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".
meaning of the word is "head" and "foot"or "way". It can be translated "going with head (consciously)"or "the way of the ancients".
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.
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
standing alone, and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere and in
no danger (of being exhausted)! It may be regarded as the Mother of
I do not know its name, and I give it the designation of the Tao. (Tao Te Ching, chapter 25, Legge).
(the Way or Course). Making an effort (further) to give it a name I
call it The Great
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.
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...
- You may learn more about what Tao and its connection to other basic Taoist concepts by taking our email course Lao Tzu and Tao Te Ching Revealed - click here for more information.