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Activity 1: Tao Te Ching

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Cut individual chapters into strips, making sure that the chapter numbers are included with each chapter.
  • Optional: Choose chapters from different translations. Some of the many websites with well-accepted translations are Brooklyn College of the City University of New York (the Stephen Mitchell version is respected, and accessible) and Sacred Texts (translated by J. Legge). You could also purchase copies of the Tao Te Ching in book form.

Description of Activity

Participants are introduced to a Taoist holy book, the Tao Te Ching.

Tell the youth this activity involves reading from the Tao Te Ching. Share the name of the translator of the text you are using. Pass out slips, giving no more than three to each participant. Allow the youth a few minutes to read their slips, then ask them to select their favorite.

Have participants each read their favorite to the group and share their interpretation of it. Invite the group to offer other interpretations.

Note that everyone may hear different things and find different meanings in any given reading. Ask them:

  • Does the sparseness of the writing leave the text more open to interpretation?
  • Does it make it harder or easier for you to find meaning?
  • What do you think this tells us about Taoism? Is it a religion that has hard-and-fast rules, or one where individuals are responsible for exploring and developing their own faith? How is this similar to or different from Unitarian Universalism?

Affirm that Taoists believe that there are many different paths that can lead to a happy, moral, spiritual life and that everyone is expected to find their own path.

Ask participants what values and beliefs they heard in these chapters. How do these relate to what they know already about Taoism? What new beliefs are suggested?

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