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What is Taoism? Origin, Characteristics and Principles

Taoism is a philosophical and religious current of Chinese origin, whose emergence can be placed between the 6th and 4th centuries BC, from the writings of Lao-Tzu. The teachings of this tradition lie in living in harmony with the universe, letting things take their natural course, without being attached to anything.

Although not much is known about Lao-Tzu, his teachings form the basis of Eastern thought. His virtues include compassion, moderation, humility and naturalness as ways to achieve a full life.

What is Taoism?

Taoism is one of the most widely practiced philosophical and religious traditions in China. Its literal translation is teaching of the way and refers to living harmoniously with the tao (the way).

In this sense, the tao is the source of all that exists, the timeless and limitless energy that governs the universe. Therefore, it is indefinable, it cannot be perceived through the senses. It is also what generates all the phenomena of the world.

Among the principles of Taoism is wu wei (inaction), which involves letting things flow. In this way, it is intended that the tao act by itself, that things follow their natural and spontaneous course.

The main text of this philosophy is the “Tao Te Ching“, which means ‘way of virtue’. The authorship is attributed to Lao Tzu and the date on which it was written is unknown.

General characteristics of Taoism

The most outstanding characteristics of this philosophical and religious movement are the following:

  • It emphasizes values ​​such as compassion, kindness, piety, fairness, introspection, harmony with nature, self-denial, and magnanimity.
  • Defend the harmony of man with the tao and believe in the ethereal course of things.
  • Exalt stillness as a way to achieve harmony.
  • The symbol of tao is called tajitu, made up of yin and yang within a circle. It represents duality (hot-cold, wet-dry, feminine-masculine) and the continuous change that governs the tao. According to this theory, there are 3 forces that interact: yin, yang and tao. The first two are complementary and antagonistic, but they need each other. While tao is a superior force that contains the other two.
  • The tao believes and seeks immortality. It is said that you do not have to understand immortality literally, but rather how to achieve longevity and enjoy it to the full.

What are the principles of Taoism?

The following teachings of Taoism collect its most fundamental principles.

1. Happiness is not equal to the possession of material goods

For Taoism, the happiness is unrelated to the amount of material possessions. In this sense, Lao-Tzu defended that whoever was not happy with little, would not be happy with much either.

2. Desire causes suffering

The teacher of Taoism teaches us that whoever does not wish does not get frustrated. And those who are not frustrated are not debased.

In this way, it is important to get rid of unnecessary things and stop wanting more. Thus, we will wait in the stillness, observing how everything happens. Without letting desires interfere with the peace and harmony that the natural course of things offers.

3. Assume love as a tool to grow

Taoism seeks to encourage non-violence. Love is assumed as a force that can make a person better. According to Lao-Tzu, being deeply loved gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

4. Wu wei

The expression wu wei means learning to flow with the nature of things and with minimal effort. That is why Taoism invites you to see things as they are, considering their good, bad and regular aspects.

The important thing, according to Lao-Tzu, is to observe all the white that is around you, but remembering all the black that exists.

5. Know yourself

This is perhaps one of the great challenges in life. We will surely not be able to achieve it in its entirety. However, the ideal is to work daily to understand who we are.

This way we can understand how we respond to difficult circumstances and how we can change some aspects of ourselves. Regarding this teaching, the teacher Lao-Tzu stated that he who dominates others is strong, but he who dominates himself is powerful.

How to apply it in everyday life?

Wu wei is a principle that can be applied to daily life to achieve more completeness and tranquility. The following is important for this:

  • Get more attached to the simplicity of our existence, leaving aside ambitions and desires.
  • Give up worries. They keep us anchored in the past and haunted by the future. Believe it or not, they flood the mind because we let them. One way to learn to let go is through meditation.
  • Learn to appreciate and accept the natural change in things, which occurs without interfering with our goals and aspirations.
  • Accept that problems are actively created by us.
  • Not worrying about the way problems are represented in the mind. To do this you have to let them dissolve in the course of thought.

Experience Taoism

The philosophy of Taoism can be complex. However, it is a way of life that can be cultivated from practice, with small actions that promote simplicity, harmony with nature and non-violence.

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