The Heavenly Lord of Dao and its Virtue
Origin of the Heavenly Lord of Dao and its Virtue
The Heavenly Lord of Dao and its Virtue ( 道德天尊 Daode Tianzun ) is one the Three Pristine Ones ( 三清 Sanqing ), the highest divinities of Daoism. He is Laozi, and has also been called the Supreme Venerable Sovereign ( 太上老君 Taishang Laojun ) since the Northern Wei Dynasty. According to the biographies of Laozi collected by Ge Hong in the Biographies of the Immortals ( 神仙傳 Shenxian Zhuan ), Laozi is said to have been born before Heaven and Earth, after 72 years' stay in his mother's womb. He was born under a plum tree with the ability to speak, and took his surname "Li" after the tree. According to the Inscription in Honor of Laozi ( 老子鉻 Laozi Ming ) written by Bian Shao, prime Minister of Chen, in the eighth year of the Yanxi Era of the Eastern Han dynasty, Laozi "came out of the Vital Breath of Chaos, and is as eternal as the three lights of the Sun, Moon and Stars." "As the incarnation of Dao, he shelters and saves people." The Chart of the Ranks of the Perfected Souls ( 真靈位業圖 Zhenling Weiye Tu ) places the Supreme Venerable Sovereign of Supreme Clarity in the middle of the fourth rank, in the Supreme Ultimate Palace ( 太極宮 Taiji Gong ) of the Supreme Clarity Realm ( 太清境 Taiqing Jing ), which is the 34th and third highest of the 36 heavens. The chapter 'Buddhist and Daoist Records' in the History of the Wei Dynasty says that the Supreme Venerable Sovereign "dwells above in the Jade Capital ( 玉京 Yujing ), as the ancestor of the divine kings, and dwells below in the Purple Subtlety ( 紫微 Ziwei ), as the Lord of the flying Immortals." The royal family of the Tang dynasty, taking Laozi as its ancestor, worshipped him and honored him with many noble titles. Emperor Gao honored him as "Supreme Emperor of the Mysterious Origin"; Emperor Xuan honored him as "Great Sage Ancestor and Great Heavenly Emperor of the Mysterious Origin of the Golden Palace of the Great Lofty Dao" ( 大聖祖高上大道金闕玄元天皇大帝 Da Shengzu Gaoshang Dadao Jinque Xuanyuan Tianhuang Dadi ).
Avatar of Dao
The Seven Slips of a Cloudy Satchel ( 雲笈七籤 Yunji Qiqian ) says, "Laozi is the Venerable Sovereign and avatar of Dao. He is the Ancestor of Original Vital Breath ( 元氣 Yuanqi ) and the Root of Heaven and Earth. Coming out of Spontaneity ( 自然 Ziran ), the subtle origin of the great Dao is born from non-birth, precedes the unprecedented, is formed from the Empty Grotto ( 空洞 Kongdong ), and creates and nourishes Heaven and Earth. He is called the highest true perfect Dao, numinous and subtle beyond name. Therefore he says: "Born before the formless, originated before supreme origin, fully grown at the supreme beginning, I travel at the origin of Supreme Simplicity ( 太素 Taisu ). Going inside and out of emptiness, I enter and leave the obscure mystery. I watched chaos before its division, witnessed Yin and Yang before their separation, pace the wilderness of the universe, and experience the creation of all things. So the Venerable Sovereign is the original Vital Breath of perfect Dao and creator of Spontaneity."
The Teacher of Sages
Since the union of Fuxi with Shen Nong, the Supreme Venerable Sovereign has repeatedly incarnated himself in the world. He was the Master of the Mysterious Middle ( 玄中法師 Xuanzhong Fashi ) in the time of the Upper Three August Ones, Imperial Sovereign of the Golden Palace in the time of Lower Three August Ones, Yuhuazi in the time of Fuxi, and Nine-Soul Laozi in the time of Shen Nong. He was Guangshouzi in the time of Zhurong, Guangchengzi in the time of the Yellow Emperor, and Chijingzi in the time of Zhuanxu. He was Lutuzi in the time of Emperor Ku, Wuchengzi in the time of Yao, and Yinshouzi in the time of Shun. He was Zhenxingzi in the time of Yu of the Xia Dynasty, Xizezi in the time of Tang of the Yin Dynasty, and Master Wenyi in the time of King Wen. He is the teacher of generations of sages.
Worship in Temples
In the Halls of the Three Pristine Ones of Daoist temples, the Supreme Venerable Sovereign always appears to the right of the Primeval Lord of Heaven ( 元始天尊 Yuanshi Tianzhun ), as a white-haired and white-bearded elder man with a feather fan in his hand. In large-scale Daoist rituals, the Supreme Venerable Sovereign also appears to the right of the Primeval Lord of Heaven. The holy birthday of the Supreme Venerable Sovereign or Heavenly Lord of Dao and Its Virtue, is the 15th of the second lunar month. Daoism, regarding the Supreme Venerable Sovereign as its ancestor, holds a holy birthday celebration and Luck and Longevity prayer rituals on this day.