WHITE SUN - Tao of Heaven is also known as I-Kuan Tao.
The Foundation of I-Kuan Tao
17th Patriarch Great Master Great Lady Master
The Taoist part of the I-Kuan Tao heritage is by far the oldest, going back at least to the time of Huang-di, the legendary emperor who lived over 4,500 years ago.
About two thousand years after this ancient beginning, Lao Tzu came along to summarize Taoist beliefs and concepts into the classic Tao Te Ching. Another sage, Chuang Tzu, expanded upon these beliefs and concepts with stories, metaphors and a unique sense of humor.
Today, 2,500 years later, the teachings about the Tao have become the central tenets of I-Kuan Tao. These teachings describe the Tao as the ultimate principle beyond all principles and the ultimate power beyond all powers.
I-Kuan Tao asserts that the Tao is the essence and the spiritual truth behind all religions, philosophies, and schools of thought. It is also the source of everything, the driving mechanism of evolution, and the life force of the universe. The specialized name for this concept is Lao Mu, the personified manifestation of the nurturing, life-affirming, and creative power of the universe.
At about the same time as Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, other sages were also developing their own perspectives on life and spirituality. Confucius became renowned as a great teacher and scholar as he codified social customs and ethics. To the south of China, the Buddha taught his followers the path toward enlightenment.
Confucian teachings and Buddhist thoughts both had profound impact on Chinese culture. I-Kuan Tao recognizes their value, and integrates their teachings into the core of the belief system.
It is the nature of I-Kuan Tao to be open and receptive to different perspectives. The Tao goes beyond superficial, stylistic differences, and great wisdom should be treasured and cherished regardless of its source. By seeking commonalities among different traditions, I-Kuan Tao can move closer to the true essence, and perhaps avoid inflexible dogma.
Five hundred years after the time of Lao Tzu, another remarkable teacher came into the world. His name was Jesus. He left a legacy that would come to serve as the foremost foundation of spirituality in the West.
With the same openness and receptivity that it has for all beliefs, I-Kuan Tao embraces and incorporates Christian teachings. Many Tao practitioners respect and study the Bible, again seeking the common thread of truth and wisdom that can bring the different beliefs closer to oneness.
In terms of formal lineage, I-Kuan Tao traces back to Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who visited China and originated Zen Buddhism. I-Kuan Tao reveres Bodhidharma as the first patriarch, or spiritual ancestor.
The lineage founded by Bodhidharma passed down through the generations to Hui Neng, the sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism. Hui Neng's deep insights and powerful intuition, as recorded in The Platform Sutra, became central elements of Tao cultivation.
The lineage continued on after Hui Neng, generation after generation. The last patriarch of the lineage was the eighteenth. This final position was shared by two individuals that Tao practitioners call Shi Zun (literally "teacher-reverend") and Shi Mu (literally "teacher-mother").
In 1930, Shi Zueng and Shi Mu started their practice of I-Kuan Tao in Chi Nan City, Shang-Dong Province. Their work spread by word of mouth, and by 1946 I-Kuan Tao became prevalent among 36 provinces of China.
At the end of the Civil War in 1949, many I-Kuan Tao followers in China found their beliefs incompatible with Communist doctrines. They followed Shi Zun and Shi Mu out of China, and established themselves in Taiwan.
I-Kuan Tao thrived and spread in Taiwan, despite initial attempts by the government to suppress it. Soon there were millions of followers, hundreds of temples, and tens of thousands of family shrines. This popularity was partly because I-Kuan Tao offered new thinking that changed the religious landscape.
Previous to the influence of I-Kuan Tao, the vegetarian lifestyle was thought to be the sole domain of monks and nuns. I-Kuan Tao questioned this commonly accepted convention, and advocated vegetarianism for all Tao cultivators.
Because of this, vegetarianism became much more widespread. It used to be difficult to find vegetarian restaurants in Taiwan. Today anyone can find several within walking distance. This change would not have taken place without I-Kuan Tao.
I-Kuan Tao insisted on having meetings where the learned can share their spiritual insights with others. This was quite different from the old paradigm, where monks and nuns studied scriptures but did not necessarily discuss them with the lay public in regularly scheduled classes.
Over time, people gradually became aware of the I-Kuan Tao approach. They started to understand that the focus should not be on building temples or collecting donations. Spiritual teachings should take center stage. One by one, religious institutions adapted to this new awareness. Today, seminars and public forums on spiritual topics have become commonplace in Taiwan. The people benefit.
Not everyone is aware of the pivotal role that I-Kuan Tao has played in the above. This is because Tao cultivators refrain from trumpeting their own accomplishments. They prefer to do the work, achieve the result, and then quietly exit, hopefully without drawing any attention.
In this way, I-Kuan Tao adheres to the ancient teachings about the Tao. Like water, the Tao nourishes all, gives birth of all things, and then moves on to the next task without any expectations of recognition or rewards.
By seeking the commonality of all faiths and bringing everyone, regardless of religion, closer to the spiritual essence, I-Kuan Tao lives up to its name. It is truly the ideal of harmonious connections - the Tao that unifies all with the one.
The first patriarch of the White Stage, Jin-gong Zu Shi, Lu Zhong-yi, was born in Ji-ning, Shang-dong on April 24 in the 28th year of the rule of Ching Dynasty Emperor Tao-guang. He called himself "Senseless bloke". He was orphaned at a young age and led a very miserable life. He joined the army during the rule of Ching Emperor Guang-xu and through heavenly guidance, he became the disciple of Ching-xu Zu Shi, 16th patriarch, to pursue the study of Tao. He donated 100 silver dollars (dollar system at the time), and spent many years to cultivate the Tao under 16th patriarch's leading.
He did his daily chores, endured hardships and studied conscientiously to achieve holiness. When Liu Zu became old and senile, he sought heavenly advice and passed on the leadership to Jin-gong Zu Shi on March 15, in the 31st year of the rule of Ching Emperor Guang-xu. Thus, Jin-gong Zu Shi began to spread the gospel of Tao in Ji-ning of Shang-dong to salvage and cross people until February 2nd, 1925 when he passed away, aged 76. On March 3rd of the following year, Jin-gong Zu Shi returned with his youthful look to borrow the soul of Yang Chun-ling in Shan-xi to exhibit his divine power for 100 days. He was able to cite classics and Mi-le Scriptures for posterity.
Great Master Zhang, also called Kui-sheng or Guang-bi, Tao-named Tian Ran, was born in Ji-ning of Shang-dong on July 19 in the 15th year of the rule of Ching Emperor Guang-xu. At the time of his birth the Heaven Temple was ablaze, the sky turned red and the Yellow River became crystal clear. These are signs from the heaven and earth to signify the birth of a saint. Great Master was born with special features, like the flat top head, the eyes with double pupils He was highly intelligent and endowed with magnanimous character. In 1915 he met Master Chu and from thence. He and Tao were inseparable and became very vigorous in the study of Tao. In 1920 Master Chu died and Great Master became the follower of Jin-gong Zu Shi. In 1925 Jin-gong Zu Shi died. In 1930 Great Master and Great Mistress were entrusted the responsibility to continue with the joint-leadership of Tao. Under their joint-leadership Tao flourished through very hard and trying times. In 1945, Tao has spread to all of China and in 1946 the believers in Xi-chuan had brought the faith to Cheng-du. Coinciding with the Mid-autumn festival of 1947, Great Master died at the age of 59. He was posthumously awarded the title of "Ancient Buddha" and his status was confirmed. His vow to look after the well-being of the sentient humans touched the hearts of all.
Great Lady Master
Great Lady Master Sun, also known as Su-zheng or Ming-shan, Tao-named Hui-ming, was born in Shan-xian of Shang-dong on August 28, in the 21st year of the rule of Ching Emperor Guang-xu. In the early days she was well brought up by her family and was demure and virtuous by nature. She was initiated with Tao in 1918. She was compassionate and had deep faith. In 1930, there were changes in the trend of Tao. Great Master and Great Lady Master received heavenly decree that the sexes were equal and could cultivate Tao together. With the help of the saints and sages and Buddhas, prophesies become true and Tao had descended upon the common mass of people. Great Lady Master knew that the heavenly decree was not to be disobeyed and obediently assisted Great Master. In mid-Autumn 1947, Great Master died. All grieved, especially the disciples. Great Lady Master put up with all her might to endure against the gale and make calm to the Tao Order. Disciples were touched by Great Lady Master dedication and virtue and decided to give up their families and career to spread the truth to preserve the sacred mission. In 1949 when China was in turmoil, Great Lady Master retreated to Hong Kong. In 1954, Master Han was able to overcome all the difficulties to bring Great Lady Master to Taiwan. Great Lady Master's vision had touched the heaven and had turned crisis into opportunities. She made I-Kuan Tao what it is today, a legitimate entity to spread the faith of Tao, from Taiwan to all corners of the world. On February 23 of 1975, Great Lady Master passed away at age 81. She was bestowed the title of "Mother Saint of Zhong Hua" after her death.