"Introduction to Taoism" — (from EVERYDAY TAO) by Deng Ming Dao
Introduction (from EVERYDAY TAO by Deng Ming Dao)
Following Tao means following a living path. It is a way of life that sustains you, guides you, and leads you to innumerable rich experiences. It is a spiritual path of joy and insight, freedom and profundity.
Tao is everywhere. It is literally the movement of all life. It is endless and flows in all directions. Since Tao is the total ongoing process of the universe, it makes sense to go along with it. If we swim in a river, we should make use of its current.
The study of Tao originated in China; its history spans thousands of years. Its methods, doctrines, and practices have evolved to a sprawling and complicated system that cannot be completely grasped even with a lifetime of study. Some individuals still I Initiates into religious Taoism, having both the calling and the opportunity, follow an arduous and devout life. But Tao flows for ordinary people and ascetics alike. After all, everyone is faced with the same struggles: the sun rises and sets on all of us, the seasons change for everyone, everyone ages. No matter who we are, e process of Tao affects us. The only question is whether we become aware of it and live in accord with it.
We all can live a life according to the principles of Tao, and we need not defer our study until some future time when we think we n enter into isolation solely for spiritual inquiry. There is nothing we do that is not part of Tao. All it takes to begin living a life harmony with Tao is a commitment to ongoing awareness, after that, there is only the thrilling process of learning more and ore about Tao.
Here are some of the special qualities of those who follow Tao:
Simplicity: Those who follow Tao keep life simple. They conserve their energies; they are content with what they have. Since they don't hanker after the dazzling goals of others who are ambitious, they are able to maintain their equilibrium.
Sensitivity: Those who follow Tao are observant of others, avoid the aggressive, and help those in need. They love nature and spend time in the wilderness learning from the seasons, studying animals, and absorbing the lessons of nature's creativity. Nature is not wholly synonymous with Tao, but it is completely a part of Tao and thus a perfect way to glimpse Tao.
Flexibility: This is the aspect of Tao people of other disciplines often have the most trouble accepting. Since Tao holds that everything in the world is relative, it does not espouse any absolutes. Followers of Tao rarely rule anything out, because they believe any choice they make is dependent upon circumstance rather than preconceived notions.
Independence: Those who follow Tao seldom care about society's dictates, fads, trends, political movements, or common morality. They find these too limited, too imperfect, and too petty. It is not that those who follow Tao are immoral. It is just that they act from a far more profound level of the spirit. For this reason, followers of Tao have often been accused of being dangerous both to religion and society. But those who follow Tao affirm wisdom and experience over government, conventional morality, and etiquette.
Focused: Those who follow Tao learn an inner direction in their lives. They accept who they are, and they first ascertain and then accept the details of their lives. They take advantage of who they are and do not try to be someone they are not. They accept that they were born, they accept that they will die, and they take the distance traveled between those two points as their personal path. They accept that each stage of their lives has certain advantages and disadvantages, and they set out to work with those advantages.
Cultivated: Since a life of Tao is one of simplicity, observation, and action, people strive to refine themselves in order to follow Tao-more perfectly.
Disciplined: Those who follow Tao are disciplined. This discipline is not a harsh structure imposed upon one's personality, but the taking of orderly actions toward specific goals. That requires concentration of the highest order.
Joyous: Once one gains Tao, there is absolutely no doubt about it. It's like seeing a god, or paradise: no matter what anyone says or does, the experience cannot be erased. So top is it with those who have seen Tao and who live within its flow: They have a joyous sense of the deepest sustenance. They feel directly connected with the source of life. They do not fear tyranny, because no tyrant could ever destroy their faith in Tao. They do not fear poverty, because Tao brings them wealth overflowing. They do not fear loneliness, because Tao surrounds them constantly. They do not fear death, because they know in Tao there is no death.
Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmon by Deng Ming Dao