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Taoism, A Unique Way Of Not Thinking Essay, Research Paper

Taoism is a very interesting classical Chinese tradition. The word Tao literally translates as “run ahead,” but the English meaning has been translated simply into “the Way.” Lao Tzu, who is thought to have lived in either the 4th or 6th century B.C., wrote the book Tao Te Ching, which, when translated to English, means The Way and its Power (pp. 3-4). This book encompasses the beliefs of Taoism, or to believe in the Way. To follow “the Way” means that one should take no action and everything will be all right. It differs from the practical methods of life with which I am most acquainted. Taoism, in a western society like ours, would not endure because of the immense drive that Americans have to be Number One. The general concept of Taoism interests me, but I believe that it is a little too lax for our society. First, I want to begin with the history of Taoism. Taoist practices stemmed from a historical situation that occurred around either 722-481 B.C. or 403-221 B.C. The house of Chou had power during this period, as the states of china fought in civil wars for approximately 500 years. This led to its downfall. Taoist practices arose during this time frame to resolve unlawful acts by the feudalistic lords. Taoism contrasted current practices of that time period and provided a new way of life that was as challenging as it was hard to understand. Feudalistic ways were on the decline because the common man was begging to develop specialized skills and utilize them. Feudalistic lords were now having to look to the people for help. It was now time for things to change, to get rid of the old and begin anew. Lao Tzu accomplished both (pp. 4-5). Now I want to probe deeper into Taoism and investigate the Taoist ways, which Lao Tzu practiced. Lao Tzu says that learning is a waste of time. He believes words are deceiving and things aren’t the way one usually sees them. Much of what Lao Tzu believes runs counter to what Confucius practiced. The golden rule that Confucius treasured is a poor way to live life according to Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu believed so because the golden rule means to do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. Lao Tzu says that if you do not act than you are one with the Tao. Another difference between Confucius and Lao Tzu is that Confucius says the world is bad and wants to change it, thus he makes the effort to do so. Lao Tzu believes in non-action or “Wu-Wei.” In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu describes what he means by non-action. He says, “by acting without action, all things will be in order.” (p. 103). He does not mean to take absolutely no action at all, but to act with out reaction or thought. Lao Tzu says, “He (a sage) acts but does not rely on his own ability.” He does not expect any reward for things done. (p. 101). Furthermore, Lao Tzu says that one cannot directly define Taoism, just believe in it or make suggestions to what it is; because to define Taoism suggests acting in non-Taoist ways. To understand Taoism better, Lao Tzu explains, one must believe in the non-being or that which is not obvious. He says the “Tao is empty. It may be used but its capacity is never exhausted.” This helps to explain that the Tao. According to Lao Tzu, Tao is the first cause of the universe. Its force flows through all of life. (p. 105).

Today if I saw a person acting in Taoist ways, without knowing they were doing so, I would have to call them lazy or inconsiderate. If people would practice Taoism today, a lot of the problems such as pollution, crime, drug abuse, or war would possibly disappear, but what would our westerner lives be like? If there were no drug abuse, pollution, or crime, then our society would be tranquil. Yet, if people would not have taken the initiative to invent and discover, we would be without many of the life saving and beneficial advancements we have made. Many vaccinations or antibiotics that help people overcome or prevent harmful diseases would not exist. Modern methods of medical treatment would not exist either. To put it bluntly, if we did not act we would never have been able to survive the many years of trials and tribulations. Our society greatly contrasts many beliefs that Lao Tzu practiced. Americans are too impatient for Taoist ways. Similarly, Taoism would not hold up very well in our governmental system. The United States government, designed to give people the freedom of choice and will, allows people to make the best of their lives with what they have got. Thus Americans are free to learn act in which ever way they feel. Taoist ways would have proclaimed, no don’t persist you goals. If you just wander aimlessly, everything will be all right.If a new Taoist organization were to establish today, it would be a fad. I believe that only the younger generations would practice it. The reason is that they would have no basis for past traditions. Therefore, a new practice would seem fantastic and grab hold their attention. It would be an equivalent to the hippie generation where love, peace, and tranquility rule. The older generations, however, would not want to practice Taoist ways because they are stuck on the past traditions and do not like to change them. Otherwise stating, Taoism is not the wave of the future, because our society will always be striving to be the elite. They will do so the way they always have. There is no room in the American society for people to act without thought, because our society is based on unity and whatever the individual does affects us all.


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