Definition of the Tao
The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.
(Conceived of as) having no name, it is the Originator of heaven
and earth; (conceived of as) having a name, it is the Mother of all
Always without desire we must be found,
If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see... (Tao-te ching, chap. 1, Legge's version)
Tao can not be described. As creator and origin of all the things (chin. wan-wu, the ten-thousand-things) it is ineffable. Moreover, if we have to follow its course,
we can't find an enduring and constant way. Everything changes or is affected by the law of change. This is the ancient Taoist world.
Tao can be conceived both with name or noname. With name, it is the
mother of ten-thousand-things - without name, it is the father of Heaven and Earth. This division points to the yin-yang principle that supports everything in the Universe.
Finally, if we wish to seize it's greatest mystery, we need to get rid of desires. For desires are contrary to its course.
The word "tao" has many meanings both to Taoism and Confucianism.
-> See also our paper on the Tao concept here.
Commentary by Jhian