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Translated into English Tao means the path, or the way.
Taoism is a Chinese religion that combines elements of both philosophy and psychology to teach its followers to find inner peace and learn how to connect with nature.
Many believe that Taoism is rooted in the teachings of Lao Tzu (which means Old Sage). Lao Tzu lived between 604-531 B.C. and is believed to have been an older contemporary of Confucius.
It has been said that Lao Tzu first recorded his teachings after a trip to the western border of China (now Tibet) when he was eighty years old. Lao Tzu was constantly searching for a way to prevent warfare and societal conflict and on this trip to western China he became quite disappointed when he learned that men were not willing to follow a path to natural goodness. It was then that he decided to write down his teachings, which are comprised of 5,000 characters called the Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power).
After Lao Tzu died he became venerated as a deity and in the year 440 Taoism was adopted as a state religion in China.
Because Tao, according to the teachings of Lao Tzu, has to do with the movement of the universe it affects every part of life. For this reason Taoists believe that because Tao surrounds everyone, everyone must listen to it to find enlightenment.
Lao Tzu reveals in his teachings that in order to achieve enlightenment humans should endeavor to do nothing. Instead of straining to achieve enlightenment Taoists are encouraged to follow the natural forces and not to pit themselves against the natural order of things in the universe.
Lao Tzu believed that the way to live life was by studying different things and circumstances and figuring out their nature, then allowing these revelations to shape one’s actions. A central Taoist belief is ”wu wei” which means, ”let nature take its course.”
A popular Taoist symbol is the Yin Yang. The Yin Yang represents the necessary balance of opposites in the universe and it is believed that when they are equally present, all is calm but when one outweighs the other, there is confusion and disarray.
Taoists are also responsible for the introduction of Tai Chi, which is a series of movements that are believed to balance the body’s energy flow and allow it to function more effectively.
Taoism is believed to be one of China’s three great religions along with Buddhism and Confucianism.