Taoism Essay Research Paper In order to — страница 5

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tales. Local eccentrics who did not care for wealth and position were often seen as "Taoist" because they spurned Confucian values and rewards. In fiction Taoists were often eccentrics; they also had magical or prophetic powers, which symbolized their spiritual attainment. They healed, restored youth and vitality, predicted the future, or read men’s souls. They were also depicted as the stewards of a system of moral retribution; the Taoist gods in heaven and hell exacted strict punishments for wrongdoing, and would let no sinner off the hook. On the one hand, then, they were non-conformists who embodied different values and life styles; on the other, their strict moral retribution reinforced the values of the society. Taoism was "the other way," but it did

not threaten the moral consensus. It was, perhaps, a kind of safety valve to escape the pressures of society, or at least a complementary channel for alternative views and values. Chinese communists see Taoism as fatalistic and passive, a detriment to socialist reconstruction. The People’s Republic has kept alive some practical arts, such as the use of traditional herbal medicines, which have longstanding links with Taoism. In a larger sense, since Taoism functioned in imperial China as a retreat and withdrawal from the struggles of the political arena, one might say that in a very general way the current relaxation of political pressure in reaction against the excesses of the Gang of Four represents a Taoistic phase of Chinese Maoism. When I was a sophomore in high school, I

became convinced that Asians and Americans were too different. I also thought that perhaps true understanding between the two was beyond the realm of possibility. What started me in this direction of thought was a class on world religions. An elderly Catholic priest taught this class, and while he certainly knew a great deal about Catholicism, it quickly became clear that he was not as knowledgeable about other religions. Because of my bicultural background, his lack of understanding was especially jarring whenever he spoke of Asian faiths and beliefs. My ears perked up when we discussed the Chinese practice of ancestor worship. Most of the class was non-Asian and found this concept perplexing. One classmate raised the question: What was the rationale or reason to compel the

Chinese to worship their ancestors? The priest shrugged, professed ignorance, and then speculated that the Chinese were fearful of the spirits of their ancestors. Maybe the ritual was meant to placate them, so that these spirits would not punish their descendants with some sort of curse. This was so far off the mark that I became instantly incensed. I jumped to my feet and spoke up to contradict the teacher. In retrospect, I think I probably caused quite a scene. At that moment in time, almost two decades ago, the reckless impetus of youth possessed me, and I didn’t even consider a more diplomatic approach. From this incident I learned that many, many people in America did not have the first clue on what ancestor worship meant to the Chinese. They regarded this essential

cornerstone of Chinese spirituality as a quaint, exotic ritual, with all the trappings of primitive superstitions. Recently, I came across another item that seemed to reinforce this impression. Prior to his untimely passing, celebrated author and scientist Carl Sagan penned his last book, The Demon-Haunted World. In that book, Sagan spoke against the spread of irrational beliefs in the world. To illustrate the decline of scientific thinking in China, he pointed to the resurgence of "ancient Chinese practices" such as I Ching fortune telling and ancestor worship (page 17). There it was again: the casual equating of ancestor worship with primitive, out-dated superstitious beliefs. Apparently it is not just the average person in America that does not understand this aspect

of Chinese culture, but noted intellectuals as well. Let’s set the record straight once and for all: ancestor worship springs not from fear or superstitions, but from gratitude and respect – possibly the highest echelon of all human emotions. "Drink water, think of source" is the phrase that the Chinese associate most often with the concept of ancestor worship. The idea is to never take anything for granted. As you quench your thirst, don’t forget the spring or well where the water comes from. Without that source you would not be drinking deeply. In just the same way, one should never, ever take one’s own existence for granted. Without your ancestors you would not be here. If they hadn’t lived, loved, struggled, fought, and survived, you would not exist. Just