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What is Tao?

Tao is the basic concept of Taoism. The name "Taoism" itself comes from the word "tao". Generally speaking, tao can be translated by "way", "principle", "method".

The meaning of the word is "head" and "foot"or "way". It can be translated "going with head (consciously)"or "the way of the ancients".

Tao picture

that is, head and foot, which could be interpreted as "the way of the ancients", referring to the wisdom of antiques characters (sovereigns) of Chinese culture.

  • Tao at Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu is the first author who introduced the speculations about a tao conceived as the origin and support of the Universe. Actually "tao" is the name Lao Tzu gave to the Originator or Great Pervader whom he couldn't name. He says:

    There was something undefined and complete, coming into
    existence before Heaven and Earth. How still it was and formless,
    standing alone, and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere and in
    no danger (of being exhausted)! It may be regarded as the Mother of
    all things.

    I do not know its name, and I give it the designation of the Tao
    (the Way or Course). Making an effort (further) to give it a name I
    call it The Great
    . (Tao Te Ching, chapter 25, Legge).

In the Tao Te Ching, the tao is related to several basic Taoist concepts like: wu (emptiness) and wu-wei (nondoing). It is also the model of conduct for sages and princes (rulers).

  • Tao in the Book of Changes

In the ancient I Ching, tao is said to represent "a yin and a yang", that is, the couple of opposites that governs everything in the Universe.

  • Tao Today

The word "tao" is very popular nowadays. Unfortunately it is assigned a multitude of meanings, most of them without any concern for the ancient meaning of this term. Thus tao may be the Christian God, the Cosmic Power, the universal panacea, the main occult Principle and so forth...

Read also:
What is Tao Te Ching
What is wu
What is wu-wei
What is I Ching
What is Taoism

Online Resources:
- You may learn more about what Tao is and its linking to another basic Taoist concepts by taking our email course Lao Tzu and Tao Te Ching Revealed - click here for more information.

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