22 Questions on Taoism
These questions were submitted to us by a student studying Taoism, and they were answered by Bill Helm, Taoist Priest and Director of the Taoist Sanctuary.
1) How does Taoism affect your daily life?
Taoism gives me a daily perspective on the reality of a changing universe filled with Qi energy which enables me to more gracefully bump along inside it.
2) Describe a Taoism major holiday. What is its purpose and how is it celebrated?
The Winter Solstice would be a “marked event” that is celebrated by doing ritual that involves acknowledging the importance of the time and its special relation to each of us and the natural world.
3) What about Taoism do you appreciate most?
The non-denominational aspect is very special and the ability of Taoism to recognize the limitation of words which enables a person to participate in multidisciplinary practices each of which seeks to acknowledge and recognize the Divine Infinite Source that gives rise to every tradition.
4) What part of Taoism might you have problems practicing/believing/ agreeing with?
The culture-heavy Chinese religious traditions which have evolved from the original source teachings of the founders.
5) Does Taoism teach a belief in reincarnation? What happens to the soul after death according to Taoism?
Depending on the historical beginnings of different traditions within Taoist religions there may be a belief in reincarnation.
The older systems see the soul as separated into the Hun and Po, the spirit and vital souls which separate at death .The Hun may be developed sufficiently to retain integrity and move to a higher vibrational plane or simply be reintegrated with the source. The Po, the vital soul becomes reintegrated with the earthbound source energies of the planet.
6) Do you believe in more than one God?
Taoism recognizes the multiple manifestations of the one Infinite Source of all manifestation.
7) How does Taoism resemble any other religion?
Taoism has a tradition of humanitarian values that honor the divine Tao within all of us and recognizes the value to practicing human kindness and service.
8) Do you have any dietary restrictions or requirements?
During certain time periods the value of a restricted vegetarian diet is recognized as helpful to purifying the practitioners Qi energy body.
9) Does Taoism promote the preaching, dissemination, or conversion of others to your faith?
Since Taoism is essentially a wisdom tradition it does not proselytize or seek to convert others to its practice. At the same time it is a reality that you must make your service and teaching accessible to the general public to sustain a viable level of members and teachers.
10) Who influenced you to convert to Taoism? How has your life changed since then if you were not born Taoist?
Since I never converted to Taoism that question is not relevant. How I became a practitioner of Taoism was as a result of meeting a Taoist teacher and other practitioners who impressed me with their level of function and the knowledge that helped them achieve that level.
11) Are your other family members Taoist?
My wife is a practicing Taoist.
12) Do you visit a Taoist temple on a regular basis?
I am the director of the Taoist Sanctuary, which is a non-profit educational-spiritual school for teaching traditional Taoist and Chinese practices. I go to the Sanctuary on a regular basis.
13) If given the opportunity, would you convert religions or stay with your beliefs?
I usually try to avoid my beliefs and move toward my experiences of Tao.
14) What are your views on other religions? How do your Taoist beliefs affect these views?
My general view is towards accepting the origin of all traditions as being uniquely inspired by someone’s culturally based experience of the Divine Infinite Source of all manifestation. This enables me to accept many religious traditions as being valid expressions of the Divine Infinite Source.
15) In your opinion, what makes Taoism unique compared to other religions?
The unique aspect, if there is one, is the appreciation and value of the body as an expression of the Divine Infinite Source. The body is the vehicle for developing an evolving consciousness and not the barrier to evolution which should be despised and repressed.
16) What is your opinion on wu wei?
My opinion is that it is a state of consciousness that is very hard to maintain. It is hard to react to life as it is happening and not try to control the Tao as it is manifesting.
17) Which Taoism branch are you most associated with (philosophical, religious, folk)? Why? Which do you think is most important?
We are a part of the wisdom traditions and have a strong philosophical-healer-warrior flavor. Probably because of the teachings and personal preferences of myself and my teachers who came before me.
18) Do you have a favorite Taoism phrase or quote?
Peace is easily maintained;
Trouble is easily overcome before it starts.
The brittle is easily shattered;
The small is easily scattered.
Deal with it before it happens.
Set things in order before there is confusion.
A tree as great as a man’s embrace springs from a small shoot;
A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles-starts under one’s feet.
He who acts defeats his own purpose;
He who grasps loses.
The sage does not act, and so is not defeated.
He does not grasp and therefore does not lose.
People usually fail when they are on the verge of success.
So give as much care to the end as to the beginning;
Then there will be no failure.
Therefore the sage seeks freedom from desire.
He does not collect precious things.
He learns not to hold on to ideas.
He brings men back to what they have lost.
He helps the ten thousand things find their own nature,
But refrains from action.
19) What is your favorite Taoism document?
Chuang Tzu’s Inner Chapters
Gia Fu Feng-Jane English translation
20) In your own opinion, where do you think Taoist people stand in society today?
They stand on their own two feet, as thinking, feeling, energetic individuals.
21) Have you yourself influenced another to become Taoist?
22) What part of Taoism motivates you to keep practicing it?
The mystery of the Divine Infinite Source.
Addendum: 13 March 20