To be honest, I never thought that anyone would be interested in how I got started on the Taoist path. It never seemed to be that interesting a process to me, but since I have had several queries by separate individuals asking about my own personal journey, please allow me to share my story with you, my precious fellow travelers.
This was how I became a Taobabe.
Let me be perfectly clear. I wasn’t always a Taoist.
In fact, I was born into a Catholic family and was baptized (with special holy water) at a bona fide Catholic church. My saint name was (still is) Maria, and my godmother was none other than a Catholic nun.
I was a good Catholic. I went to church every Sunday with my family, and while everyone sat stupefied, with drool running down their chins, I would earnestly listen to the priest drone on and on about the sins of mankind and how we were all going to hell in a handbasket.
It was often quite boring, but I did my best to comprehend what I was hearing because as young as I was, I had decided that it was important to understand the Words of a most sacred Deity.
The knowledge was so important to me that I taught myself to read Vietnamese just so that I could read the bible cover-to-cover. I wanted to understand the bible because, for some God-damned stupid reason, I felt the need to verify what the priests talked about every Sunday.
You see, I had learned early on that even adults sometimes got things wrong, and I could not afford to believe an adult’s version of the Words of a most sacred Deity without double-checking the exact same passages for myself.
It was a serious labor of love because I did not know how to read, and so I had to teach myself as best as I could, using a dictionary and asking my parents when I got stuck. I had not yet attended formal schooling, you see. I was only five years old at that time.
Even at that young age, I had determined that my favorite color was blue. Not just any old blue, mind you. It had to be the exact shade of a deep sky blue that Maria, the Mother of Jesus wore on her cloak.
I loved the color, not because of the color itself but because Mother Mary wore it. I loved her white skin, her blue eyes, her light brown hair, and her European features.
I thought she was the most beautiful woman ever to have been born on the face of the Earth. She was even more beautiful than my own mother, whose skin was not as pale, and whose hair was so much darker than hers.
You have to forgive me. I was so very young and so very brainwashed.
But slowly, as my reading comprehension grew, I began to realize that she was of a different race than I was. I also became aware that Mary, and everyone who was ever mentioned in that holy book, was from Israel. Furthermore, they were all Jewish.
At the wizened and weary age of seven, I renounced Catholicism after I grocked onto the fact that I was not, and could never be, part of the Christian God’s special chosen children, the Israelites. I was born in the wrong area of the world to the wrong race of people, and no amount of amelioration from those around me could convince me otherwise.
Since I KNEW that I was a special kid, I didn’t want to be one of his leftover children, someone who was not his chosen, but was accepted out of pity or forbearance. My reasoning was simple, and as it turned out, quite brilliant. I deduced that if the Israelites had their own God, my own people must also have our own God, someone who had chosen us to be his special people.
It was then that I made a conscious decision to look for a God who would accept me as I was, a little Asian girl with no special skills, or great beauty, or amazing powers. I didn’t know if there was such an entity as an Asian God, but I was going to go searching for him.
I started by asking my family about our family’s past and about our ancestral religions, and I found out some pretty cool stuff.
First, I found out I was the grandchild of a courtier. My paternal grandfather was an herbal medicine man who worked for the royal court due to the fact that he was the younger of two sons in the family of a royal bureaucrat, a mandarin, if you will, with a now-defunct title similar to that of a duke.
The paternal family had three major religions, intertwined with each other. The first was Ancestor Worship (more on this later), the second was Confucianism, and the third was Taoism. Of the three, Ancestor Worship was the only one that actually had any type of formal ceremony.
The other two (C and T) were philosophical bents that the family ascribed to through thousands of years of adherence by word-of-mouth teachings. My family were court scholars and so were very well-versed in both Confucianistic and Taoist thinking.
Since I knew my ancestors were not gods of any sort, this religion was the first to be discarded. Confucianism was the second religion to go because although the man was a smart cookie, I knew he wasn’t a god either.
That left Taoism as the final avenue for me to explore, but it was not easy to seek out information about Taoism because approachable books on this subject were very rare (emphasis on approachable). They were also not left in every hotel nightstand around the country like bibles are.
Since I could not find much on Taoism, I started searching through Buddhism, thinking perhaps it was similar to Taoism. This was when I began going to the Nichiren Shōshū temple and learning the Gongyo Lotus Sutra.
I was sincerely hoping that I could find the God that would regard me (and others like me) as his special chosen people. But once again, I hit that same realization regarding Nichiren as I did Confucius.
Nichiren was no more a god than Confucius was.
Furthermore, I found Buddhism’s ideology to be quite pessimistic, and as a child who was more often than not, full of joie de vivre, its teachings of suffering did not resonate with me. To put it simply, I was vibrating on a different wavelength, and constant suffering was not within the range of my amplitude.
By this time, I was 13 and a confirmed atheist. I was convinced there was NOTHING out there.
NOTHING to find. NOTHING to discover. NOTHING to see.
I was barely a teenager, and I had given up on finding the divine in life.
This went on for a few more years until the 80s when, by a chance happenstance, I was in the library returning some books when I ran across a slim volume called The Tao of Pooh.
Something in me came alive and I grabbed the book. Although I no longer believed in anything godly, I was still a curious kid and wanted to know what the heck Taoism was.
I zipped through the book in a very short time and a smile began to form on my face. In very basic English, using very approachable colors and characters, the tenets of Taoism were presented in simple to understand language with nothing to mar its clean elegance.
To be fair, The Tao of Pooh was not an in depth study of Taoism, but it was not missing anything major. The book explained in black and white, the basics of Taoism, and while there were no shades of grey in such a simple book, it was enough to kickstart my adventure into Taoism.
Those missing shades of grey, I would spend the next couple of decades trying to discern. Even so, I did not think of myself as a practicing Taoist until I met my brother Derek Lin. When I visited him at his temple, I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a Taoist temple because to me, it always seemed as if it should be a philosophy, as opposed to a religion.
My decision to forego joining a formal Taoist temple was mostly due to my early experiences with formalized religion–experiences which had left a bad taste in my mouth. I could no longer accept being taught about God in that primary school, memorization methodology. I wanted to explore and find God for myself, in a more organic manner.
And find God, I did.
The highest goodness resembles water ~ Lao Tzu
In that one line, I had found the God that I was looking for.
A drop of water in an endless ocean is not only part of the ocean, it also contains the ocean within the boundary of its droplet form, held together by its surface tension. This completely satisfies that duality requirement of Taoism I wrote about in one of my posts, Change (Part 5): Sequent Change. I didn’t have to go looking for God in any temple, or religion, or plane of existence called heaven. God was not only within me, God was also all around me.
Furthermore, unlike Confucius or any of the Buddhas, none of whom ever claimed to be God, the Tao is actually another word for God. In fact, we can use any word to replace the word God–the Tao, the Universe, the Force, the Source–it’s all the same entity that flows through us, and is contained within us. I can call myself a Taoist or a Universalist or a Forcist or a Sourcist. It really does not matter because it is nameless, and the nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth.
Thank you for sharing 🙂
Thank you for reading. 🙂
you are quite e special woman! Whish you would live in my neighbourhood, whish I could have a chat with you. But — I,m far, far away: Portugal. And, I,m so much older than you. Anyway I love you blog and your thinking. Abraço da Ana
Thank you. I find your work delightful. But, to be specific, I have a daughter who is a Jehovah’s Witness, and tonight she sent me a link to an interview of a Cambodian girl who lived through the killing years. The girl yearned for “the true god” and a JW told her that god’s name was Jehovah, so she became a JW. I have no urge to confront my daughter or contest her beliefs. I am at home with Tao, it resonates. But in that context it was a great delight to read your story about your search. People’s experiences are so different, and the meaning they get from them is also very different. It’s a question of what is most helpful. My version of God is “the spirit of all-that-is”. It speaks all languages. Enjoy.
War is horrendous on children. I lost my family through ‘the killing years’ too, and ended up homeless as a teenager. I not only sympathize and empathize, I can honestly say I know what it means to go through a war.
Regarding JW: Our inner divinity reinvents itself to match up with our increased knowledge and awareness. It understands that to teach, it must lower itself to the level of the student, and become of one mind with the student. As the student progresses, it rises up to match the student’s understanding of the subject matter. To increase the student’s knowledge, new information surfaces serendipitously, at the exact moment that it is needed, and like the most skillful teachers, it does this gracefully, without leaving tracks of its shepherding.
It is my belief that everyone grows at their own pace, when they are ready, and at whatever reincarnated stage they are currently in. Love and wisdom (and talents) are the only things we take with us when we move to the next reincarnation, so what your daughter and her friend learns, they will take with them to the next life. None of us have to start over from scratch, thank heavens for that.
Anna Marie Ellinger
Thank you for your kind words. I wish I could chat with you as well. But distance is not that much of a deterrent in this electronic day and age. Perhaps I can figure something out to where I can have conversations with you and any other readers of my blog. The (streaming) way to do this is not difficult. I just need to figure out how to do this in the best way. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your adventure into finding your truth Taobabe. 🙂
As per your comment here to another person regarding “the (streaming) way to do this is not difficult. I just need to figure out how to do this in the best way.”, I just did a facebook one hour meditation workshop with Facebook Live platform. It takes video and audio of you and your participants in the group you create can type in questions or offer comments that you can see in the moment as well as answer. Also it give you an option to save the video to your group so those who couldn’t attend live and watch it later. You can also save it to your phone’s library too.
Not sure if that will work for what you’re looking for but it’s easy to use, free and your group on Facebook can be as large as you wish. It can be a public group or a private group too.
On finding Tao in a drop of water…and other ‘quantum entangled’ stuff.
This link is another pointer to evidence that the subjective reality we individually experience as being right ‘here’ may actually be somewhere else (hologram on the surface of a black hole, game simulating our universe, faster-than-light connection to other parts of creation):::
This guy’s brain (what there is of it) seems to be providing the equivalent of the electromagnetronic parts of a smartphone, while the real source of his consciousness is with a distant ‘Service Provider’ 🙂
I remember reading about it and thinking how amazing that guy was.
I was going to write up something about black holes, but perhaps I should wait for you to explore this subject. 🙂 You’re amassing a lot of data to do this subject justice.
Hi, Taobabe. I have been delighted for a while by your thoughts and the wonderful art. I included a description of your blog in a sermon at the Unitarian Universalist church in Grand Rapids, MI, along with stuff about Carol Anthony in Stow, MA, who was taught meditation by using the i Ching, and introduced me to Wilhelm and has written several books on the i Ching and taoism. I am 82 and over the hill but I love your work, and your attitude, and you.
Great comment James. I’m not Taobabe but I thought it was really cool.
Thank you for being so kind, and so very supportive of my work. I am very appreciative of your response and your interest.
As for your ‘over the hill’ idea, I have a strong feeling that in the era of extended lifespans, there won’t be much of a difference between a 200-year-old and a 300-hundred-year-old–let alone the difference of a mere few decades.
Let’s revisit this in a couple of hundred years. 🙂
Thank you! 🙂 Coolness is inherent in Taoist thoughts. Therefore–> Be cool. Think Tao thoughts.
Hi Taobabe! I’ve been studying/practicing the Yijing for a decade and I always thought it should be the basis of some religion… and surprised recently that Taoism is already that religion. We have very similar paths in our search for the Dao. Stay cool.
I’m so very glad I found your blog Taobabe. This post touches on many of the similar experiences I, and I’m sure millions of others have experienced regarding belief. I’ve left Christianity behind as a valid belief system. I’m now, as you did, going back and forth between Zen Buddhism and Taoism. Probably the best thing for me lately is meditation.
So I absolutely look forward to your posts, and I hope you have a great day.