Taoism can be classified as both a philosophy and a religion; more specifically, the indigenous folk religion of China. The word Tao translates as “path,” or “way,” and is sometimes used as a translation for the English word “God.”
The word Tao is not necessarily the name of God in the traditional sense, but rather it is a label given to the source of existence, as well as existence itself.
Within both philosophical and religious Taoism, there is a strong focus on nature; by understanding the natural forces of the universe, its processes, and its cycles, human beings can understand not only themselves, but also their place and purpose in life and society. To achieve inner and outer peace, Taoists seek to live in harmony with nature.
Taoism’s concepts are illustrated within the I Ching, the Tao Te Ching, and the Zhuangzi. The largest difference between philosophical and religious Taoists would be the emphasis and practice of ritual, which can vary by region and school. Regardless of practice, most Taoists believe in living a natural lifestyle which emphasizes simplicity and moderation.
Due to its age and interrelation with Chinese culture throughout history, Taoism is difficult to define in a religious sense. There is no requirement to adhere to a doctrine; belief and understanding are thought to come from within, as all existence, including human beings, are a part of and exude forth from Tao. Happiness is acquired through living simplistically. The purpose of life is simply to live – as a natural and fluid expression of Tao.
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