Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism and God

Authors

Comparative Religious philosophies

To understand different religious cultures it is first necessary to understand the roots of the religion that is so often obscure because it has been clouded by modern priestly doctrines for political reasons rather than for religious reasons.  Also, in modern times there has been a constant debate concerning the doctrines of “creation” versus “evolution” since Charles Darwin introduced his views on “survival of the fittest.” I will attempt to compile some of these views here to see if I can derive some kind of consensus from fundamentals.

Hinduism: beliefs about creation and evolution

Many of the world’s religions have ideas and beliefs about the origin of the universe, including people and animals. Usually these take the form of creation accounts in the Torah, Bible and the Qur’an but it takes a different slant in the other two major religions discussed here.

The origins of the universe

There are many different stories and beliefs about creation contained in the Hindu scriptures.

The sacred sound Aum is believed to be the first sound at the start of creation. Hindus believe that Brahman (the one ultimate reality) has three functions and these are shown by the three gods, Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. These three are sometimes shown as three heads merging into one and are known as the Trimurti. (Trinity in Hinduism?)

  • Brahma is the Creator and source of all creation
  • Vishnu is the Preserver and responsible for keeping all good things on earth
  • Shiva is the Destroyer and is needed because some things are harmful and because change is necessary for the creation of new things

In the Chandogya Upanishad (a Hindu sacred text.) creation is described as the breaking of an egg.

(Strangely, similar to the Taoist, “Pangu and the egg.”)

In the Vedas (knowledge) one of the accounts says that the creator built the universe with timber, as a carpenter builds a house.

(The Vedas visualised god the creator as a manual carpenter, a man, not an omnipotent supreme spiritual god.)

In the Rig Veda (the first scripture of Hinduism, containing spiritual and scientific knowledge) it says that the universe was created out of the parts of the body of a single cosmic man Purusha when his body was sacrificed. There the four classes (varnas) of Indian society come from his body: the priest (Brahmin) from his mouth, the warrior (Kshatritya) from his arms, the peasant (Vaishya) from his thighs, and the servant (Shudra) from his legs.

(Hindu scriptures here suggest that the universe was created out of parts of a cosmic man Purusha, a concept unique to Hinduism.)

The  (Hindu) Hymn of Creation

Another attempt at explaining the creation of the universe is found in the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda:

Then was neither non-existence nor existence: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.

Death was not then, nor was there anything immortal: no sign was there, the Day’s and Night’s divider.

Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was indiscriminate(d) chaos. All that existed then was void and formless: by the great power of Warmth was born that One.

In the Chandogya Upanishad it says that in the beginning was the Brahman, and through heaven, the earth, and the atmosphere and the three seasons of summer, rains, and harvest he produced the entire universe.

  • Cosmology is the study of the universe, and humanity’s place in it.
  • One of the theories put forward by cosmologists is the Big Bang theory. This suggests that about 15,000 million years ago there was a massive explosion. This was the point at which all matter in the universe began; space and time began then too. Over time the universe that we know, and human and animal life, emerged.
  • This theory is generally accepted by scientists as being the best theory they have to explain the origins of the universe.
  • If this theory is true, then it could mean that the universe ‘just happened’ and that it did not emerge as a result of the activity of a creator God.
  • Some people suggest parallels between the process of creation as described in the Hindu sacred texts and the scientific understanding of the universe, especially the Big Bang Theory.
  • Some scientists have suggested that, following the Big Bang, the process of the expansion of the universe will eventually be reversed and at some distant point in the future will start to contract, eventually imploding into a `Big Crunch’. This could lead to another ‘Big Bang’, with a new universe being formed. This presents a picture of the universe as a process of creation and destruction occurring over vast timespans.
  • In Hinduism, the Vishnu Purana describes Vishnu as creator, sustainer, destroyer and then re-creator of the universe. This process takes place over a vast period of time called a Kalpa (nearly 9 billion years). The creation, sustaining and destruction of the universe is also told in the stories about Shiva, who is often shown as ‘Lord of the Dance’.

Evolutionary biology

  • The idea that life might have evolved was first mentioned as early as the 4th century CE by St Augustine, who wrote that God probably only created very simple life forms and that these developed over time.
  • Today we associate evolutionary science with scientists such as Charles Darwin who wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’ in 1859. He argued that life began with very simple cells and later developed into what we see today. He said that Natural Selection was one of the major mechanisms driving evolution.
  • Darwin upset many people with his views and even some respected scientists such as Philip Gosse argued that the fossils, which were discovered in the ground, had been placed there by God deliberately to fool people.

Hindu perspectives

For most Hindus, however, the issues and concerns raised by modern science are not important. Some Hindus are interested in these issues, and study them at a high level, however for the majority they are more focused on the purpose of life, which is to reach moksha (the ultimate freedom from reincarnation).

Science and Hinduism represent two contrasting understandings of the universe.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/rs/environment/hinduismbeliefsrev1.shtml

Summarising Hindu concept of Creation then and now

When we look at the perception of ancient Hindus of “creation” and “gods”  we note that it is quite alien from that held by the Abrahamic Faiths. To provide some time perspectives Moses saw the ‘Burning Bushes’ in 1314 BC the origins of Judaism while the earliest Hindu civilisation stem back to the so-called Indus Valley civilization (also known as the “Harappan civilization” for one of its chief cities) is thought to have originated as early as 7000 BC.

The discovery of the remnants of a small settlement dating back to about 7000 BC to 5500 BC provides evidence of their early lifestyles in the neolithic period not available before now and give a glimpse of life that is pre-Indus Valley period. Archaeologists have been piecing together mud-brick ruins, tools, pottery as well as human and animal bones. No evidence of written language was present. Little is known about the religious beliefs and practices of the Mehrgarh civilization, although extensive Burial plots have been unearthed.

Note: Burial plots were discovered, thus (Hindu) cremation was not yet practised.

If archaeological finds have proven the existence of early civilisation around 7000 BC with mud bricks and pottery, the Harappan civilisation must have been preceded by even earlier civilisations perhaps back to the stone age with their own concepts of spirits and gods that must have influenced the culture of later civilisations. So the influence of early man, even 200,000 years ago is very likely the forebears of the present Hindu civilisations. Thus it is quite understandable the crude concept’s of Hindus (and Toaists) about the creation of the Cosmos and the creation of man when we consider how ancient some of these concepts may have originated.

It should be noted that within Hinduism (also in Taoism), the concept of a god or gods creating the universe, or creating man was never considered or contemplated. There was no omnipotent God in Hindu (or Taoist) mythology.

The Chinese Concept of the Cosmos

In order to understand the Chinese psyche and their nature you have to appreciate their concept of their cosmos  and their gods. It is essential to understand the way they view the world. Because of their isolation and their ancient culture, they do look at life differently.

To understand Chinese theology (literally “discourse about gods”), we need to explore theories about human existence, and before that we need to review some of the basic concepts of Chinese cosmology.

What is the Chinese conception of the cosmos? Any simple answer to that question, of course, merely confirms the biases assumed but not articulated by the question — that there is only one such authentically Chinese view, and that the cosmos as such, present unproblematic to all people, was a coherent topic of discussion in traditional China. Nevertheless, the answer to that question offered by one scholar of China, Joseph Needham, provides a helpful starting point for the analysis.

In Needham’s opinion, the dominant strand of ancient Chinese thought is remarkable for the way it contrasts with European ideas. While the latter approach the world religiously as created by a transcendent deity or as a battleground between spirit and matter, or scientifically as a mechanism consisting of objects and their attributes, ancient Chinese thinkers viewed the world as a complete and complex “organism.”

“Things behaved in particular ways,” writes Needham, “not necessarily because of prior actions or impulsions of other things, but because their position in the ever-moving cyclical universe was such that they were endowed with intrinsic natures which made that behaviour inevitable for them.” Rather than being created out of nothing, the world evolved into its current condition of complexity out of a prior state of simplicity and undifferentiation. The cosmos continues to change, but there is a consistent pattern to that change discernible to human beings. Observation of the seasons and celestial realms, and methods like plastromancy and scapulimancy (divination using tortoise shells and shoulder blades), dream divination, and manipulating the hexagrams of the Classic of Changes allow people to understand the pattern of the universe as a whole by focusing on the changes taking place in one of its meaningful parts.

http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/cosmos/bgov/cosmos.htm

This essential difference in perspective is something that is not understood by most Westerners about the Chinese concept of the Cosmos or of gods or of religious philosophies. Whereas Christians religiously relate their world  as one created by a transcendent God who then set moralistic doctrines to be obeyed and boundaries to maintain, Taoists view the world simply as a part of a complete interrelated and interactive place where man evolved and reside and learned to harmonise with nature. The Taoist do not perceive that the world was created by God or that man was made in the image of God.

Whether Taoist views are beyond the acceptable boundaries of Christianity or whether the Christian views are alien to the philosophy of Taoism is not a topic of debate here. It is presented to show that there a millions of people who believe in either one or the other of these or other concepts. We illustrate that it is possible for different people to have evolved different visions of their gods and have different concepts of nature or morals through their own environment and evolution. It also shows that the needs of different peoples differ according to their environment and their circumstances but each evolved accordingly.

Creation of Heaven and Earth by Pangu is the creative myth that was spread in the

Orient in ancient times.

Xu Zheng in the Three Kingdoms Period (220 AD – 280 AD.) [Note: This is a Taoist myth transmitted orally and post-dates Lao Tze (c. 600-300 BCE) the philosopher.]

Story has it that the heaven and earth were integrated into one body that resembles an egg, with Pangu slept inside. He slept for about 18000 years and then awoke. He found that he was in a vast of dark; therefore, he expanded his huge hands and cut into the darkness. After an explosion, the heaven and earth started to split. He feared that the heaven and earth may come together again, so he held the heaven with his hands and trod his legs on the land. His body grew three meters every day. Consequently, the distance between the heaven and earth became three meters longer every day. Time flies! Another 18000 years passed and now, the heaven became far away from the earth and the earth was now very thick. At the same time, Pangu also grew to a huge man. During this period, the heaven continued ascending and expanding while the earth sinking and thickening until the distance between them was as far as 90,000 kilometers which had reached the extreme. That was the condition of the universe in our eyes at present. Pangu gradually weakened after he separated the heaven and the earth. After he died, his body turned into all the things in the universe. His left eye became the sun and his right eye, the moon. The protruded parts in his body turn out to be high mountains and his blood became rivers. His muscle became the soil field, and his hair and beard became the stars on the sky and grasses on the ground. His teeth and bones turned out to be iron and huge stone while the essence in his body became pearls and precious jade. His breath became the wind and cloud, his shout became the thunderbolt, and the sweat turned out to be the rain. A lot of insects on his body were blown by wind into living human beings. This story was first appeared in Sanwu Liji written by Xu Zheng in the Three Kingdoms Period.

The myth of Pangu was pervasively spread among the southern ethnic minorities long long ago. Both of the Miao and Yao people took Pangu as their ancestors. So far, the Zhuang people are still singing “Song about Pangu Creating the Heaven and Earth”. The song goes like this: Pangu split the heaven and the earth, and created the sun, moon and other stars. It is thanks to Pangu that human beings can get brightness… From historical record and oral tales, we can detect the evolution trace of the myth of Pangu in the process of spreading. Pangu split the heaven and the earth, seeded all the things in the universe and turned into the heaven and the earth. He is not only the god that created the world but also the hero who broke darkness and sought brightness. Pangu will forever remain living in the minds of generations after generations of the Chinese people.

http://www.cultural-china.com/chinaWH/html/en/13Traditions268.html

A unrefined tolk tale of the god Pangu and his creation of the world, believed as a folk tale by many children. It is accepted as a Pure and obvious fictitious story.

A Taoist View of the Origins of the Universe

Lao Tzu was perhaps the first theoretical physicist. He devoted all of his intellectual energy to observing nature and its physical laws and to noting the interdependent relationship of all things. He saw a unified field of forces that he called Tao, but because what he saw could not be expressed in a logical, analytical fashion, he conveyed it through paradox. “The Tao illuminated appears to be obscure. The Tao advancing appears to be retreating. It is the form of the formless; the image of nothingness.” Lao Tzu used paradox to provoke an unusual awareness in his readers, and to help explain the patterns and cycles, the parity and complementarity, that he saw superimposed on reality by the physical forces in the universe. The most striking of these patterns. central to the Tao Te Ching, is that of polarity.

Polarity arises from the Taoist view of the cosmological origins of the universe: Before existence there was an idea–an Absolute. The Chinese call it T’ai Chi, the Supreme Ultimate. The Absolute, in a sudden and tremendous desire to know itself, divided itself from non-existence in a cataclysmic event resulting in endless cause and effect–an event that neatly parallels the so-called Big Bang Theory. Instantly, space was formed and time began, and two charged states came into being, yin (negative) and yang (positive). As a result of the complementary polarity of yin and yang, matter and energy, that were at first undifferentiated, separated and regrouped into the physical reality that became our universe.

Lao Tzu believed that everything that exists comes into reality through the polarity of yin and yang. He called the specific physical laws and cycles that control and govern reality the Tao, and suggested that the actions of the Tao reflect the purpose of a larger entity (the Absolute). So if reality came about because the Absolute wanted to know itself, then our evolutionary destiny must be to help it get a good look by investigating, observing, and emulating nature.

In the Taoist view, developing an awareness of the laws of nature, especially as they manifest themselves in human culture, is a major component of personal growth and evolution. Lao Tzu believed that people and their attitudes and actions are inseparable from the physical phenomena surrounding them; and that either might alter the reality of the other. Since the advent of quantum mechanics (the mathematics that describes the interactions that take place at the sub-atomic level), scientists have become intrigued with the link between human awareness and the workings of the universe. Quantum mechanics seems to suggest that the sub-atomic world and even the world beyond the atom–has no independent structure at all until defined by the human intellect. Werner Heisenberg, who transformed physics when he developed this concept in 1927, notes: “Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature; it is a part of the interplay between nature and ourselves…. What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” A new generation of physicists are now postulating that a universe cannot even come into existence unless it contains the possibility of life. They suggest that we live in a participatory universe where all reality and physical laws are dependent upon an observer to formulate them. Lao Tzu would clearly concur.

Conceiving of a universe where reality is shaped through the force of the intellect (and vice versa) may be somewhat easier for physicists than it is for the rest of us, but it is a concept that is indispensable to anyone seeking powerful insights into the ways of the world. All investigations–whether at the atomic level or at the level of our own cultural behaviour–yield more refined and accurate information when approached from this paradoxical point of view. Fortunately, the structure of the brain and the bilateral processes of the mind can make effective use of this form of thought .

The brain accepts all types of information from all stimuli simultaneously, and the mind processes it in the form of emotional responses, intuitive feelings, and logically formulated analyses. In the West, we rely almost exclusively on logical analysis. We are encouraged to think in a linear fashion, using words and numbers to draw conclusions about our work and our lives. These logical functions, according to neurological research, are performed by the left hemisphere of the brain. At the same time, we learn to discount aesthetic or intuitive information–a right-hemisphere function–because it is considered less valuable to our culture. Thus we find ourselves primarily concerned with measuring events and analysing their meaning, rather than creating and directing their flow. We are taught to ignore the intuitive or irrational, no matter how strong these “gut feelings” might be. As these right-hemisphere feelings are repressed we lose touch with our intuitive mind and our insights become increasingl y rare.

Lao Tzu believed that intuitive knowledge was the purest form of information. For that reason, he expressed his philosophy in the form of thought experiments–mental exercises designed to enhance and evolve the intuitive skills. In the Tao Te Ching, he compels us to use intuition as an equal partner with logic, and encourages us to combine our cognitive understanding of the world around us with a strong personal vision. Neurologically, we might call this a “whole-mind” approach, wherein the spatially and aesthetically astute right hemisphere of the brain is put into use along with the analytically and logically oriented left hemisphere. In this way, we gain a holistic and precise view of reality because we are also perceiving mood, change, and possibility–the mood of the times, the change as society evolves, and the possible future we might create. It is the view of the artist, the philosopher, the visionary–a view that has always carried with it the power to influence the world.

http://www.ict.griffith.edu.au/~davidt/tao/the_tao_of_nature.htm

The Origins of Taoism and its Corruption with non-theist Moral Philosophies

Archaeological findings have established the existence of man in China a very long time before historical records existed.

In 1965, fossils of Yuanmou Man were discovered in Yuanmou County, Yunnan Province. Yuanmou Man, who lived 1.7 million years ago was the first Homo erectus ever found within the boundaries of China.

The origin of man is admittedly a matter of dispute in the field of modern natural science. In recent years, western scientists have come to the position after making use of molecular biological method in their research that the earliest ancestor of the modern man was born in Africa 200,000 years ago. From the molecular biological point of view, since people could mate among different ethnic groups, they came from the same distant ancestor. Some scientists believe that the origin of modern man was an African woman who lived 200,000 years ago, and that some of her descendants arrived in the Middle East some 100,000 years ago. After that, another group arrived in East Asia and Europe about 60,000 years ago. Wherever they stopped, they wiped out the “Aboriginals”. Neanderthal Man in Europe and the Peking Man in China were collateral branches which became extinguished during man’s evolutionary process.

Most of the palaeoanthropologist of China do not agree with this. The large amount of palaeoanthropological fossils found in China suggest that Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago, New Cave Man of 100,000 years ago, Upper Cave Man of 18,000 years ago and Jalai Nur Man of 10,000 years ago all had high cheekbones, flat nose bridges and spade-shaped upper front teeth, which are all characteristics of modern man in China, indicating genetic stability and evolutionary continuity. In particular, the span of 330,000 years from Peking Man, to New Cave Man and Upper Cave Man, who all made their home in the Zhoukoudian area, effectively testifies to the fact that the yellow race evolved from a local ape.

Backed by solid proof, almost all of China’s palaeoanthropologist support the theory of “regional evolution” of the origin of man.

The results of the most recent study, made public in March 2000, however, once again favored scholars in China in their theory of human origin. The Shu Ape, a primate weighing only 100 to 150 grams and being similar to a mouse in size, lived in the Middle Eocene Epoch 4.5 to 4 million years ago. Its discovery posed a great challenge to the theory of African origin of the human race.

Chinese palaeontologist Qi Tao believes that the discovery of the Shu Ape fossils solved two issues: One was that it pushed back the time of origin of advanced primates by 10 million years, and the other was that it moved the place of origin of advanced primates from Africa to East Asia. The discovery’s great significance poses a strong challenge to the important position the African continent has so far held in theories of man’s evolution. [1]

Early Man and Taoism

The main purpose for quoting the discovery of the Shu Ape is to establish that through palaeontology we have established:

(1) Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago, in China

(2) Peking Man of 500,000 to 300,000 years old in Lower Cave in China

(3) New Cave Man of 100,000 years ago

(4) Upper Cave Man of 18,000 years ago

(5) Jalai Nur man of 10,000 year ago

I have no doubts that despite being primitive peoples, these men must have sought answers for their illnesses and the vagaries of the weather on their lives. And, as with the evolution off all mankind, the arrival of shamanism and gods were created to meet their physical and emotional needs. The lack of historical records does no mean the lack of the existence of gods even among such primitive peoples. So let us look at Taoist Deities:

Yu-huang — The Jade Emperor

Yu-huang is the great High God of the Taoists — the Jade Emperor. He rules Heaven as the Emperor does Earth. All other gods must report to him. His chief function is to distribute justice, which he does through the court system of Hell where evil deeds and thoughts are punished. Yu-huang is the Lord of the living and the dead and of all the Buddhas, all the gods, all the spectres and all the demons.

According to legend he was the son of an emperor Ch’ing-te and his wife Pao Yueh-kuang who from his birth exhibited great compassion. When he had been a few years on the throne he abdicated and retired as a hermit spending his time dispensing medicine and knowledge of the Taoist texts. [Clearly the Jade Emperor is an Immortal, a Saint, a human icon and not a spiritual god in the Western concept of god.] Some scholars see in this a myth of the sacred union of the sun and the moon, their son being the ruler of all Nature.

“The good who fulfill the doctrine of love, and who nourish Yu-huang with incense, flowers, candles and fruit; who praise his holy name with respect and propriety — such people will receive thirty kinds of very wonderful rewards.”–Folkways in China L Holdus.

Yuan-shih T’ien-tsun — The First Principal

Although Yu-huang is the High God, there are other abstract deities above him. He rules; they simply exist and instruct. First and foremost is Yuan-shih T’ien-tsun – the First Principal.

He has no beginning and no end. He existed “before the void and the silence, before primordial chaos.” He is self-existing, changeless, limitless, invisible, contains all virtues, is present in all places and is the source of all truth.

San-ch'ing -- Three Pure Ones

San-ch’ing — Three Pure Ones

These are the so-called Three Pure Ones. They are Yu-ch’ing (Jade Pure), Shang-ch’ing (Upper Pure) and T’ai-ch’ing (Great Pure). They are believed to be different manifestations of Lao Tzu. They are not rulers, but rather seek to save mankind by teaching and benevolence.

In a place with Yu-ch’ing lives Yuan-shih T’ien-tsun and the Holy Men (sheng-jen). With Shang-ch’ing lives Ling-pao T’ien-tsun (Spiritual Treasure Honoured by Heaven) and the Heroes. T’ai-ch’ing is the direct manifestation of Lao Tzu. He holds a fan, symbol of his powers, on which are written the yin-yang symbol and the Big Dipper. [These men appear to be Holy men and were venerated as Saints/Immortals.]

San-kuan -- Three<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Officials

San-kuan — Three Officials

The San-kuan rule over all things in the three regions of the universe, keep a register of good and evil deeds and award good or bad fortune accordingly. T’ien-kuan, the Ruler of Heaven, grants happiness. Ti-kuan, Ruler of Earth, grants remissions of sins, and Shui-kuan, Ruler of Water, averts all evil. Their compassion for all people is unbounded. The San-kuan originated in a rite from the time of the Yellow-Turban Taoists.

“You, poor miserable people, ill-clad and destitute of worldly comforts, weighted down beneath the burden of labour and affliction, keep abstinence, and having taken a purifying bath, recite a thousand times the prayer in honour of the Ruler of Heaven.” —Recherches sue les superstitions en Chine, Henri Dore.

San-yuan — Three Epochs (or Principals)

The San-yuan originate from a time in the Eastern Chin Dynasty (317-420 A.D.) when the year was divided into three unequal periods. Shang- yuan ruled the first six moons (winter and spring); Hsia-yuan ruled the 7th and 8th moons (summer); and Chung-yuanruled the 9th to 11th moons (fall). It was believed that they dwelled in the North Star (tzu-wei).

T’ien-shih

T’ien-shih was the title awarded to Chang Tao-ling (157-178 A.D.), the founder of the Yellow Turban Taoists (he is also claimed as founder by the Cheng-I and Five Bushels of Ricesects). It is believed that he received the Ling-pao (spiritual Treasure) Scripture written on golden tablets, from the Gods. He succeeded in finding the elixir of immortality, swallowed it, and ascended to Heaven, leaving his secrets, including his seals and demon-dispelling sword, with his son.

Since then the title T’ien-shih has passed through the family for generations. The current (63rd) Chang T’ien-shih lives in Taiwan and heads the Five Bushels of Rice Taoist sect. He continues to retain the sword and seals of Chang Tao-ling. [Again we are talking of Immortals, or men revered by the people, or Saints.]

Pa-hsien — Eight Immortals (Or Saints)

These are popular deities modelled on historical figures. They were believed to live in grottos in Heaven. They are:

Lu Tung-pin

Lu Tung-pin

Lu Tung-pin (755 – 805 A.D.) was a scholar, doctor and official. He became a Taoist after a long and distinguished life as an official which ended in disgrace. He was very popular in his life and after his death became venerated as the King of Medicine. He represents the wealthy and literacy. [An immortal-Saint]

Ts'ao Kuo-chiu

Ts’ao Kuo-chiu

Ts’ao Kuo-chiu represents the nobility for he was connected with the Imperial Sung Dynasty. His brother committed a crime for which he was ashamed and he retired and became a hermit who studied the Tao and learned the recipe for perfection. He holds in his hands the tablet that admits one to an audience with the emperor.

One day Han Ching-li and Lu Tung-pin found him and asked him what he was doing. He replied that he was studying the Tao. “What is that and where is it?” they asked. He pointed first to the sky and then to his heart. Then they realized that he understood and they gave him the recipe for perfection. [An Immortal, a Saint.]

Chang Kuo-lao

Chang Kuo-lao

Chang Kuo-lao was once the head of the Imperial Academy but he retired to live as a hermit on Mt. Chung-t’iao in Shansi. He was summoned to court by the Empress Wu (684-705 A.D.) however, when he reached the Temple of the Jealous Woman he fell down dead. Shortly afterwards he came back to life.

He had a magic mule which could travel thousands of miles a day. When he reached his destination the mule would turn to paper and Chang Kuo-lao could fold it up and put it in his pocket. To revive it he unfolded it and spurted water on it with his mouth. He is often pictured riding the mule, facing the tail. [Another Immortal, A Saint]

Li T'ieh- kuai

Li T’ieh-kuai

Li T’ieh-kuai has an iron crutch and a black face. He represents the crippled and deformed. He tries to alleviate human suffering. He was taught to be an immortal by Hsi-wang-mu, Queen of the Immortals.

One day, when his soul went to Mt. Hua he told his disciple to guard his body and cremate it after seven days if he had not returned. On the sixth day the disciple’s mother fell ill and so leaving to take care of her he burnt the body a day early. Li T’ieh-kuai’s soul on returning could find no body so it entered that of an old man who had just died. Only then did he discover that it was a cripple. At first he wanted to leave it but Lao Tzu persuaded him to stay and gave him a golden circlet and an iron crutch.

He carries a gourd with him in which he keeps medicine to help people. Some say that it contains the elixir of life made from the peaches of immortality that grow in Hsi-wang-mu’s garden.

Ho Hsien-ku

Ho Hsien-ku

Ho Hsien-ku is represented holding a lotus blossom (a symbol of purity) and a peach. The legend is that she lived in the time of the Empress Wu (684-705 A.D.) in the Yun-mu (Cloud Mother) Mountains.

One night she had a dream that she should grind up a stone called Yun-mu and eat it. She did and vowed chastity at the same time. She then floated from mountain peak to peak gathering fruits which she gave to her mother (she having no need to eat). The Empress heard of her and summoned her to the court but on the way she disappeared. In this way she became an immortal.

She is a patron deity of women. [Another immortal, a Saint.]

Han Hsiang-tsu

Han Hsiang-tsu

Han Hsiang-tsu represents youth. He was the grand nephew of Han Yu (768- 824 A.D.) who was a minister to Emperor Hsing-tung. He is reported to have accomplished all manner of remarkable feats including the production of extraordinary plants.

He became an immortal by eating one of the peaches of immortality. He carries with him a basket of fruit or flowers.

He was a disciple of Lu Tung-pin.

Han Chung-li

Han Chung-li

Han Chung-li represents military men. He lived during the Han dynasty when he was a Marshall of the Empire. In his old age he became a hermit and lived on Yang-chiu Mt. in Shansi where he met the Five Heroes who taught him how to be an immortal. This knowledge he taught to Lu Tung-pin.

During a famine he turned base metals into silver which he distributed to the poor people. He is recognized as a figure who holds a fan or a peach.

When he achieved immortality he was carried by a stork into the Heavens. Another legend has it that the wall of his hut burst open to reveal a casket in which were instructions on how to become an immortal. [2]

Taoist Immortals (gods)

After studying the above Taoist deities, it would appear that these deities were mostly Immortals or Saints highly regarded by that society and were thus revered and venerated by the people for their  compassion, their wisdom, and their leadership in their early communities. The question of “creation or man or the world” and the absolute omniscience of any of these gods/saints had not arisen not occurred to these ancients. Their veneration of theses immortals/saints were the foundations of the hierarchy of their early Taoist societies long before the arrival of later 6th Century moral philosophers.

[By comparison Christians too have their Saints or Immortals whom they venerate in a similar manner, although perhaps with a different perception of their relative ecclesiastical rank,but in equally large numbers.

“There are more than 10,000 Roman Catholic saints. Among the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Communions, the numbers may be even higher, since there is no fixed process of “canonization” and each individual jurisdiction within the two Orthodox communions independently maintains parallel lists of saints that have only partial overlap.

Note that the Anglican Communion have only ever canonised one saint—King Charles I of England (see Society of King Charles the Martyr). However, it recognises pre-Reformation saints, as does the United Methodist Church. Persons who have led lives of celebrated sanctity or missionary zeal are included in the Calendar of the Prayer Book “without thereby enrolling or commending such persons as saints of the Church”. Similarly, any individuals commemorated in the Lutheran calendar of saints will be listed as well.] [3]

Viewing Saints/immortals in this light puts a slightly different perspective on the Taoist Deities as seen from a Western standpoint. Taoist venerated immortals and prayed to them for blessings until the ritual made it seem that Taoist worshipped idols (icons.) The same traditions can be extended to the veneration of the later arrivals, the philosophers, Confucius, Lao Zi, Mozi, Mengzi, Shang Yang and Han Feizi and Xunzi. Laozi’s moral philosophies were later absorbed into Taoist traditions, and many believe that Confucianism is a separate following (sect.) But in fact they are in reality add-ons of non-theist moralistic philosophies.]

Early Theist Taoism and later Infusion of non-Theist Moralistic Philosophies in The Shou dynasty (1045-256 BC)

Early man’s concept of his unfriendly environment must have led him through the paths of fear and to search for an understanding of his surroundings. This search would have led him through an appreciation of animism, shamanism, folk religion leading eventually to Taoism.  The conviction that the departed souls of their parents or ancestors would protect them from harm must have entered their minds, as it has also entered the minds of peoples of all cultures, as Taoist paid their respects to the departed and prayed for their blessings and their spiritual guidance and protection. This has been translated to “ancestor worship,” a derogatory term Christians, used to describe Taoist reverence for their departed loved ones.

Early man’s creation of spirits of the dead or gods to satisfy their understanding of death began with early man as long ago as Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago, or Peking Man of 500,000 to 300,000 years ago and evolved in various forms as they developed and matured in their intellectual understanding of the abstract, until the people reached the “Golden Age of Chinese Philosophy” in about the 6th Century BC with a flourish of such philosophers as:

Kong Fuzi (551BC-479BC) (Latinised: Confucius), who laid down the basis for the followers of Confucianism.
Laozi (Lao Tsu) (circa:145BC-86BC) Founder of Daoism (Taoism)
Mozi (Latin: Micius),Mo Tzu, Alicius, (ca.470BC-391 BC) founder of Mohism,
Mengzi (Latin:Mencius) Meng Tzu,(ca.372-289 BC) a Confician who expanded upon Kong Fuzi’s legacy.
Shang Yang (ca.390-338 BC) and Han Feizi (ca 280-233 BC), responsible for the development of Ancient Chinese Legalism which was the core of the Qin Dynasty.
Xunzi (ca. 312-230 BC) who was at the center of ancient Chinese intellectual academia, even more iconic than Mencius.
These philosophers appeared because of the harsh conditions the people were suffering from at that time, from constant wars and the harsh rule of their Governors and Emperors, which forced thinkers to find solutions to their predicaments. But it must be stressed that these philosophers produced non-theist moral philosophies that were so profound that it impressed the Emperors of their time and their ideas were incorporated into the teachings of Taoism as a part of the moral standards of their rulers. In the course of time these non-theist philosophes were so inculcated into the Chinese way of life that most people accepted it as a part of their moral beliefs, and running parallel with the spiritual beliefs and rituals of Taoist religion because there were no commandments associated with Taoist gods.  From then on the common person could not differentiate between the spiritual or the moral teacchings of Taoism, but it is essential to appreciate the roots of each. The teaching’s of Confucius and Lao and others were not heavenly, ethereal, or spiritually inspired. This different aspect must be highlighted to illustrate the difference perception of the role of God/gods in the worship of the different cultures.
No where is creativity inferred in Taoism philosophy. No where was it suggested that a god created the universe or created man. LaoZi concepts of Ying and Yang were non-theist t4achings and introduced in the 6th Century a long, long time after creation of Taoist Idols/gods. 
In my view there are two parts of Taoism, the spiritual side, with the reverence for the spirits or gods, and the non-theist moralistic aspect of Taoism as expressed by the philosophers of the Shou Dynasty (1045-256 BC.) Most people lump it all together as one and this causes some confusion.

Christianity: beliefs about creation and evolution

Many of the world’s religions have different ideas and beliefs about the origins of the universe, including the origins of human and animal life. In order to ascertain the direction cultures evolve, we have to attempt to find the origins of these concepts through the earliest records of these different civilisations, or through archaeology, or palaeontology of these peoples as it indicates how these civilisations visualise the world around them and the probability of the gods who have direct their existence.

The origins of the universe

In Christianity, the creation accounts are found in the first two chapters of the book of Genesis in the Bible. There are two accounts – and it’s important not to confuse them.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a

This account tells how God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:1

After creating the earth, the sky, the seas and plants, God made birds and fish on the fifth day and animals and humans on the sixth day.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

Genesis 2:4b-25

Adam and EveAdam and Eve leaving Eden

This is a much earlier account. It describes how the Lord God first of all created a man by taking some soil from the ground and breathing life into him.

God placed the man in a garden in Eden, and made beautiful trees grow there. God said to the man:

You may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, except the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad. You must not eat the fruit of that tree; if you do you will die that same day.

Genesis 2: 16-17

The Lord God took soil and formed the animals and birds; the man named them, but none was a suitable companion for him. The Lord God put the man into a deep sleep, and while he slept he took one of the man’s ribs and formed a woman out of it.

 

Different views

There are a variety of interpretations of the biblical accounts of creation among Christians today.

Most believe that God brought the universe into being from nothing (ex nihilo); some believe that it was created from matter that already existed (ex materia).

Some Christians take the biblical accounts of creation literally, believing that they describe exactly how the universe and human beings were created.

Other Christians regard these accounts as more like parables or symbolic accounts that tell (in story form) the profound truth that God brought the universe and all that is in it into being, and sustains his creation. These Christians might look to science to help them understand how God did this.

Scientific ideas

For many Christians there isn’t a conflict between the religious ideas about creation expressed in Genesis and the findings of science. Professor John Polkinghorne is both a scientist and a priest in the Church of England; he says:

Genesis is not there to give short, technical answers about how the universe began. It gives us the big answer that things exist because of God’s will. One can perfectly well believe in the Big Bang, but believe in it as the will of God the creator.

 

Cosmology

  • Cosmology is the study of the universe, and humanity’s place in it.
  • One of the theories put forward by cosmologists is the Big Bang theory. This suggests that about 15 billion years ago there was a massive explosion. This was the point at which all matter in the universe began; space and time began then too. Over time the universe that we know, and human and animal life, emerged.
  • This theory is generally accepted by scientists as being the best theory they have to explain the origins of the universe.
  • If this theory is true, then it could mean that the universe ‘just happened‘ and that it did not emerge as a result of the activity of a creator God.
  • Many Christians have no problem in accepting the Big Bang theory. They see the cosmologists helping them to understand how God brought the world into being – the Big Bang could have been the mechanism God used. And there is nothing in the theory itself which proves that there is no such being as God.
  • Evolutionary biology

    • The idea that life might have evolved was first mentioned as early as the 4th century CE by St Augustine, who wrote that God probably only created very simple life forms and that these developed over time.
    • Today we associate evolutionary science with scientists such as Charles Darwin who wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’ in 1859. He argued that life began with very simple cells and later developed into what we see today. He said that natural selection was one of the major mechanisms driving evolution.
    • Darwin upset many people with his views and even some respected scientists such as Philip Gosse argued that the fossils, which were discovered in the ground, had been placed there by God deliberately to fool people.
    • Some Christians found Darwin’s theory a threat to their faith because it appeared to challenge the authority of the Bible. If the Bible was wrong on this matter, might it be wrong on other things too? These Christians preferred to maintain a ‘literalist’ or ‘creationist’ understanding of Genesis chapters 1 and 2.
    • A belief in various forms of creationism is quite strong in the USA and this had led to a number of attempts to teach creationism (in one form or another) in schools. It is still illegal to teach creationism in schools run by the state though this does happen in some private religious schools.
    • Other Christians don’t see any problem with their understanding of Genesis and the scientific theories such as evolution. This goes for scientists who are also Christians, as well as Christians who are not scientists. If science and religion are asking different questions, then they see no contradiction.
    • Christians who don’t see any problem with evolution see the Bible as an authoritative account of God’s relationship with human beings and the wider universe. They see it all as part of God’s plan, and that humans have specials rights and responsibilities as a result. This view is perhaps currently the view of the majority of Christians.
    • http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/rs/environment/christianitybeliefsrev1.shtml

    Western Christian Concepts of God’s Creation

    Most Western Christians are Fundamentalist Christians, believing that the Bible contains the literal messages of God, the God of Moses. Fundamentalist Christians believe in an omnipotent God who created the Universe and created man. Man was created in God’s own image. Most Christians would deny the Darwinian Theory of evolution, although there are some who could accommodate it in their moderated Christian philosophy. Then there will be those who will accept that concept of modern cosmology and evolution and see the Bible as a collection of primeval myths.

    Authenticity of Biblical Stories

    Most fundamentalist Christians accept the verses in the Bible as authentic  word of God. Whether Biblical stories are literal or allegorical or parable, or moral myth, or fictional myth, will depend on how the fundamentalist wishes to defend their biblical passages when challenged. What troubles me is when biblical stories, told as literal, cannot be support by historical or scientific facts no matter how much allowances we make for minor errors. But since Christians claim that the Bible is God inspired, it is difficult to justify the lack of corroborative evidence. We must make allowances that the Bible was compiled from bits of archaeological evidence and some from verbal transmissions from generation to generation. [I have not even listed or touched upon the other many Christian stories (myths) that cannot be supported by scientific evidence, and even challenged by scientific evidence, thus placing most of them into the realms of parables or mythical tales, i.e., Creation of the Universe, creation of Man, the Virgin birth, the Trinity, etc. Thus placing doubts on the authenticity of the Bible as the literal message of God.]

    Recent researchers have cast doubts of true identity of Moses, the founder of Judaism. If there is a remote possibility that Moses of the Old Testament was a Hebrew caricature of an Egyptian Pharaoh, Akhenaten III,  then the whole of the Old Testament has to be viewed with a different light. Such questions, if proven would alter the credibility of Biblical text.

    “During his reign, the Pharaoh Akhenaten was able to abolish the complex pantheon of the ancient Egyptian religion and replace it with a single god, the Aten, who had no image or form. Seizing on the striking similarities between the religious vision of this “heretic” pharaoh and the teachings of Moses, Sigmund Freud was the first to argue that Moses was in fact an Egyptian. Now Ahmed Osman, using recent archaeological discoveries and historical documents, contends that Akhenaten and Moses was one and the same man. In a stunning retelling of the Exodus story, Osman details the events of Moses/Akhenaten’s life; how, he was brought up by Israelite relatives. Ruled Egypt for seventeen years, angered many of his subjects by replacing the traditional Egyptian pantheon with worship of the Aten, and was forced to abdicate the throne. Retreating to the Sinai with his Egyptian and Israelite supporters, he died out of the sight of his followers, presumably at the hands of Seti I, after an unsuccessful attempt to regain his throne. MOSES AND AKHENATEN provides a radical challenge to long-standing beliefs concerning the origin of Semitic religion and the puzzle of Akhenaten’s deviation from ancient Egyptian tradition. In fact, if Osman’s contentions were correct, many major Old Testament figures would be of Egyptian origin.” [4]

    Comparing the Concepts of the God/s of Hinduism, Taoism, and Christianity

    It is apparent that the concept of the role of God/s in the religious life and moral culture of the three major religions discussed is quite different and not realised by those who seem rigid and bigoted. This is what makes the cultures so different and the philosophies of these peoples so different. This article has attempted to illustrate the differences in concepts.

    What is so profound in these findings is that whilst Hinduism and Taoism are ancient,  primeval and unsophisticated, their religious beliefs are not rigid, demanding or exclusive. In fact these two religions, Hinduism and Taoism, are totally eclectic in every sense of the word. The religions are flexible and accommodating.

    On the other hand, the Abrahamic Faiths, are monotheistic religions with an omniscient God. But despite his omniscience, the religion is rigid, demanding, totally exclusive and totally specific. This creates exclusion and divisions that are unbridgeable because God’s literal commands cannot be compromised.

    Reference:

    [1] The Shu Ape: http://www.china.org.cn/e-gudai/1.htm

    [2] Taoist Deities: http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Philosophy/Taichi/gods.html

    [3] Christian Saints(Immortals): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_saintsfr

    [4] Moses and Akhenaten: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Moses-Akhenaten-Secret-History-Exodus/dp/1591430046/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1

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