While growing up, I experienced the three ancient Chinese philosophies: Fu, Buddhism; Ru, Confucianism; and Dao, Daoism. At the time, I was less than ten years old.
At just about ten years old, the Cultural Revolution began. The government then started to refrain from mentioning these three ancient teachings.
Not until the recent decades did I see some places in China beginning to teach and practice these philosophy schools. There are two parts to each practice: the philosophical part and the religious part. In the religious part, people gather in temples.
In contrast, in the philosophical part, people can practice anywhere for their spiritual growth, behavioral improvement and to maintain their health and promote longevity. I am putting this information in this month's newsletter for general reference at a student's request.
We at the Tai Chi & Qi Gong Healing Institute study and discuss Daoist philosophy once a month via Zoom, and our members feel greatly benefited. I am not an expert in all three, but a little overview may help people understand their fundamental practice.
The Buddhist Teaching
Buddhism is an ancient religion based on the Buddha's teachings - the title given to the Indian spiritual seeker Siddhartha Gautama after he attained enlightenment more than 2,600 years ago. The Buddha's best-known teachings are the four noble truths and the eightfold path, which describe the nature of human suffering and a way to liberate oneself from the existential pains of life and reach nirvana.
These teachings spread from India throughout the world, especially Asia. Some Buddhist practices may vary by different temples, provinces, or countries. With their own beliefs and practices, these various traditions share a conviction that one can come to understand the truth of existence by living an ethical life dedicated to spiritual development.
The Four Noble Truths
- The truth of suffering
- The truth of the cause of suffering
- The truth of the end of suffering
- The truth of the path leading to the end of suffering.
The Eightfold Path
- Right View
- Right Intention
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
Daoist (Taoist) Teaching
The Dao was created by the observation of nature and natural patterns and happenings. Observing over centuries what worked to achieve, what didn't work or would never work; What caused disease, and how humans can heal from disease; what may cause failure or disaster; how we can avoid disaster; and how we create a successful/happy life.
The Dao is my favorite among all of them. This is why I have led the Tai Chi & Qi Gong Healing Institute members to study Daoist philosophy for over 23 years.
In a modern world that never sleeps, anyone can benefit from the simplicity found in Daoism. This way of thought goes beyond just an esoteric ancient Chinese philosophy, and anybody can grasp some of its key concepts with a few quotes from one of Daoism's most important books, the Dao De Jing. This wisdom lays a simple framework for achieving harmony, making life easier.
The followers of Daoism aimed to pursue a spiritual "way" or "Dao." Ancient Chinese thinkers created the Dao; however, the Dao is more than a path. It is also defined as a source of everything in the world, the Way.
By following the way, the Daoism aims to achieve unity with the forces of the natural world. This involves leaving behind the material world's worries and concerns to concentrate fully on the path, thus reaching a balance and harmony in one's own life and attaining the peace that comes through understanding. People who achieve these goals are said to become immortal after physical death.
Religious Daoism involves pursuing a Dao and worshiping the Daoist deities. In contrast, the philosophical Daoist followers use the Dao as a complete lifestyle, embracing traditional ideas on health, wellbeing, meditation, and exercise. This practice enables a person to live in harmony with others and with self, and a ruler who follows the Dao will rule wisely.
Daoist practice have always appreciated the beauty of nature as something of greater worth than the material world. They see mountains and pine trees as the symbols of immortality and longevity. Landscapes are seen as symbolizing the constant change and the motion of life. Anyone who loves nature is likely to be attracted to the Dao.
It is one of the most Daoist practices: not doing. It does not mean "not working" or "do nothing." It is a practice of letting go of useless thoughts and actions. Learning not to react to a stressful situation, but to observe the situation then finding the natural way to move forward and maintain internal peace. Empty the mind leads to a higher state of consciousness and harmony with nature. Daoism nurtures the three treasures, which are: the qualities of vitality, energy, and spirit. None of these can exist without the other two, and all three in equal balance.
The commercial world is far more complicated and has caused chaos in life and disease. By practicing back to basics, simplify thoughts and actions, simplify life, you return to the source of being.
Going with the flow
Life can be smooth if we go with the natural flow. Life can be chaotic if we go against the natural flow. It is shown why some people can achieve and another struggle for a lifetime.
The world is changing. Life is changing. Why do we need to hold on to things that are neither helpful nor useful?
When you focus on health, wellbeing, exercise, longevity, balance, moral code, self-improvement, compassion, patience, acceptance, then the harmony appears.
The philosophy of Confucius—Confucianism—emphasized personal and governmental morality, the correctness of social relationships, justice, kindness, and sincerity. Confucianism was part of the Chinese social fabric and way of life; to Confucians, everyday life was the arena of religion.
Confucius taught the importance of family and respect, especially for one's elders. He valued learning and insisted that his followers used the correct rituals during religious and other ceremonies. He looked to ancestors as a source of goodness in the world and to pay tribute to ancestors regularly, hoping to bring luck and fortune to the family.
Teachings also include treating others in the way that you wanted to be treated yourself.
Confucius identifies the five relationships that offer vital importance in Chinese society. These were between father and son, husband, wife, elder brother and younger brother, Emperor, minister, friend and friend. Other respected relationships included teacher and students, senior person and younger person, older sister and younger sister, etc.
Of these relationships, only that between friend and friend was equal. In all other cases that there was one to be a senior partner. Confucius considered all these relationships to be fundamental to a stable and happy society. And, some of the practices are still the most valued in China and Japan today.
For Confucius, a happy family made for a harmonious world. The whole family should work together to help and support each other. Parents should teach virtue so that their children grow up to be good citizens.
While children should honor their parents and help them whenever they can. This mutual support and respect lead to a balanced household, making a society adequately ordered and well-governed.
The above is an excerpt from Dr. Aihan Kuhn's April 2021 newsletter and reprinted with permission. Dr. Kuhn is president of the Tai Chi & Qi Gong Healing Institute. She is also co-author of the True Wellness: How to Combine the Best of Western and Eastern Medicine book series along with Dr. Catherine Kurosu, published by YMAA Publication Center.