Cooperation with others.
Perception, experience, tenacity.
Know when to lead and when to follow.
When we become involved with a fellowship, we must gradually become an integral, organic part of that organization. The relationship will be one of mutual influence: We must carefully influence the collective, and in turn, we will be shaped by the company we keep.
Influencing others requires perception. We need to know when to act, when to be passive, when others are receptive to us, and when they will not listen. This takes experience, of course, and it is necessary to take part in a great many relationships—from our families to community associations—to cultivate the proper sensitivity. In time, there will be moments of both frustration and success, but in either case, a certain tenacity is crucial. If we are thwarted in our initiatives, then we must persevere by either maintaining our position or changing it if a better one prevails. If we are successful, we must not rely on charisma alone, but we must also work to fully realize what the group has resolved to do.
True leadership is a combination of initiative and humility. The best leader remains obscure, leading but drawing no personal attention. As long as the collective has direction, the leader is satisfied. Credit is not to be taken, it will be awarded when the people realize that it was the subtle influence of the leader that brought them success.
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
The Dipper Mother (detail)
Qing dynasty, 18th century
Dehua porcelain h. 24.8 cm
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco;
Avery Brundage Collection cat. no. 98
The Dipper Mother
Legend has it that many ages ago, a great queen vowed to give birth to children who would help to guide the movements of the Tao. One fine spring day, she disrobed and entered a pool to bathe. Suddenly, she felt "moved," and nine lotus buds rose from the pond. The lotus, a symbol borrowed from Buddhism, signifies purity and spiritual enlightenment since it rises from the mud (representing the physical impurities of the world) to become a brilliant flower. Each of these lotus buds opened to reveal a star, including the seven stars of the Northern Dipper (Big Dipper), one of the most important constellations in Taoism. Subsequently, this queen was deified, becoming known as the "Dipper Mother."
This porcelain sculpture of the Dipper Mother depicts her as a heavenly goddess holding the sun and moon in her upraised hands. Her remaining 16 hands grasp various ritual implements and weapons.
Like the Saintly Mother, Heavenly Immortal of the Eastern Peak, the Dipper Mother rose to prominence in the Ming dynasty. She is still worshiped today in special halls devoted to her at Taoist temples like the White Cloud Monastery, head of the Complete Realization sect in Beijing.
* we have seen the dipper mother, as I picked her out for an image before we began this educational project.
She is, in fact, the main picture for this month's tao hub, named "dipper mother tao" month!
Divine Manifestations of Yin: Goddesses and Female Saints
Women have always played an important role in Taoism—as teachers who have influenced the development of Taoist teachings and as goddesses, the principal embodiments of feminine yin energy and the necessary counterparts to masculine yang energy. The significance of goddesses is most apparent in the divine mother figures, special protectors of women and childbirth. Their worship, however, was not limited to women; in fact, they had an equally strong male following. These mother figures were especially associated with the Tao itself, which was often described as an empty, receptive womb that made possible the birth of the world and the transformation of energy into matter.
The most important divine embodiment of feminine energy, the Queen Mother of the West4, was worshiped in China before the rise of religious Taoism. In the Northern and Southern dynasties5, it was believed that she had appeared to different emperors to legitimize or deny the legitimacy of their rule. She eventually came to be seen as the head of a complex pantheon of different goddesses—the feminine equivalent of such supreme figures as the Three Purities6 or the Jade Emperor7.
Mortal women have also had a deep impact on Taoism, both as patrons and teachers. Not only emperors but also women from the imperial family could be ordained as Taoist priests. Many other women served as the religious instructors of high-level officials and scholars. Several movements within Taoism are attributed to female founders. Both Taoism and Buddhism offered female followers the possibility of becoming nuns, an accepted option for a woman who did not wish to become a wife and mother. Although Taoism inherited many social biases against women, it allowed them to play a vital role. The influence of women on the growth of religious Taoism is undeniable.
4 Queen Mother of the West the Taoist goddess who rules over the western paradise and is the head of a pantheon of goddesses and female immortals. In her garden, she grows the peaches of immortality.
5 Northern and Southern dynasties (386—589) long period of political disunity after the fall of the Han dynasty. During this time, China was divided into a number of smaller kingdoms. The period is also known as the Six Dynasties.
6 Three Purities (Three Clarities) the highest deities in Taoism, they reside over the three greatest heavenly realms. Their names are the Celestial Worthy of Primordial Beginning, the Celestial Worthy of Numinous Treasure, and the Celestial Worthy of the Way and Its Power.
7 Jade Emperor chief of the pantheon of popular gods incorporated into Taoism
Five Sacred Peaks five sacred mountains located along the five directions (north, south, east, west, and center) that occupy powerful places in Taoist geography. The sacred mountains are not actually single peaks; rather they are networks of peaks, cliffs, gorges, hills, ravines, etc. To communicate with the deities on these mountains, emperors ordered the construction of important Taoist temples on each peak. Taoists also believe that immortals inhabit the Five Sacred Peaks. On their slopes grow the magical mushrooms that bestow immortality.
yin and yang two opposing types of energy or contrasting forces. Yin is described as yielding, passive, negative, dark, and female. Yang is dynamic, assertive, positive, light, and male. The two energies are opposite and yet mutually dependent. Yin may become yang and vice versa, just as day becomes night, cold becomes hot, and the reverse. The behavior of yin and yang describes the structure of any event or thing. It may be said that their dynamic relationship describes the operation of the Tao in its cycles of creation, and that their alternating movement underlies the structure of everything in the universe. The concept of yin and yang is conveyed by the tiger and dragon and by the Taiji symbol.
THE TAOIST RENAISSANCE
T A O I S M A N D T H E A R T S O F C H I N A
THE TAOIST CHURCH
THE TAOIST RENAISSANCE
Taoism and Popular Religion
From its very beginnings, religious Taoism has made a special point to distinguish itself from popular religion, especially local cults that relied on blood sacrifice as the primary means of worship. At the same cooperation, Taoism developed from popular religious beliefs and practices and has been influenced by different regional traditions throughout its history. Popular religion has been an important source of new gods, and the orthodox Taoist establishment has frequently turned to popular traditions to renew its own spiritual doctrines.
The relationship between Taoism and popular religion, in particular the incorporation of popular gods into the official Taoist pantheon, became increasingly subject to official rules and procedures in the Song dynasty. Absorption of a local deity into the official Taoist pantheon meant imperial recognition of the deity's followers, with the political security that this recognition entailed. Imperial recognition could also provide increased economic opportunity for cults that centered around merchants and guilds. After the Song dynasty, Taoism and popular traditions often maintained a mutually beneficial relationship. Taoism was able to increase its appeal and expand its pantheon by absorbing popular deities, while local cults were able to avoid persecution and reach a wider audience through the elevation of their gods to national status.
© 2000 AND many thanks to the Chicago Institute of Art
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