Quesiton: Derek, I have always been under the impression that Chinese people practice ancestor worship, but recently a friend from Asia tells me that "worship" isn't really the right word. Can you explain this to me? Also, what is the relationship, if any, between ancestor worship and the Tao?
Ancestor: Your friend is correct, in that what the Chinese people actually do is express gratitude and commemorate the past in a ritualistic way. The ancestors are not being worshipped in a religious sense, so the term "ancestor worship" can give the wrong impression.
The true essence of the Chinese practice is very much connected to the Tao. Someone who cultivates the Tao appreciates everything that has taken place in order for the present moment to be exactly what it is. This appreciation certainly includes our parents, grandparents, and ancestors, for without them we would not exist.
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