What is the Tao?

For centuries men have deliberated on the meaning of the “Tao”. Tao (道, pinyin: dào), the word itself is simply translated as the 'way', ‘road’, 'path', ‘method’, ‘model’, 'route', ‘the course of nature’ or ‘the force’. The Tao is said to embody all things and is the source of life for all things. It is the origin of the universe, it is wu-ji, it is not a deity or a god, it is the limitless.

The Tao cannot be described in words, it is nameless and invisible as exemplified in the opening chapter of the Tao Te Ching:

“The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named is not the eternal name”

The Tao, is ungraspable by normal modes of perception.

“Look, it cannot be seen – it is beyond form.

Listen, it cannot be heard – it is beyond sound.

Grasp, it cannot be held – it is intangible.”

The human language can only give hints that may help the mind to form an idea of what the Tao may be. Only an enlightened being can experience the ‘true’ Tao; Master Tseng experientially says “you understand the Tao only when you become a true Dragon”, the mystery of the Tao is only then revealed in its totality.

We cannot describe it, but we can live it: For a practitioner, the Tao is a system of guidance. Through the 81 chapters of the Tao te Ching, ‘the book of virtue’, we are given guidelines on living true to our original nature; being kind, simple, merciful and forgiving. The Tao te Ching emphasis the importance of detachment, stillness and physical qi cultivation practices. It is a blueprint for transforming one into sage hood, with the ultimate goal of immortality.

Water is the symbolic flow of the Tao; exhibiting the interconnected and interdependent yin and yang concept, it embodies both softness and hardness. The Tao is mindful spontaneity and detachment, it is in its true essence “go, go go!”.

Kristina Naldjian