Taoism Temple, Aljunied, Singapore

The Gifts of Taoism

“Go with the flow.”

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

“By letting go all gets done.”

“All things change.”

“Let it be.”

All of these familiar quotes and cherished ideas originate from a short volume written 2,500 years ago by a reclusive old man who did so only to gain exit from a gatekeeper who wouldn’t let him leave and thus vanish into oblivion without passing on his wisdom.

We are indebted to that gatekeeper who stopped Lao-Tzu. Otherwise, we would have no Tao, the religion which struggles to express and define quite frankly absolutely everything in life and the universe. As Lao-Tzu himself wrote, “There was something undifferentiated and yet complete, which existed before Heaven and Earth. Soundless and formless, it depends on nothing and does not change. It operates everywhere and is free from danger. It may be considered the mother of the universe. I do not know its name; I call it Tao.”

“Tao” (pronounced roughly “Dow”) literally means “The Way” but actually does not name any one tangible definable thing. It is the ultimate essence of life and the universe, impossible to describe and possible only to experience through the process of living.

The gifts of Taoism are the profound influence its concepts have had on thinkers, leaders and artists throughout history—from Art of War author Sun Tzu to Christian writer C.S. Lewis to the Beatles. Confucius, a contemporary of Lao-Tzu, visited the old man and came away stunned, somewhat bewildered, but in awe. “Of birds I know they have wings to fly with,” he told his disciples. “Of fish, that they have fins to swim with, of wild beasts that they have feet to run with. For feet there are traps, for fins there are nets, for wings there are arrows. But who knows how dragons surmount wind and cloud into heaven? This day I have seen Lao-Tzu. Today I have seen a dragon.”

Lao-Tzu and his legacy have also manifested themselves in our own day through the generosity of the nearly 9 million Taoists who make their homes mainly in Asia. The Tao Foundation for Culture and Arts respects the past by preserving the ancient music and culture of the Philippines, and at the same time provides for the future through educational scholarships to deserving youth. Partnering with a dozen major charities Tao Group Hospitality Cares has, in the last year, raised $165,525 for cancer research, nearly $180,000 for COVID relief, has served nearly 70,000 meals to individuals suffering from food insecurity, local homeless shelters, and pediatric cancer children’s hospitals, and has secured 450 vaccine appointments through the vaccine appointment program.

Tao Sangha’s nonprofit organization, Earth Caravan – Global Uni Community, (GUC) undertakes global aid projects. GUC gives direct help and support to local communities by cooperating with them on their particular needs. To date GUC has supported people economically in Afghanistan, India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Haiti, Sri Lanka, the USA, Israel, and Japan.

The gifts of Taoism have influenced our philosophies, our arts, have fed the hungry, helped the sick and have helped our world in ways both subtle and mighty. Not a bad legacy from an old man who simply wanted to leave the town in peace.