Master Zhou Xuan Yun has been teaching martial arts in Chinatown for years.
Now he is ready to build temple for our community. I got a chance to interview him about it.
Me: Why is it important that a Taoist Temple be built in Boston?
Zhou: Understanding Taoism is an important part of understanding Chinese culture. Taoism is the only religion native to China. Taoists, believe in the Tao, the organic order that underlies all of creation. Taoists study and strive to act in harmony with this cosmic force.
In China, each community has its temple. The community provides the support that the temple needs, and the temple provides services like rituals for weddings, funerals, and also provides spiritual guidance when needed.
I have chosen to build a temple outside of Boston. In a more rural location, we can get a property with a bit of land. I will offer classes and workshops, as well as meditation retreats. I will also host masters visiting from China. I hope that members of the Chinatown community can visit and connect to Chinese culture on a deeper level.
Me: Is Taoism compatible with other religions? What if I am Catholic or Muslim or some other religion.... can I be Taoist too?
Zhou:It is important to differentiate between the Taoist beliefs and Taoist practices. Many traditional Chinese practices are rooted in Taoism, like tai chi, qigong, breathing practices, feng shui, reading the Yi Jing, meditation, acupuncture and herbalism. These things do not require any particular set of religious beliefs. They can be practiced by anyone.
In the temple we also learned ritual, chanting scripture, and devotional practices. These things require belief in Taoist religion, and are not compatible with other religious practice.
Me: I could see a lot of Americans who are disillusioned by their native religion because of scandal or abuse seeking Taoism. Are there religions that are completely scandal free? How would this new temple fit in?
Zhou: It is not proper for me to speak negatively about other teachers. I can say that I teach students of any religion, race, sexual preference, gender identity, and disability. Our differences are to be celebrated, not feared. Without fear, the mind is calm, the spirit is focused, and real practice can begin. Come as you are. You are welcome here.
Me: We talked about other religions. What about people who don't have interest in traditional religions. Especially organized ones. How would they benefit from a Taoist center?
Zhou: Our modern lifestyle is very unbalanced. People work too hard, are too stressed, and get sick as a result. Many traditional Taoist practices are wellness arts that create mental and physical well being.
Me: You’re married with a child....from watching kung fu movies sometimes you get the impression that some Taoist are celibate. Also shaolin monks….what's the story?
Zhou: There are several different Daoist lineages, each with their own unique practices. Some withdraw from society to live in monasteries or as hermits. Others marry and live in villages or cities. Each of us must find and follow the path that is right for us. In fact, there are more similarities than differences among the different Taoist lineages, and we all embrace the three jewels of the Tao: compassion, moderation,and humility.