The Ideal of Supreme Peace
Daoism longs for Supreme Peace. The Book of Supreme Peace ( 太平經 Taiping Jing ), one of the earliest Daoist scriptures, was named after and is based on the concept of Supreme Peace. Although the society of Supreme Peace is by no means an exclusively Daoist idea, Daoism has its own understanding of the concept.
The Basis of Supreme Peace Lies in the Spread of the Great Dao
Although everyone longs for a society of Supreme Peace, such a society very rarely appears. The reason? The Great Dao isn't widespread among the people, and society is not in accordance with the Dao of Heaven -- sometimes, it is even against it. Because Dao is in accordance with nature, a stable society with harmonious relations between its members must be based on alignment with the Great Dao. This means that all things must be done in agreement with their natural laws. Laozi said that if a king keeps to the Great Dao, all people will come to him. Coming to him and living together in peace, the people will enjoy security and stability. That is to say, acting against Dao is the basic reason for troubles and quarrels, as well as riots occuring in the world. If all people aimed at according themselves with and cultivating Dao, they would learn to be harmonious with each other. There would be neither conflicts nor wars. The attitude of the ruler or leader is the crucial factor determining whether there will be agreement with Dao. Even in the Eastern Han dynasty, the leaders of the Mighty Commonwealth of Orthodox Oneness Tradition said in Xianger's Commentary on Laozi: only after a king, assisted by his loyal officials, devotes himself to cultivation and promotion of Dao, will a society of Supreme Peace emerge. When Dao is widespread and its virtue prosperous, a society of Supreme Peace will come into being. In general, if a king is wise and able to piously promote Dao, the country under his control will witness a period of prosperity. Conversely, if he abuses his power and takes rash actions which are against Dao, he will bring about a chaotic society, even a ruined country.
The specific meaning of Dao and Virtue lies in serious probing and personal insight, instead of subjective statements or fabrications. Dao exists everywhere. But when times and conditions change, Dao, accordingly, takes different forms. Basically, Dao is simple and colorless, which is Simplicity ( 樸 Pu ), as Laozi said. When Simplicity is divided, the Great Dao becomes widespread, and heaven, earth and human beings come into being. Then a society emerges. In order to run a society well, all kinds of regulations are established. Accordingly, the Great Simplicity of Dao is gone and absorbed by the myriad beings. When a man seeks for external things, he is going away from the Great Dao, which is also a process of going away from his inner nature, or Virtue. But neither decomposed societies nor the decomposed Inner Natures of human beings meet the needs of Supreme Peace. So the prerequisite of a society of Supreme Peace lies in regaining original simplicity and perfection, a process of returning to man simple nature, which is predetermined by the Great Dao. Accordingly, a society of Supreme Peace is a world in which the Great Dao is widespread. The realization of Supreme Peace is a process of returning to a man's original Inner Nature, a process of perfecting a man Inner Nature and a process of enhancing the moral level of society.
Human Relationships in a Society of Supreme Peace
In alignment with a perfected inner nature and a simple atmosphere, a society of Supreme Peace is characterized by equality and fraternal love among its inhabitants. The concept of equality originates in the idea that the Great Dao gives birth to all human beings equally. Daoist scholars think, in terms of the attributes of Dao, that the myriad beings are equal and without difference. On the basis of the equal attributes of Dao, human beings share a common source. So notions of difference, discrimination and confrontation are unreasonable. So-called equality means a man's concern for others -- in another word, the mutual love among people in a society, which, in the Book of Salvation, is specified as the ten 'no' s': no murdering, no injuring, no envying, no hating, no indulging in promiscuity, no stealing, no indulging in greed, no indulging in corrupt desires, no abominating, no suspecting others. In addition to all these, a man should not say lies nor use bad words. On the basis of that, people are to love each other without discrimination, and treat others as their family members. If all people follow the ten 'no', the ideal of Equal Love comes true. That means the realization of the Daoist ideal, which is characterized by a stable country, a rich life and a society of Supreme Peace. In fact, it represents a social ideal, which has encouraged Daoists in different historical periods to work hard for its realization.
Ceasing Hostility and Warfare
No war happens in a society of Supreme Peace. War brings about terrible disasters. Vicious wars result in brutal killings as well as terrible devastation over social culture, from which people suffer tremendously. That's why Daoism is always against wars, especially the vicious ones. Laozi said: A war is a bad omen. People dislike it. So a man embracing Dao by no means starts a war. He also said that after troops sweep by, farming lands are changed into wastelands, on which only weeds grow. War is always followed by devastation. So a man embracing Dao by no means shows his power through warfare. A sage doesn't rely on war, unless he has no choice. He prefers a calm solution to a war. It's not a good thing to take delight in winning a war, which means to take delight in killing. A man taking delight in killing never rules a country for long. Generally speaking, Daoism is against war. Only when a country imposes a war upon us, is it reasonable to fight back. Between the Jin and Yuan dynasties, when Qiu Chuji, the leader of the Complete Perfection Doctrine, met Genghis Khan, the Mongol conqueror, he used to advise him to stop killing and to protect people. In that period, the Mongols had started to rise in the northern wilderness. They didn't have a systematic structure of society yet. They used to rely on brutal wars as their only method for solving disputes. Under these circumstances, patriarch Qiu indeed risked himself when suggesting to the king to stop killing. Patriarch Qiu told the king: the Dao of Heaven likes producing and hates killing. Stopping killing and saving lives is to satisfy heaven. Satisfying heaven is to bring about blessings from heaven.
Modern times have witnessed great progress in arms manufacturing, as well as two world wars in half a century, and endless regional and local wars. Currently, wars are producing more serious consequences than before. When the Second World War broke out, the Daoist community held a large-scale ritual to reprimand the devastating war and appeal for restoration of peace, expressing its concern for the security of the country as well as its people. So objection to war and love for peace is Daoism's consistent principle.
Daoism considers that all people are sons of the Great Dao. So they are born equal. This is characterized by ideas of equality and equalization in social distribution. The idea of equalization has been included in the ideal of Supreme Peace. Here, equalization doesn't mean absolute equality without differences. Instead, it refers to an ideal in which everyone is provided with proper chances to make a living and become rich. In this society, the big gap between the rich and poor doesn't exist. Laozi said, the natural rule is to act as an archer who lowers the bow when it is too high, and raises it when it is too low. That is to say, a natural rule is to take unnecessary wealth away from the rich to finance the poor. In contrast with that, the artificial rule is to take away the necessities from the poor to make the rich even richer, which Laozi considered to be diametrically against the Dao of Heaven. In this regards, Daoism is always opposed to a big gap between the rich and the poor. According to the Book of Supreme Peace, as a common belonging of heaven, earth and human beings, the wealth of the world should be shared by all people. If the rich refuse to finance the poor with their wealth, they are not kind-hearted people. The book also says that Heaven gave birth to all people and enabled everyone to make a living by laboring. So Daoism is opposed to taking wealth by force. In line with its opposition to the economic polarization of society, Daoism is also opposed to excessive exploitation by governments. Laozi thought that excessive farm taxes and excise taxes resulted in famine. He considered as robbers the nobles who wore striped clothing and sharp swords at their waists. Similar ideas also emerged in Daoist texts of later periods. During the Five Dynasties, Tan Qiao, a famous Daoist scholar, thought that the exploitation by rulers, especially by kings, was the major reason for peasants' poverty. He stated that food was the most important thing for peasants. But one tenth of it was taken away by kings, and another tenth was taken away by officials, and another tenth by soldiers and lower ranking officials, and for military expenses, etc. In the end, peasants who grew silkworms wore nothing but coarse clothing and peasants who harvested crops ate nothing but wild fruits and acorns. Tan Qiao even considered that excessive exploitation was the main reason for robbery. So the ruling class was to blame for it, instead of robbers themselves. On that basis, Daoism hopes to found a government free from corruption, a government which is to treat its people generously, instead of fishing by emptying the water of a pond.
The Unity between Heaven and Man
Environmental Protection: A society of Supreme Peace is not only embodied in human relations, but also in the relation between human beings and nature. Everyone knows that society is linked to nature in one way or another, and that a man cannot live without his natural environment. Nature is the basic factor for human beings' existence. So a harmonious relation between human beings and nature is one of the prerequisite conditions for social stability and prosperity. On the basis of the idea that Heaven, Earth and Man commonly originated from the Vital Breath of Dao, Daoism always stresses the importance of harmony between human beings and nature, as well as the protection of nature. Daoism is always opposed to the violation of natural laws. It denies that human beings are to conquer nature, or wage a war against nature. On the contrary, many Daoist books advocate a harmonious relation between human beings and nature. The Perfect Book of Nanhua ( 南華真經 Nanhua Zhenjing ) states: I share a common origin with Heaven and Earth, and I am equivalent to the myriad beings. That is to say, basically, that there is no distinction between Heaven and human beings, and that Man and the myriad beings share a common origin. So Daoism normally prefers natural laws to social laws. The chapter 'Hoofs of a Horse" states that when social conventions and customs remained simple and unadorned, people were undisturbed and calm. They paid attention to their daily life and were hardly disturbed by external matters. So there was no route in the mountain, and no boat nor bridge on river. The myriad beings lived in harmony. No conflict existed. Many animals rambled in dense grass and trees. Human beings never hurt animals. The animals had no fear of human beings. Human beings and animals enjoyed playing together. Even the birds' nests were available for viewers. When human beings lived peacefully and equally together with the animals, and enjoyed nature in harmony with the myriad beings, how could you find the distinction between a gentleman and a mean person? This was a perfect world where the atmosphere of original simplicity remained unchanged. The Book of Supreme Peace even put forward a new idea about wealth, based on the myriad beings' right to live. Here, wealth referred to the diversified existence of the myriad beings. In this regard, during the reign of the Highest Emperor ( 上皇 Shanghuang ), the myriad beings were created. That was an era of wealth. In contrast, poverty was manifested by a small number of species. When the number of species of things and beings decreased, an era of poverty began. When both heaven and earth suffer from such poverty, human beings will undoubtedly be in poor condition. This notion suggests that wealth is manifested by the natural state of the environment, instead of by human exploitation of environmental resources. It attaches a great importance to environmental protection and biodiversity. That why Daoists have always preferred to live and hold activities in environmentally healthy locations. In today's world, there is an increasing threat against the environment, the basis of human beings' existence. Therefore, Daoist ideas of environmental protection are of great significance.