Philosophical Taoism :

Tao through the writings of Lao Tzu ( directed to the sage king)

Chuang Tzu (directed to the private individual)

Taoist Ideal: Sage/Ideal man models himself upon Heaven

Taoist understanding of Heaven differs from the Confucian views

Tao, the Supreme Reality described as : The great clod (unformed), the mysterious female, inexhaustible, spontaneous, ruthlessly impartial way of the universal order

Universal order: Unchanging nature of constant flux

Recognition of the nature of Tao : mystic, intuitive, beyond the capacity of language

Te : The ideal man lives by the power of Te (virtue)

Taoist ideals of virtue and morality: Humility

Wu wei : spontaneous action, tranquillity

Religious Taoism

Religious practices associated with Taoism can be dated back to the era of oracle bone divination

The Lao-Tzu and Chuang-Tzu shift the focus from practice to the underlying philosophy

Popular faith of the common people which implicitly accepts the Taoist world view

Popular deities, ancestral spirits worshipped at domestic shrines, as well as temples

T’ien Tsun (gods) include: Yuan Shih/T’si Shi (Creator and ruler of the heaven and earth)

Jade Emperor ( Supreme deity since 11th century C.E.

Tao Chun or Lord Tao ( deified Lao Tzu)

In addition, Taoist worship the Eight Immortals (figures who attained immortality), as well as the Kitchen God, Tsao Chun

Chinese religious culture synthesized beliefs of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism into a system that incorported beliefs of all three traditions : Buddhism, adjusted itself to the Chinese context, taking account of Confucian moral and social values, and made use of Taoist ideas and terminology
Example of Chinese Landscape Art influenced by Taoist outlook

T’ien-tai Buddhism (Lotus Schools) : Named after its place of origin in Chekiang in S.E. China

Synthesis of various Buddhist doctrines into a systemic whole.

Ch’an Buddhism (Zen in Japan): Transliteration of Sanskrit word “Dhyan” meaning meditation.

Practice aimed at calming one’s mind, permitting the person to penetrate one’s inner consciousness.

Emphasis on direct intuition outside conscious thought.

Pure Land Buddhism : The celestial Buddha (Amitabha) presides over the Pure Land : Requires faith in the infinite compassion of Buddha. Helped by a bodhisattva (Avalokiteshwara in India, Kuan-yin in China, and Kannon in Japan).




Some Concluding Remarks on Eastern Religious Traditions

Nature of the Sacred in the Eastern Religious Thought


Brahman: The sacred reality that is the basis of all existence

Brahman is unknown and unknowable, and infinite: Brahman as the inner consciousness or Atman makes the perception of sense-objects possible

"That subtle essence is the self of all that exists. It is the True. It is the Self, and that, Svetaketu, you are." (pg. 37, Text II, Upanishad)

" You are to be known as supreme eternity 
The deepest treasure of all that is,  
The immutable guardian of enduring sacred duty;  
I think you are man's timeless spirit."
(pg. 59, Text II, Bhagavadgita)  


If we want to get to the very truth of things, we must see them from the point where this world has not yet been created, where the consciousness of this and that has not yet been awakened and where the mind is absorbed in its own identity, that is, in its serenity and emptiness. This is a world of negations but leading to a higher or absolute affirmation—an affirmation in the midst of negations.

( Daisetz T. Suzuki. An Introduction to Zen Buddhism)  


Voidness is the name for that in which the universe had its origin; actuality is the mother of the myriad objects. Therefore, empty your minds to view the secret source; and observe actuality to view its manifestations. These two arise together, though separate in name . . . . Voidness and actuality one sees all around are simultaneously one and the same. Therefore, to know the undifferentiated source of the myriad objects comprising actuality, one must empty the mind of thought and sometimes contemplate the mind of form. Neither has meaning apart from the other. To fix the mind always upon emptiness would be to become like wood or stone. To keep it always upon the form realm would be to behave like a simpleton who mistakes dream for reality.

(John Blofeld. Beyond the Gods: Buddhist and Taoist Mysticism)


We begin our spiritual journey at home [as] our self, far from being an isolated individuality, is experientially and practically a center of relationships. As a center of relationships, it constantly enters into communication with a variety of human beings . . . It is through constant human interaction that we gradually learn to appreciate our selfhood as a transformative process.

Indeed, as we learn to appreciate the richness of ordinary daily existence, we understand that the great mystery of life is inherent in our common experience of living, as if the secret code of the Way of Heaven is embedded in the human way.

(Tu Wei Ming. Confucianism)



Some Thoughts on the Nature of Religion from the Western Perspective

"{The term "God" presupposes an idea, an idea which is nothing more than the expression of the feeling of absolute dependence . . . to feel oneself absolutely dependent and to be conscious of being in relation with God are one and the same thing; and the reason is that absolute dependence is the fundamental relation which must include all others in itself. "

( Friedrich Schleiermacher. The Christian Faith)

Faith is the state of being ultimately concerned . . . Faith includes an element of immediate awareness which gives certainty and an element of uncertainty. To accept this is courage. In the courageous standing of uncertainty, faith shows most visibly its dynamic character. "

(Paul Tillich. Dynamics of Faith)

The Above Excerpts taken from Enduring Issues in World Religion. John Lyden. San Diego, California: Greenhaven Press. 1995

Religion is 1) a system of symbols which acts to 2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long lasting moods and motivations in [people] by 3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and 4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.

(Clifford Geertz. Religion as a Cultural System)

Excerpted from Anatomy of the Sacred. James C. Livingston. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson. Prentice Hall. 2005.


Useful Terms in the Study of Religions:

Theism, Monotheism, Polytheism, Atheism, Monism; Dharma, Darshana.