Basic Values and Beliefs of the Society in Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
Tao Te Ching is a fundamental source of knowledge and one of the most important manifests of Chinese culture. It had a great influence on the culture of China and the world as a whole. The philosophy of the book permeates the entire culture of ancient China, as it defined the outlook of the Chinese people for many centuries. The debate about the contents of the book and its author is still continuing. Tao Te Ching formed new values for Chinese society, including the non-interference in the natural state of things, self-limitation, and return to the roots (constancy), expressed in philosophical and religious principles of Tao.
The basic values and ideals of the society are represented in Tao Te Ching. The core of the current tractate is a fundamental principle of Tao. It reigns everywhere and in everything, always and infinitely. Nobody has created it, but all things came from him. Tao is unseen and unheard, inaccessible to the senses, nameless and formless, inexhaustible and constant, it gives rise to the form and name around the world (Lao Tzu). The main goal of human life is to understand Tao, and then try to follow it to death. Tao is manifested through its emanation De. When Tao creates everything, then De forms the order in the world. De is the subtlest primary natural substance in combination with the inherent properties and laws. It is present in all things in the universe, including the human body. By interacting with Tao, De determines the birth, development, and death of a person: “Immersed in the wonder of the Tao, you can deal with whatever life brings you, and when death comes, you are ready” (Lao Tzu). The entire process of human life development is occurring under the influence of De. Therefore, human life and De in the broadest sense are closely related to each other.
The main position of Taoism is the need to respect nature in a certain way, thus proclaiming the principle of non-interference. Taoists supposed that only a return to the natural human unity with nature, the abandonment of tools in the craft and agriculture and the abandonment of the complex social organization would lead to social harmony. Lao Tzu believed that the ambitious sages were the reason for social disorders and, therefore, he regarded the rejection of sages to be a type of appeasement condition. In order to establish harmony and order, men or women should free their innate qualities: “If powerful men and women could remain centered in the Tao, all things would be in harmony” (Lao Tzu). Accordingly, the wise ruler following the Tao does not control the country, and then it thrives, abiding in peace and harmony.
One of the main values of Tao is self-limitation. A sage should base his opinions on his own subjective desires and passions, and thus be limited in his interactions with nature. It is important to isolate the ego from other people because the source of human misery is the constant involvement in society. Hence, the most ideal principle of life is asceticism. De is more inclined to the spiritual sphere of human life and, therefore, penetrates deeply into his inner world. In the process of educating oneself, both features of the concept are important. The first refers to moral behavior in daily life, namely refusing from subjectivism and egoism, raising nobility. The second one means the necessity to follow a natural order of things, the perception of life as a natural phenomenon, which guarantees its normal course. In both cases “when you are content to be simply yourself, everybody will respect you” (Lao Tzu), and thus it is a true way for happiness and harmony.
Accordingly, it is important to understand personal roots, because it means to be ready for integration into the world of Tao. The return to the roots means to be in peace, and peace means a return to the essence. Accordingly, returning to the essential means to be constant (Lao Tzu). Thus, Taoism teaches a contemplative attitude towards life. The one who seeks to listen to his or her natural essence would understand the rhythm of the universe. In such a case, there is no sense to interfere in this order, because the nature of things is ideal, and the goal of man is to find a way for being in harmony with Tao.
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In the 2nd century, the first decorated Taoist religious school “Heavenly Way mentors” appeared. It was directly influenced by the tractate of Lao Tzu. The followers of the current school founded their own state in West China, which lasted until 215 (when it was absorbed by the northern kingdom of Wei). They worshiped the deified Lao Tzu and considered his Tao Te Ching as a canonical text. Each member of the school was required to make an annual contribution of five measures of rice, thus the school was renamed as “The Way of the Five Measures of Rice”. Later it school became known as “The Way of True Peace and Unity”. The first patriarch was Zhang Daoling, which received a new revelation from the deified Lao Tzu, and the right to realize his deputy in the land. The title is still transferred to the old Zhang. Thus, the emergence of single Taoist religious and philosophical systems allowed declaring the state religion of Taoism in China. Taoism enjoyed special protection in the era of the Tang, when Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and other Taoist thinkers were officially canonized according to the imperial decree.
Therefore, Tao Te Ching reflected important social and ethical values that influenced Chinese rulers. The principle of non-intervention allowed the rulers to win many wars as their war strategies involved wisdom and patience. The principle of non-interference was expressed in asceticism, but it is also important to abandon selfishness and subjectivism that harm social relations. Consequently, tradition plays an important role, which is treated as a return to cultural roots. Such ideals and values influenced Chinese society, shaped its worldview, and cultural policies that are relevant today.
The Values and Ideas in The Bible Gateway: Exodus, Avesta: Yasna, and The Analects
The fundamental philosophical and ethical principles of people were expressed in the Exodus, the Yasna, and the Analects, the most crucial texts for human civilization. The Exodus highlights Ten Commandments, which focuses on the way that the Israeli have to go after the liberation from Egypt. The Yasna contains complex hymns to Ahura Mazda and Zarathustra, which acclaims kindness, pious, and human virtues. The most recent text is the Analects by Confucius, which contains a guideline for the good ruler and citizens, who ultimately have to express respect for each other.
Moses transcribed the Exodus in a certain period of his stay at Mount Sinai (Smith 37). The Bible clearly stated that the main value is God, who saved the Israeli from slavery: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slaver” (Bible Getaway, Exodus 20:2). Thus, Ten Commandments were introduced to Moses and the Israelis as basic guidelines for life, and Israeli should not forget about them. At the same time, the Ten Commandments are the main values for Israeli that should be universal for everyone. The main value in Exodus is faith because with faith Moses was able to lead the Israeli out of Egypt. Consequently, faith is the way to reach the Kingdom of God as every believer will be rewarded after death (Bible Getaway, Exodus 32:4). Accordingly, those who do not believe in God and violate The Commandments will be punished. In Exodus there are certain recommendations on how to follow values in both social and individual ways. Moreover, there is also the system of penalties for those who deny them. For example, everyone must respect his or her mother and father, because otherwise, the individual will die: “Anyone who attacks[c] their father or mother is to be put to death” (Bible Getaway, Exodus 21:15). It created a complex of rules that might unite Israeli into one independent county and, therefore, they gave freedom, but also limited Israeli in their moral actions.
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Yasna is the first and most important part of the Avesta, which set out the basic ideas of Zoroastrianism. It contains good and pure thoughts and focuses on the inner world of a man. Unlike the Exodus, Yasna focuses on individual harmony but not on the collective mission. It is represented as a set of hymns. However, there is a very strong similarity among the two texts, because both of them deny stealing and lying, and other human defects: “That I may stand forth on this earth with desires gained, and powerful, receiving satisfaction, overwhelming the assaults of hate, and conquering the lie”. Such a principle is similar to the Ten Commandments, where the lie is also a great sin. Yet Yasna is a more metaphysically-oriented text component, which considers immortality and eternal bliss: “Grant me, Thou who art maker of the Kine, plants and waters, Immortality, Mazda! Grant, too, Weal, Spirit bounteous” (Peterson). At the heart of cosmological and eschatological Zoroastrianism perception of mankind is the need to strengthen the spiritual and material creations of Ahura Mazda against the destructive forces of Angra Mainyu. In such conflict, from the theological point of view, the main weapon of mankind is the Yasna ceremony that supposed to have a direct and immediate effect. In addition, the proposed Yasna ideals of truth and obedience were particularly relevant in ancient Iran. At that time rituals to the Ahura Mazda and Zarathustra were popular, as well. At the same time, the main difference is that Yasna is more flexible than the Exodus in its rules because Zarathustra was a prophet, this was a part of the human world. Zoroastrianism was national and state religion for most of the Persian people before it was replaced by Islam in the 7th century. The political power of pre-Islamic Zoroastrian Persian dynasties provided a great prestige. Some of its main doctrines were later borrowed by other religious systems.
The Analects is the main Confucian book and the most famous cultural artifact in the East Asian region. The core of the book is the idea that the welfare of the nation and the state depends on the moral level of people as the base of the Confucian idea is to grow a noble and moral civilian. In this case, the ruler should be the moral example of behavior, as well as his moral actions: “If you can govern the country by putting propriety first, what else will you need to do?” (Confucius). Moreover, he also should have virtues as the basic moral issue for successful management. Accordingly, people should cultivate the principle of virtue in order to be perfect citizens in the country. The book describes the ethical principle of ren, which is expressed in regard to parents, older brothers, and sisters (Confucius). However, some human desires should not be suppressed, but expressed in ethical limits and norms. The individuals should express their respect for others, as well as to their parents, and “should be earnest and truthful, loving all, but become intimate with his innate good-heartedness” (Confucius). It is similar to the Exodus, where respect to parents is also an important value. The Analects proposes the idea of humanity, when a person should behave in that manner he or she wants to be treated, as well. However, the text was not popular in Chinese society, and it also was not the most crucial Confucius’ text, as well. The political and cultural popularity of the Analects has changed during the Han Dynasty. The book was a main source for teaching pupils and anyone aspiring to literacy. In addition, the rulers also read the book, but they required special coaches for the interpretation of certain pieces.
Thus, the basic values in the Exodus are the Ten Commandments, which follow the Israelites on the way of God. Among them are respected for God, parents, people, and country. Similar values are also present the Analects by Confucius, who also provides the principle of fairness and respect as a major development. A person should develop moral values, such as goodness, virtue, and honesty. Yasna also refuses lie and evil, because it is not inherent to Ahura Mazda and Zarathustra. All the given texts reflected the crisis moments in history, when it was important to offer new values and ideals in order to save the whole nations and the individuals, as well.