Danae wrote: NonTien wrote:The book "The Importance of Living" by Lin Yutang is a book about many subjects dealing with philosophy from a Taoist point ov view. Lin Yutang himself was a Taoist. This book talks extensively on the subject of Taoism compared with other philosophies. In fact, Lin Yutang wrote a translation of the Tao Te Ching in the 1930's that happens to be one of the best ones I have come across;
Thank you NonTien for that information. I looked up "The Importance of Living" on Amazon and read all the reviews. Although the book got many good reviews and seems like a helpful book. I'm not convinced that it's helpful in the way of the Tao as opposed to general human wisdom. According to the reviews, the main theme of the book is to learn how to loaf around, relax and enjoy leisure. I'm not sure, but I don't think that fits with Tao philosophy. So at this time I'm not going to order the book. I'll keep the book on my list and perhaps I'll change my mind and order it later on.
There is a little confusion here - I did not write "Thank you for that information..."
Again - it seems if one is not quoting James legge or Alan Watts they have absolutely no idea of the concepts of Taoism. I am obviously in the wrong forum here - I invite the thinking of anyone who embraces the Tao. Of course each individual will be at different levels of experience, but we like to take it a step further and include modern day situations and how Tao interacts.
We have intersected on the commonality of the following subjects;
On the exclusive grounds that the destruction of life and the disruption of Nature is in direct conflict with the Tao, we would oppose abortion without hesitation; however, other factors are involved. Abortions are almost always sought by people who must take such action to preserve their own lives (or way of life) and perhaps the lives of people they love. Thus, the situation takes on the same feel as the discussion of euthanasia in this list of our beliefs.
We advise that the choice to abort a pregnancy be avoided whenever possible and reasonable, but we support those who choose to have an abortion, providing that their reasons for doing so are generally sound.
Some of the ancient teachings of Traditional Religious Taoism place a high value on the practice of alchemy. Originally, the purpose of so-called "Alchemical Taoism" was to seek physical immortality by literally converting the body into an ageless material. This was done by some practitioners through the ingestion of gold, as well as other minerals and Earthly substances (some of which were poisonous!)
Taoists still place a value on alchemy, but its purpose for us is simply to promote health, not to seek immortality. In fact, we perform our "alchemy" with herbs, medical treatments and sensible diet and lifestyle, rather than through the ingestion of heavy metals or adherence to strict codes of "internal alchemical" meditation and visualization. Although our application of the term "alchemy" is obviously very different from the Traditional application, the concept is the same: We simply live our lives in ways which will make our bodies healthier and stronger.
Capital Punishment (i.e. the "death penalty") is another of the relatively few sociopolitical issues on which Taoism takes a strong stance -- in this case, a negative one. Our Creed contains the following statement: "We reject hatred, intolerance, and unnecessary violence, and embrace harmony, love and learning, as we are taught by Nature." While the discovery of an unstable and dangerous element in our society -- in this case, a criminal -- does indeed warrant action on our part, that action must be limited to the removal of the dangerous element from our midst, thus protecting the relative civility and stability of our society in general. Our judicial and prison systems (despite their well-known flaws) are generally quite capable of carrying out that task. Once a convicted capital criminal is imprisoned, he or she is no longer a threat to society; the murder of that criminal, then, can serve only as vengeance, as a state-sponsored satiation for bloodlust. Thus, assuming that we aspire to be creatures driven by something more noble than bloodlust, capital punishment obviously constitutes "unnecessary violence."
Furthermore, it is an unavoidable facet of the human condition that violence begets violence. Each time we execute someone -- despite the ostensibly "humane" methods by which we do so -- we lose a little bit of our civility and humanity. Each time we stand by quietly while our government takes a life (or worse yet, support such action through political or other means), we send our children the message that murder for vengeance is an acceptable concept in our society.
Finally, what are we to make of current research data, which indicate that capital punishment is not the deterrent to crime that it was once thought to be? How are we to atone for the occasional (but certainly significant) execution of criminals who are posthumously exonerated of their crimes?
When we consider all of these troubling aspects of capital punishment, we feel that we must reach the same conclusion that so many other "developed" societies and cultures around the world have reached: Capital punishment is an archaic, socially-brutalizing practice, and one that we must strive diligently to abolish. Within the context of Taoism, it violates our Oath of Benevolence, it violates our Creed, and it works to distance us from the benevolent harmony of the Tao.
"The Tao begot one.
One begot two.
Two begot three.
And three begot the ten thousand things. [ten thousand things refers to the entire universe]
"The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang.
They achieve harmony by combining these forces."
As a product of Nature and the Tao, we essentially believe in the current theory of Evolution, although we are certainly open to other possibilities. The concept of a divine Creation (as it is applied to the theory of a personified deity), however, is completely unreasonable to us. To assume that such an event occurred would imply the following:
1) Some higher power invests a personal interest in Earth and specifically humans.
2) Humans are inherently more important than any other life in the Universe, to warrant such divine parentage.
3) The concept of the Tao would necessarily be invalid.
We hold the view that humans, as well as all other life and non-life in the Universe, were and are still being created as an act of sheer Natural process, nothing more.
DEATH, THE SOUL AND IMMORTALITY
"The beginning of the universe
Is the mother of all things.
Knowing the mother, one also knows the sons.
Knowing the sons, yet remaining in touch with the mother,
Brings freedom from the fear of death."
Humans naturally consider their "lives" to consist of the time between mortal birth and mortal death. We believe, however, that only the body -- the physical conglomerate of skin and bone -- is subject to age. The spirit of a person, his or her soul, is immortal. But what exactly is a soul?
The soul is what makes each human being unique. After all, we all have the same muscles and bones; we all have skin, a face, hands and feet. One person's brain even looks and operates very much like another's. Neuroscience has identified most biological and psychological functions. Given our similarities and this vast store of knowledge about the mind and body, can we explain why each person has a distinctly unique aura and intangible effect on those around him or her? Can we determine why one person feels pain, pleasure, love or jealousy in a different way than another? For that matter, why are there people that you could never fall in love with, and people you could?
These questions simply cannot be explained with biochemistry. We must look further than science; we must accept that there are things in this Universe which are simply intangible to us and to our scientific methodology. Although we cannot prove the existence of the soul, or even of the Tao, we see overwhelming evidence of their existence all around us.
We believe that the true essence of a person is in the soul, not the body. The body, ultimately, is little more than an "environment suit" for the soul. It allows a person to interact with others, manipulate his or her physical environment, and to experience sensory perception. Thus, when a body dies, the person does not.
Taoists believe that mortal life is just one of the infinite number of experiences we will have throughout our journey along the Path. It is an opportunity to get our feet wet in a very hands-on way, as we learn to feel love, hate, pain, and pleasure; as we come to understand the world and the Universe around us. And then, when the body can no longer function, it dies, and the soul is free. We must learn to overcome the human instinct to view mortal death as the "ultimate end". So, will we be reunited with our loved ones after mortal death? There is no way to know. We rest comfortably knowing, however, that what happens to our souls after mortal death is determined by the same laws of the Universe which govern our mortal life. Therefore, if we learn to live in harmony with the Tao during our mortal lives, we will be in harmony with the Tao after our mortal death. If we can manage that, then everything else will fall into place; that is Nature's way.
DIET AND THE CONSUMPTION OF MEAT
Taoists, like the majority of Taoists over the last 2500 years, need not adhere to any particular dietary restrictions or guidelines. We believe that each individual must decide, for himself or herself, what foods are appropriate for his or her physical and psychological health and balance.
Our Creed, of course, forbids unnecessary violence, and the "Tolerance" section of this document contains the following statement: "Furthermore, other species are not exempt from our tolerance. Every creature must be treated with respect, lest we injure the harmony of the Tao in Nature. We must never harm or kill unless it is unavoidable." These two instances have led some visitors to the WRTC to question the strength of our beliefs. How can we decry unnecessary violence against any creature, but then not take a strong stance in favor of veganism or vegetarianism?
The answer is that we believe that rational thought and the ability to compromise and deal with relativistic concepts are essential elements for healthy human existence. Followers of Jainism (a religious group generally localized in India), by contrast, believe strictly in a concept known as ahimsa, which translates as "non-injury". As Niels C. Nielsen, Jr., of Rice University explains:
'Jains are famous for their attempts to avoid injuring any living creature.... A Jain monk covers his face with a gauze mask or handkerchief to guard against breathing in (and thus killing) insects. He carries a broom to sweep the path ahead of him to avoid stepping on any living beings. At night Jains refrain from drinking water for fear of unintentionally swallowing a gnat. Jains are strict vegetarians; they refuse not only to eat meat but also to use leather.'
from a chapter written by Nielsen in Religions of Asia, Published by St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 1993.
Obviously, even the dietary and daily-living habits of most Western vegetarians would be barbaric from a Jain standpoint, and, likewise, we accept that our refusal to officially denounce the consumption of meat is likely to be seen as barbaric from a Western vegetarian standpoint. By using words and phrases in our Oath of Benevolence and statement on tolerance that are open to a certain degree of personal judgment, though, we demonstrate that we trust Taoists to use their intellect as well as their spiritual sense of morality and understanding of the Tao, and to draw from all of these sources as they make moral and ethical decisions in their daily lives.
Readers may have noticed that Taoism does not take strong administrative stances on intensely personal issues (like diet, sexuality, and abortion). We do not believe that such issues are appropriate for administrative proclamation, and must rightfully be left to individuals to resolve for themselves. Hence, regarding the consumption of meat, we leave it up to individual Taoists to decide, for themselves, whether they feel that the killing of animals for food is "unavoidable" for them personally.
Divination is a point on which Taoism and Traditional Religious Taoism take very different stances. While the practice of various forms of divination was a large part of ancient Taoist practice, we avoid such practices completely, and do not formally recognize the I Ching ("Book of Changes") as an element of our religion. We feel that divination is an attempt to gain enlightenment to the Tao which is not so much spiritual as it is superstitious. In other words, divination qualifies as a "shortcut" to the true Path, and that can only lead to a loss of one's true goals and objectives.
EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE
Traditional Taoism taught that education and knowledge could only lead away from the Tao; Laotze believed that the less "common people" knew about the cruelties of their world, the happier and more content they would be with their lives. It is generally accepted that Laotze probably had political motivations for such statements -- obviously, the less people know about their government, the less likely they will be to find cause to revolt (some have even accused Laotze of advocating a policy of "keeping the people ignorant," and thereby making the populace easier to control).
We take a very different approach. We believe that knowledge and education are essential for personal growth. In order for a person to develop the ability to form opinions and take a stand on issues he believes strongly in, he must be exposed to and challenged by opinions which he naturally opposes (hence the adage, "Only in the face of adversity can we grow"). Modern human society is in desperate need of people who have the courage to think for themselves, who are aware of important issues, and who are willing to stand up for what they believe.
We promote education and knowledge to the greatest extent one chooses to pursue them. We emphasize, however, that the pursuit of knowledge and the study of the Tao are two very different endeavors. The study of the Tao is spiritual, and the pursuit of knowledge is not. Ultimately, though, we need knowledge and education in order to apply our Taoist beliefs to modern life and relationships.
Euthanasia is indeed one of modern society's most debated topics. Some see it as the deliberate destruction of life (in effect, murder), and nothing more. We admit and acknowledge that euthanasia is taking a human life, literally speaking. However, we must remember that our highest duty is to the Tao. When a person who should Naturally have died is kept alive (and possibly suffering) through extensively artificial means, an imbalance is created; we have effectively disrupted the Natural cycle for that person. Death must be accepted and welcomed as naturally as birth, for they are both part of the same cycle.
The issue becomes complicated, unfortunately, when we consider people who are being kept alive as a result of sustaining severe injuries. How does one make an ethical judgment about a twenty or thirty year-old who was in an automobile accident, and will die if taken off life-support? The only resolution to such a situation is to consider all of the circumstances relevant for that particular individual (i.e. how long has the person been unable to survive on his/her own? Is he/she in pain? What are his/her chances of living a normal, full-length life? And most importantly: What would he/she want?) These are questions for which we encourage the family to search for answers among themselves, without outside interference.
The guiding principle here must be our Oath of Benevolence (mentioned later on, under the heading of GOOD AND EVIL). If we can remember that, then the answer will present itself.
"At that time the prince asked the master, 'Venerable Teacher, when people hear this truth in the future, will they be able to follow it?'
"'Kind prince, do not worry about whether there will be people to follow it or not. An integral being knows that nothing which can be put into words is the integral truth. He does not ask people to follow, his only interest is to serve. He does not indulge in worry, but simply does his work. This is called doing that which is done by not-doing.'"
Taoism encourages and condones only "silent" evangelism. By this we mean that we do not press others to join us, because such an approach will certainly arouse feelings of defensiveness in those who do not hold our beliefs. Rather, we lead by example, "silently", and embrace and nurture those who inquire about our beliefs on their own volition.
This is a subject upon which many frown in the Western world. We, however, accept the existence of other intelligent life in the universe as a given. With the countless stars that inhabit our night sky, how can we be so arrogant as to assume that we are alone? Humans are simply not special enough to warrant such an assumption. Most importantly, if we and our planet are indeed simple products of Nature and the Way, then others must surely exist, representing the infinite range of Natural variety and diversity.
GODS AND INTERMEDIARIES
'Some people try very hard to impress a deity in whom they believe, in order to gain special favors or blessings, but this is only a fantasy that demonstrates the person's lack of true spiritual development. Unconditional sincerity is what evokes a response form the subtle realm of universal divine power.
Those who turn to deities as intermediaries between themselves and the subtle truth are like beggars who look outside themselves for the very treasure contained within their own nature. It is only after one discovers one's own divine nature that prayer or any form of worshiping the One Universal Life can be a true and effective spiritual cultivation of the wholeness of eternal life.'
Taoism is non-theistic and non-messianic. In other words, we do not believe in any type of personified god, nor do we believe in a "messiah" (an intermediary, messenger from the Tao, etc.) between ourselves and the Tao. We believe the Tao is All, and that all life and all things are part of the Tao.
GOOD AND EVIL
The yin-yang model teaches us that all complimentary forces flow into each other. This is but the first step, though, to enlightenment on the Nature of the Way. The spiritual goal of a Taoist is to reach a level of enlightenment at which he or she can perceive complimentary forces as not simply flowing into each other, but in fact as one unified system. At a certain level of spiritual enlightenment, the distinction between complimentary forces falls away, and we are left with the harmony and unity of opposites, the true Way.
As Taoists, we worship the Way of harmony and peace. Except in cases of self-defense, we never intentionally inflict pain or suffering on other creatures, emotionally or physically. Hence, we are obliged to take what shall hereafter be our Oath of Benevolence: "Do what you may, but do no avoidable harm."
During our mortal lives, we are at least capable of conceiving of the Tao as a concept; we cannot fully understand it of course, but we obviously possess the ability and desire to pursue that understanding. That pursuit is our deepest purpose and mission in life, and all that we do as people serves to deepen our understanding of the Way. Our minds and bodies are designed in a manner which permits us to undertake this spiritual journey. For that reason, mortal life should be treasured and nourished. We should keep our minds and bodies uncontaminated and strong, so that we can pursue and perceive the Way clearly at all times.
Human bodies are, after all, little more than complex machines. They require a proper balance of exercise and rest, nourishment and excretion, light and darkness, etc. When that balance is disrupted, illness or death can result. The agent of this imbalance can be internal or external.
One example of an internal agent of imbalance might be a chemical imbalance in the brain (this, in a simplified sense, is largely responsible for the vast majority of mental illnesses). Another example would be cancer, in which the body's balance of growth is altered by a fast-growing mass of cells. Many internal imbalances are difficult to detect, and we usually must rely on medical science for help.
An external imbalance, on the other hand, is something that we can detect and correct ourselves, if we know what to look for. Examples of external imbalance would be a lack or excess of sleep, temperature extremes, lack or excess of food or water, too much or too little exercise, etc. External imbalances usually result from decisions we make ourselves, and hence can be changed at will (though not always easily, to be certain).
Illnesses (or rather, our susceptibility to them) always result from an imbalance of some kind. This is one of the ways in which we are reminded of our dependence on and connection to the Tao, and a primary reason for our interest in health and strength.
One of our most cherished beliefs is that all things -- and all people -- are interconnected, though often on levels that we are incapable of consciously perceiving. It is via these unconscious connections that we experience love and hate, compassion and isolation, intuition and "gut feelings." We must endeavor to trust these feelings and sensations, and not to repress them or push them away. After all, they may be our most direct link to our deepest selves and to the true nature of existence.
We do not particularly condemn the use of potentially intoxicating or mind-altering substances, so long as such activity is practiced in moderation. Specifically, individuals should not use such substances in sufficient quantity to disable their senses or reflexes -- the body and mind must be kept healthy and strong, so that the Tao and its manifestations can be perceived and followed at all times. To intentionally dull the senses through intoxication and inebriation is in conflict with the Tao.
Because every individual is different, we urge anyone ingesting or inhaling potentially intoxicating substances to use his or her best judgment. Know when to stop.
Meditation is a term which means something a little bit different to every person. To us, it is defined only as whatever type of introspection an individual uses to gain insight into Nature and the Way. For some, this is a classic sitting meditation. For some, walking may be the key to concentration. Regardless of what form a person's meditation takes, Taoists are careful to set aside time for meditation regularly, allowing us to constantly adapt to the world around us.
MUSIC AND THE ARTS
Artistic endeavors are frequently overlooked and discounted by Western culture, in favor of more analytical and concrete pursuits. This is probably due to the fact that relatively few people have enough artistic drive to dedicate their lives to their art.
Taoism takes a much different stand. While we can only perceive so much with our eyes and our intellects, art allows us to perceive the universe in a completely different way. Artists have a gift for detaching their intellect from their imagination, and this allows their creations to be completely untouched by fallible human reasoning. By bypassing that reasoning and intellect, art can truly communicate directly with the soul. Artistic expression is the closest humans can come to communicating the Tao to each other, and for that reason it is precious. To discount or invalidate it would be to discount the reality of the Tao.
It is through Nature that we observe and study the Tao. Nature is the true, unbiased manifestation of the Way. Thus, if we harm Nature, we are acting contrary to the Tao, and we are also injuring our own ability to perceive it. We act in the interest of the Natural world wherever and whenever possible, through ecological and environmental activism, as well as active protest against those who would carelessly damage Nature for their own gain.
We believe that all religions essentially seek the same understanding. No religious path is "better" than another (since every creature sees the universe in a slightly different way), but because we are Taoists, we understandably believe that Taoism is more "direct" than other traditions. We make that statement based on the following observations:
1) We do not feel the need to personify the Tao or depict it as a personal god(s), unlike the vast majority of organized world religions.
2) We do not need the selfish goals of "salvation" and "immortality" to keep us on the Path; we seek a more evolved, self-reliant sense of conscience, and we devote our lives to harmonizing that conscience with the Way.
3) We do not believe in sin, in concepts of damnation or godly retribution, or in karma; if one of our brothers or sisters strays from the Path, it is seen as part of the learning process, and nothing more. We devote ourselves to the Tao not out of fear or selfish concerns, but because we have a responsibility to ourselves and to Nature to do so.
It should be stressed that we hold other religions in the highest regard -- after all, we are all working toward a common vision. We do not judge other traditions as "right" or "wrong"; we recognize that given of a number of paths to the same destination, some paths will be more direct than others.
We do not practice "prayer" in the common sense of the word. Because the Tao is not personal, we do not practice the voicing of personal concerns and requests to the Tao. We believe that the insight we need as humans comes from Nature and the Way, not from a personal god. We therefore find the answers to our personal problems through inner meditation and outer observation.
As we have already discussed, human life is to be treasured and kept with the highest respect. It follows that procreation is one of the most important acts humans are capable of. However, our devotion to the Tao indicates that we must take responsibility for maintaining harmony and balance in our lives and the lives of others. (The growing problem of global overpopulation is an indication that humanity is losing its balance as a species with Nature).
Because the Tao cannot be comprehended through human intellect, and because science is considered an intellectual pursuit, the pursuit of the Tao and the pursuit of science necessarily follow two completely separate paths. Each may lend credence to the other from time to time, but any closer relationship is impossible. Thus, the pursuit of science (which is often seen as a threat to some religions) should be tolerated and nurtured.
SEXUALITY AND LUST
Traditional Religious Taoism is famous for its teachings on this matter. It teaches that sexual activity is essentially a life-draining activity, and must be engaged in sparingly if one is to remain healthy and strong; if one absolutely insists on engaging in frequent sexual activity, one is urged to learn techniques such as "retrograde *", which can be physically dangerous. Taoism takes a much different approach: Sexual instinct is one of our strongest ties to Nature as human beings, along with hunger, our sense of community, and other such attributes. As such, to ignore or suppress it would be to suppress our ties to the Tao, and thus hinder our search for the Way. Therefore, if our Natural impulses indicate a need for sexual activity, we should do our best (within the limitations of reason, civility, and rationality) to accommodate that need.
It would, of course, be a mistake to over-indulge in such activity as well. Our Natural impulses direct us very precisely as to when we require sexual activity, just as they tell us when we require food or water; we must simply learn to listen.
Furthermore, in modern society, sexual activity is not necessarily connected with procreation. We feel this is a justifiable distinction, and because of that we completely endorse the use of artificial birth control.
Given that Taoism is a "Natural" religion, some might wonder whether we label homosexuality as "unnatural" and summarily condemn it as anti-Tao. Actually, our approach to this issue is quite the contrary.
The reason for this is that the word "Nature", to us, has a much different meaning than for non-Taoists. We believe that Nature is the outward expression of the Tao. All things and energies in the Universe are integral parts of the Tao, and thus nothing which naturally exists is inherently anti-Tao. Therefore, the very fact that homosexuality naturally exists makes it an essential and integral part of the Tao.
Love is only unnatural when it is denied and oppressed.
We believe that social equality and equal rights must be preserved in all facets of society. We actively protest legal and social movements whose goals would cause others to suffer on the basis of their race, gender, sexual orientation, age, occupation, nationality, heritage, beliefs, religion, expression, or even their species.
SOCIAL STRUCTURE, WITHIN OUR TAOIST CONGREGATION
All members of the Taoist Congregation have an equal voice, regardless of personal differences. We function as a community, and we freely exchange ideas. Personal attacks are not tolerated by our community, nor is pointless bickering. We ask and expect that all of our members are courteous and respectful of other brothers and sisters. The Congregation is a forum for us to learn and grow in our dedication and commitment to the Tao, and must never be used for injury or hate.
"The great Tao flows everywhere, both to the left and to the right.
The ten thousand things depend upon it; it holds nothing back.
It fulfills its purpose silently and makes no claim.
"It nourishes the ten thousand things,
And yet is not their lord.
It has no aim; it is very small.
"The ten thousand things return to it,
Yet it is not their lord.
It is very great.
"It does not show greatness,
And is therefore truly great."
The concept of Tao (alternatively spelled "Dao") is our most deeply held belief, and the foundation for our religion. The concept originated in ancient China as a basis for philosophical thought, and was later incorporated into a religious movement. The Chinese word "Tao" roughly translates as "Way"; for Taoists, it refers to a non-sentient, impersonal power that surrounds and flows through all things, living and non-living. The Tao regulates Natural processes and nourishes balance in the Universe. It benevolently embodies the harmony of opposites (i.e., there would be no love without hate, no light without dark, no male without female).
Laotze, an ancient Chinese philosopher (or perhaps a composite of several philosophers), is widely regarded as the founder of ancient philosophical Taoism. He taught that "The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao; the Name that can be named is not the Eternal Name." In other words, the Way simply defies description. The only true way to seek it is through personal spiritual exploration and dedication.
Te (alternatively spelled "De") is the "unfolding" of Tao. In other words, while Tao is the Nature of the universe and all within it, Te is the embodiment and manifestation of Tao within each of the Ten Thousand Things. Te is the virtue that we sense in others who seem to be intimately tuned to their own Nature and their place in existence; it is the property possessed by those things (including humans) which are content with their own existence, and have no need for facade or pretense, jealousy or envy.
"In dealing with others, be gentle and kind."
"Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things."
Taoism is a faith which applies to all parts of life, and social tolerance is one of the foremost of those applications. The philosophy of yin and yang has an indisputable connection with racial and social harmony. We are all one people, whether short or tall, homosexual or heterosexual, Muslim or Christian, black or white.
Furthermore, other species are not exempt from our tolerance. Every creature must be treated with respect, lest we injure the harmony of the Tao in Nature. We must never harm or kill unless it is unavoidable.
Laotze and -- to a lesser degree -- other prominent figures in the Traditional Taoist tradition, hold a strong place in Taoism (hence the various passages from the Tao Te Ching and the Hua Hu Ching which have been included in this Statement of Beliefs). After all, without their teachings, our religion would not exist. We believe that ancient Taoist texts must be used to understand our philosophical history, but in many cases need not be taken literally. The authors of the ancient works were writing for a different world, and from different experiences. Our religion was formed to nurture Taoism in the modern, western world. In order to succeed in that mission, we must develop new methods of teaching which are effective and meaningful to modern life.
Thus, the ancient texts are indeed revered and respected as representing our heritage and roots. Taoism, however, is dedicated to developing new ways to discuss and learn about the Tao, rather than relying on texts with which many people cannot identify.
VIOLENCE AND MILITARY FORCE
"Good weapons are instruments of fear; all creatures hate them.
Therefore followers of Tao never use them.
The wise man prefers the left.
The man of war prefers the right.
"Weapons are instruments of fear; they are not a wise man's tools.
He uses them only when he has no choice.
Peace and quiet are dear to his heart,
And victory no cause for rejoicing.
If you rejoice in victory, then you delight in killing;
If you delight in killing, you cannot fulfill yourself."
"A brave and passionate man will kill or be killed.
A brave and calm man will always preserve life.
Of these two which is good and which is harmful?
Some things are not favored by heaven. Who knows why?
Even the sage is unsure of this."
The problem of the "military" concept is a very gray issue in Taoism. While we abhor violence as a rule, the military is a very clear example of a basic yin-yang relationship. Those who enter the military generally do so not because they want to destroy for the sake of destroying, but because they want to serve and protect their country, its people and its ideals. A philosophical problem arises when we consider that the fundamental purpose of the military and the focus of its training is built on one clear principle: The destruction of one people in order to save another.
Our doctrine supports the use of violence for only one reason: To preserve life. The military is the embodiment of methodical, strategic destruction, which we vehemently oppose. We must consider, though, that the larger purpose of the military (ideally) is to preserve life. Thus, we are obliged to tolerate the military insofar as it is a "necessary evil" of the modern world; we should, however, continue to vigorously explore other non-violent methods of global conflict resolution, in the hope that military force might one day be obsolete.
"He who knows he has enough is rich."