply on yourself and things around you that bring you the protection you want.
Basic Taoism Concept
Taoism concept is mostly about the patterns and principles of nature, but it takes a long time for someone to understand them well, and really know how to apply it to things in life, and even in what we call Taoist magic. The most foundational knowledge or concept of Taoism is mostly known as the Tao and Te theory. The word Tao Te together means “virtue”, but it is too vague to make someone understand it properly. With simple English and practical examples, you will understand it after the little lecture below, without having to flip a page on what most people refer to as the Tao Te Ching.
The Theory of Tao and Te
Tao and Te are 道德 in Chinese, we say Doe Duck in Cantonese. Tao and Te are not a definite subject like blood, bones, meat or fish. Just like all words in Taoism, they are seen as a pattern, and it categorizes everything that matches the same word.
Tao is the leading essence of a unit like the head of your body or the boss of a company that gives the intentions and thoughts to make the whole unit flow toward a certain direction. If you understand the theory of Tao, you should know that the Tao should be continuously feeding and supporting the things it gave birth to. Just like parents should be feeding and supporting their children.
Te is the cycle that continues from the receiving end of what the Tao gives. As we all say, you cannot just take and not give back to where you get your stuff from, or the cycle will be broken and it’s like a body with an arm chopped off, the blood will keep on depleting from the source, and nothing is pumping things back to the headquarter to make the future cycle possible. Te is to give back to the source of where it started, which is the Tao. For example, children will give back to the parents even since they are a baby or a kid. They don’t give back only with money when they start to get a job and work. Children give back in the form of happiness and behave well to harmonize the parents and make them happy, energized and hopeful to keep going.
Why care about Tao and Te? IF you care about a good healthy relationship between you and others, or even you and your house, business, and other objects, then you should look into this theory. Some people keep using their house and not give back to it by doing renovation, or even cleaning, guess what happens after a few months? The principle is so easy, but we often failed to realize it in life. In Taoism, we acknowledge that Tao comes before Te, and that means the leader should give before the others in the system should give back. It’s like hiring someone for work, you give them what they need to do the work first, and they will make sales for you. We can’t hire someone and not give them anything to use, then expect them to make a profit for the company, right?
What makes Tao and Te so important in Taoism? The principle of Tao and Te leads to the other knowledge that tell us how our spiritual and physical body works together or circulates, and there are many things that are beyond just the Tao and Te in the human society. We can go on and on for decades to talk about the deeper side of Tao and Te, but at least the basic concept is cleared already.
As a contrast to the slave and lord concept, Taoism is totally the opposite in mindset. We do not believe that a good relationship or future can be built by using power to control people and make them work for free, or even those “using the minimal to earn the maximum profit” kind of theories. These theories are not what Taoism talks about and they conflict the principle of Tao and Te. We believe that there is always a smart and better way to make the cycle flows in your flavor, yet there is always a need to have the equivalent output for what to come back.
What Defines a Taoist
If you agree to the principle above, or to even more theories of Taoism, you are not a Taoist yet. You can be a believer or a fan of Taoism, but the essence of Taoism is to get a to know what is the Tao that you should be looking for, and working on. Most people are confused about what a real Taoist should be doing and cultivating. From the open resources, online, and in most bookstores, the friendly style of “Taoism” is often just about agreeing to some broad theories and accepting the concept, then you are automatically a Taoist. If things are that simple, then there won’t be Taoism and so many sects of Taoism over the many thousands of years.
A real Taoist cultivate to learn about their spiritual bodies and their spiritual side of life as well as their physical side of life that is being affected by the spiritual side all the time. In nature, nothing gave birth to something non-physical, then the non-physical shapes and give birth to the physical. If you agree to the definition of spiritual is equals to “non-physical” matters, then you should understand the theory very well. Our spiritual side fuels and shapes up our physical reality life. Just like saying, your intention and thoughts is what creates or generates your physical action. A Taoist should understand this well and so to fix up things in life or to deal with issues in life, one should not be focusing only on the physical side of life only, but starting from their spiritual side of life. Where does life start from?
In Taoism, we talk about the Yuen Sun, our spiritual planetary body, or you can call it the essence body of yourself. This essence is what powers you up and give you the essence of life. Everyone has one, and it’s basically like a spiritual planet. You are a human living on a planet here, but on the other side of the universe, you are a spiritual planet with beings living on you as well. Just like the Yin and Yang theory, everything has an opposite face that is exactly the mirrored image of the other side.
Without the cultivation of Taoist magic, which is to be inherited from a specific sect or lineage, one might have to go on and on for hundreds of years trying to figure out how to touch this field and how to even reach their Yuen Sun, not to even mention how to pump things down from it and how to put things back into it as the theory of Tao and Te teaches us. Being a true Taoism, we cultivate with all sorts of methods, but the main concept is to build a better connection between our own Tao, the Yuen Sun, and so that it can flow better and fuel us with our resources of life better. As a result, the soul will get stronger, and your physical life can be better. At the same time, we learn to cultivate energies and essences in this world and pump it back to the Yuen Sun of ourselves, which allows the Yuen Sun to keep generating things for us in the future, and that completes the cycle of Tao and Te.
Being a Taoist of our lineage and being a Taoist in other sects is going to lead you to a different path because the teachings and what their “Tao” is in the lineage is different. Simply said, if you are in one lineage of Taoism, that lineage is also your Tao, and it will lead you to one specific destiny after this life. But in another lineage, the destiny is set to a different direction, and that is why they are named and taught differently. In our lineage, you will cultivate Saam Law Sun Gung and your destiny is set to be cultivating toward Dai Law Tin, and our direct is set to cultivate to be back to the most Pre-Heaven universe.
Read more about our lineage and feel free to ordain and join in, if you want to start learning and witnessing what real Taoist magic is like right away. You cannot learn to swim by reading and calling yourself a swimmer without touching the real water. Taoism and Taoist magic is something to be inherited and learned by hands-on cultivation. You learn as you do, and you learn as you speak with your sifu(s) directly. That is how it was taught from the ancient times, and it is how we teach it today. There is no “certs and belts” in the real Taoism teaching style, because disciples and sifu(s) are bonded by the heart, and not a piece of paper that means nothing but administration fee. Learning Taoism for real is actually very fun, and you do not need to know Chinese to learn it well. We have sifu(s) in the lineage that is 100% native American, and they did It! Many western people can cook nice Chinese food today, and real knowledge can be taught to people bypassing language barrier, and that happens to start with a good sifu who can teach you properly!