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Switch to Forum Live View Religion or Philosophy?
10 years ago  ::  Mar 18, 2008 - 7:29PM #21
Posts: 110
Both Tao and Dao are fine.  They are different ways of romanizing the word.  The Wade-Giles method romanizes it as "Tao," while the Pinyin method romanizes it as "Dao."
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10 years ago  ::  Jun 25, 2008 - 1:52PM #22
Posts: 2
I don't know but I like it better than anything else I have ever come across.

I have a problem with gods but not with processes or metaphors of gods.

I am strongly attracted to Taoism
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10 years ago  ::  Jul 30, 2008 - 11:36PM #23
Posts: 14
Hey guys, I'm new and I love reading here and learning. Please check out this website of mine where I make philosophical haiku and attempt to make modern analogies to Taoism. I'd love some comments and feedback!!! Thank you & peace~
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9 years ago  ::  Jan 12, 2009 - 7:36PM #24
Posts: 1
One translation of the Tao Te Ching begins "The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao." Similarly, I would argue, "The Taoism that can be named [philosophy, religion] is not the true Taoism."
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9 years ago  ::  Jan 14, 2009 - 12:36AM #25
Posts: 25,009
Jarrod--nice answer.

That's close to what I was going to say--only you said it more briefly than I was going to.

"Call it a religion, a philosophy, a cult, a whatever ... doesn't really matter.

Keep the labels off and keep focused on the natural principles as you flow along the path."

Very Taoist as far as I'm concerned.
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9 years ago  ::  Feb 15, 2009 - 8:34PM #26
Posts: 7

Starjumper_7 wrote:

Taoism is a religion and a philosophy.  It has many segments that blend the two to various degrees.  Your indoctrination into Western religions has probably narrowed your view as to what a religion can be because in Taoism some ypes of Chi Kung cultivation with meditation is considered to be part of the religious aspect.

Those who only look at the philosophy, who think they can learn what Taoism is about by only reading about it, are really missing the boat.  This too is a result of Western religious indoctrination.

Wayne Dyer is fool, don't believe him here on beliefnet.

I would have to disagree that Chi Gung and Daoist meditation are religious. You can practice these in many Chinese martial arts schools (the good ones!) without any belief in God or the supernatural at all.
But, yes, Daoism is something to practice, to experience to really understand. But religious belief is not necessary to practice.

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9 years ago  ::  Feb 28, 2009 - 10:19AM #27
Posts: 2

For starters, I'm not even sure if Religion and Philosophy are mutually exclusive.  For example a Taoist philosophy is to simplify.  Lots of religions have that philosophy.

But I think the reason this question comes up all the time is because Taoism is GENERALLY a lone path - a search for God within oneself.  But we here in the West GENERALLY consider the search for God to be done in organized groups (i.e. thru religion). 

So people in the West can't understand how the search for God can be focused within. 

BTW, sure Taoism has Masters and it's a good way to learn, but a Master doesn't lead you thru the gate to God.  The Master shows you the gate, but you must ultimately pass thru yourself.   And I'm sure there are Masters who would have you believe your knowledge of God must come thru them.  Likewise, I'm sure there are organized Taoist churches, but personally I don't think of them when I think of Toaism - to me "Taoist Church" is a term like "Hot Water Heater" or "Military Intelligence"!

So, because most Westerners can't comprehend how a search for God could possibly take place outside of some organization of high learners, the question of is Toaism a philisophy or a religion frequently comes up even though it's not important to the Taoists!

Anyway, just my opinion (which could change at anytime) and just words (which frequently miss the mark).


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9 years ago  ::  Feb 28, 2009 - 1:35PM #28
Posts: 110

Hey Wake2Sleep,

I tried to quote you but the quotes come out all messed up.  Seems like the new system is different from the old one.  So I'm just going to respond to you without the quotes, but I'll indicate what I'm addressing to in the text of my post.  I hope it's not too hard to read.

I have been stressing the same point many times on this board: that traditionally, Daoist philosophy is an integral part of Daoist religion.  So we are complete agreement here.  While one may choose to practice only Daoist philosophy apart from its various religious practices, I don't think one can truly appreciate Daoist religiosity apart from its philosophy.

There is some truth to saying that Daoism is more individualistic and that Western religions are more communal, but it's important to recognize the communal element of Daoism and the individualistic element of Western religions.  While a main focus is on the individual's cultivation, it is significant that traditional Daoist cultivation is carried out in the forms of communities, such as monastic orders.  In addition, there has also been a stress of service to community under various forms: from the communes of early Tian Shi Dao, to the goal of universal salvation of Ling Bao Pai, to the general community services provided by various monastic groups, such as the Quan Zhen order.  I was particularly impressed by the elderly care provided by a Quan Zhen monastery I visited in Hong Kong.

It's also important to note that there is an individual component to Western religions.  Medieval Christianity stressed the importance of mysticism, and this continues today in the Catholic and Orthodox monasteries.  The Evangelicals today often speak of personal relationship with God.

I think "looking within" is something that is often de-emphasized in modern Christianity, but Medieval Christian mysticism certainly stresses a very introspective form of spirituality.

The organization model of Daoism is different from that of Western religions.  Since a long time ago in Daoist history until today, there are only priestly orders and no real denominations in traditional mainstream Daoism, and there appears to be no strict requirement of formal lay membership in order for one to practice Daoism.  Lay participation range from very loose (such as asking Daoist priests to perform funeral services) to very strict (such as becoming an initiated lay practitioner, known as Ju Shi, of a particular order.)  There is also a high sense of inclusivity -- it was not uncommon to have a Buddhist service and a Daoist service for the same deceased person.  This inclusivity can potentially reach even the level of the monastics -- Tao Hong Jing, one of the most influential Daoist masters of all times, was also a Buddhist monk!  Of course, Tao Hong Jing's situation seems to be quite unique, and is probably one of the few cases, if not the only one, but even one such incident is remarkable enough: it might probably be the equivalent of a Catholic bishop being simultaneously a Jewish rabbi.  It is also important to point out that there had been periodic hostility between Buddhism and Daoism in China.  However, their level of mutual inclusivity is something seemingly unheard of in Western religions.

The bifurcation of Daoist philosophy and Daoist religion in the West is a very complex issue.  When I have time, I will give it a fuller treatment.  In a nutshell, there are many factors, including four major ones: 1) some Chinese intellectuals going back as far as the 8th century has valorized the philosophical elements of Daoism over its more religious elements, and this phenomenon seems to have also crossed the cultural border when Chinese cultural was brought to the West, 2) the European Enlightenment movement dichotomized between religion and philosophy, 3) some Western Daoists are liberal Christians who seek to reconcile Daoism with Christianity, and obviously they would hesitate to accept many Daoist religious views, and 4) many Western Daoists are atheists and agnostics who have issues with some of the supernatural elements of Daoism.

I'm particularly interested in the last one, because I'm myself an agnostic.  However, I don't think it is necessary to accept any religious elements literally by faith.  I may be mistaken, but I think a layman can probably look at them metaphysically or symbolically.  There are tremendous metaphysical and symbolical value in matters such as Daoist deities and immortality.  In fact, some Daoist teachings suggest that the Daoist deities are transformations of metaphysical energies, and are ultimately manifestations of Dao.  In addition, the teaching about immortality can be applied to everyday life to improve our overall well-being here and now, even if you don't believe in literal immortality.

A lot of what you said seems to be on the mark.  Keep it up =)

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9 years ago  ::  Mar 07, 2009 - 8:51AM #29
Posts: 2


First, I thank you so much for taking the time to make this post.

There is some truth to saying that Daoism is more individualistic and that Western religions are more communal, but it's important to recognize the communal element of Daoism and the individualistic element of Western religions. 

I haven't learned as much about Daoist monastic orders as I probably should have.  That path is one that I can't take at this point in my life, but there must be something to learn there, maybe about the sticking point that I am currently at in my own practice - how to  integrate into society.  Service is one part, and really the easy part!  But I can't serve all the time - I have to pay the bills.  And of course family "obligations", but to be honest, I think that knowledge of the love of a woman and children make me a better, more knowledgable Taoist and are an integral part of the path that I am on.

Tao Hong Jing, one of the most influential Daoist masters of all times, was also a Buddhist monk! 

I definitely believe this.  I found myself reading a lot of Zen Buddhist texts - there is so much good information out there and it seems like they have reduced the art of meditation down to a science.

Also, i too feel that spirit of inclusivety is important - to see the underlying Tao in all paths.  There's a Taoist saying (?) - "you can learn something from everyone".  THat person doesn't have to be another Taoist, right?


The bifurcation of Daoist philosophy...

There's a lot here to chew on and I could probably think about it for a couple weeks - thanks again for taking the time.

Ultimately, I'm probably the closest to 4) and I agree with you totally (re: interpretation of Daoist supernatural elements), so much so that I hesitate to use the word "supernatural".  I think there are elements to the universe that we (humans) have been modeled in various ways.  I use the term "model" here the way a statistician would - we (statisticians) model a real-world scenario because it gives us an idea of the probability of events happening and we can make use of that.  Where a statistician may model with math, we (philosophers?) are just modeling the universe with words.  They are only an approximation, but just because they aren't exactly right doesn't mean they aren't very useful.  Likewise, since the words are only an approximation we must always be willing to tweak our model or even throw it out if necessary in favor of a better model if "the data" supports it.

That's the beauty of Taoism (and several other spiritual paths, like Zen Buddhism I believe) - the realization that the map is not the territory.

That's also the ugliness of many religions and/or spiritual paths - the insistence that the map IS the only territory and if it's not on the map - DIE DIE DIE!!!

Just kidding there.  Hope i didn't scare you with the caps...

But seriously, thanks again MengTzu.  I'm fairly knew to the beliefnet boards, but it seems like there's a lot of good viewpoints out there.  I'll probably go back and read your posts - i don't know if we're on the same path, but i don't think our paths are that far apart (right now anyway!).


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9 years ago  ::  Mar 16, 2009 - 2:58PM #30
Posts: 5

I have recently discovered the Tao...and find it very clean, clear and beautiful. I thought I might join some posts, but I can see that it may be the same as with Christianity and other systems that human beings are involved with...they mess it up and make the truth of it muddy and legalistic. How to keep it pure and yet discuss from a clear perspective.  

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