• The relation between Taoist culture and it’s beliefs

    日期:2013.02.18 | 分類:道教消息 | 標籤:

    Seminar at
    Huachiew Chalermprakiet University
    Samut Prakan, Thailand
    By Master Leung Tak Wah


    I would like to thank the Taoist Hwa Kwong Temple and the Taoist Hwa Kwong Athletic Association 6th Anniversary celebration organising committee and the Huachiew Chalermprakiet University for the opportunity to share at this seminar, but I have to admit I have mixed feelings.
    Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country. As a Taoist disciple, I am happy and honoured to be able to share about my beliefs and Taoist culture in an important academic institution like the Huachiew Chalermprakiet University.
    I am practicing Taoism for over thirty years, and I am ordained as a thirty second generation disciple of the Quanzhen Dragon Gate tradition. I followed my father since young at the Fung Ying Seen Koon, and became the second generation disciple of the temple. I am currently serving as the Tutor of Rites for the Fung Ying Seen Koon. Taoist knowledge is so vast and deep, and I indeed feel nervous and stressed sharing in front of so many university students and academia. I would appreciate if you could highlight and share with me if you disagree with any of my sharing.
    Taoism is the only indigenous religion of the Chinese, and it encompassed the wisdom of the ethnic Chinese civillisation and its culture and traditions. This year is also the 4710th year of the Taoist calendar.
    It is really a challenge to share about the Taoist beliefs and culture in an hour, therefore, I will be giving you a brief introduction to two topics. First, I shall share with you the relationship between the Tao (道), Taoist school of thought (道家), and the Taoist religion (道教). Finally, I will also share with you the significance and values depicted in Taoist rituals.
    (1) Tao, Taoist culture, and Taoist religion
    The character “Tao” (道) existed since ancient times, and it signifies the source of the Universe, and the evolution of all creations. This is the origin and source of the Taoist school of thought and the Taoist religion. There are six main schools of thought in ancient China as mentioned in the Records of the Grand Historian (史記) by Sima Qian. Taoism (道家) is one of the six schools, including Confucianism (儒家), Legalism (法家), Mohism (墨家), Logicians (名家), and the School of Yin and Yang (陰陽家). The Five Pecks of Rice tradition (五斗米道) was the first Taoist religious movement established by Zhang Daoling in the late years of the Eastern Han Dynasty, the movement comprised of twenty four dioceses.
    The Taoist school of thought and the Taoist religion complement one another and they are correlated. The Taoist school of thought is often regarded literally as “philosophical Taoism”, and the Taoist religion is regarded as “Religious Taoism”. The rituals and scriptures practiced in religious Taoism expressed many Taoist ideas and teachings, and these originated from the wisdom of the philosophers of the Taoist school of thought.
    I would like to cite the following example:
    The highest deities of the Taoist religion is the Three Pristine Ones, also known as “San Qing Dao-zu” (三清道祖).
    Presiding in the centre of the “San Qing” is the Primeval Lord of Heaven, or “Yuan-shi Tian-zun” (元始天尊), who held a round pearl in his hands, signifying the “Qi” (炁), or the Original vital breath of the Dao, which is the fundamental energy which existed even before the creation of Heavens and Earth. That is the known as the state of “Wu-ji” (無極).
    To the left of the “Yuan-shi Tian-zun” is “Ling-bao Tian-zun” (靈寶天尊), also known as the Heavely Lord of the Numinous Treasure. He held the Yin-yang mirror, which signifies the birth of the state of “Tai-ji” (太極) from “Wu-ji”. On the right of “Yuan-shi Tian-zun” is “Dao-de Tian-zun” (道德天尊), or the Heavenly Lord of Dao and its Virtue, also known as “Tai-shang Lao-jun” (太上老君). He holds a fan, symbolizing “liang-yi” (兩儀), or the two energies which symbolized Heavens and Earth.
    The image of the Three Pristine Ones, or “San Qin Dao-zu”, reflects the Taoist belief of “From one vital breath forms San Qing, the state of ‘Wu-ji’ evolved into “Tai-ji”, and from “Tai-ji” it developed into “liang-yi”, and from “liang-yi” froms all creations and things in the Universe. (一炁化三清,無極生太極,太極生兩儀,兩儀生萬物。) This also reflects the Taoist idea that “Dao” (道) embodies the Three Realms (三界) of Heavens (天), Earth (地), and Man (人), and “Dao” is the source and origin of all creations and objects.
    The Scripture of Peace and Tranquility (清靜經), Tai-shang Lao-jun (太上老君) expressed that “The Great Dao has no form, yet it forms Heaven and Earth; The Great Dao is unbiased, it governs the changes in the universe and the patterns of the sun and the moon; The Great Dao seeks no acknowledgment, yet it nurtures and provide for all creations; I don’t know the name of this numinous energy, but I named it “Dao” to make reference to it.” (大道無形,生育天地;大道無情,運行日月;大道無名,長養萬物;吾不知其名,強名約『道』。)
    The Taoist school of thought “Dao-ji”, or philosophical Taoism, regards the “Dao-de Jing” (道德經) by Lao-zi (老子), “Nan-hua Jing” (南華經) by Zhuang-zi (莊子), “Yin-fu Jing” by the Yellow Emperor (黃帝), and other philosophical classics as the sacred texts. These scriptures are fundamental for Taoists to cultivate themselves to assist others (修己度人). Taoists believe that “Tai-shang Lao-jun” came to the mortal world as “Lao-zi”, Zhuang-zi is styled “Perfect Man Nan-hua” (南華真人), and the Yellow Emperor is regarded as the ancestor of the Chinese people, and the ancestral patriarch of philosophical Taoism.
    Taoist religious beliefs of the immortals correlates to the philosophical teachings of Lao-zi. The Dao-de Jing mentions “The creation of Heaven and Earth evolves to all other creations in the Universe, and this is the greatness of Dao” (有物混成,先天地生,…強為之名曰大。). It also mentions that “Dao creates One, One creates Two, Two creates Three, and Three generates all creations and things in the Universe” (道生一,一生二,二生三,三生萬物。) Both verses explained that “Dao” is the state of “Wu-ji”, One is the “Tai-ji”, and Two is “liang-yi” (道是無極,一是太極,二是兩儀。), and it is a testament that Taoist philosophy and Taoist religion are both inter-related and both complementing each other.
    Both Philosophical and Religious Taoism believe that “Dao” is the fundamental belief. Taoists believe in the existence of the Three Realms – Heaven, Earth, and Man (天、地、人); and it includes the belief of the immortals and deities in the Heavenly Realm (天界), Spirits in the Earthly Realm (地界), and Man on the Mortal Realm (人界).
    How do Taoists view life and death? Taoists believe that birth and death is inevitable in all life forms (有生必有死). The exhibition of birth and death, fortune or misfortune, depends on the good actions and wrong doings of the individual. Taoists believe that one who is kind and compassionate will be blessed with longevity and good health, and those with evil intentions and harm others will be plagued with misfortune (善人得賜福長壽;惡人獲降禍厄困).
    Taoists believe in the heavenly deities and also the spirits. One who accumulates merits and does good will be able to attain the Dao, ascend the heavenly realms and free from all sufferings. Those who commit bad actions will be condemned to the netherworld and not be able to liberate from sufferings.
    (2) Taoist Rituals and Taoist Philosophy
    Taoist Rituals
    Taoist Rituals are known as “ke-yi” (科儀), where “ke” (科) refers to the sacred scriptures, and “yi” (儀) refers to the ceremonies and etiquette of the liturgies. There are two main categoties for Taoist rituals, one for blessing the living (祈福), and another for the salvation of the dead from sufferings (度亡). The Taoist deities are also classified into Earlier Heaven Deities (先天神) and Latter Heaven Deities (後天神). Earlier Heavens Deities are formed by the vital breath of Dao, which includes the Three Pristine Ones (三清道祖), the Jade Emperor (昊天玉皇), the Five Venerable Sovereigns (五方五老), the Heavenly Lord of Supreme Oneness and Salvation from Misery (太乙救苦天尊), etcetera. The Latter Heaven Deities were once mortals who practiced and cultivated to attain immortality, people who contributed greatly towards mankind or the country, and were conferred as deities by the Emperors or by the common people. Latter Heaven Deities include Celestial Master Zhang Daoling (張道陵天師), Patriarch Lu Dongbin (呂祖師), the Goddess of Mercy “Guan-yin” (觀音大士), Lord Guan (關帝), etcetera.
    Taoists believe in the existence of the Three Realms, naturally, they will seek the blessings from the heavenly deities to bestow blessings, ward off misfortune, pray for longevity and good health. The Li-dou ritual (禮斗科儀) is one such example to pray for good luck and fortune. Salvation rituals for the dead (度亡科儀) will be conducted to seek the heavenly deities pardon their sins, advocate the proper teachings and counsel the spirits to do good and forgo evil, and also allow the spirits to repent and seek forgiveness for the wrongdoings they had committed, so they may be delivered from the sufferings.
    Regardless of blessing or salvation rituals, they encompassed different sets of etiquette and protocols,and different type of setups for the altars. For example in blessing rituals, the altar will be decorated in red colour, including the ceremonial robes of the priests which will also be red in colour. As for rituals for the dead, plain colour such as white or yellow will be used in the set up of the ritual altar and the priests will also be dressed in robes which are white or yellow in colours. Most importantly, all the scriptures and text used in the rituals include praising of the deities and immortals, reminders to do good and stay away from evil, repent and turn over a new leaf, and to express gratitude and repay kindness. It guides all to do good and serve others.
    Taoist Philosophy
    Taoist scriptures such as the “Dao-de Jing” (道德經) and “Yin-fu Jing” (陰符經) expressed the ideas of the regulations and laws of nature and the universe (自然定律), relationship and interactions between the five elements (五行變化為哲理), and taught man to learn from history. Teachings such as “wu-wei” (無為) and not striving with others, using gentleness to overcome aggressiveness (以柔克剛), embracement and living together harmoniously (包容共存), the opposing relations between the five elements (五行生克), changes and interactions between the Yin and the Yang (陰陽變化), and other ideologies to advise and inspire the practitioner. It allows mankind to understand and make sense of life and interactions in nature, cultivate oneself, unite the family, and also to govern the country. These ideas influence the beliefs of religious Taoism.
    I attempted to introduce the fundamental Taoist beliefs and the relationship between Philosophical Taoism and Religious Taoism in a simple manner, and hope you will pardon me for simplifying any ideas or teachings. I hope that we can have more oppurtunities to share our ideas and research into Taoist culture to achieve a harmonious society, and also world peace.
    Thank you.