Daoist Organizations/Practices

What follows is an excerpt from Livia Kohn’s book Daoism and Chinese Culture (division headings added for ease of reading) .  As with anything, I highly encourage people to find their path for themselves and to explore everything that comes across there path.  That being said, this is not meant to be the end discussion on Daoism (Taoism) but an interesting perspective that seems to fit the bill (personal opinion).  Also, while these are convenient sub-divions/paths/outlooks, I venture to say that most if not all people will find themselves as a mixture of outlooks. 

Within the Daoist tradition, one can distinguish three types of organization and practice: literati, communal, and self-cultivation.

Literati

Literati Daoists are members of the educated elite who focus on Daoist ideas as expressed by the ancient thinkers, commonly known as daojia or “Daoist school” after an early bibliographical classification.

They use these concepts to create meaning in their world and hope to exert some influence on the political and social situation of their time, contributing to greater universal harmony, known as the state of Great Peace (taiping).

The lineage and legitimation of such literati Daoists comes from the devotion and dedication to the classical texts, which they interpret in commentaries and essays, and whose metaphors they employ in stories and poetry.

They may live a life of leisure or be active in society as local officials, poets and writers, or teachers at academies, but in all cases their self-identity derives from ideas centered on Dao.

Literati Daoists have been part of the tradition since its inception, and the ancient thinkers Laozi and Zhuangzi may well be considered their first example.

But they also appear among commentators to the texts, patriarchs of religious schools, thinkers of Confucian or Buddhist background, and academics today.

Communal

Communal Daoists, too, are found in many different positions and come from all levels of society.

They are members of organized Daoist groups that follow daojiao or the ‘Daoist teaching’.

They have priestly hierarchies, formal initiations, regular rituals, and prayers to the gods.

Some communal Daoists organisations are tightly controlled fraternities with secret rites and limited contact to the outside world.

Others are part of ordinary society, centred on neighbourhood temples and concerned with the affairs of ordinary life-weddings and funerals, protection and exorcism.

Their expression tends to be in liturgies, prayer hymns, and moral rules. Historically, they have been documented from the second century C.E. onward and shown a high degree of continuity over the millennia.

While specific rites and organizational patterns changed, there is a distinct line from the early millenarian movements to the Celestial Masters today, and one can see a clear link between the ritual of medieval China and contemporary liturgies, both lay and monastic.

Self-Cultivation/Yansheng

The third group of Daoists focus on self-cultivation and are known as practitioners of yangsheng or “nurturing life.” They, too, come from all walks of life, but rather than communal rites, their main concern is the attainment of personal health, longevity, peace of mind, and spiritual immortality-either in mystical oneness with Dao or through visions of and interaction with the gods.

They tend to pay little attention to political involvement, and their organisation depends strongly on the master-disciple relationship.

Their groups can be small and esoteric, with only a few active followers (as certain Taiji lineages), large and extensive with leanings toward organized religion (as the contemporary Falun dafa), or vague and diffuse with numerous people practicing a variety of different techniques (as in modern Qigong).

Again, historical continuity is strong. The earliest examples of self-cultivation groups are found before the Common Era, tentatively among the followers of Laozi and Zhuangzi and quite evidently among the magical-practitioners and their lineages.

These groups, moreover, gave rise to religious schools, beginning with a few dedicated immortality seekers and growing into leading Daoist organizations.

Interconnected from the beginning, these three types of Daoism-literati, communal, and self-cultivation-although distinct in their abstract description, are not mutually exclusive in practice.

On the contrary, as contemporary practitioners often emphasize, to be a complete Daoist one must follow all three paths: studying worldview and being socially responsible, performing rituals and praying to the gods, and undertaking self-cultivation for health and spiritual advancement.

 Kohn, L. (2001). Daoism and chinese culture. Cambridge, MA: Three Pines Press.

 

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Musings

Share Your Insight

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Elan Mudrow

Smidgens

sheila sea

like thalassic velvet

Social Health

Insights on the Power of Social Bonds

agirlforaboi

A place to appreciate a femme's love for bois...

Phoebe, MD: Poetry & Medicine

Health | Inspiration | Life

Yas Niger

Witty Written Works

Daily (w)rite

Damyanti Biswas is an author, blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist. Her work is represented by Ed Wilson from the Johnson & Alcock agency. When not pottering about with her plants or her aquariums, you can find her nose deep in a book, or baking up a storm.

A Thousand Haiku

...one haiku at a time.

DoubleU = W

WITHIN ARE PIECES OF ME

50 Shades of me

DARK BLUE

longexposuremagazine.wordpress.com/

Poetry | Fiction | Visual Art

kelzbelzphotography

My journey - The good, bad and the ugly

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

Dixi

Alis volat propriis

Melinda Foshat

Poetry, Prose, Photography

RED GLADIOLA

Fiction & Poetry Journal of T. Wong

California Bonsai Art

............ Live from the Bonsai Bunker

Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

The Whole Circle Project

A Commentary on Social Sustainability

Michael Hagedorn

Crataegus Bonsai

Indiana Bonsai

Learning Bonsai in the Hoosier state

smilecalm

Life through mindful media

ALONG AN OLD FENCEROW

haiku and other experiments in verse

O at the Edges

Musings on poetry, language, perception, numbers, food, and anything else that slips through the cracks.

Life Changing the World: A Phoenix's Aria

"A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words bruise the heart of a child." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

myrainbowtravel

The blog of a french storyteller, a polish photography lover and a world adventurer, Christina Czubak.

The Art of Bonsai

New England Bonsai Gardens

Street of Dreams

A literary blog of poet, playwright and essayist Rachael Stanford

Bonsai advice

Bonsai WordPress.com site

Capital Bonsai

The personal bonsai blog of Aarin Packard, Assistant Curator of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum

Logical Quotes

Logical and Inspirational quotes

Yuki Teikei Haiku Society

celebrating Japanese traditions in English-language haiku

Petals Unfolding

The Story of LIFE ... My Way

Pamela Sukhum Weblog

For complete works, go to www.InfiniteVisionArt.com

Contemplative Pathways

One Self traveling many pathways.  One Being expressing as many lives.

Writing and Works

Poetry & Prose by Carol J Forrester

Ian Stewart Black

Modern master of classical poetry

Tŷ Celf

Celebrating Creativity in Cardiff

Line Of The Week

Miscellaneous Utterings From Best Friends

Just Contemplations

Contemplations expressed through the written word...

Friendly Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales and Poetry Celebrating Magic and Nature for Kids of all Ages

%d bloggers like this: