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AKHANDA JNANA

 

TEACHINGS OF TAOISM

Introduction to the Tao:-

Taoism teaches a person to follow their breath, to embrace wonder and the joy in living gracefully with style. So here is the modern practical guide to living as a Taoist!

What is Taoism?
To many people, a confusing aspect of Taoism is its very definition. Many religions will happily teach a Philosophy/Dogma which in reflection defines a person. Taoism flips this around. It starts by teaching a truth; “The Tao” is indefinable. It then follows up by teaching that each person can discover the Tao in their own terms. A teaching like this can be very hard to grasp when most people desire very concrete definitions in their own life.

A simply way to start learning the definition of Taoism is to start within yourself. Here are three easy starting steps to learning Taoism:

  • Don’t concentrate on the definition of the Tao (this will come later naturally)
  • Understand what Taoism really is. Taoism is more than just a “philosophy” or a “religion”. Taoism should be understood as being: A system of belief, attitudes and practices set towards the service and living to a person’s own nature.
  • The path of understanding Taoism is simply accepting yourself. Live life and discover who you are. Your nature is ever changing and is always the same. Don’t try to resolve the various contradictions in life, instead learn acceptance of your nature.

Practicing Taoism

Taoism teaches a person to flow with life. Over the years Taoism has become many things to many people. Hundreds of variations in Taoist practice exist. Some of these practices are philosophical in nature, others are religious. Taoism makes no distinction in applying labels to its own nature. This is important since as a person, we are each a blend of many truths. The truth taught in Taoism is to embrace life in actions that support you as a person.

Taoism teaches a person to live to their heart.

Here are some simple starting tips to help a person live as a Taoist.

  • Having a set of basic guidelines can be helpful. However realistically, guidelines don’t determine how to live; Instead Taoism teaches by living you will express your nature.

My personal guidelines are the following:

      • With care, I aid those who are extended expressions of my nature.
      • Be true to myself
      • Connect to the world as I want to be treated.
      • Connect to those outside my nature with decisive action.
      • To those unwilling to accept me for my true nature, no action is required:
        Just silently let them be themselves as I remain myself.
      • I own nothing; I am merely a passing custodian of items outside of my nature.
  • Discover a set of practices to aid keeping the mind, body and spirit engaged and strong. Remember practices should support your essence with the activities fitting the needs of the moment. Which means this is a shifting balance of activities relative to your needs. For example I practice martial arts to keep my body strong, yoga to make my body subtle, meditation to clear my mind, bike around simply to fly and lift my spirit. Poetry as a lens of examination. All these and more are my shifting practices to support my essence and in doing each, each helps me learn more about myself and the world.
  • Take time, relax and just explore and poke around. Taoism has no plans. Taoism is based upon following your gut feelings and trusting your instincts.
  • It’s within the pause of a breath… that each step of living becomes visible for your larger life to improve and follow upon.

Smile, when needing to pick a possible next step. To smile is to open possibilities.
Breathe when needing a break. Since to breathe is to be at one with yourself.
Alternate the two and your path will become free and clear for an entire lifetime of wonder to explore.
This may sound simple, but you would be surprise how many people cannot embrace this most basic aspect of Taoist practice! People think it cannot be that simple! Taoism truly is this simple. If you follow and practice step four, not only is that all one needs to fully embrace Taoism, but also anything becomes possible within this simple practice. However, most people need time letting go of expectations. So it’s also ok to dig deeper into Taoism. Taoism has many many levels of teachings on purpose to help people from all perspectives move smoothly in life.

Taoism summary

Taoism is acceptance of your life.
Taoism is following your breath to find peace.
Taoism is opening up a smile to enable possibility.
If you embrace these three ideas, everything else follows in Taoism. Some people do start here. Others take a longer more colorful path. That’s fine also, since you get to experience more color in your life. No wrong path exists at the end, since it’s about experiencing life.
Practical Taoist Advice

  • At times the process of learning Taoism is also a process of healing. Take time to heal (don’t rush and hurt yourself more in the rushing). Taoism teaches to embrace your body with patience.
  • Sometimes you need quietness; it’s ok to take time off to only hear yourself and not the noise of civilization at times.
  • People expect and think that the goal of life is perfection… it’s not… you should desire for being good at something and to embrace the various little imperfections… that end up actually being defining characteristics of each of us.

The little bits of imperfection we each have are elements of chaos that give each person individuality and distinction!

Without our little flaws we wouldn’t be individuals at all! Taoism teaches us how to accept both the best and worse parts of our life.

  • Taoism teaches a person to drop expectations. The more expectations you have for your life, the less you will become.

A Taoist lives life without expectations, living in the here and now fully. Since most people need a few expectations especially when dealing with important future experiences. Here is a trick. Create only a single expectation at a time for that future experience. For example: An expectation you will smile or have some fun. Thats it! Don’t place any learning or changing into your expectation. If you do , this actually plants the seed for the opposite to occur, By creating a single simple expectation such as smiling, this then becomes something you can always fulfill since you can empower that action to happen. Any expectation more complicated or relying on something outside of yourself, just sets up the future to not meeting your needs. Dropping expectation is very very important within Taoism.

  • Lather, Rinse and Repeat , and then toss the instructions away to do what is right for yourself… This is Taoism at the very elemental level, so be open, experiment and embrace what works for you.

Taoism as a tradition has teachers who work with students on an individual basis. In the end no guide or Master can be right for everyone. For this reason , we are always our own best teacher. Give yourself credit and patience to be such a teacher to your own life.

If you desire a person as a guide, you can find a Taoist temple, Zen Dojo or local sage to simply chat with occasionally. Taoism’s deepest truths must come from the inside, but at times it’s helpful to get an outside perspective to see your own nature.

History of Taoism

Most sites will teach you the terms and history of Taoism. That might be nice for academics: but it really does nothing for teaching you how to live as a Taoist. Taoism is about embracing life in the now and not in being stuck in history or terms.

Originally Taoism can be considered to be a shamanic practice. However, Taoism is so old; the complete history of Taoism cannot be traced through written records. Taoism is very much a tradition that is transmitted verbally from master to student over the generations. Because of this, some of the shamanic roots of Taoism still survive today. Taoism historically is also a very flexible practice. Taoism is a practice of change and it always changes to meet the needs of the times. This is still happening today and even as we speak Taoism is evolving to keep pace with modern culture. This is one reason Taoism has survived for so long, it always adapts with the time while holding onto a few key concepts to keep the practice true to the Tao.

An early surviving text to describe the Tao is the Tao-Te Ching, written by Lao-Tzu (The old master). The Tao-Te Ching is a series of poems that can be considered to be a work of philosophy, a treatise on how to run a government, a how-to book for achieving a balanced life, or a sage’s reflection of humanity and the universe. It is known to have been written over 2400 years ago but not much else is retained about the origins. Many fun stories abound about these origins; however, these are just that, stories. What is important is that the Tao-Te Ching and its poetry survive, having had an impact on the course of human events over the past 2400 years. It’s an interesting book, worth skimming. I say “skim” because it is written in a light-hearted manner. If a reader stares too hard or takes the Tao-Te Ching too literally, the multiple intentions within the poetry will be lost.

Many many stories, and tales exist about the History of Taoism. Some of these stories could be true, and some could be fables. As a Taoist, the point is to learn from the mixing of our reactions to the tales. Veracity is best left to history; time will always change “truth” for each generation.

Illuminating the Empty Space

We are the light of our own empty space.
What is the Empty Space?

Take some clay. Feel it in your hands. Now spin it upon a potter’s wheel. What is shaped? A bowl comes out. However, the bowl is defined by an empty space, a space enclosed by the bowl’s very form. The empty space holds the water, fulfilling the purpose of the bowl. The actual physical form of the bowl is reflected by the empty space it projects. The final use and form of the bowl is determined in the moment of artistry used to spin out the shape.

In this example the bowl is made from clay. The clay forms the body, but the actual bowl projects out as more than a clay shell; it must include the “empty space” in its definition. In fact a bowl is more about the “empty space” than the materials comprising the bowl.

In living, we each have a physical form which is mirrored by an empty space. The process of shaping this space is the very definition of a person’s free will.

Free will is the ability to express the very nature of the empty space. Free will is the whim of the moment, the place before the dream, the moment of shaping.

In part, our initial empty space is formed by parents, elders, teachers, culture, our bodies and tendencies of the mind. Yet each person has an incredible degree of freedom to shape their own empty space. At certain times this process is more dramatic than others, such as being a teenager or experiencing a mid-life crisis. These moments stand out as a time to question earlier frameworks that shaped our forms. These times can be difficult due to the twisting around of our core shape and beliefs: a time when our very nature is in flux. Often a person reshapes their empty space without the benefit of outside perspective, adding to the frustration and chances of something “breaking”. A person never truly breaks in this sense, but radically changing one’s own empty space then reflects out to form a vastly different person after the experience.

Consciousness

Consciousness is the awareness of one’s empty space.

To fill the empty space painters splash out art, poets weave words, scientists document facts, parents embrace children, prophets preach couch, potatoes watch television… and the list goes on. The point is: being conscious, people feel a need to fill this space.

As the physical form is a readily accessible part of our being, people assume that the empty space must likewise be filled with something physical, something tangible. Many people assume that a definable purpose has to be assigned to their reflected nature. This is the very search for the meaning of life: a person trying to figure out what to place within their empty space.

Paths

It’s time to come full circle in the book. Another definition of the Tao is that it’s the empty space. A Personal Tao could be described as the process of defining one’s empty space. It’s the expression of free will to have a hand in shaping your own empty space. Free will means no single predefined final form to this empty space is forced upon a person. The empty space is defined only upon using and completely living life. Yes a limit exists to the number of destinations that are available, yet living is the freedom of action to shape our life.

Instead of worrying about the shape of life, follow Wu-Wei, flow to what feels right without thought: express the empty space with peace, love and exploration. Such action becomes true artistry upon one’s soul. The only limit being the imagination itself. Be free, be yourself.


Discovering Enlightenment

Enlightenment
Is enlightenment a state of transformation?

The answer is yes: enlightenment does represent one possible state of transformation a person can strive towards. Understand countless paths in transformation exist and enlightenment represents not necessarily a final goal but one destination of many in transformation.


People assume enlightenment is the final goal in transformation. The trouble is humans tend to get stuck in time. Enlightenment itself is a timeless state and as such it isn’t first nor last. It simply is one state of being, humans with awareness are able to exist within.

I personally find it amusing and odd both that people seek enlightenment as a form of transformation. Most personal transformation processes require a person to build up potential to become something else. Enlightenment is based upon exactly the opposite process. To become enlightened is releasing your potential into one of the five base states of being. (see previous post’s diagram)

Never seek enlightenment, rather release into it.

This is one reason why seekers can spend decades, even an entire lifetime, trying to find their enlightenment: they are using the wrong approach *** of seeking *** . Literally, enlightenment is an instantaneous process, of simply releasing oneself. Anyone proud about how long they have been seeking enlightenment, has totally missed the boat…In fact there is no boat at all to miss in the enlightenment process.

Steps to Enlightenment

For those trying to transform towards enlightenment. Here are the steps of becoming truly enlightened
1) Release 100% what you are.
2) Extend awareness
2) Accept the wholeness of what you just became in Release

That’s it…
For those seekers wanting a map, For those wanting “a you are here dot” to mark your achievement. Then refer the previous 

Enlightenment can be quite easy, once you get the knack. Living and the fact most enlightened souls circle back around to complete living out their life on a day to day basis… means living gracefully actually represents the tougher challenge.

It’s not becoming enlightened that makes a person great. (In fact you have to even release greatness to be enlightened, think about it…). No, it’s how one lives gracefully and to fullest potential that makes a person great.

It could be argued that Buddha , Jesus, Martin Luther King and other teachers weren’t great for becoming enlightened, rather they were great by living: kind, compassionate and full lives through their actions.

People think that finding enlightenment will help them become kinder, more compassionate or more full and complete. It usually is the case that for many people enlightenment actually represents releasing old life patterns and within that release discover new options on how to live more gracefully . This then helps open a person up towards a realization how special and unique living is in it’s own right. To release what was holding them back and to expand in their nature. Different people need to release different things in order to grow. Yes there are some nice standard paths to take, I have found it simpler to help tailor paths to each person rather than having a person force a path upon their nature.

Tao and Culture

Tao is a word. It translates roughly as: the way. When as a Taoist we talk about the Tao, we are talking about the central aspect of our practice. However, it’s important to keep in mind, as a word, the word Tao is used for a lot more than just Taoism. Every religion has its way. Every person has their way. Every practice has their way. There is a Tao for everything. This doesn’t directly mean it’s the same Tao as what we speak about in Taoism. While from a Taoist view point it’s all the same, from a human literary perspective it’s not. So it’s important to always take the word Tao within the context of the statement being made.

For instance: a Confucian will use of the term Tao to cover how they believe and act. On paper, the Tao of Confucianism is quite a bit different than the Tao of Taoism. A Confucian embraces order while a Taoist will dance to chaos. The Tao that a Confucian teaches is a rigid logical complex system of behavior. The Tao of Taoism is freedom to embrace all the whimsy of life. The same Tao both times: in the using the Tao to refer to a way of life, but the actual results, the path taken is quite a bit different. A path is a path but .not all paths lead to the same place while in the process of the journey itself. Of course to a Taoist all paths do lead to the same place. 

It’s just the journey might seem longer to some than others. So please keep this in mind if you see the word Tao being used in a slightly different context than what you were expecting. Advanced Taoism: Tao and God This last section is for the brave of heart, for those wanting a few more advance answers. First and foremost: Taoism respects the concept of God. Initially one might think a discussion of God would be an impersonal topic. It isn’t. Each person has a very deep and connected relationship in what they view God may or may not be. A person’s view on god is a statement and reflection upon the way a person also views their own life. As a result when discussing differences in God, it’s best to respect it as also being a highly personal and sensitive topic.

When exploring Taoism, eventually a person compares the terms God and Tao. I would suggest first reading this chapter of A Personal Tao on Religion.

From this chapter:

Taoism offers the option to skip the comparison. This question is irrelevant. God could or could not exist, and either state doesn’t change the way we lead our lives. Our lives are expressions of action between ourselves and the universe. To respect our surrounding environment is a furthering of respect to ourselves. This manner of living doesn’t change regardless of the nature of God or the Tao.

However, most people insist upon definition and seeking deeper answers. So lets expand upon God and Tao. God as a term is often “defined” as being an ultimate creator or universal power. The various aspects of God has been fought over as long as humans have written and used words. All definitions are based upon perception. From a Taoist perspective: human based definitions are both right and wrong: as all definitions are relative upon humanity’s state of mind. A Taoist stays out of arguments of definition. It’s not productive arguing over something relative to each person. Instead Taoism accepts each person’s view of God as being personal.

A Taoist doesn’t think the Tao is before, after or is even equal to God. The Tao is a concept to describe something that goes beyond our capability to define. Taoism leaves the Tao undefined and a Taoist happily explores the wonder that opens up as a result.

All Taoist’s will agree: The Tao is indefinable…
Something which is indefinable: is outside of human definition by default. However, we can still accept it as indefinable. The Tao by being indefinable… removes all issues of perception in its definition… since perception cannot directly reveal the Tao which is undefined. It’s just simply and utterly is: undefined…

If your personal definition of God is: God is indefinable… then the Tao and God at that point merge towards the same concept… Once a person accepts the definition of the Tao as being indefinable, that person by definition has to leave it as undefined… Once you place any definition over such a term… it takes a person further away from the whole concept of the Tao.

In some of the Taoist religions, Taoism does have gods, but Taoist gods typically are very tangible beings. They walk besides us, share tea with us, laugh, play and can alter reality. A Taoist god represents an enlightened immortal that helps other conscious beings work towards grace. In Taoism gods are shown as guides and inspriration towards how to find enlightenment. (Please keep in mind: this paragraph is an extreme simplification of how Taoism views Gods.)

We do say in Taoism: We are of the Tao, or God is of the Tao… but Taoist’s say this… since from our perception of living: we are each undefined. We only define ourselves as we live. While living, we are still moving through life, a large part of our nature is indefinable until the end of Living. As a result: we are of the Tao. A Taoist can see the Tao within everything… This can be a very delicate logical truth and often confuses non-Taoist’s. This is why I wrote A Personal Tao: being human we see the Tao in terms of our own life. This brings us full circle in the Tao’s definition. The Tao is indefinable and yet we are completely of the Tao.

A Taoist knows to leave the Tao as is, to grasp the Tao within the chase of living fully. It’s a wonderful contradiction to embrace and it actually does completely full-fill one’s life within that acceptance. For a Taoist this is all about living and exploring our possibilities, for we each are undefined and of the Tao. Trying to define ourselves just limits one’s nature and what can be done. So a Taoist instead embraces the Tao, to discover and open up all possibilities instead.

From here each person is free to draw their own conclusions… which will always shift to the winds of perception. If this confuses you, then please go back and repeat these three steps:

  • Don’t concentrate on the definition of the Tao (this will come later naturally)
  • Understand what Taoism really is. Taoism is more than just a “philosophy” or a “religion”. Taoism should be understood as being: A system of belief, attitudes and practices set towards the service and living to a person’s own nature.
  • The path of understanding the Tao is simply accepting yourself.

Live life and discover who you are. Your nature is ever changing and is always the same. Don’t try to resolve the various contradictions in life, instead learn acceptance of your nature. Remember: Taoism teaches a person to live to their heart.

Freedom of Action

A Personal Tao is about freedom to be yourself.
Accepting oneself without judgment is the starting point for personal liberty.

Speak and act to your nature. Your actions dictate society.

As a reflection of the people, society also exerts a pressure onto each person to conform to its representation of the many. In a culture of mass communication, society exerts a strong influence to change people. Modern culture has sculpted a large portion of the population to the point where many individuals cannot separate their lives from a lifestyle imposed upon them through societal pressure and law.

The feeling of being lost is often due to a person not really living his or her life. This is the influence of acting outside one’s nature, by living the American Dream instead of one’s own personal dream.

A Personal Tao provides the power to stand up against any form of dictatorship. This is strength arising from inner peace to follow what feels right. Voting by one’s actions to make a statement about, or change, how the world should be.
We can help others find peace simply by having our own peace first. This is the message that Martin Luther King, Jesus, Gandhi and others of spiritual strength have shown us. Who am I to think I can express this truth any differently? I am just a father holding out my hand, lifting others by passing on a smile. Revealing hope that someone is out there to toss us back up into the air, if even for a moment, to be as a child again, to fly.

Being an angel:


Means —- having no wings.
Means lifting up to their feet those who have fallen off the beat.
What the great teachers of the past would say today…
Isn’t for them to say
It has been handed to us now: here and now,
To stand up and make our way into truth.
Because we don’t have wings, yet we can help each other fly.
A Personal Tao can be a gift to make a difference.
The gift to simply say: “Hey, just be yourself  ”.
It’s enough to make one fly.
It’s enough to change the world.

 

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