Taoism & Cultivation
Tao 道 is the term borrowed to represent what cannot be wholly represented because it is the whole and all of its parts.
Taoist Cultivation practices include Stillness meditation, internal alchemical meditation, ritual, martial arts, life nourishing through diet, qigong and living in harmony with the seasons and calendar. The hallmark of Taoist cultivation is Xingming Shuangxiu, 性命雙修, spiritual-nature and life-fate (physical health and vitality) cultivated together.
Beliefs – Taoism is a diverse and rich spiritual and religious tradition of understanding and practice which is designed to bring the individual the community and the world into greater harmony. The body is seen as a reflection of the universe. When an individual is in harmony, replete with vital essence with bright and calm spirit, then one is in a state of health. This is a basic goal of Taoist practice.
Yang Sheng 養生 – Nourishing life is the foundation of Taoist practice and lifestyle, living in accord with the natural rhythms of the Tao. These patterns include sleep, diet, bathing, movement and quiet practices, practicing integrity.
Bowing – Bowing is a form of traditional Chinese etiquette. On the most basic level it is a sign of respect. Two people bowing to each other shows mutual respect. Bowing at a shrine is a form of respect for and alignment with the energies of the shrine. There are various Taoist methods of bowing but all have the left (auspicious) hand on the outside.
Incense and Oil – Incense and oil is the term that is used to represent the support of the shrine. The shrine is a representation of the cosmic body, the incense is the breath, and the flame the spirit. Early shrines used oil lamps which were later often supplemented or replaced by candles. Oil is what is required for the flame in the lamp. In front of each shrine is found a box which pilgrims and supporters place contributions to pay for incense oil and other needs for the support and upkeep of the shrine and those who tend it.
Offerings – Offerings at a shrine include incense, fruit, and flowers. Offering are regularly placed before the shrine especially during festival days and the first and fifteenth of the lunar month (new and full moon).
Cultivation of Virtue – The cultivation of virtue is at the foundation of Taoist practice. Virtue, de (德), is cultivated through the sincere practice and acting with integrity throughout the actions of one’s life whether in public or private. The cultivation of de is what creates the foundation, the frame upon which all other cultivation depends. Without de, true attainment is not possible.
Pantheon – Taoism is generally understood as a polytheistic religion having many gods. At the top of the pantheon are the three purities. Yu qing, Shang Qing, and Tai Qing. These represent the Tao itself in various aspects.
Shrine – A Taoist shrine is a qi node, a gate, an access point between the self-body and the Tao