What do you know about Lao Tzu?
Here is some information about Lao Tzu (or Laozi), an important figure in Taoism:
- He is said to have lived in the 6th century BC in the Henan region of China. The biographical details about him are quite vague.
- He is credited with writing the Tao Te Ching (or Daodejing), a foundational text of Taoism that sets out the thinking of the “Way” (Tao). His teachings advocate non-action, simplicity, spontaneity.
- According to legend, he was an archivist at the Zhou court but, disappointed by the corruption of his time, he decided to leave the court and travel west.
- The border guard Yin Xi recognized him and asked him to record his teachings before leaving. Lao Tzu then wrote the Tao Te Ching in one night.
- His thinking had a great influence on the religious Taoism that developed later, but also on Confucianism and more broadly on traditional Chinese thought.
- He is considered a mysterious figure and venerated as a sage by many Chinese philosophical and spiritual currents.
This summarizes the key points about this important figure in ancient Chinese philosophy! Feel free to ask if you have any other questions.
I think there is nothing from Lao Tzu regarding miracles, but what about Taoism itself?
You’re right, Lao Tzu himself does not mention supernatural miracles in his writings. However, Taoism that developed after him does contain some miraculous or magical elements:
- Religious Taoism, which emerged in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, incorporates practices aimed at achieving immortality as well as supernatural powers (flying, invisibility, etc.).
- Some Taoist monks would have acquired these extraordinary powers through spiritual and physical practices. They are sometimes described as “immortals” or “mages”.
- Popular Taoism also believes in various deities with magical powers. Some legends tell of immortals who used their miraculous gifts to help villages.
- Taoist rituals aim to invoke gods to obtain their protection, healing powers, and ability to manipulate natural forces.
- Some Taoist currents developed alchemical practices in the hope of creating elixirs of immortality.
So even if Lao Tzu does not directly evoke the miraculous, the religious and popular branches of Taoism incorporate a magical and supernatural dimension absent from the founding philosophical texts.
Regarding practices for learning to fly and become invisible, do you know more?
Yes, in some Taoist currents, there were spiritual practices aimed at developing supernatural powers like flying or invisibility. Here are some details:
- These practices were part of the quest for immortality and transcendence. They were based on the development of qi (vital breath) and control of the body and mind.
- To learn to fly, Taoist monks used visualizations and prolonged meditations. They had to visualize their body becoming as light as a feather and control inner breaths.
- Some texts describe breathing techniques, specific diets, elixirs and physical exercises (walking, running) that would allow defying gravity.
- To become invisible, one had to be able to control one’s qi so as not to emit perceptible energy. Mastery of breath and mind made it possible to conceal one’s presence.
- The powers of invisibility were also sought for their obvious military applications.
- In legends, only a small number of Taoist monks were said to have truly mastered these supernatural powers after decades of training.
Although rejected by philosophical Taoism, these beliefs reflect the appeal of the miraculous in some branches of Taoism.
Miracles are probably not central to Taoism. What can you tell me about this approach?
You’re right, miracles are not at the heart of Taoist teachings. Here are some key elements about this philosophical and spiritual approach:
- Taoism emphasizes the “Tao” (the Way), a fundamental principle governing the cosmos and nature. The Tao is both the source and the underlying current of all life.
- Harmony with the Tao, “non-action” (wu wei) and respect for the natural course of things are advocated. Not going against the tide allows one to live in accordance with the Tao.
- Simplicity, spontaneity, contemplation of nature are valued to connect with the Tao. Taoism criticizes intellectual knowledge in favor of intuition.
- Yin and Yang, complementary and interdependent, represent the duality inherent in all things. Their interaction generates continuous change and transformation.
- Foundational texts like the Tao Te Ching offer wisdom for life to achieve serenity and longevity. Taoist philosophers criticize the Confucian values of their time.
- Practices like Qigong, meditation, inner alchemy are spiritual tools later developed in religious Taoism.
These are some of the key concepts of this ancient Chinese philosophy still popular today. Feel free to ask if you have any other questions!
What is the main objective in this teaching?
The main objective of Taoism could be summed up as:
To live in harmony with the Tao, to merge into its natural flow, to achieve serenity, longevity and wisdom.
- To understand and align with the fundamental principles and rhythms of the universe, represented by the Tao.
- To renounce excessive action and control, which goes against the Tao. Practice “non-action” (wu wei), right and spontaneous action.
- To seek a simple lifestyle, attentive to nature and one’s inner self. To free oneself from material desires and ego.
- To cultivate one’s inner vitality (qi) through spiritual exercises to preserve health and increase longevity.
- To develop intuition and wisdom to discern the Way and make the right decisions.
- To achieve a state of serenity, detachment, in resonance with the Tao. To no longer fear death.
- For some Taoist currents, to pursue physical or spiritual immortality and awakening.
The ultimate goal is therefore to align with the cosmic order of the Tao to live in harmony with oneself and the universe.
Could you give me some key quotes from Taoist masters?
Here are some famous quotes from historical Taoist masters that illustrate their thinking well:
Lao Tzu (mythical founder of Taoism):
“Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.”
“Tao never does, yet through it nothing is left undone.”
“To be supple and weak is the way of the Tao. To be rigid and strong is the way of death.”
Zhuangzi (Taoist thinker, 4th century BC):
“Happy fish forget the existence of water. Happy men forget the existence of the Tao.”
“To know others is intelligence; to know oneself is wisdom.”
Liezi (legendary Taoist master):
“Empty your mind, relax your body, unfasten your heart, let go of all desire.”
“The sage travels the world without encountering the slightest obstacle, thanks to his perfect understanding of things.”
Ge Hong (Taoist alchemist, 4th century):
“If you wish to cultivate your mind, you must first pacify it.”
I hope these few quotes illustrate the depth and wisdom of Taoist thought throughout the ages! Feel free to ask for more examples.
Some more quotes please.
Here are some other quotes from famous Taoist masters:
“He who has realized the Way no longer drifts through things: his heart remains at peace.”
“Happiness is found neither in possession nor in fame. It resides in serenity.”
Lie Yukou (Taoist, 4th century):
“The man endowed with the Virtue of the Tao is saddened by nothing and gladdened by nothing. He responds to events with tranquility.”
“The sage acts through non-action, and teaches without speaking.”
Guo Xiang (Taoist commentator, 3rd century):
“Everything arises spontaneously from the essential Nature. Without the intervention of human intention.”
“The sage conforms to what is natural and constrains nothing.”
Chen Tuan (Legendary Taoist, 10th century):
“If you wish to cultivate longevity, learn to detach from everything.”
“The Tao resides in calm, equanimity, non-action.”
I hope these additional quotes allow you to appreciate the timeless depth and wisdom of the Taoist masters.