Feng Shui and “The Way”
In addition to the physical roots of feng shui, there are spiritual roots as well. The Tao (pronounced “Dow” and translated as “The Way”) is a spiritual philosophy that was founded by Lao Tsu (604—531 B.C.), a contemporary of the great Confucius. It began as a combined doctrine of psychology and philosophy, then evolved into an established faith.
In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tsu refers to the Tao as the path that engulfs and flows through all living and nonliving things. The Tao seeks to achieve balance and harmony in the Universe and embodies the concepts of yin and yang opposites. In essence, feng shui is based on the Taoist philosophy that everything is comprised of energy that flows through living and nonliving things.
Although it has many followers worldwide and its roots in Taoism, feng shui is not a religion. It is much more closely related to philosophy and architecture, and is often described as a system of creating harmony in one's environment.
Taoism provided a fresh perspective to Confucian thought, taking the focus on perfection one step further. Taoists believed that in order for people to evolve into superior individuals, they must learn to live in harmony with the laws of nature. Of course, living in harmony with nature is what feng shui is all about!
Although it is considered a religion, Taoism does not worship a personified deity and followers do not pray as Christians do. They seek wisdom and solutions to life dilemmas through deep inner meditation and objective outward observation.
At one time, Taoism was one of the three great religions of China, along with Buddhism and Confucianism. State support ended with the Qing Dynasty in 1911, and the Communist Party squelched religious freedom in 1949. China's cultural revolution (1966—1976) brought with it the further destruction of Taoist heritage, but there has been increasing support for religious tolerance since 1982. Today, there are nearly 20 million Taoists in the world, many of whom are based in Taiwan. Taoism has had a significant impact on Western culture, introducing such practices such as acupuncture, holistic medicine, herbalism, and meditation.
Some Taoist legacies of importance to feng shui study today include the following beliefs:
Time is continuous and cyclical in nature.
Yin is the breath that formed the earth, and yang is the breath that formed the heavens.
The Tao is everywhere and can be heard by everyone for enlightenment.
Everyone must nurture the chi that has been given to him or her by nature.
Compassion, moderation, and humility are key to the development of virtue.
Like Buddhists, Taoists are committed to peaceful mediation and compassion for all humanity. Perhaps this is why many modern Eastern homes still have shrines dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of compassion, Kuan Yin. Often, this altar is placed in the family or children areas of the bagua, since Kuan Yin is the goddess that many Chinese traditionally prayed to for the safe delivery of children to the family. In homes where health is of concern, a Kuan Yin altar placed in the health corner is thought to appeal to the goddess's sense of mercy, compassion, and protection.