Thursday, September 24, 2009
Tao (道, pinyin: dào (help·info) ) is a concept found in Taoism, Confucianism, and more generally in ancient Chinese philosophy. While the character itself translates as 'way', 'path', or 'route', or sometimes more loosely as 'doctrine' or 'principle', it is used philosophically to signify the fundamental or true nature of the world. The concept of Tao differs from Western ontology, however; it is an active and holistic conception of the world, rather than a static, atomistic one.
In Taoism, Tao both precedes and encompasses the universe. As with other nondualistic philosophies, all the observable objects in the world - referred to in the Tao Te Ching as 'the named' or 'the ten thousand things' - are considered to be manifestations of Tao, and can only operate within the boundaries of Tao. Tao is, by contrast, often referred to as 'the nameless', because neither it nor its principles can ever be adequately expressed in words. It is conceived, for example, with neither shape nor form, as simultaneously perfectly still and constantly moving, as both larger than the largest thing and smaller than the smallest, because the words that describe shape, movement, size, or other qualities always create dichotomies, and Tao is always a unity.
While the Tao cannot be expressed, Taoism holds that it can be known, and its principles can be followed. Much of Taoist writing focuses on the value of following the Tao - called Te (virtue) - and of the ultimate uselessness of trying to understand or control Tao outright. This is often expressed through yin and yang arguments, where every action creates a counter-action as a natural, unavoidable movement within manifestations of the Tao.
Tao is often compared to water: clear, colorless, unremarkable, yet all beings depend on it for life, and even the hardest stone cannot stand in its way forever.
Posted by Layla at 11:13 AM