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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?


Propositional Religions 3 - Jainism, Taoism

Propositional Religions 1 - Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism
Propositional Religions 2 - Intro, Hinduism, Buddhism
Propositional Religions 3 - Jainism, Taoism
Propositional Religions 4 - Shintoism, Confucianism
Propositional Religions 5 - Sikhism
Propositional Religions 6 - Babism and Baha'ism, Zoroastrianism
Propositional Religions 7 - Neopaganism, Mysticism (Syncretism)
Propositional Religions 8 - Mysticism
Propositional Religions 9 - Mysticism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism

Introduction
| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3




Jainism

As usual, we will begin our examination of Jainism with a look at its origins.

"Jainism - religious system of India practiced by about 5,000,000 persons. Jainism, Ajivika, and Buddhism arose in the 6th cent. B.C. as protests against the overdeveloped ritualism of Hinduism, particularly its sacrificial cults, and the authority of the Veda. Jaina tradition teaches that a succession of 24 tirthankaras (saints) originated the religion. The last, Vardhamana, called Mahavira [the great hero] and Jina [the victor], seems to be historical." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Jainism - a religion of India originating in the 6th century B.C. and teaching liberation of the soul by right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Jainism - An ascetic religion of India, founded in the sixth century B.C., that teaches the immortality and transmigration of the soul and denies the existence of a perfect or supreme being." - The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

"Jainism - Beginning in the 7th-5th century BCE, Jainism evolved into a cultural system that has made significant contributions to Indian philosophy and logic, art and architecture, mathematics, astronomy and astrology, and literature. Along with Hinduism and Buddhism, it is one of the three most ancient Indian religious traditions still in existence." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - While often employing concepts shared with Hinduism and Buddhism, the result of a common cultural and linguistic background, the Jain tradition must be regarded as an independent phenomenon. It is an integral part of South Asian religious belief and practice, but it is not a Hindu sect or Buddhist heresy, as earlier scholars believed." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - Jainism originated in the 7th-5th century BCE in the Ganges basin of eastern India, the scene of intense religious speculation and activity at that time. Buddhism also appeared in this region, as did other belief systems that renounced the world and opposed the ritualistic Brahmanic schools whose prestige derived from their claim of purity and their ability to perform the traditional rituals and sacrifices and to interpret their meaning. These new religious perspectives promoted asceticism, the abandonment of ritual, domestic and social action, and the attainment of gnosis (illumination) in an attempt to win, through one's own efforts, freedom from repeated rebirth." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - The first Jain figure for whom there is reasonable historical evidence is Parshvanatha (or Parshva), a renunciant teacher who may have lived in the 7th century BCE and founded a community based upon the abandonment of worldly concerns. Jain tradition regards him as the 23rd Tirthankara (literally, "Ford-maker," i.e., one who leads the way across the stream of rebirths to salvation) of the current age (kalpa). The 24th and last Tirthankara of this age was Vardhamana, who is known by the epithet Mahavira ("Great Hero") and is believed to have been the last teacher of "right" knowledge, faith, and practice. Although traditionally dated to 599-527 BCE, Mahavira must be regarded as a close contemporary of the Buddha (traditionally believed to have lived in 563-483 BCE but who probably flourished about a century later). The legendary accounts of Mahavira's life preserved by the Jain scriptures provides the basis for his biography and enable some conclusions to be formulated about the nature of the early community he founded. Mahavira, like the Buddha, was the son of a chieftain of the Kshatriya (warrior) class. At age 30 he renounced his princely status to take up the ascetic life. Although he was accompanied for a time by the eventual founder of the Ajivika sect, Goshala Maskariputra, Mahavira spent the next 12 1/2 years following a path of solitary and intense asceticism. He then converted 11 disciples (called ganadharas), all of whom were originally Brahmans. Two of these disciples, Indrabhuti Gautama and Sudharman, both of whom survived Mahavira, are regarded as the founders of the historical Jain monastic community, and a third, Jambu, is believed to be the last person of the current age to gain enlightenment. Mahavira is believed to have died at Pavapuri, near modern Patna." - Britannica.com

The above quotations quickly demonstrate a number of similarities between Jainism and Buddhism. For one, both religions were started by men who left positions of prominence in their families and in society at around the age of 30 during the same century of Indian history. Both religions were reactions against similar aspects of Hinduism, including the authority of the Veda (Hindu's sacred scripture). Both founders Vardhamana (Jainism) and Gautama (Buddhism) are said to have achieved enlightenment (Vardhamana at approximately 42, Gautama at 35.) Both religions center on the liberation of the soul from the process of rebirth.

Additionally, both Jainism and Buddhism hold that the world is eternal and uncreated and repeats in a cyclical manner.

"Jainism - The Jain world is eternal and uncreated. Its constituent elements, the five basics of reality (astikayas), are soul, matter, space, the principles of motion, and the arrest of motion; for the Digambaras there is a sixth substance, time. These elements are eternal and indestructible, but their conditions change constantly, manifesting three characteristics: arising, stability, and falling away. On this basis, Jainism claims to provide a more realistic analysis of the world and its complexities than Hinduism or Buddhism." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - Time, according to the Jains, is eternal and formless. It is understood as a wheel with 12 spokes (ara), the equivalent of ages, six of which form an ascending arc and six a descending one. In the ascending arc (utsarpini), humans progress in knowledge, age, stature, and happiness, while in the descending arc (avasarpini) they deteriorate. The two cycles joined together make one rotation of the wheel of time, which is called a kalpa. These kalpas repeat themselves without beginning or end." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - Jaina tradition teaches that a succession of 24 tirthankaras (saints) originated the religion. The last, Vardhamana, called Mahavira [the great hero] and Jina [the victor], seems to be historical. He preached a rigid asceticism and solicitude for all life as a means of escaping the cycle of rebirth, or the transmigration of souls. Thus released from the rule of karma, the total consequences of past acts, the soul attains nirvana, and hence salvation." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Despite the fact that surviving documents date from the 5th century A.D., nearly 1000 years after Vardhamana's life (6th century B.C.), historical sources on the origin, founder, and teachings of Jainism are adequate within our requirements for historicity. And so, we can accept Vardhamana was as an actual figure who lived and taught from roughly the 6th century B.C.

"Prakrit literature - The sacred texts (Siddhanta or Agama) of the two main sects of the Jains employed three types of Prakrit. The oldest sutras of the Svetambara sect are written in Ardha-Magadhi, while later books are in Maharastri. The Svetambara canon, written in verse and prose, received its final form in A.D. 454. The sacred books of the Digambara sect are written in Savraseni. An important source of knowledge of Prakrit is the Sanskrit drama. Kalidasa is included among many dramatists, who, in order to obtain a realistic effect, had the common people in their plays speak in Prakrit. See Sanskrit literature." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Jainism - The Jains developed their own legendary history, the Deeds of the 63 Illustrious Men, which Western scholars call the Universal History. The most important figures in this history are the 24 Tirthankaras, perfected human beings who appear from time to time to preach and embody the faith." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - Jain canonical scriptures do not belong to a single period, nor is any text free from later revision or additions. The sacred literature, transmitted orally, was first systematized in a council at Patna about the end of the 4th century BCE, of which little can be said, and again in two later councils at Mathura (early 3rd century CE) and Valabhi. The fourth and last council, at Valabhi in the mid-5th century, is considered the source of the existing Shvetambara canon, though some commentators insist that the present version comes from the Mathura council." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - The Shvetambaras embrace an extensive agama (Sanskrit: "tradition," or "received teachings"; i.e., collection of canonical texts) as the repository of their tradition. Based upon what are believed to be discourses by Mahavira that were compiled by his disciples, this canon preserves his teachings in an imperfect way, since it has been subject to both interpolation and loss throughout the ages." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - The Bhadrabahu, traditionally recognized as the last Jain sage to know the contents of the Purvas, is thought to be the author of the Niryuktis, the earliest commentaries on the Jain canonical texts. These concise, metrical commentaries, written in Prakrit, gave rise to an expanded corpus of texts called Bhashya s and Curnis. Composed between the 4th and the 7th century, these texts contain many ancient Jain legends and historical traditions and a large number of popular stories that support Jain doctrine...Later commentaries by Virasena (in the 8th century) and his disciple Jinasena (in the 9th century) on the Kashayaprabhrita are also highly respected by Digambaras." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - The consolidation of the Shvetambara-Digambara division was probably the result of a series of councils held to codify and preserve the Jain scriptures, which had existed as oral tradition long after Mahavira's death. Of the councils recorded in Jain history, the last one, held at Valabhi in Saurashtra (in modern Gujarat) in either 453 or 456 CE, without Digambara participation, codified the Shvetambara canon that is still in use. The Digambara monastic community denounced the codification, and the schism between the two communities became irrevocable." - Britannica.com

It should also be noted that according to Britannica.com Jainists agree that there will come a point in time when their teaching is completely lost. Though, they are uncertain to what extent their ancient teaching is already corrupted and lost, they do admit that they no longer have the original, authenticated teachings of their founders.

"Jainism - The original, unadulterated teachings of the Tirthankaras , the Purvas, are said to have been contained in 14 ancient, or "prior" (purva) texts, which are now lost. Shvetambaras and Digambaras agree that a time will come when the teachings of the Tirthankaras will be completely lost; Jainism will then disappear from the earth and reappear at an appropriate point in the next time cycle (kalpa). The two sects disagree, however, about the extent to which the corruption and loss of the Tirthankaras' teachings has already occurred. Consequently, the texts for each sect differ." - Britannica.com

This admitted loss and corruption of their authoritative scripture and teaching causes some problems for the acceptance and evaluation of Jainism. Since, according to their own theological view, our understanding of the world must become less and less reliable and accurate as we proceed away from the origin of Jainism in this cycle it becomes impossible to have any confidence in the correctness of the currently available understanding of Jainism. This is further complicated by the fact that we are now 2500 years removed from the origin of the supposed authentic Jainist teaching.

"Jainism - For the Jains all knowledge short of omniscience is flawed. Because reality is characterized by arising, change, and decay, as opposed to simple permanence (for the Hindus) and impermanence (for the Buddhists), the Jains developed an epistemological system based on seven perspectives (naya). This system, anekanta-vada, "the many-pointed doctrine," takes into account the provisional nature of mundane knowledge. To gain some approximation to reality, a judgment must ideally be framed in accord with all seven perspectives." - Britannica.com

In order to compensate for this corruption of their teaching Jainists have developed a method of knowing (epistemological system), which attempts to take this decay into account and provide an approximation of reality. However, given the Jainist view that as the cycle progresses Jainism will ultimately be lost, it seems that this system is destined to fail. And because Jains are not certain how far we are into this impending corruption we currently are, it is possible that Jainist epistemology is already be past the point of being able to provide a reliable approximation of reality.

Addition complications for verifying the accuracy of Jainism comes from its dependency upon subjective experience as a key part of the process by which one comes to acquire enlightenment. Other aspects of Jainism also link this religion to India and Hindu-related religions as the following quotes all confirm.

"Jainism - Jaina tradition teaches that a succession of 24 tirthankaras (saints) originated the religion. The last, Vardhamana, called Mahavira [the great hero] and Jina [the victor], seems to be historical. He preached a rigid asceticism and solicitude for all life as a means of escaping the cycle of rebirth, or the transmigration of souls. Thus released from the rule of karma, the total consequences of past acts, the soul attains nirvana, and hence salvation." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Jainism - a religion of India originating in the 6th century B.C. and teaching liberation of the soul by right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Jainism - An ascetic religion of India, founded in the sixth century B.C., that teaches the immortality and transmigration of the soul and denies the existence of a perfect or supreme being." - The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

"Jainism - a religion of India that teaches a path to spiritual purity and enlightenment through a disciplined mode of life founded upon the tradition of ahimsa, nonviolence to all living creatures." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - The name Jainism derives from the Sanskrit verb ji, "to conquer." It refers to the ascetic battle that it is believed Jain renunciants (monks and nuns) must fight against the passions and bodily senses to gain omniscience and purity of soul or enlightenment. The most illustrious of those few individuals who have achieved enlightenment are called Jina (literally, "Conqueror"), and the tradition's monastic and lay adherents are called Jain ("Follower of the Conquerors"), or Jaina. This term came to replace a more ancient designation, Nirgrantha ("Bondless"), originally applied to renunciants only." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - Even though Jain doctrine holds that no one can achieve liberation in this corrupt time, the Jain religious goal is the complete perfection and purification of the soul. This, they believe, occurs only when the soul is in a state of eternal liberation from corporeal bodies. Liberation of the soul is impeded by the accumulation of karmans, bits of material, generated by a person's actions, that attach themselves to the soul and consequently bind it to physical bodies through many births. This has the effect of thwarting the full self-realization and freedom of the soul. As a result, Jain renunciants do not seek immediate enlightenment; instead, through disciplined and meritorious practice of nonviolence, they pursue a human rebirth that will bring them nearer to that state. To understand how the Jains address this problem, it is first necessary to consider the Jain conception of reality." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - Because of karman a soul is imprisoned in a succession of bodies and passes through various stages of spiritual development before becoming free from all karmic bondage. These stages of development (gunasthanas) involve progressive manifestations of the innate faculties of knowledge and power and are accompanied by decreasing sinfulness and increasing purity." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - In Jain thought, four stages of perception —observation, will to recognize, determination, and impression—lead to subjective cognition (matijnana), the first of five kinds of knowledge (jnana). The second kind, shrutajnana, derives from the scriptures and general information. Both are mediated cognition, based on external conditions perceived by the senses. In addition there are three kinds of immediate knowledge—avadhi (supersensory perception), manahparyaya (reading the thoughts of others), and kevala (omniscience). Kevala is necessarily accompanied by freedom from karmic obstruction and by direct experience of the soul's pure form unblemished by attachment to matter. Omniscience, the foremost attribute of a liberated jiva, is the emblem of its purity; thus, a liberated soul, such as a Tirthankara, is called a kevalin ("possessor of omniscience"). However, not all kevalins are Tirthankaras: becoming a Tirthankara requires the development of a particular type of karmic destiny. For the Jains all knowledge short of omniscience is flawed. Because reality is characterized by arising, change, and decay, as opposed to simple permanence (for the Hindus) and impermanence (for the Buddhists), the Jains developed an epistemological system based on seven perspectives (naya). This system, anekanta-vada, "the many-pointed doctrine," takes into account the provisional nature of mundane knowledge. To gain some approximation to reality, a judgment must ideally be framed in accord with all seven perspectives. According to Jainism, yoga, the ascetic physical and meditative discipline of the monk, is the means to attain omniscience and thus moksha, or liberation. Yoga is the cultivation of true knowledge of reality, faith in the teachings of the Tirthankaras, and pure conduct; it is thus intimately connected to the Three Jewels (ratnatraya) of right knowledge, right faith, and right practice (respectively, samyagjnana, samyagdarshana, and samyakcaritra)." - Britannica.com

Like Hinduism and Buddhism, Jainism focuses on the transcendence of the soul from the material world through the process of enlightenment. Note also the dependence upon "subjective cognition" and personal meditation through yoga as an essential means of achieving enlightenment and the liberation of the soul from the material world.

And no study on ancient Indian religions would be complete without mentioning Ajivika, yet another contemporary of Buddhism and Jainism.

"Ajivika - religious sect of medieval India, once of major importance. The Ajivikas were an ascetic, atheistic, anti-Brahmanical community whose pessimistic doctrines are related to those of Jainism. Its founder, Gosala (d. c.484 B.C.), was, it is said, a friend of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. Gosala denied that a man's actions could influence the process of transmigration, which proceeded according to a rigid pattern, controlled in the smallest detail by an impersonal cosmic principle, Niyati, or destiny. After a period of prosperity under Asoka, the sect rapidly declined and only retained local importance in SE India, where it survived until the 14th cent." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Jainism - Mahavira, like the Buddha, was the son of a chieftain of the Kshatriya (warrior) class. At age 30 he renounced his princely status to take up the ascetic life. Although he was accompanied for a time by the eventual founder of the Ajivika sect, Goshala Maskariputra, Mahavira spent the next 121/2 years following a path of solitary and intense asceticism. He then converted 11 disciples (called ganadharas), all of whom were originally Brahmans. Two of these disciples, Indrabhuti Gautama and Sudharman, both of whom survived Mahavira, are regarded as the founders of the historical Jain monastic community, and a third, Jambu, is believed to be the last person of the current age to gain enlightenment. Mahavira is believed to have died at Pavapuri, near modern Patna." - Britannica.com

So, we see from the various quotes that we have looked at in this section that religious movements lead by men of upper class status who left their estates and became enlightened at around the ages of 30-40 years old were not even unique in India during the 6th century B.C. Gautama and Vardhamana, the founders of Buddhism and Jainism, were just such men, with Vardhamana either being Gautama's contemporary or just preceeding him. In either case, the beginnings of these two or three religions within India under similar circumstances, with similar beliefs, from the same parent religion, at the same time indicates that their origination are more likely the result of cultural trends than the coincidental acquisition of higher spiritual truths by several people at virtually the same time.

Concerning Jainism specifically, all of these factors make it impossible to objectively verify in any reasonable manner whether the claims of Vardhamana are at all accurate. We have seen that his views, like those of Buddhists, are highly dependent upon subjective, personal experience rather than objective evidence. How are we to know whether Vardhamana actually attained enlightenment or that his ideas about the universe are correct? We can't, not unless we first accept his views as true and begin to meditate and hope to experience some subjective knowledge that affirms this to us in some personal and intuitive way. This is similar to Buddhism.

In fact, to illustrate the impossibility of determining if either Buddhism or Jainism is a correct view of God and the universe, we can ask which one we should accept? Though they are both syncretistically connected through Hinduism, they do maintain their distinction from one another. So we cannot make the mistake that they are really the same religion and attempt to accept them both. But, perhaps we could say that both are adequate views and we must simply choose one. But what means would we employ to determine which one we should choose?

There is nothing in the history of the lives and deaths of either Gautama or Vardhamana that would point to one over the other. Both religions have devoted followers who subjectively discern through spiritual insight the correctness of their respective views of reality. Could we say that one of these groups is more correct in their subjectively experience? If so how would we make that determination? How would we know which one is more or less correct?

Since subjectivity is the measure of correctness in both religions, we are left without a means to determine which is correct and which we should choose. We would ultimately have to arbitrarily select one and reject the other. Again, we see that like Buddhism, Jainism, though it can be considered historical in origin, must ultimately be rejected because it provides no objective evidence by which we might reasonably be able to verify the accuracy of its claims.

Having examined and dismissed three major ancient Indian religions, we will now move on to take a look at some other Asian and Propositional religions beginning with Taoism.


Taoism

As we continue of study of Propositional religions with Taoism we will note its similarities with other eastern religions, including its fundamental beliefs and dependence upon the subjective experience of the believer to affirm its truth. The following citations all refer to the origin of Taoist dogma.

"Taoism - 1: a Chinese mystical philosophy traditionally founded by Lao-tzu in the 6th century B.C. that teaches conformity to the Tao by unassertive action and simplicity 2: a religion developed from Taoist philosophy and folk and Buddhist religion and concerned with obtaining long life and good fortune often by magical means." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Taoism - indigenous religio-philosophical tradition that has shaped Chinese life for more than 2,000 years." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - More strictly defined, Taoism includes: the ideas and attitudes peculiar to the Lao-tzu (or Tao-te Ching; "Classic of the Way of Power"), the Chuang-tzu, the Lieh-tzu, and related writings; the Taoist religion, which is concerned with the ritual worship of the Tao; and those who identify themselves as Taoists." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - There is also a tendency among scholars today to draw a less rigid line between what is called Taoist and what is called Confucian. The two traditions share many of the same ideas about man, society, the ruler, Heaven, and the universe—ideas that were not created by either school but that stem from a tradition prior to either Confucius or Lao-tzu." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - Behind all forms of Taoism stands the figure of Lao-tzu, traditionally regarded as the author of the classic text known as the Lao-tzu, or the Tao-te Ching ("Classic of the Way of Power"). The first mention of Lao-tzu is found in another early classic of Taoist speculation, the Chuang-tzu (4th-3rd century BC), so called after the name of its author. In this work Lao-tzu is described as being one of Chuang-tzu's own teachers, and the same book contains many of the Master's (Lao-tzu's) discourses, generally introduced by the questions of a disciple. The Chuang-tzu also presents seven versions of a meeting of Lao-tzu and Confucius. Lao-tzu is portrayed as the elder and his Taoist teachings confound his celebrated interlocutor. The Chuang-tzu also gives the only account of Lao-tzu's death. Thus in this early source, Lao-tzu appears as a senior contemporary of Confucius (6th-5th century BC) and a renowned Taoist master, a curator of the archives at the court of the Chou dynasty (c. 1111-255 BC) and, finally, a mere mortal." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - The first consistent biographical account of Lao-tzu is found in the 'Historical Records' (Shih-chi )—China's first universal history (2nd century BC)—of Ssu-ma Ch'ien. This concise résumé has served as the classical source on the philosopher's life. Lao-tzu's family name was Li, his given name Erh; and he occupied the post of archivist at the Chou court. He is said to have instructed Confucius on points of ceremony. Observing the decline of the Chou dynasty, Lao-tzu left the court and headed west. At the request of Yin Hsi, the guardian of the frontier pass, he wrote his treatise on the Tao in two scrolls. He then left China behind, and what became of him is not known. The historian quotes variant accounts, including one that attributed to Lao-tzu an exceptional longevity; the narrative terminates with the genealogy of eight generations of Lao-tzu's supposed descendants. With passing references in other early texts, this constitutes the body of information on the life of the sage as of the 2nd century BC; it is presumably legendary (see also Lao-tzu)." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - Pseudohistorical knowledge of the sage Chuang-tzu is even less well defined than that of Lao-tzu. Most of Ssu-ma Ch'ien's brief portrait of the man is transparently drawn from anecdotes in the Chuang-tzu itself and as such has no necessary basis in fact. The Chuang-tzu, however, is valuable as a monument of Chinese literature and because it contains considerable documentary material, describing numerous speculative trends and spiritual practices of the Warring States period (475-221 BC)." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - Whereas Lao-tzu in his book as well as in his life (in legend) was concerned with Taoist rule, Chuang-tzu, some generations later, rejected all participation in society." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - For the individual, wisdom is to conform to the rhythm of the universe. The Taoist mystic, however, not only adapts himself ritually and physiologically to the alternations of nature but creates a void inside himself that permits him to return to nature's origin. Lao-tzu, in trance, 'wandered freely in the origin of all beings.' Thus, in ecstasy he escaped the rhythm of life and death by contemplating the universal return. 'Having attained perfect emptiness, holding fast to stillness, I can watch the return of the ever active Ten Thousand Beings.' The number 10,000 symbolizes totality." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - Lieh-tzu was a legendary Taoist master whom Chuang-tzu described as being able to 'ride the wind and go soaring around with cool and breezy skill.' In many old legends Lieh-tzu is the paragon of the spiritual traveller. The text named after him (of uncertain date) presents a philosophy that views natural changes and human activities as wholly mechanistic in their operation; neither human effort nor divine destiny can change the course of things." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - Religious Taoism appropriated earlier interest and belief in alchemy and the search for the elixir of life and the philosopher's stone. By the 5th cent. A.D., Taoism was a fully developed religious system with many features adopted from Mahayana Buddhism, offering emotional religious satisfaction to those who found the largely ethical system of Confucianism inadequate. Taoism developed a large pantheon (probably incorporating many local gods), monastic orders, and lay masters. Heading the commonly worshiped deities is the Jade Emperor. Directly under him, ruling from Mt. Tai, is the Emperor of the Eastern Mountain, who weighs merits and faults and assigns reward and punishment in this and future existences. An ecclesiastical hierarchy was founded in the 8th cent., headed by the T'ien Shih [master of heaven]; he claimed succession from Chang Tao-lin, an alchemist of the 2d cent. who was reputed to have discovered the elixir of immortality after receiving magical power from Lao Tzu. Throughout its history Taoism has provided the basis for many Chinese secret societies; in the 1950s, after the establishment of the Communist regime, Taoism was officially proscribed. Taoism is still practiced to some degree in modern China, as well as in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao and in communities of Chinese who have emigrated." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Taoism - A principal philosophy and system of religion of China based on the teachings of Lao-tzu in the sixth century B.C. and on subsequent revelations. It advocates preserving and restoring the Tao in the body and the cosmos." - The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

"Lao Tzu - Chinese philosopher who is traditionally regarded as the founder of Taoism. The Dao De Jing is attributed to him." - The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

"Lao Tzu - fl. 6th cent. B.C., Chinese philosopher, reputedly the founder of Taoism. It is uncertain that Lao Tzu [Ch.,=old person or old philosopher] is historical. His biography in Ssu-ma Ch'ien's Records of the Historian (1st cent. B.C.) says he was a contemporary of Confucius and served as curator of the dynastic archives until retiring to the mythical K'un-lun mountains. He allegedly transmitted his teachings to a border guard who subsequently compiled the Lao Tzu, also titled the Tao-te ching [Classic of the Way and Virtue]. Scholars date the work in the 4th-2d cent. B.C., with some strata perhaps as old as the 6th cent. B.C. Its parables and verse, written in incantatory language, advocate passive and intuitive behavior in natural harmony with the Tao, a cosmic unity underlying all phenomena. It emphasizes the value of wu-wei, 'nonstriving' or 'non-[purposeful ]action,' by which one returns to a primitive state closer to the Tao, a stage of creative possibility symbolized by the child or an uncarved block. It also promotes a laissez-faire approach to government." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

As we can see from the quotes above, Taoism is recognized to have begun in the 6th century B.C. by Lao Tzu. This places Taoism's origin in the same century as Buddhism and Jainism. However, we must also note that several of our sources suggested that Taoism pre-dates its supposed founder Lao-Tzu, who may merely have reformulated an older existing tradition.

And so we have two options regarding the origin of Taoism. Either it comes from an earlier tradition of which we have no specific historical awareness. Or it was first proposed by Lao-Tzu in the 6th century B.C. If the first case is true then Taoism would be similar to Hinduism, whose origins are also beyond historical examination and, therefore, hindering our ability to confirm its reliability or accuracy.

In either case, the contributions of Lao-Tzu to the development of Taoism are crucial to determining its accuracy. As we have stated before, the first question to be addressed is whether or not he actually lived and taught this view. We will repeat a few of the quotes from above along with some new quotes, which speak of Lao-Tzu.

"Taoism - Behind all forms of Taoism stands the figure of Lao-tzu, traditionally regarded as the author of the classic text known as the Lao-tzu, or the Tao-te Ching ('Classic of the Way of Power'). The first mention of Lao-tzu is found in another early classic of Taoist speculation, the Chuang-tzu (4th-3rd century BC), so called after the name of its author. In this work Lao-tzu is described as being one of Chuang-tzu's own teachers, and the same book contains many of the Master's (Lao-tzu's) discourses, generally introduced by the questions of a disciple. The Chuang-tzu also presents seven versions of a meeting of Lao-tzu and Confucius. Lao-tzu is portrayed as the elder and his Taoist teachings confound his celebrated interlocutor. The Chuang-tzu also gives the only account of Lao-tzu's death. Thus in this early source, Lao-tzu appears as a senior contemporary of Confucius (6th-5th century BC) and a renowned Taoist master, a curator of the archives at the court of the Chou dynasty (c. 1111-255 BC) and, finally, a mere mortal." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - The first consistent biographical account of Lao-tzu is found in the 'Historical Records' (Shih-chi )—China's first universal history (2nd century BC)—of Ssu-ma Ch'ien. This concise resume has served as the classical source on the philosopher's life. Lao-tzu's family name was Li, his given name Erh; and he occupied the post of archivist at the Chou court. He is said to have instructed Confucius on points of ceremony. Observing the decline of the Chou dynasty, Lao-tzu left the court and headed west. At the request of Yin Hsi, the guardian of the frontier pass, he wrote his treatise on the Tao in two scrolls. He then left China behind, and what became of him is not known. The historian quotes variant accounts, including one that attributed to Lao-tzu an exceptional longevity; the narrative terminates with the genealogy of eight generations of Lao-tzu's supposed descendants. With passing references in other early texts, this constitutes the body of information on the life of the sage as of the 2nd century BC; it is presumably legendary (see also Lao-tzu)." - Britannica.com

"Lao Tzu - fl. 6th cent. B.C., Chinese philosopher, reputedly the founder of Taoism. It is uncertain that Lao Tzu [Ch.,=old person or old philosopher] is historical. His biography in Ssu-ma Ch'ien's Records of the Historian (1st cent. B.C.) says he was a contemporary of Confucius and served as curator of the dynastic archives until retiring to the mythical K'un-lun mountains. He allegedly transmitted his teachings to a border guard who subsequently compiled the Lao Tzu, also titled the Tao-te ching [Classic of the Way and Virtue]. Scholars date the work in the 4th-2d cent. B.C., with some strata perhaps as old as the 6th cent. B.C." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Taoism - Whereas Lao-tzu in his book as well as in his life (in legend) was concerned with Taoist rule, Chuang-tzu, some generations later, rejected all participation in society." - Britannica.com

Historians seem to be more comfortable categorizing Lao-Tzu as a legend and not as a historical figure. This is probably because the historical documentation that we do have is rather sketchy. The Tao-te-ching, the primary work of Taoism, is said to have been written by a border guard to whom Lao-Tzu had taught. While the teachings of the Tao te-ching are said to have originated with Lao-Tzu, our knowledge of Lao-Tzu comes from two sources.

First, he is mentioned in 4th-3rd century B.C. Taoist work, the Chuang-tzu. In this reference, Chuang-tzu, the author of the book (after whom it is named) claims Lao-Tzu as a teacher. The second source, which provides a more complete biography is the Historical Records (Shih -chi), a Chinese work on the history of China from the 2nd century B.C.

The first mention from Chuang-Tzu comes only 100-200 years after Lao-Tzu is said to have lived, but is somewhat limited in information. Also, in this work, Lao-Tzu is said to have been a teacher of the book's supposed author, Chuang-Tzu. However, the existence of Chuang-Tzu is also highly dubious according to some historians.

"Taoism - Pseudohistorical knowledge of the sage Chuang-tzu is even less well defined than that of Lao-tzu. Most of Ssu-ma Ch'ien's brief portrait of the man is transparently drawn from anecdotes in the Chuang-tzu itself and as such has no necessary basis in fact. The Chuang-tzu, however, is valuable as a monument of Chinese literature and because it contains considerable documentary material, describing numerous speculative trends and spiritual practices of the Warring States period (475-221 BC)." - Britannica.com

It seems difficult to assert the historicity of one person based upon tenuous evidence offered by another figure whose own historicity is perhaps even more in question. So, we must consider the second work by which we come to know of Lao-Tzu, the Historical Records. However, as we can see, these records report that Lao-Tzu spent the final years of his life in some mythical mountain range. Thus, the historicity of Lao-Tzu is undermined by its incorporation of identifiable mythical elements.

From all of this historical information we can see that the origin of Taoism remains somewhat obscure. It is difficult based upon the available record to conclude that either Lao-Tzu ever lived or even was the first to propose Taoism. Exactly who Lao-Tzu was, how he died, if he died, and even where he died is disagreed upon by available ancient sources. Likewise, the existence of his student, Chuang-Tzu may also be a tenuous proposal. Therefore, we can see why some historians consider him to be merely a legend and not a historical figure.

The lack of historical certainty for the origins of Taoist teaching leaves us without a sufficient means for verifying its claims. But suppose that we were to consider Lao-Tzu to be a historical figure. The historical documentation of his life and teachings does meet the broad criteria for historicity that we developed earlier from commonly accepted, non-controversial historical figures. Would this provide a means to verify the accuracy of the Taoist religion? Would we then have a reason to accept the claims of Taoism?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Even if we consider Lao-Tzu and Chuang-Tzu to be real, historical figures whose teachings are the root of Taoist theology, Taoism still would not provide any evidence that would substantiate the accuracy of its claims.

As we have seen Asian religions, developed around the 5th century B.C., which propose that we must transcend the material world and become one with the All of the universe through magic or meditation are far from common. Here again are some of the quotes, which attest to Taoism's inclusion within this pattern. To avoid being burdensome, we will only mention a few just to make our point.

"Taoism - 1: a Chinese mystical philosophy traditionally founded by Lao-tzu in the 6th century B.C. that teaches conformity to the Tao by unassertive action and simplicity 2: a religion developed from Taoist philosophy and folk and Buddhist religion and concerned with obtaining long life and good fortune often by magical means." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Taoism - For the individual, wisdom is to conform to the rhythm of the universe. The Taoist mystic, however, not only adapts himself ritually and physiologically to the alternations of nature but creates a void inside himself that permits him to return to nature's origin. Lao-tzu, in trance, 'wandered freely in the origin of all beings.' Thus, in ecstasy he escaped the rhythm of life and death by contemplating the universal return. 'Having attained perfect emptiness, holding fast to stillness, I can watch the return of the ever active Ten Thousand Beings.' The number 10,000 symbolizes totality." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - Both Western Sinologists and Chinese scholars themselves have distinguished—since Han times (206 BC-AD 220)—between a Taoist philosophy of the great mystics and their commentators (Tao-chia) and a later Taoist religion (Tao-chiao). This theory—no longer considered valid—was based on the view that the "ancient Taoism" of the mystics antedated the "later Neo-Taoist superstitions" that were misinterpretations of the mystics' metaphorical images. The mystics, however, should be viewed against the background of the religious practices existing in their own times. Their ecstasies, for example, were closely related to the trances and spirit journeys of the early magicians and shamans (religious personages with healing and psychic transformation powers). Not only are the authors of the Tao-te Ching, the Chuang-tzu (book of 'Master Chuang'), and the Lieh-tzu (book of 'Master Lieh') not the actual and central founders of an earlier 'pure' Taoism later degraded into superstitious practices but they can even be considered somewhat on the margin of older Taoist traditions. Therefore, because there has been a nearly continuous mutual influence between Taoists of different social classes—philosophers, ascetics, alchemists, and the priests of popular cults—the distinction between philosophical and religious Taoism in this article is made simply for the sake of descriptive convenience." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - The work's 81 brief sections contain only about 5,000 characters in all, from which fact derives still another of its titles, Lao Tzu's Five Thousand Words. The text itself appears in equal measure to express a profound quietism and determined views on government. It is consequently between the extremes of meditative introspection and political application that its many and widely divergent interpreters have veered." - Britannica.com

"Taoism - Viewed from the single reality experienced in ecstasy, it is just as difficult to distinguish life from death as it is to distinguish the waking Chuang-tzu from the dreaming butterfly. Death is natural, and men ought neither to fear nor to desire it. Chuang-tzu's attitude thus is one of serene acceptance." - Britannica.com

So, we see that Taoism shares much with the other religions that we have already studied. Along with the other elements it has in common with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, Taoism also provides no objective evidence by which we might verify the truth of its claims.

The only ways that Taoism offers to potential followers for understanding its proposed view of the universe are subjective experiences driven from ecstatic states of consciousness and introspective meditation. To accept Taoism then is to engage in assumption and circular reasoning wherein you must first accept the truth of its teachings in order to find out that it is true. As such are left without any reason to accept the Taoist view of God and the universe to be true or accurate. So we reject the Taoist view of God and the universe just as we have Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism because of a lack of objective evidence for the accuracy of its claims.


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