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The Use of Herbs and Food in Taoism (part 2)

"Taoism" Eva Wong

"Many people are curious about the role of food in Taoist spirituality.  The general rule of thumb is to let the body decide what foods it can take, rather than trying to control the diet with preconceived ideas.  One of the aims of Taoist training is to  cultivate an intelligent body.  Once the body has attained an awareness of its health, it will naturally reject foods that are unhealthy for it.  Techniques of cultivating the body of-ten require the practitioner initially to expend a lot of energy.  It is not uncommon for appetites to increase in the early stages of internal and external strengthening.  A prac-titioner locked into the social conventions about dieting and keeping calories down may not reach the higher stages of spiritual development.  With time, however, as the inter-nal physiology becomes more efficient, the body will not need as much food to maintain a healthy level of internal energy.  Also, as the body is cleansed and the energies are re-fined, there is a natural inclination to stay away from meat and fatty foods.

Contrary to popular belief, vegetarianism is not required in Taoist practice.  The Lung-
Men sect of the northern branch of the Complete Reality School is one of the few mon-astic groups to abstain from meat.  Almost all of the internal-alchemical sects agree that abstinence from meat should be natural not forced.  On certain feast days, espec-ially during the major festivals of the deities, it is customary to abstain from meat for purposes of purification.  The observance of these dietary rules is especially important for practitioners of Ceremonial Taoism." 

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