Purity, Tranquility and Non-interference

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Daoist Beliefs
The Great Dao
Original Meaning of Dao
Laozi's Creative Use of The Concept of Dao
The Main Meaning of the Concept of Dao
The Major Functions of Dao
Virtue
The Significance of Virtue
Expression of the Unity of Dao and Virtue
Becoming an Immortal by Attaining
Dao is ruled by Spontaneity
The Significance of Spontaneity
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Cosmogony
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Vital Breath
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Yin-Yang and the Five Agents
Social Ideals
Social Ideals
The Ideal of Supreme Peace
Purity, Tranquility and Non-interference
Salvation of Humanity
Philosophy of Life
Understanding Dao and Establishing Virtue
Education by Daoist Enlightenment
Ethical Education and Practise
Ethical Education and Practise
Accumulation of Hidden Merits
The Secret Meaning of Karma
Norms for Doing Good Works
Methods of Doing Good Works

In alignment with its ideal of Supreme Peace, Daoism's ideas of society and administration are characterized by its emphasis on Purity and Tranquility ( 清靜 Qingjing ) and Non-Interference ( 無為 Wuwei ).

Purity and Tranquility, the Basic Rule of the World

In the book of Laozi, the concept of Purity and Tranquility was stressed for the first time. Laozi considered that Tranquility is more powerful than unrest, because it is the abode of Dao. Although the myriad beings come and go in complicated manners, they will eventually return to original Purity and Tranquility. This process is called returning to the origin, a state of eternity. A Sage is a man who understands this. Conversely, ignoring it or acting rashly will result in terrible consequences. So Laozi suggests that a man should keep to deep Tranquility and, on that basis, observe the repeated movements of the myriad beings. In fact, Laozi implies that Purity and Tranquility is the essence of Dao as well as the reliable way to understand the movements of the Great Dao. As a result, human beings must keep to inner emptiness and tranquility in order to align themselves with the Great Dao. A man who understands Dao actually possesses the essentials for cultivating his body as well as governing a state. Accordingly, he is qualified to lead his people. So Laozi said: Purity and Tranquility is the basic rule of the world. Because Tranquility is in alignment with Dao, Daoism suggests that a man should understand Dao and abide by the principle of Tranquility. That is to say, human beings are to follow the basic rule of heaven, earth and nature by pursuing a state of Tranquility, and go away from unrest.

Non-Desire Leads to Purity and Tranquility

How does a man attain to Tranquility? Laozi thinks the answer is to purge one's mind of desires and ambitions. On that basis, the leaders of the Mighty Commonwealth of Orthodox Oneness Tradition stated that Dao is beyond all sensual desires and fond of Tranquility, a characteristic which eternalized heaven and earth. Because Tranquility is always linked to Non-Desire ( 無欲 Wuyu ), the Sublime Book of the Supreme Venerable Sovereign's Teachings on Eternal Purity and Tranquility ( 太上老君說常清靜妙經 Taishang Laojun Shuochang Qingjing Miaojing ) stresses that a state of Purity and Tranquility should be based on shunning all sensual desires. It says that a man's original spirit inclines to purity, but his heart disturbs it; a man's inner nature inclines to tranquility, but his sensual desires mislead it. So if a man can get rid of his sensual desires, his inner nature will remain undisturbed. When a man's inner nature is in tranquility, his original spirit will be pure and bright. The concept of Sensual Desire includes many things, but is normally embodied in the six desires related to a man's five sensory organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue and body) as well as the desire produced by his consciousness. A man, misled by temptations from outside, is likely to produce evil passions, which Daoism summarizes as the Three Poisons ( 三毒 Sandu ). They include the Poison of Negative Spirit, which does harm to a man's Spiritual Nature, the Poison of Negative Essential Matter, which does harm to a man's Bodily Life, and the Poison of Negative Vital Breath, which does harm to a man's internal organs. Another version of the Three Poisons also refers to three Evil Spirits ( 三屍 Sanshi ), who inhabit a man's body. The upper one induces a man to indulge in extravagance; the middle one induces a man to indulge in greed and good food; the lower one induces a man to indulge in lust and jealousy. In general, both the Three Poisons and the Three Evil Spirits represent evil desires in a man's consciousness. Because evil desires distract a man from thinking and behaving properly, they have to be removed. The Purity and Tranquility mentioned in the Book of Purity and Tranquility ( 清靜經 Qingjing Jing ) is directed at Daoist practitioners. So it includes very strict ethical demands. In general, however, the idea of Purity and Tranquility includes some basic requirements for leaders in a society and government. In Chinese history, many rulers used to satisfy their personal ambitions at the cost of the peoples' peaceful life, which in turn resulted in uncontrollable turbulence. That's a good lesson worth remembering. After the first Qin emperor united China, there was an Esoteric Speculation circulating in the country, which said: Hu will end the Qin regime. Because the ethnic nationalities were also called Hu, the emperor enrolled many inhabitants and soldiers to construct the Great Wall and protect the empire's borders. He also directed half a million people to construct a grand grave for himself. In addition, in order to get medicine for immortality, he led inspections around the coastal areas where he thought medicine for immortality was most likely to be found. All these things wasted a lot of money, which in turn made the people even poorer. At last, people in the Qin dynasty could not afford any more. They started to revolt just after the emperor's death. This story was very instructive to the rulers of the Han dynasty. Because of that, in the early period of the Han dynasty, the rulers started to use new a policy which embodied Daoism's ideas of Tranquility and Non-Interference. That policy was a big success.

Definition of Non-Interference

In line with its idea of Purity and Tranquility, Daoism advocates Non-Interference, which refers to conformity to nature in administration and to the objective laws of human behaviour: it does not mean doing nothing. Laozi used to speak highly of the value of Non-Interference. He considered that Dao achieves everything by Non-Interference. So a sage achieves all by Non-Interference, and transmits his teachings by non-speech. In his mind, Non-Interference implies less interference with peoples' lives and with the existence of the myriad beings. Man has been granted a simple nature, and all social activities follow their own natural law. Non-Interference (or less interference, when absolute non-interference is unavoidable), would lead things in their original direction. In this way, society and nature would be in good order, and no conflict would take place. So Laozi said: If I do things by Non-Interference, people will follow me naturally; If I incline to Tranquility, people will be led in the proper direction; If I interfere with nothing, people will become rich; If I have no sensual desire, people will become simple and sincere.