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Daojia, Daojiao & Other Basic Taoist Concepts


What Are Daojia & Daojiao?

Daojia and Daojiao refer to the philosophical and religious aspects of Taoism. Daojia includes the mystical and philosophical reflections of the Taoist sages found in Taoist scriptures. Daojiao includes the institutional religious activities of Taoist Temples, including rituals and ceremonies performed by ordained Taoist Priests. The ways that Daojia and Daojiao are inter-related have produced the many faces of Taoist practice.

What Is Tao?

Tao (Dao) is Taoism’s ultimate principle – the Source of all existence. It is, for Taoism, what Buddha-Nature is for Buddhism; what Allah is for Islam; what God is for Christianity; what Brahman is for Hinduism; what Pure Consciousness is for Advaita Vedanta. To gain direct access to the Tao is to become an Immortal: the summit of Taoist practice.

What Are Yin & Yang?

Yin and Yang are the primordial feminine and masculine energies, symbolic of all polarities of mind, which produce our experience of the world. The categories of Yin and Yang are inter-related and mutually-arising: you can’t have one without the other! The classic example of Yang is the sunny side of a mountain; and Yin, the shady side. Within every human body – men and women alike – there exists both Yin and Yang energy.

What Is Qi?

Qi is the subtle energetic force that animates all of existence. It is also what flows through the meridians used in Chinese Medicine and qigong practice. Taoist practitioners have identified many different kinds of qi, each with a specific function within the human bodymind, or within the cosmos. What Taoists refer to as qi is, in Hindu traditions, called prana or shakti. In Christianity it is called the Holy Spirit; and in Africa it is known as ashe.

What Are The Five Elements?

The Taoist Five Elements – also known as the five phases, five transformations, or five agents of change - are metal, water, wood, fire and earth. The five elements represent five elemental energies, or patterns of movement, which both support and control one another. Each element has correspondences with a specific season, direction, color, taste, internal organ, spirit, sense organ, sound … and many more!

What Are The Ten-Thousand Things?

The phrase “the ten-thousand things” is Taoism’s way of saying “everything that exists.” The ten thousand things are expressions of the various ways that the five elements can combine to produce humans and beetles and mountains and super-novas and dolphins and orchids and oak trees and hummingbirds and lichen and hot-springs and crystals and … you get the idea!

What Is Baibai?

Baibai is the practice – in ceremonial Taoism – of offering incense to an altar. The offering of incense represents the separation of pure from impure; and the internal alchemical “burning” which results in the refinement and purification of internal energies. As the practitioner offers the incense, s/he is aware that the ashes that fall represent impure air that sinks; and the smoke, pure air that rises. The practice of baibai also symbolizes the human body as being the meeting-place of Heaven and Earth: as the smoke rises, and the ashes fall, the practitioner makes a connection to both earth and sky.

What Is Inner Alchemy?

Inner Alchemy (neidan) – a term often used synonymously with Qigong - is the Taoist art and science of gathering, storing and circulating the energies of the human body. In Inner Alchemy, the human body becomes a laboratory in which the Three Treaures of Jing, Qi, and Shen are cultivated, for the purpose of improving physical, emotional and mental health; and, ultimately, merging with the Tao, i.e. becoming an Immortal. Internal Alchemy understands the human body to be a precious and necessary resource for our spiritual journey, rather than as something to be ignored or “transcended.”

What Are The Three Treasures?

The Three Treasures are the three principle energies cultivated in the practice of Inner Alchemy. They include: (1) Jing, or reproductive energy, whose home is in the lower dantian; (2) Qi, or life energy, whose home is in the middle dantian; and (3) Shen, or spiritual energy, whose home is in the upper dantian. Taoist practitioners learn to transmute Jing into Qi into Shen, and the reverse.

What Are The Three Dantians?

The Three Dantians are three major energetic centers used in Inner Alchemy/Qigong practice. The lower dantian – residence of Jing – is located in the lower abdomen; the middle dantian – residence of qi – is located in the thoracic cavity, at the level of the heart; and the upper dantian – residence of shen - is located in the head. The dantians can be thought of as similar to the “chakras” of Hindu yogic systems – locations within the subtle body for the storing and transmutation of qi/prana.

What Are The Three Purities?

The Three Purities represent the three primordial energies of the cosmos, and are central Deities of ceremonial Taoism – important especially within the Complete Perfection school. The Three Purities are: (1) Celestial Worthy of the Tao & Inner Power; (2) Celestial Worthy of Original Beginning; and (3) Celestial Worthy of Numinous Treasure. The Three Purities have correspondences to the Three Treasures and the Three Dantians.

What Is The Bagua?

The Bagua are the eight trigrams - various combinations of Yin and Yang, represented visually by solid or broken lines. The eight trigrams, in their various permutations, make up the 64 hexagrams of the Yijing (I Ching) – one of Taoism’s principle divination systems. Bagua maps are also a central feature of Fengshui – another of Taoism’s divination systems.

What Are Grotto-Heavens & Wholesome Earths?

The phrase “Grotto-Heavens and Wholesome Earths” or "Grotto-Heavens and Blissful Realms" – refers to specific locations in China’s sacred mountains, which are governed by Immortals. More generally, it can refer to any landform whose spiritual energy is potent – making it a sacred space for Taoist practice. The Grotto-Heavens and Wholesome Earths have much to do with both the terrestrial branch of Fengshui, and the practice of “aimless wandering” through places of great natural beauty.

See also: Glossary of Taoist Terms.

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