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Taoist Sects: Heavenly Masters and the Perfect Truth Video

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  • 0:01 Origins of Taoism
  • 1:17 Heavenly Masters
  • 2:38 Perfect Truth
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will seek to explain the Taoist sects of the Heavenly Masters and the Perfect Truth. In doing so, it will highlight men like Lao-tzu and Chang Tao Ling while also exploring the concept of inner alchemy.

Origins of Taoism

Today's lesson is going to focus on the two main sects of Taoism. They are Heavenly Masters and the Perfect Truth. However, before we get into these sects there are a few things we need to cover. First, Taoism is a Chinese philosophy that stresses living simply, honestly, and in harmony with nature. With very, very little documentation of its origin, tradition holds that Taoism was sort of launched when a man named Lao-tzu, also spelled Laozi, received the first inspiration of Taoism. However, many historians assert this guy is way more fiction than fact.

Second, due to the lack of concrete historical evidence concerning the origins of Taoism, many scholars have a hard time even using the word sect. This is due to the idea that sect usually infers being a part of an organized religious system. In truth, Taoism has never really been very organized, but for our purposes, we're going to stick with the word sect. Just keep in mind that much of what we are going to cover has been gleaned from the most agreed upon aspects of Taoist history. With that being said, let's get onto our sects.

Heavenly Masters

The first sect of Taoism was the sect of the Heavenly Masters. Forming sometime around the year 142 CE, the Heavenly Masters claim a man named Chang Tao Ling as their founder. According to Taoist tradition, Chang Tao Ling was visited by a reincarnation of Lao-tzu, the guy we mentioned earlier that many scholars think was a myth, not a man.

During this visit, Lao-Tzu bestowed upon Chang Tao Ling the title of Heavenly Master. In other words, Chang Tao Ling was the new guy in charge. Not letting any grass grow under his feet, he soon gathered a very rather large group of followers, and the first Taoist sect, the Heavenly Masters, was formed. On a side note, this sect's treasury was actually funded by donations of rice. For this reason, it also earned the name the Five Pecks of Rice.

As time went on, the sect of the Heavenly Masters continued to gain in power. In 184 CE, under the leadership of Chang Lu, who just so happened to be Chang Tao Ling's grandson, the Heavenly Masters lead a successful revolt against the Confucius leaders of China. With this, the state of Han Chung was born, an independent land under the rule of Taoism.

Perfect Truth

This leads us to the next sect of Taoism, the Perfect Truth. Considered by many to be the most influential sect of Taoism, it also goes by the name the Complete Perfection sect. However, despite this rather grand name, the details of its creation are even more nebulous than that of the Heavenly Masters, with its origin usually being generally spoken of as 'sometime in the 12th century during the Song Dynasty of China.'

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