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Buddhism & Taoism

What is Taoism? (Derek Lin Video)

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What is Taoism? Derek Lin shares his understanding of the Taoist Beliefs from the stories of Chuang Tzu and the Tao Te Ching that answer the big metaphysical questions. How was the world created? Why are we here? Who am I? How do I manifest what I want in life? Plus, get some practical advice on how to deal with real-life challenges and the fears that are sadly becoming part of our daily reality.

All quotes are from excerpts from “The Tao of Happiness” – Derek Lin Books. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2015, from

What is Taoism?

Taoism is more of a philosophy and a way of life than a formal religion.

According to Derek Lin, author of “The Tao of Happiness”, some people regard the Tao as a philosophical pastime or an academic pursuit. He explains that there is nothing wrong with it, but there is definitely a lot of untapped potential in this scenario.

“ The better way to use the Tao is to go beyond intellectuality and apply it as a way of life.“In the same way, there is a gulf between those who play at being Tao philosophers and those who rigorously apply the Tao to life. Modern­ day philosophers are quite secure in their superficial knowledge. Their lives remain stagnant, while those who cultivate the Tao (as a way of life) advance toward greater levels of attainment and enjoyment. The key is skillful actions. “

Derek Lin explains that Taoism is a self-directed philosophy where the follower creates their own path.  He explains in the passage below:

“Ultimately, the choice is yours. You are the ruler of your own life. You alone have the power to decide for yourself. You can dabble in the Tao and be satisfied at that level. Or, you can wield its transformational power to resolve problems, overcome obstacles, and accelerate your progress.”

Taoist Beliefs

Check out the video for answers on: How was the world created? Who am I? Why am I here?


Taoism: Lecture on how the world was created.


Taoism- What should I expect if I pursue Taoism?

The Tao of Happiness offers advice for Taoist philosopher, Chuang Tzu on how to pursue a Taoist path that Derek Lin summarizes below:

“Before we embark on the spiritual journey, we should take some time to contemplate the journey itself. Tao sages always know what they are getting into, and never rush into anything blindly. Let us emulate them by understanding the nature of the journey, and mentally preparing ourselves:

  1. Chuang Tzu likens the spiritual journey to the long flight of a giant bird high in the sky. This flight can be seen as the lifelong path of Tao cultivation, the quest of learning and exploration, and the sacred task that you are in this world to accomplish.

  2. Be ready for the mind ­expanding effect of the Tao. The teachings of Chuang Tzu will show you a whole new world and open up your spiritual dimensions dramatically. Once you are immersed in this vast ocean of wisdom, you will not be able to go back to the more limited perspective.

  3. There may be those who denigrate your efforts as useless. When dealing with such people, hold on to the thought that your path is as unique, just as you are unique. Nothing is absolutely useless in the Tao, and your journey is supremely useful because the effect you will have on the world is a special gift that only you can bring.

  4. The outcome of your journey will, to a large degree, depend on how you use the Tao. Some will only use it for philosophical discussions or playing with ideas, but you must go far beyond that level. Use the Tao to do great work and propel yourself to go the distance. The Tao is unlimited; do not limit yourself when you tap into it.”

How to deal with Naysayers on your spiritual journey?

Through this story (of the Peng Bird soaring in the sky), Derek Link explains that the story offers an approach on how to deal with naysayers.

“The Peng bird is so high up in the stratosphere that it cannot hear any of the noises from the ground. Similarly, when you elevate yourself to greater heights, negative people will no longer get under your skin. If that is not the case — if you still find yourself bothered by the cicadas and turtledoves(those beings making noise) of the world — it can only be because you are still too close to their level. You must go higher. You must raise the bar in your mind by making your goal grander, or by switching to a goal that really fires you up. When the negativity no longer affects you, you will know that you have

Do not feel obligated to lower yourself in order to engage the negativity. You do not owe anyone an explanation. The gap between you and the naysayers is so great that no one can bridge it. The best thing you can do is to let go of the need to debate or argue, and simply move on. Let your view of them fade into the hazy distance as you climb higher. Direct your attention to the horizon, and continue your flight toward the Southern Sea. It is your destination. It is also your destiny.”

friends along your spiritual journey

It’s often hard to discern helpful and unhelpful friends during a spiritual journey, Derek Link offers his thoughts on what do with feedback from others and who we should choose as allies in our journey:

“We can all benefit from other perspectives. Oftentimes, we find that we can see others more clearly than we can see ourselves. By the same token, others can often see in us problems that have eluded our attention. The best travel companions in your journey are the ones who have your back just as you have theirs. Value your connection with them; cherish your conversations with them. None of us can do it alone. Together, we can do anything.”

Why Life is more than Book Knowledge?

“Books can be useful as a starting point. They can point the way and provide ideas for us to begin our own exploration. Beyond that beginning, we need to experience the process, learn from it, and refine our understanding based on it. This is what yields the life knowledge to balance the book knowledge.”

Tao: Wu Wei – Balancing doing and being


Often those practicing Taoism use it as a rationalization to be carefree and do nothing.  Derek Lin explains that Taoism is about action without attachment, but does not negate planning or action.

“ To clear up this misunderstanding, we only need to realize that being carefree does not preclude having a goal or destination. The reverse is also true — having a goal or destination does not prevent you from feeling carefree. This is because carefree wandering does not mean aimless wandering. In fact, knowing where you are going and how to get there will do wonders to remove any uncertainty and anxiety from your mind. This lets you relax and enjoy the process of getting there. Having clarity on your goal or destination is what makes the carefree state of mind possible. You may know people who already have this kind of clarity in life. If so, observe how they speak with confidence and take actions with a definite sense of mission. They are free because they’ve been liberated from the pain of an empty and meaningless existence. They radiate joy because they know they are taking the proper steps toward the fulfillment of their dreams. Is it any surprise that these are the people who “go forth” feeling absolutely carefree?

It all starts with knowing the purpose to which you must commit yourself. If you already know your life purpose, this part requires only a simple decision to proceed. If you are not yet certain about your purpose, set for yourself the goal of lifelong cultivation until something more definite comes along. This is the beginning of your spiritual journey. You may encounter naysayers as you make your preparations. They don’t have any ideas of their own, but that won’t stop them from commenting that your ideas won’t work. They may know very little about you or your spiritual interests, but that won’t stop them from expressing disdain or disapproval. Like the cicada and the turtledove, they are only capable of short, limited trips. They have no idea what it means to prepare for a lifelong journey that is as majestic as it is spiritual. “

How to use the Tao in daily living?



How to deal with Challenges?

We are presented with challenges in our daily lives all the time.  Derek offers his interpretation on Chuang Tzu’s story on the best way to master to surf riding the waves of life:

“How do we become masters of the waterfall, or expert surfers riding the waves of life? Chuang Tzu gives us the following steps:

  • Step 1: Get to know life and its many currents. Think of life as your friend, not your enemy. When something goes wrong, it is not the result of fate working against you, but the result of you not knowing it well enough to work with it. Thus, your best remedy is to get better acquainted.

  • Step 2: Start practicing with the currents. As you become more familiar with nature of water, start working with it while remaining observant and sensitive to changing conditions. When the currents change direction or speed, you must adjust yourself to match. The more you do this, the better you will get at it.

  • Step 3: Make a habit out of this practice. Commit yourself to riding the currents every day, until the skill becomes an integrated part of you. When you get to this point, you no longer have to think about it — you will automatically know the best course of action when you face powerful currents coming at you.

  • Step 4: Enjoy yourself. Like the man in the story who derived lifelong enjoyment from the waterfall, you will find that dealing with the chaotic currents in life can actually be a lot of fun. It is always interesting and never boring. The challenges it throws at you are never the same way twice.”

Taoist way of making decisions

Life challenges often come with decisions that we have to make.  Derek Lin uses suggests using Tao cultivation as a way to help you choose wisely at the crossroads of life. He suggests that we “bring a higher level of awareness to all the choices you make, and always look beyond the initial impression to perceive the underlying truth. That is how the Tao can warn you against the dangers of the road, and show you how to navigate around the hazards. Think of it as the ultimate GPS… for your journey.”

Getting attached to projects and things

Sometimes challenges are self-created and are based on attachment to have things look a certain way,  a person  behave according to our beliefs, or a strong attachment to material positions.  Derek Lin offers the following wisdom:

“Your all­ consuming attachment is not a person. It cannot love you, look after you or care for you like a person can. The love and affection you shower upon it goes into a bottomless pit. When you get hurt, your obsession will pay no attention to your suffering. When you die, your obsession will never mourn for your passing. This is why you have to put everything in the proper context, and make sure the horse (your attachment) does not become more important than the people in your life. To live with meaning is to have the right focus in life. That focus cannot be obsessions, attachments, or hobbies. It must be people, because the love you put into your personal relationships comes back to you many times over”

Why doing something slower may be better?

We live in a world of multitasking and where efficiency is valued beyond all else.  Derek Lin’s passage below challenges our conventional thinking to consider whether doing something slower maybe the better way to approach to true effectiveness.

“We can also apply the concept of moderation to the process of getting things done. Oftentimes we make the mistake in thinking faster is better, so we try to work as quickly as possible. We push ourselves to do more in less time, and in the mad rush we make mistakes, forget details, and stress ourselves out. Chuang Tzu is pointing out that this is not the best way. We should be like the wheel maker, working in tune with the Tao and sensing the natural pace of the task at hand. This pace is not too fast and not too slow — fast enough to ensure the timeliness of results, and yet slow enough to ensure a high level of quality.

We are usually going too fast, so slowing down will bring us closer to the right speed. This may not be the fastest speed possible, but it is the best speed for making progress without accidents and other self­ inflicted delays. How do we know what the right speed is? There is no magic formula. The only way to discover the natural rhythm of the Tao is through experience. By living life with awareness, we can sense the most appropriate speed in any situation. It is like the wheel maker’s techniques that could not be passed down to the son. Knowing the right speed is something that cannot be taught, but can be mastered through years of practice.”

When you are blocked from movement?

The harder the challenge, the easier it is to get lost in the mire of details and decisions.  It’s during this time that Derek Lin’s interpretation of Chuang Tzu is so helpful:

“We know we’re not living up to our true potential, but what can we do to turn things around? We’re not sure which way to go. When we have this uncertainty, we tend to try anything, hoping to find the right path by exploring random paths. This is why people flock to teachers of spirituality and read books on self­ improvement techniques. They keep adding knowledge, but this does not necessarily lead to the change they need.

Chuang Tzu shows us the better way. The Tao does not accumulate or increase complexity; it reduces, simplifies and streamlines. It’s not about learning more techniques; it’s about discarding the harmful elements. When you do this for yourself, your life becomes vigorous and vibrant. In every instance, the method is the removal of obstacles to allow the Tao to express itself naturally and completely. What are the harmful elements you should remove? Everyone is different, but some of the common ones are:

  • Habits that are unhealthy or even destructive.

  • A negative mind­set that leads to frequent complaints.

  • Tendency to sabotage your own success.

  • Physical, mental, or spiritual clutter.

  • Inertia or indecisiveness that prevents effective action

Work on the harmful elements one at a time in a subtractive process. Subtract negative influences in your life by creating distance from them; subtract bad habits by replacing them with good ones that empower you; subtract malicious, unworthy thoughts by releasing them from your mind; subtract clutter from your surroundings by donating or discarding them. The effect of this cultivational work can be dramatic. You will get to a point where you can feel the increase of energy, joy and vitality every time you remove a harmful element from your life.”’

About Author and Taoist Teahcer Derek Lin


Derek LinDerek Lin is the award-winning author of The Tao of Daily LifeThe Tao of Success, and The Tao of Joy Every Day. He was born in Taiwan and grew up with native fluency in both Chinese and English. This background lets him convey Eastern teachings to Western readers in a way that is clear, simple, and authentic. Lin has utilized his linguistic skills to create a Tao Te Ching translation that has been lauded by critics as setting a new standard for accuracy and faithfully capturing the lyrical beauty of the original. He is an active speaker and educator on the Tao Te Ching and the Tao in general.

Cathryn Farnsworth