Taoism, or Daoism, is a Chinese religious and philosophical system that preaches a number of beliefs about how to live your life. These beliefs stem from the emphasis on uniting extremes and seeking balance. By seeking this balance and understanding the connection of all things in the world, individuals can lead a moral life, followers believe.
Harmony is the most important moral precept in Taoism. Taoism teaches that the world is divine and human interference often destroys the natural order. Consequently, Taoists to seek to maintain natural harmony. Worldly forces such as darkness and light balance each other out, and moral Taoists respect this balance without tipping it any one way through their actions. Taoism forbids actions that would violate this balance, such as murder, lying and promiscuity. Similarly, Taoist morality emphasizes self-control, and followers should avoid letting their desires compel them toward action.
Because one of the most important tenets of Taoist morality is living in harmony with the world, Taoism encourages individuals to respect and abide by the norms and laws of the society they live in. However, Taoists also emphasize doing only what is needed in a given situation and nothing more. This means that they rarely initiate action and typically wait to react to the actions of others. For example, a Taoist would never initiate a fight, but if a fight breaks out, a moral Taoist would take action to end the fight and restore harmony. Taoists ask themselves what harmony would look like in a given situation and seek to maintain it.
Although Taoism is native to China, the introduction of Buddhism changed the moral system of the religion. Some Taoist sects, such as Chen Ta Taoism, fully embraced Buddhism, while others adopted only a few ideas. Chinese Taoists saw their belief in balance and harmony reflected in the Buddhist notion that desire causes unhappiness. They also shared the belief that a moral individual avoids such feelings. Specific groups, such as Lingbao Taoists, supported ideas such as the Buddhist notion that individuals accumulate sins and good deeds over the course of their lifetime. They preached that helping others would help raise individuals out of their current suffering.
Although the Communist Revolution in China sought to systematically dismantle Taoism and replace it with a secular morality, Taoism survived and continued to influence the moral beliefs of people both inside and outside of China. Some of these beliefs have implications for larger problems facing the world. For example, the emphasis on harmony teaches individuals to respect the environment and avoid contaminating the natural balance of the world with pollution.
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