Red Taoism Essay
The Connection between Confucianism and Taoism
Confucianism and Taoism are some of the major religions in China. They have greatly influenced the culture of the Chinese people as well as their world view. The connection between the two religions has influenced many people over time. It can also be said that when the principles of both philosophies are put together, the outcome is a well-rounded person. The following is a discussion of the principles and philosophies behind these two religions as well as how the two religions interact and connect to influence an individual.
Confucianism is a religion that bases its philosophy and principles on the teachings of Confucius, a Chinese philosopher who lived between 551 and 478 BC. The Philosophy behind Confucianism is humanism. Confucian adherents have a positive view of human beings and human nature. The world in the Confucian religion in seen through the ideal of humanism. This means that adherents of Confucianism hold it true that human beings are improvable, teachable and perfectible. Human beings can become perfect through individual and communal effort for example self creation and cultivation. The general philosophy of Confucianism emphasizes individual and governmental morality, rightness of social relationships, sincerity and justice of the whole community.
All adherents of Confucianism should practice ethics that are exemplified by the propagation of virtues or principles. There are many virtues that adherents of Confucianism should follow for instance loyalty, continence, piety, bravery, gentleness, among others. However, there are five fundamental principles in Confucianism that include humaneness (Ren), Righteousness (Yi), Knowledge (Zhi), Etiquette (Li) and Integrity (Xin).
Humaneness obliges people to show altruism to other people in a community. This means that one should be loyal to his true nature, should show reciprocity to good deeds, be kind and show piety. Humaneness dictates that people observe the Golden Rule, ‘Do not do to others what you do not want done to 0yourself’. Being righteous means being morally disposed to do good. Etiquette on the other hand is a system of propriety and norms that dictate what proper and improper behavior within a community is. Knowledge means to appreciate the true and deep significance of something. Integrity on the other hand means honesty and standing by ones words.
Taoism is a Chinese religious tradition that stresses the importance of living harmoniously with the essence and source of all that exists or the Tao. In Chinese, Tao means the path, way or principle but it can also mean nature or reality. In Taoism, the right path is working in harmony with nature or reality. Taoism ethics stress the three jewels of the Tao which include moderation, compassion and humility. The philosophy of Taoism centers on nature and how human beings should relate with the cosmos. Inner fulfillment can be achieved through contemplation of nature. Nature is like a stream of wisdom and by experiencing it through innocent eyes, we are able to internalize its pleasantness, its intrigue and its excitement and achieve serenity.
There are four fundamental principles in Taoism including Tao, De, Pu and Wu wei. Tao in Taoism is the natural, spontaneous, eternal and indescribable way everything began and took course. It is the force that is behind natural order, the natural flow of the universe or that which keeps the universe ordered and balanced. De on the other hand is the integrity, virtue and power that are an active expression of the way or Tao. It is the living out or cultivation of the way. Wu wei, the third principle in Taoism which literally means ‘without purposeful action’. It means effortless doing and the unseen power in all things. In practice, it means that people should not exert their will in the world as this will cause a disruption in the harmony that is within things. Human beings should put their will in harmony with that which is natural or the nature. This way, their objectives would be achieved without effort. Pu in Chinese is translated to mean simplicity. It is used to symbolize pure perception and potential without discrimination. Taoists believe that everything should be perceived as it really is without illusions. Pu is the true and pure nature of the mind, uncontaminated by experiences or knowledge. When someone is in Pu, there neither is beautiful nor ugly, right nor wrong, only pure awareness.
When the principles of both Confucianism and Taoism combine, they are able to make a well rounded and self actualized person. First off, both philosophers advocate for people to move from having an ‘individual’ attitude and adopt a more communal attitude. Selflessness is therefore advocated for. The greater whole is give precedence over the individual. This is probably the reason why the Chinese as a people are very communal. If people adopted this notion, then a lot of useless conflicts between people would be done away with. This is because according to these philosophies, left to his means, the individual would not only hold himself back but also fragment the society. When individuals come together, the society is made stronger because people do only that which is advantageous to society. If therefore people adopted this principle as taught in both Confucianism and Taoism, the world would be a peaceful place to live in and our political leaders would work for the electorate instead of protecting themselves and the haves.
Another way in which the combination of the two philosophies can help make a well rounded person is that they both advocate for virtues that would make an individual better. While Confucianism emphasizes on humaneness, Righteousness, Knowledge, Etiquette and Integrity, Taoism centers on nature and how it can bring harmony to the human being and society. If one combined the two, he would in essence be a person who does good, follows societal norms and also conserves the environment. This in essence would be a law abiding citizen who respects the role of nature in the world. The environment and nature which we salvage any how would be safe and global warming and the extinction of some species of animals would not be there. Crime would be a thing of the past. The society would be full of well rounded people.
Both philosophies encourage people to live well conducted lives, to fulfill all their obligations and duties and balance their lives. This means that people should respect their different roles in social relationships as mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, siblings, friends, relatives, ruler, subject etc. The two religions encourage that one should be able to balance all his roles and perform them to the fullest. This balance is also encouraged in other issues in life as such as there should be a balance between cowardice and courage. Striking a balance between things and observing moderation is makes a well conducted life which is encouraged in both religions. If people adopted the principles of Confucianism and Taoism, issues like violence, negligence, divorce, adultery, deceit would be unheard of as everyone would know their place and execute their roles efficiently.
If people adopted Confucian and Taoist principles, we would believe in the inherent potential in human beings to be changed and transformed to be good people. If one went wrong for example, they would really believe they could change and therefore they would work towards becoming better people because they truly believe in transformation. People would be aware of their inner self and cultivate it for the betterment of humanity. Our Judicial and justice systems would also be tailored with this notion in mind, with their primary role being to fully rehabilitate people.
If a person combined both Confucian and Taoist principles in their lives, they would learn to appreciate the little things that we take for granted like the sun, the rain, the air and even art among other. Such a person would appreciate uncontaminated beauty and thus give way for art to develop. Such people would use art to unify society. This is the reason why the Chinese appreciate art so much. In conclusion, Confucian and Taoist principles combined would make a person happy, contented, fulfilled and self actualized. It would make a person not to burden themselves with the insignificances of life but rather to live life to the fullest. The principles of both religions combined would ensure that individual, the society and indeed the world over is focused on what really matters. It would make an individual to be at peace with himself and the society.
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Taoist Views of the Human Body
Meditation on the Red Child (chizi),
an image of the true self
Three main terms define the traditional Chinese views of the human body. The first, ti or "body," designates the physical frame as an ordered whole made of interdependent parts. The second, xing or "form," is especially complex; it should be understood in contrast to the idea of “formlessness” (wuxing), which is a property of the Dao. "Form," from this point of view, refers to the embodiment as the feature that identifies each entity in the "world of form", distinguishing it from — and relating it to — all other entities. The third term, shen or "person," denotes the whole human being, including non-material aspects ranging from thinking and feeling to personality and function in society. (See the article "Chinese Terms for 'Body'".)
These terms show that the Western notion of "body" as physical structure is inadequate to convey the complexity of the Chinese views. The Taoist views are further enriched by significant varieties among different traditions. In the absence of a single way of seeing the body shared by all Taoist traditions, this article outlines some of the main themes that emerge from different contexts.
Body and State
The human body and the state are two microcosms related not only to the macrocosm but also to one another. (See ☞ macrocosm and microcosm.) The body is often described with bureaucratic metaphors, and governing the state is often likened to self-cultivation. This analogy runs throughout Heshang gong's commentary to the ☞ Daode jing and is restated in later texts. One of Heshang gong's relevant passages reads:
If in governing the body one cherishes one's breath, the body will be complete. If in governing the country one cherishes the people, the country will be peaceful. Governing the body means to inhale and exhale Essence and Breath (jing and qi) without letting one's ears hear them. Governing the country means to distribute virtue (de) and bestow grace (hui) without letting the lower ones know it. (Laozi Heshang gong zhangju, 10)
At the center of the bureaucratic metaphor are the five viscera (wuzang), described as "offices" (or "officers," guan) in both Taoist and medical texts including the Huangdi neijing (Inner Scripture of the Yellow Emperor; Suwen, sec. 3.8).
Body and Cosmos
Taoism adds much to the theory of the correspondence between cosmos and human body, beginning with descriptions that focus on ☞ Laojun, the divine aspect of Laozi (☞ pictures). According to the Laozi bianhua jing (Scripture of the Transformations of Laozi), the Kaitian jing (Scripture of the Opening of Heaven), and other texts, Laozi already exists at the beginning of the formation of the cosmos and reappears throughout human history, transforming his body each time. In other instances, the cosmos itself is seen as the body of Laozi, a theme that appears to have originated in early myths concerning Pan Gu, the Chinese "cosmic man". A text quoted in the Buddhist Xiaodao lun (Essays to Ridicule the Dao) describes the cosmic body of Laozi as follows:
Laozi transformed his body. His left eye became the sun; his right eye, the moon; his head, Mount Kunlun; his beard, the planets and constellations; his bones, the dragons; his flesh, the quadrupeds; his intestine, the snakes; his stomach, the sea; his fingers, the five peaks (wuyue); his hair, the trees and the herbs; his heart, the Flowery Canopy (huagai, i.e., Cassiopea in heaven and the lungs in the body); and his kidneys, the Real Father and the Real Mother of humanity.
The Body as Residence of Gods and Spirits
Human head surrounded
by he three hun-souls (top right), the seven po-souls (top left),
and the four emblematic animals (bottom right and left:
green dragon, red bird, white tiger, turtle-and-snake)
The spirits of the five viscera (liver, lungs, kidneys, heart, and spleen) have a human shape and the texts provide details on their names, heights, garments, and functions. Since the earliest descriptions, found in the Taiping jing (Scripture of Great Peace), these details are provided as support for meditation: visualizing and nourishing the ☞ inner gods causes them to stay in their corporeal abodes and perform their functions, while their departure would result in illness and death. Extended descriptions of the inner deities are found in the Huangting jing (Scripture of the Yellow Court) and especially in the ☞ Laozi zhongjing (Central Scripture of Laozi), and were later developed by the ☞ Shangqing school of Taoism. The Huangting jing describes the gods of the five viscera and of the niwan, the upper ☞ Cinnabar Field (dantian) located in the region of the brain. The Laozi zhongjing features a group of deities who dwell in different regions of the human body, all of whom are different forms taken by the Great One (Taiyi). In both texts, the deities of the viscera perform administrative functions within the body, establishing a link with the views of the medical texts referred to above.
In other instances, the viscera are the seats of impersonal forces. According to the Heshang gong commentary and to medical texts, the hun "soul" (representing the Yang components of the human being), the po "soul" (representing the Yin components), the essence (jing), the spirit (shen), and the Intention (yi) respectively reside in the liver, the lungs, the kidneys, the heart, and the spleen. Elsewhere, hun and po are represented in a divinized form; in this case, the hun are said to number three and the po seven. They are often mentioned with the "three corpses" and "nine worms" (sanshi and jiuchong), malevolent spirits who report the faults and sins of the individual in which they dwell to the Director of Destinies (Siming). Accumulating merit through good actions, abstaining from cereals, and performing rites on the gengshen day (the 57th of the sexagesimal cycle) were among the methods used to neutralize them.
The Body as Mountain and Landscape
The body as a mountain.
Painting by Liang Kai
The Wushang biyao (Supreme Secret Essentials, 41.3b) associates the Authentic Talismans of the Five Emperors (wudi zhenfu) with the five planets in heaven, the five sacred mountains on earth, and the five viscera in the human body. The body itself is often represented as a mountain. Liang Kai (13th century) painted a famous scroll that depicts an immortal — possibly meant to be Laozi himself — as a mountain, using the technique normally applied for painting landscapes (see picture on the right). Images of the body as a mountain are also found in Taoist texts (see an example). They illustrate loci in the body that are important for the practices of Nourishing Life (yangsheng) and ☞ Internal Alchemy (Neidan). Some of these sites are represented as palaces that function as headquarters for the administration of the inner body: here too the metaphor of the government of the country as the government of the body is apparent. In turn, the visual depictions of the body as a mountain are related to the best-known Taoist image of the inner body, the ☞ Neijing tu (Chart of the Inner Warp), which maps the body as a landscape whose features (e.g., the watercourse, the mill, the furnace) have symbolic meanings in Neidan.
The Body in Internal Alchemy
The ☞ Neidan view of the body is complex, and remarkable differences occur among various subtraditions and authors. In general, the main components of the Internal Elixir (Essence, Breath, and Spirit, or jing, qi, and shen), as well as the tripod and the furnace, and even the fire itself, are said to be found within the human being. Beyond this basic premise, Neidan shares some of the views outlined above and dismisses others. For instance, it inherits from traditional medicine the importance of the Control and Function channels (dumai and renmai) that play a central role in the circulation of Essence. On the other hand, Neidan practice does not involve visualizing the inner gods.
With regard to the human body, one's own body is a whole Heaven and Earth, and also contains the Sun and the Moon. The body is Heaven and Earth; Water and Fire are the ingredients; and the cyclical movements of the Sun and the Moon are the Fire Phases.
Wang Jie (14th century), Commentary on the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine
Neidan, however, is more than a technique, and the importance it gives to immaterial notions such as Nature and Existence (xing and ming), or inner Nature and individual qualities (xing and qing), shows that its focus is not the physical body. Various concepts and practices take on different meanings at different levels, from the physical to the spiritual and beyond this distinction. An example is the Mysterious Barrier (xuanguan), which according to different authors is located between the eyebrows, between the kidneys, in the gallbladder, in the navel, or elsewhere, while others say it has no precise location in the body. As Li Daochun (fl. 1288-92) remarks: "The Mysterious Barrier is the most mysterious and wondrous pivotal pass (jiguan). How can it have a fixed position? If you place it in the body (shen), this is not correct. If you separate it from the body and search for it outside the body, this is also not correct".
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