yin yang symbol

Tao is as Dao does

Since 1982 most published works use the term ' Dao' rather than the Westernised 'Tao'. Tao, or 'Dao' (pronounced 'dow' as in 'cow') is a Chinese concept signifying 'way', 'path', or 'route'. Dao is also used symbolically as indicating the 'right way' towards spiritual perfection or enlightenment.

From an original work by Lao Tzu, the "Tao Te Ching", ('Dao De Jing'), a philosophy and a religion developed, which is referred to as Taoism (Daoism, pronounced 'Dowism'). Even though there is no direct worship as such, there are, in the religious forms of Taoism, standards of ethical and moral behaviour, as well as principles of action, and authenticity (the following of particular schools of thought), which reflect not only main tenets, but individual approaches. The positive extent of this way of thinking can be used as a personal template for thought and action.

Quietly productive without stress.
Happy without acquisitive thoughts.
Enjoying your food,
and comfortable in your clothes.
With interest and compassion,
living simply, using what you have.
Independent and aware,
to be content in the world.

" TAO TE CHING The Meaning and Power of TAO "

" The secret of TAO the Taoists never told you"

Tao is "the underlying structure and functioning of the universe". Lao Tzu explains in the 'Tao Te Ching' that Tao is not about divine creation or intervention, but rather 'an experience of being alive'. TAO is an intuitive understanding of who and where we are in the present moment, which goes beyond the normal notions of identity and status, and even purpose and meaning. It is in one sense ordinary, and yet profound.

The I Ching

The classical Chinese work on this, dating back 3000 years, is the I Ching which shows, and predicts, the energy in every situation one could face in life. Due to its' age and formulation it does tend to be obscured by symbolism. To this end the "Tao I Ching ~ The Mystic Gateway" was published in 2008 to define Tao, provide an essential understanding of yin and yang energy, and a practical guide tothought and action, with the predictive capabilities of the I Ching.

The ancient Chinese developed the idea of an energy that formed, and ran through, the universe. This was called "Qi". This was further developed into Yin and Yang (energy), which is a duality, and combination of energy in all things ('the dynamic balance between opposites') ~ not in the very basic sense of male and female attributes, but in the direction of the flow of energy. In Chinese philosophy yin and yang is taken much further into worldly matters and is the basis of Feng Shui and traditional Chinese medicine. However, the Tao is "a non-dualistic concept", which means that it recognizes, accepts, and assimilates, all of these principles in "a way through life". The object is to 'become one with the flow of energy' (Tao), as 'an understanding without reaction', so that one's actions are without strain or effort. This is called 'action without force', or 'non-action', or 'effortless action' (Wu wei). Wu wei means literally 'non-doing', but a simpler interpretation would be wu meaning "without" and wei meaning "effort", (and an absence of intention and expectation).

This introduces the idea of action that is easy, perhaps spontaneous, without excessive force or control, and here some would say "Going with the flow", which could erroneously indicate a lazy, or confident, approach. Far from it. The concept of "effortless action" is adopted as part of the rigorous training of the Taoist martial arts such as T'ai chi ch'uan (t'ai chi), Baguazhang and Chi Kung (Qigong). As to 'the lazy approach' perceived as without competitive urgency and involvement, Lao Tzu refers to this as the "diminishing will" and our sense of the loss of the control (through thoughts and notions) over our lives and others.

TAO TE CHING  Tom Leworthy

A modern transcription of the TAO TE CHING by Tom Leworthy as a practical template for life.

In Taoist philosophy the energy of the universe is automatic and functions without our involvement, and if we intervene or try to control, to 'get more', we merely interfere and upset the balance. This is not to say that we should do nothing, but that we should act in accordance with what is around us and inside us. For most this 'state of mind' and practice will require some form of spiritual practice, usually through meditation, improving awareness, and self development, which can introduce yet another Taoist concept "Te" or "De" (virtue, or integrity). Te is the effect, or response to, Tao, in a person who is in harmony in themselves with their place, and time, in the world, which is further encouraged through activity, rather than a purely philosophical or mystical outlook.

In some sense, you cannot practice Taoism (that would be 'effort or intention for control'), but it is the result of a quiet awareness of ourselves and the world around us.