Why do some Tao cultivators insist that
I-Kuan Tao is not a religion?
One can certainly
practice I-Kuan Tao as a religion if one wishes, and many people do, but
this is by no means an absolute requirement. The advanced cultivation of
I-Kuan Tao is a way of life that transcends the religious practice. The
authentic teaching is "dao fei jiao" - meaning the Tao is not a
religion. The Tao is the source of all things, including all religions,
so it is far more than any religious institution.
that perspective, I-Kuan Tao is simply a path that one can travel to approach
the source of divine
spirituality. It does not claim to be the only path or a "superior" path
to the source
- but if you feel an affinity for the Tao, then it may be the right path
The followers of I-Kuan Tao worships various
gods. Would that not be a religious practice?
practice I-Kuan Tao as a religion worship deities in similar ways as
followers of other faiths.
practice I-Kuan Tao as a way of life have a slightly different
perspective. They go back to the original meaning of the Chinese
character bai, which is often mistranslated as "to worship," but
actually means "to venerate" or "to revere." To them, the various
deities are powerful symbols of human virtues, and they pay respects to
the ones representing virtues they would like to cultivate in
themselves. This is essentially an associative conditioning process to
transform the spiritual state.
Why is vegetarianism a requirement for I-Kuan Tao
most followers of I-Kuan Tao, vegetarianism is a recommendation, not a
requirement. It is recommended not only for its health benefits, but
also because it is a meaningful gesture of compassion toward animals. It
is not required because the Tao has no interest in forcing anyone to do
vegetarianism is a requirement if you wish to set up a I-Kuan Tao
shrine in your home. This is because the owner of such a shrine serves
as an example to others by making a commitment that many people may not
be willing to make. Those who are not ready for such duties can always
set up their own altars or sacred spaces without going through the
The majority of
vegetarian restaurants in Taiwan are owned by the vegetarian members of
I-Kuan Tao. They have elevated the art of vegetarian cuisine to a level
that must be experienced to be believed.
What are the five religions often
mentioned in I-Kuan Tao?
To beginning Tao cultivators, they are
Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity and Islam. They see the
term as a literal list.
Advanced Tao cultivators recognize the
fallacy in trying to assign five specific religions to the expression.
The ancient Chinese arbitrarily put the "five" label on many things -
five sounds, five flavors, five colors, etc. They did this despite the
fact that such definite categorization was not always appropriate or
correct. For instance, most people recognize more than five colors in
the rainbow. Also, mixing the three primary colors produce three
additional colors for a total of six. No matter how we look at it, we
have to conclude that "five" should mean a multitude rather than
literally the number five.
Thus, when we see "five religions," our understanding should be that it
means all the significant spiritual or philosophical traditions that
have the potential to uplift and inspire people. In that sense, the
expression also includes Hinduism, Judaism, and many other paths, not
just the narrow five of the beginner's understanding.
One stated purpose of I-Kuan Tao is "to
cultivate one's true-self by utilizing untruths." Shouldn't the word
"untruths" really be "truths"?
This is an imperfect translation of a
well-known saying in I-Kuan Tao, which literally says "borrow the unreal
to cultivate the real." What it actually means is that we make use of
the material world to cultivate the soul.
From Buddhist as well as Tao teachings,
we understand that the material world is ultimately illusory, and
therefore unreal. The soul, unlike the transience of the material world,
is eternal, and therefore real.
Put the above together, and you have a
clear yet concise statement that explains our purpose in taking on
What is Dah-Torng? I also see Dah Tong
and "The World of Da Tong." What does it mean, and what is the correct
All of the above that you may have seen
in various I-Kuan Tao web sites are erroneous renditions of the two
original Chinese characters. The first character is da. It means
big or great. The second character is tong. It is pronounced with
an "oh" sound instead of "ah" sound. It rhymes with "wrong" instead of
"kong" or "bong". It means together or togetherness.
The two together can be written as
datong, da tong, or Da Tong. There's no "Torng" in
Chinese. It got written that way because the first person to attempt
translation did not understand Chinese romanization and made up a quick
fix on the spot. Others that followed also had poor understanding of
romanization, so they kept repeating the first mistake, thinking it must
be some sort of standard set by an expert.
Regardless of how it is romanized, da
tong is not a specialized term that has to be rendered phonetically.
It can be translated very accurately as "great unity." Thus, "The World
of Da Tong" is simply "The World of Great Unity." It refers to an ideal
utopia where people live together in harmony and everyone is looked
after. This was first described by Confucius, so "Great Unity" has
become known as a Confucian concept.
The Chinese translators who used "Da
Tong" instead of "Great Unity" did so for the simple reason that they
did not have enough knowledge to do the translation properly. Remember,
the language barrier affects both sides equally. Justs as we may think
the Chinese language is difficult, they feel the same way about English.
Do I-Kuan Tao
members have scriptures or books other than TTC?
One of the central ideas in I-Kuan Tao is that
the Tao is not a religion. The Tao is the driving force behind all
things - including all religions. There is definitely something that
compels so many people to delve into Christianity or Islam or Buddhism
or other religious practices; we can call that something the way (the
Tao) of humanity.
This being the case, someone who is aligned with the Tao would feel
quite comfortable in studying scriptures and books from any and all
spiritual traditions. So while there is such a thing as a Taoist canon
in religious Taoism, there isn't in I-Kuan Tao. Or, you can say that the
I-Kuan Tao canon covers all books that are sincere attempts to approach
the divine. In the mindset of the Tao, there is no "us versus them" or
distinctions in terms of "these are mine, those are yours."
Thus, most I-Kuan Tao practitioners study from a wide variety of
sources, but since they are mostly Chinese, the books they choose to
study tend to be from Chinese culture. Other than TTC, many also study
Chuang Tzu, I Ching, the Analects, the Heart Sutra, the Diamond Sutra,
the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, etc. Some also study the
Christian Bible. I haven't heard of anyone studying the Koran, but
that's because historically Islam has not been as influential on the
Chinese as Christianity, relatively speaking. There would certainly be
nothing to stop anyone who takes an interest on the subject.
there any literature available on I-Kuan Tao?
There is, both printed and online. I am
familiar with most of them, but I'm afraid there isn't much written in
English that I would describe as an accurate reflection of the authentic
Tao. Many web sites emphasize the religious practice while neglecting
the aspects of I-Kuan Tao that transcend religion to encompass the
totality of life.
sources that I can comfortably recommend are, at this time, limited to the following:
1) Learn Chinese and study the authentic stuff. I realize for many
people this is simply not a practical plan.
2) Ask people who are actually involved with the practice and can
communicate with you in English. In this regard I would humbly submit
myself and Bill Bunting for your consideration.
3) Read up on the I-Kuan Tao information at
4) Consider participating in the Sunday meetings via Internet audio
conference. It's available to anyone who has a broadband connection (DSL
or cable modem) and you sure can't beat the price ($0).