Philosophy of Shaolin The Shaolin/Sil Lum sect is a branch of the Buddhist school known as Ch'an the equivalent is Zen; the Shaolin-descended school of martial arts and philosophy. One further note of importance: It is the aspect of both Buddhism and Taoism that sets Ch'an apart as a distinct entity. Taoism There are primarily 2 sects of Taoism: the philosophical and religious sects, similar to the broad divisions seen in Buddhism. They both studied nature, but for different reasons. The philosophical Taoists, who saw the teachings of Tao as a guide for life that is essentially deity-independent, studied nature to look for harmony. The religious Taoists, who believed strongly in a pantheon of greater and lesser gods, studied it to look for ways to change the course of nature (alchemy), including to prolong life. This latter seems particularly difficult to understand because altering nature is moving against the flow. The philosophical school of Taoism has it's roots in the fifth century B.C.E. writings ascribed to Lao Tzu, a buraucrat who spurned the world to find bliss. According to legend, he was recognized as he left the kingdom, where the border guard requested Lao Tzu write down the essence of his wisdom. The resulting book is known as the Tao Te Ching, or Book of the Way . In essence, the knowable universe is composed of opposite components, whether physical (hard/soft; dark/light), moral (good/bad), or biological (male/female), which may be classed as either YANG or YIN. When combined, existence is produced, and is manifest as TAO. Neither yin nor yang can exist independently. The symbol of Tao is the 'fish symbol' within which are two small dots (yin in the yang section, yang in the yin section), and around which are a pair of arrows, symbolizing dynamic interaction. The arrows have often been removed in contemporary motifs, but were popularized again when used by Bruce Lee in his Jeet Kune Do emblem. The philosophical Taoists are largely atheistic, looking to nature for the secrets to harmony and bliss. As a result, Taoist martial artists mimicked animals in their quest for martial arts techniques. The Taoists had their own temples and had their own system of martial arts (Hsing-I, Pakua). Emphasis was on internal styles. T'ai Chi Ch'uan, often attributed to Taoism, had a slightly different origin. It was designed to be a martial art for soldiers. It is believed to be around 1200 years old. While both Taoists and Buddhists understood and studied the concepts of duality in nature, the Taoist was more focused on the differences of Yin and Yang, while the Buddhist was more interested in the state of dynamic harmony of the two . Taoist philosophy is concerned with the intrinsic nature of Yin-ness and Yang-ness, readily seen when studying Taoist medicine, for example. It is a Taoist stance to look at 'Yin' versus 'Yang' techniques, 'Hard' versus 'Soft' styles.
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