Taoism for Kids
Tao (pronounced Dow) means "The Way" (to happiness). Taoism is not a religion. Taoism is a philosophy, a way of looking at life and a way of thinking about things. Taoists believe if you look at life and think about things in the right way, you'll be much happier. To do this, it's very important to understand The Way Things Are. This does not mean that there are not things we need to change about ourselves, but it's important to recognize and trust our own Inner Nature, and discover who we are. In the story of "The Ugly Duckling" by Hans Christian Andersen, when does the duckling stop feeling ugly? - when he discovers he's a swan. When he recognizes who he really is, a beautiful swan, he finds his Way to happiness.
It was easy for me to begin to understand Taoism. I had a great teacher, Winnie-the-Pooh! There is a delightful book by Benjamin Hoff (illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard) called "The Tao of Pooh" (Penguin Books, 1982). If you are familiar with A. A. Milne's enchanting characters, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger, you'll be surprised if you read "The Tao of Pooh" at how easy it is to learn about Taoism. It's also a great deal of fun, which is very Taoist, as Taoists are firm believers in joy and laughter.
Below is a chart with three Taoist philosophy statements and three conversations from The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne. Can you guess which Taoist philosophy statement might go with which conversation? In other words, can you match them up?
|Taoist Philosophy||From The House at Pooh Corner|
|A clever mind is not a heart.||
"Rabbit's clever," said Pooh thoughtfully.
"Yes," said Piglet. "Rabbit's clever."
"And he has Brain."
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit has Brain."
There was a long silence.
"I suppose," said Pooh, "that that's why he never understands anything."
|There is more to knowing than just being correct.||
"Lot's of people talk to animals," said Pooh.
"Not very many listen, though," he said. "That's the problem," he added.
|The wise know their limitations; the foolish do not.||
Roo and Tigger were walking along the forest one
morning, and Tigger was talking about all the things
that Tiggers can do....
"I can swim," said Roo. "I fell into the river, and I swimmed. Can Tiggers swim?"
"Of course they can. Tiggers can do everything."
"Can they climb trees better than Pooh?" asked Roo, stopping under the tallest pine tree, and looking up at it.
"Climbing trees is what they do best," said Tigger. "Much better than Poohs."
And the next thing they knew, they were stuck in the tallest pine tree.
Did you guess right? They're not mixed up at all. They're right across from each other. Nothing tricky here. Like Taoism, it's simple!
At about the same time in history that the great teacher, Confucius, was busy teaching people about the right way to do things, 2,500 years ago in ancient China, there was another young man who was also a teacher. His name was Lao-Tzu. The teachings of Taoism are his teachings. Lao-Tzu believed that physical actions had a spiritual effect. If the body and mind were in good health, the body's spirit would be in good health. Many people in ancient China followed both the teachings of Confucius, whose rules told you how to do things in the right way, and of Lao-Tzu, whose teachings taught you how to think about things in the right way. Many people around the world are still following these teachings today.
We hope this section has encouraged you to learn more about Taoism. It is an absolutely fascinating ancient Chinese philosophy. And, we hope you will revisit the timeless tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger, who can all be found in The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne.