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Taoism and Buddhism in Modern Living:
At their core, Taoism and Buddhism are about "living". The two religions share a similar belief in that everyone is responsible for their own actions and destiny. They teach us how to respect and live in harmony with our universal neighbors and cultivate good karma that will lead us to a better existence.
In today's fast paced world, it is easy to forget what is truly important and lose balance. Fortunately, we are seeing many aspects of Taoism and Buddhism being integrated into the fabirc of modern living to help restore balance and harmony, not only for Taoists and Buddhists, but also to the lives of many people from all cultures. For example, Tai Chi, Chi Gong (Qigong), Chinese medicine, Feng Shui, and Chinese astrology are all based on Taoist teachings and methods for harmonizing our internal energies (Chi) with our environments to promote healthy and peaceful living. Buddhist meditation and vegetarianism is becoming popular as ways to develop greater spirituality, relieve stress and revitalize the mind and body.
Chanting, Meditation and Symbolic Offerings:
Chanting is the recitation of Taoist or Buddhist scriptures and mantras. It is a way of learning teachings, but is often used as a method for focusing the mind and developing spirituality merit.
Meditation can take many forms - sitting, standing, or walking. Buddhist and Taoist meditation techniques can differ, but their primary goals are to purify and focus the mind so that one can reach higher states of spiritual conciousness. Taoist meditation techniques focus on breathing and cultivation of "chi" - and as a result have many health benefits.
Symbolic offerings of incense, fruits, flowers, food and lanterns can be seen at temples. Offerings are a method of cultivating the virtues of giving, sharing and putting others before ourselves. (The food offerings are not "eaten" by the deities or Buddhas, it is meant to be shared by temple members - a fact that is often misinterpreted.) The offerings also serve to symbolize the sacred teachings. For example, fruits and the seeds they contain symbolize the laws of cause and effect - karma (the Chinese characters for Karma are literally "seed and fruit".) Flowers celebrate the beauty of life but remind us that life is fast changing and illusory - good times do not last forever. The smoke from the incense is symbolic of prayers raising to the heavens and for our aspirations to cultivate virtues so they reach lofty heights.
Chanting, meditation, and offerings are intergral parts of temple ceremonies and religious festivals.