Taoism - Ageless Wisdom for A Modern World

by Ted Kardash

Taoism is an ancient Chinese philosophical tradition whose origins extend back to 3000 B.C. The first actual written works to promote the Taoist outlook appeared around 500 B.C. and were attributed to the legendary Taoist sages, Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu. Lao Tzu is the author of the Tao Te Ching (The Classic of the Way and Its Power), currently very popular in the United States with an increasing number of new English-language translations.
Less well-known, but equally important to an understanding of Taoism, are the writings of Chuang Tzu. His Inner Chapters are gaining wider attention as is The Way of Chuang Tzu, an excellent transition of selected writings by Christian mystic Thomas Morton.

Taoism is organized around several key principles and, like any philosophical outlook, presents a way of seeing and understanding reality. The word TAO itself translates as the Way, or Path. This meaning includes both the way in which we perceive the world around us (how do we make assessments? what are our values?) and also the way in which we interact with life (how do we behave? what are our actions?). The manner in which we perceive reality influences our way of being in the world, our path of action.

Taoism's central principle is that all life, all manifestation, is part of an inseparable whole, an interconnected organic unity which arises from a deep, mysterious, and essentially unexplainable source which is the Tao itself. Everything conceivable is contained within this principle. Various Western translators have compared this concept to the idea of God, Universal Mind, or Absolute Reality, to name but a few examples.

Taoism views the universe and all of its manifestations as operating according to a set of unchanging, natural laws. As an inseparable part of the Tao, human beings can gain knowledge of these laws and become attuned to them. It is these natural laws that constitute the core principles of Taoism. Aligning ourselves with these principles provides a universal perspective and understanding and allows life to be lived in harmony with the Tao. Indeed our way of life becomes the Way, a full expression of the Tao.

Taoism has become increasingly popular with Americans for a number of reasons. As our lives become more stressful and complex, dealing with mounting crises on personal, local and global levels, we naturally seek solutions that will restore us to a more balanced, harmonious, and satisfying way of living.

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