"Tao is not a religious teaching," says Master Mak Siew Fong.

"It's a way of life. The major religions in this planet originated from Tao. In Chinese, Tao means the path of Heaven," the retired insurance agent claims.

As a trustee and member of the Tao community in Malaysia, Mak is one of the first Malaysian Chinese who built a Tao temple, called 'Huan De', in the East Coast Road of Uthandi, Chennai.

Mak says he discovered his path to heaven about 40 years ago when a stranger approached him to attend a ceremony. While he was skeptical at first, 12 years after discovering Tao, he decided to completely indulge himself in Tao's way of life.

In 2007, he followed his elders (Tao teachers or masters ) to India to propagate the Universal Truth as taught by Tao.

"At first, we organised temporary talks or ceremonies in friends' houses or business premises. From there, we realised the need for a temple.

"Since I was the only one who can speak in English, I was the middle person. My elders taught it was my mission to set up this temple," he explains.

Since, according to Tao, every person has a purpose or mission in life, Mak has taken on the building of the temple as his mission.

"Every religion is known to propound the same Universal Truth in a different way, different place and at a different time. Being blessed at the Tao strengthens your core values as a Christian or a Hindu. You won't be stripped away from your religion. Conversion is never the purpose," Mak says.

The Huan De temple in Chennai is frequented by people from different religions and cultural backgrounds. Once initiated, they are free to follow their own religions while learning to understand the Universal Truths as thought by Tao.

The 3-storey temple houses a prayer hall, dining room, lecture halls, meeting rooms, a library, an administrative office and rooms for masters and visitors. All members and workers in the temple are volunteers. The temple is funded mostly by donations and the sale of freshly-made tofu.

Why tofu you might wonder? As part of its teaching, Tao promotes vegetarianism, and also, a cruelty-free diet. While milk is a dietary staple in India, Master Mak's wife, Master Soong Moi Foong claims cows are abused, with caged environments and hormone injections, for their milk. Promoting tofu is a way to reduce the consumption of milk-based 'panneer' (cheese cubes).

One of the active members of the Huan De temple in Chennai, Mumtaz Alam, says practicing principles of Tao has transformed her life.

"I'm a Muslim by birth. At first, I thought I was being converted or brainwashed. But eventually I found out that it only teaches universal values that are similar to my own religion. In fact, it made me understand my religion better," she said.