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The Meaning of the Word "Tao"

Many mistakes are committed by those who approach the term "tao" with the intent to explain it to common public. Let me show you two.


    The Tao's definition always slips around words because how we see life is also constantly shifting. This means the Tao is both indefinable and yet by living our life fully we can then discover our own Personal Tao… (From a Personal Tao site).

The first mistake is to think that the Tao can not be defined, that it "slips around words".

One can find a clear definition of this term in I-ching. There are also definitions by Confucius and his disciples. "Tao" is a concept explained by both Taoists and Confucians. Taoists named it the root of creation and the mother of everything.

tao ideogram picture
The word "tao" has many meanings according to the I-ching, Lao-tzu or reffering to one's skills etc.

The second mistake is to think that by living our lives fully, we could discover a "Personal Tao", as stated in the quote above.

There is no "Personal Tao" unless we think of another kind of tao or its significance.

The Chinese greatly appreciated talented people who had wonderful exceptional achievements. Their talent was called tao. No connection with a "Personal Tao".

So let's point out that there is a Tao with reference to the genesis of the universe, so a philosophical one, and one that designates some personal skills.

There is also another definition that refers to the Movement of Heaven, a concept explained in our introductory course into Taoism, level 1.

Let us conclude that the term "tao" has many meanings unrelated to each other, depending on the areas to which we refer.

The mistakes made by the author of the above quote may be explained by the fact that he/she does not refer to the Chinese Tao as he/she has in mind a vague idea of ​​living in fusion with nature, the dearest concept of New-Age ideology. This ideology has nothing in common with the Chinese Tao.

Paper by Jhian

=> See also: What is Tao


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