Taoism is one of the three main religions of China (Confucianism, and Buddhism). It was created by Lao-Tse in the sixth century BC. Lao Tse wrote the book which is the Bible to the Taoist religion which is called the "Tao Te Ching".
The first section of the book tells the why of the universe, and the second section tells the how of life. The word Tao is very hard to translate and that is how Lao Tse wanted it. The closest approximation is the word nature or the way of the universe.
Lao Tse attempted to describe the Tao when he said, "There is a something undifferentiated and yet perfect, which existed before heaven and earth ever came into being. I know not its name, and if I must designate it, I can call it only Tao." It was this way or Tao, that sets the standard for the proper life of every man.
Lao Tse said that there was but one virtue for man, and that was to stay in harmony with the Tao. Staying in tune with the Tao was the only way to know well being, harmony, health, and abundance. If a person, city, state, or country rebelled against the Tao, disaster and suffering would surely follow. Taoists are taught to see the Tao in all beings and all things.
Part of understanding the Tao is understanding the Taoist concept of "wu-wei" (non-action). This does not mean no action, but rather, no going beyond spontaneous action. When we are in tune with the Tao we shall act spontaneously, effortlessly, and efficiently, hardly giving the matter a thought. Just as branches naturally bend towards the sun. Being in the Tao is an attempt to stay in harmony with nature.
Taoist literature has defined the Tao in the following manner. "The eternal may best be described as the Tao or way, signifying these three and more: the moral and physical order of the universe, the path of perfect virtue which Heaven itself follows, and the absolute, yet so great it is that the Tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao."
I believe that the goal and the path of life are essentially the same, and that man’s highest ideal is to follow the Tao which can only be known to those exalted beings who have realized it for themselves. Reflections of the beyond are of no avail, better to live in perfect harmony now by seeking the depth of things."
I, personally, have always related to the concept of the Tao even though clearly, it is a very hard thing to explain. To me, it clearly relates to the concept of the yin and the yang. The Tao is like surfing a wave at the ocean. If you go too fast and get ahead of the wave, it will crash behind you and you will get dumped by the wave. If you go too slow you will miss the wave. The Tao is finding the perfect harmony or balance that lies right in the center of the yin and the yang.
The Tao is the still point that is staying in attunement with one’s soul, spirit, and God. There is a Tao to everything. When you are dating, before getting married, there was a certain Tao of divine timing, to move in the relationship process. There is a Tao to how much one should work or even sleep on a given day.
There are an infinite number of polarities and balances which all contain a Tao. The Tao does not mean one has to think about them, necessarily, but more rather to just stay in harmony with them. In my way of thinking, if we always listen to our Higher Self and soul or God and not our negative ego and lower self, then we stay in the Tao.
The Tao also represents universal law. When we get out of harmony with this universal law, then we suffer. When we are in the Tao we are guided by our intuition, and our three minds and four bodies are in harmony.
There is a Tao of when to work and when to play, when to talk and when to be silent. When to physically exercise and how long to physically exercise. This list of examples is infinite. Yet there is this subtle intelligence within us that the Chinese call the Tao and which Westerners might call God, that gives us this guidance moment to moment if we tune into it.
When we live in the Tao we are living in grace instead of karma. We are learning the easy way, instead of the school of hard knocks. The Tao is truly an exquisite concept that I highly recommend you integrate it into your philosophy if you haven’t already done so.
The "Tao Te Ching" treats the Tao as the great, all controlling principle of the universe. The purpose of life is to realize the Tao in your daily life and, hence, achieve inner peace and enlightenment. Lao Tse believed that if every person stayed in harmony with the Tao, then this would manifest as spiritual fellowship and brotherly love among all people.
Lao Tse also saw war as an impossibility if people lived in the Tao. Even though he lived 600 years before Jesus Christ, he said in the "Tao Te Ching", "Repay evil with good." Taoist philosophy taught the virtues of a simple life, denial of selfishness, and mystical union with the ultimate. Taoism and Confucianism were a good balance for each other, and it is very interesting that both men lived in the same century.
In Djwhal Khul’s terminology, they seemed to embody the path of the mystic (Taoism) and the path of occultist (Confucianism). Confucianism was much more practical and down to earth and straight forward in its ethical and moral concerns for society. Taoism has a certain mystical and free flowing quality.
In a quote from the Taoist scripture this can be seen in the following statement. "I believe the omniscient and impersonal supreme is implacable, beyond concern for human woe, but that there exists lesser divinities, from the high Gods, who endure for eons, to the nature spirits and demons, and that the lives of these angelic and satanic beings are interwoven with our own."
Clearly a belief in God is seen here and a belief in a certain hierarchy of spiritual beings. Taoist thought also very much carried a belief in a type of resurrection of the soul as can be clearly seen in the following passage in the "Tao Te Ching". "He who contains within himself the richness of Tao’s virtue is like a babe. No poisonous insects sting him, nor fierce beasts can attack him. He who attains the Tao is everlasting. Though his body may decay, he never perishes."
In time the hope of attaining the Tao became the hope of attaining immortality on this earth. Clearly realizing the Tao to the Taoist, would be like realizing the Eternal Self, or the Christ to the Westerner. The words are different, but the ideals are the same.
In the cosmology of Taoism they talk of many different heavens where spiritually minded people went after death. Many beautiful paintings were created depicting these heavens. Another very interesting part of Chinese culture, even to this day, is their understanding of family. The Chinese family also includes one’s ancestors who have passed on to the spirit world. One’s property and possessions are seen to belong to the ancestors as well. When a person dies, it is his or her hope to become a good spirit, and helpful and beneficent to his heirs. The dying pilgrims fate is determined by one’s own past actions and the lifetime they have just lived.
Next to the quality of "Wu Wei" (inactivity or non forced action), the most precious jewel was the quality of humility. The third most important jewel was frugality. Lao Tse said about frugality, "The wise man doth not accumulate. The more he expends for others, the more doth he possess of his own. The more he giveth to others, the more hath he for himself." A better term might be generosity, to describe this jewel.
Lao Tse’s teaching on Taoism reminds me a lot of Buddhism, because God was not mentioned a lot. Buddhism did not believe in God, but believed in the Buddha. Taoists tend to be kind of similar in this regard, although God was mentioned and His name was "Shang-ti".
This is quite a curious phenomena in both these religions, that they believe in immortality, other dimensions of reality, hierarchies of spiritual beings, but not in God, persay, as we Westerners understand Him to be. Yet the ideals are almost exactly in harmony in both religions to what other religions who believed in a God taught.