Origins of Hinduism

Hinduism developed over a long period of time; although the religion is about 3,000 years old, some elements are much older. Hinduism is not based on the teachings or words of any one person. Although there have been many teachers within Hinduism, it has no single fundamental teacher and no prophets. Hinduism does not have one holy book that lays out tenets of the religion. It combines ideas from different cultures and periods.

In what ways does this make Hinduism different from other major world religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Taoism?

The Way of Tao

Taoism is one of the traditional religions of China. The word Tao (pronounced “dow”) means “way” or “path.” The “way” of Taoism is the way of the universe. Taoism advocates living simply and not interfering with the course of natural events.

In what ways do people often interfere with the course of natural events? List as many ways as you can. What is the effect of this interference?

The Tao of Ultimate Reality

In Taoism, the Tao, or Way, can be understood in many ways.

First, the Tao is the way of ultimate reality. It is the ground of all existence, but it goes beyond the senses and words. The first lines of the Tao Te Ching, the scripture of Taoism, state this:

The Tao that can be followed is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

Explain these lines.

The Tao of the Universe

In Taoism, the Tao, or Way, can be understood in many ways. One meaning of the Tao is that it is the way of the universe.

The universe lasts forever.
Why does the universe last forever?
It is unborn,
So ever living.

Many aspects of the universe – such as our water cycle – are cyclical, always beginning, always ending. Choose some aspect of the universe. Explain it in terms of an unending cycle.

The Tao of Daily Life

In Taoism, the Tao, or Way, can be understood in many ways. One meaning of the Tao is that it is the way people should life their daily lives. Instead of struggling with nature, we should adapt ourselves to nature.

List as many ways as you can in which people try to adapt nature to our use, instead of adapting ourselves to nature.

Wu Wei

Wu wei (pronounced “woo-way”) is an important principle in Taoism. Wu wei is the process by which we can come closer to the Tao, or Way.

It has been described as “action through inaction” or “creative quietude.” It does not mean that we do nothing and wait for things to fall into our laps. Rather, it means studying life so that we can accomplish things through minimal action.

We can see this in action in martial arts such as judo, where defence consists of using an attacker’s own force against him or her, rather than fighting against it.

Water is often described as having the virtues of wu wei. Think about water in different forms: as a stead drip, as a river, as a waterfall. How does it show the virtues of “action through inaction”?

The Yin-Yang Symbol

The yin-yang symbol shows the opposite, balanced forces of the universe important in Taoism. Yin and yang are in tension, but they are not in opposition to each other. When both yin and yang are equally present, all is calm. When one is outweighed by the other, there is confusion.

Even in this symbol, the dark, yin side has a spot of white. The light, yang side has a spot of black. According to Taoism, nothing is absolutely dark or bright, good or bad. Everything contains both yang and yin.

Do you think this symbol conveys the idea of opposite, but balanced, forces?

The Energy of Qi

According to Taoism, things such as water, food, and sleep are necessary for life. Life itself, though, is a breathlike force call qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is the energy that flows through the universe and all living things.

Do you think there is an energy in all living things?