“The Ancient Masters were profound and subtle. Their wisdom was unfathomable. There is no way to describe it; all we can describe is their appearance.”
“The best athlete wants his opponent at his best. The best general enters the mind of his enemy. The best businessman serves the communal food. The best leader follows the will of the people .”
The teachings from the book, Tao Te Ching helped influence both the social and moral aspects of the Chinese way of life. The teachings have provided hope, and inspiration for the Chinese people.
In ancient China, the people were self-providing farmers who lived exclusively off the land. They rarely took the time to intermingle with their neighbors, and the family stood independently. The people had little knowledge about the outside world and had no desire to learn. Far travel was avoided at all costs, due to the strong attachment to one’s own home. The people believed that, “No man could be full grown without his roots in his home .” The people referred to their homes as “tien, yuan, lu mo”, which meant fields, gardens, houses, graves. The Chinese thought that the causes of crime were soldiers and wanderers. They were considered evil beings for venturing away from they home.
The people believed that all things, living and un-living, had spirits in them. They felt that the spirits if disturbed, could drastically affect one’s life. They used amulets, spells, prayers, incantations, and special rites to ward of misfortune. This is a direction to a later Lao Tzu’s teaching stating, “Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place .” The home did not limit its members to the current living members; the dead and the future were also considered family.
Around 650BC, during the Chou Dynasty, the value of knowledge changed. Although communication between towns was still difficult, many Sages were in desire of knowledge. Some of the most well known sages were; Mencius, Mo Tzu, Confucius, and Lao Tzu, the author of Tao Te Ching.
Confucius wrote about the problems of man, and proposed many solutions. He also wrote about authority and respect, and proposed “submissiveness.” His works helped influence the way that government was run, and Confucius actively participated in government. His teachings were present in the Chinese government for many years, until the belief in Tao.
A sage named Lao Tzu created the Tao religion. Very little is known about Lao Tzu. Even the meaning of his name is a mystery; “the Old Master” or “the Old Boy”? The only thing we do know about Lao Tzu is that he wrote the book, TAO TE CHING, and created a thought revolution. His reference to the eternal force he called Tao, gave people inspiration, and a new method of thinking. Lao Tzu described Tao as,
“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The unnamable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things. Free from desire, you realize mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source. Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding. ”
“The Tao is infinite, eternal. Why is it eternal? It was never born; thus it can never die. Why is it infinite? It has no desires for itself; thus it is present for all beings. ”
Taoism believed in little governmental interference. This is best described through the belief that, “the meek would inherit the earth. ”. Another example would be from the passage by Lao Tzu stating,
“Throw away holiness and wisdom, and the people will be a hundred time happier. Throw away morality and justice, and the people will do the right thing. Throw away industry and profit, and there won’t be any thieves. ”
Taoism is most described as that which is striving for equality. The thought of remaining in the middle, is the general belief in Taoism. . The creation of Yin and Yang derived from the belief of Tao. Tao is not only tangible things, but also what cannot be comprehended. What cannot be seen is also know as the ultimate principle or truth.
Tao proposed a new thought pattern for the Chinese people. The people now realized that they need each other.
“Being and non-being create each other. Difficult and easy support each other. Long and short define each other. High and low depend on each other. Before and after follow on each other. ”
The tradition family values were modified to a lesser dependence upon the home. Tao also provided a direction for which the Chinese people could follow, and achieve happiness. The direction that Lao Tzu prescribed was to maintain a neutral area. His expressed this belief when he wrote the following;
“The Tao doesn’t take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil. The Master doesn’t take sides; she welcomes both saints and sinners. The Tao is like a bellows; it is empty yet infinitely capable. The more you use it, the more it produces. The more you talk of it, the less you understand. Hold onto the center. ”
During the Han Dynasty, they attempted to blend the Taoism and Confusism. Although this dynasty was one of the most successful of all of Chinese history, this blend turned into a complete failure. Confusism implied that the “old ways” were only old ways. The idea that the new way was the right (only) way caused all of the ancient books to be burned. The possessors of these books were severely punished. Another outcome was the creation of the Great Wall. This wall was created to protect from attack from neighboring Barbarians, but this also sheltered the Chinese people from outside knowledge.
Now Taoism was held exclusively to China. This allowed this belief to be pondered and modified. This helped to create Buddhism. Buddhism also is a more optimistic religion, compared to Confusism. Buddhism is now the most popular religion (based on percentage compared to population) in Asia. It is no longer in just China, it has since spread to India, and the Americas.
In conclusion, the teachings from Tao Te Ching changed the way that the Chinese think. The idea of expanding one’s knowledge was partially due to the creation of Taoism. Now the belief of equality is an issue that many areas are facing, such as the Americas, and African countries.
1.Fairservis, Walter A. Jr., BEFORE THE BUDDHA CAME, New York, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1972, pp. 7-64.
2.Lao Tzu, TAO TE CHING, Edited and Translated by Stephen Mitchell, New York, New York, HarperColilins Publishers, Inc., 1988
3.Yutang, Lin,: THE CHINESE WAY OF LIFE, Cleveland, Ohio, The World Publishing Company, 1959, pp. 82-123.