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The Meaning of the Word "Tao"

Many mistakes are committed by those who approach the term "tao" trying to explain it to us. Let me show you some. Quote:

    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).

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The word "tao" has many meanings: the one defined by I-ching, the one proposed by Lao-tzu, the one related to one's abilities, etc.
The first mistake is to think that the Tao can not be defined. Still there's a clear definition of this term in I-ching. There are also definitions by Confucius and his disciples. So "tao" is a concept explained by both Taoists and Confucians.

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 or something similar in Taoism (be it tao-chia or tao-chiao). Only if we translate the word "tao" as a skill, a special ability of someone, we can say that the person has a "personal tao", for instance he can be an excellent archer, or a great chef, a remarkable artist, an innate warrior or a harsh leader. So we have to admit that the term "tao" has several meanings defined by I-ching, by the Taoists and Confucians, or related tothe skills of someone. But we shouldn't mistaken the Tao with tao, understood at the level of an individual.

There's also a sense of the word "tao" when we relate it to the Taoist notion of Heaven, that is, the Tao of Heaven, or the Way of Heaven. The Way of Heaven is one of the basic concepts of Tao-te ching or other works of the ancient Taoism.

Finally, it is necessary to explain the word "tao" starting from the meaning Lao-tzu gave it in the first chapter of his book and which we have approached in our email course dedicated to Lao-tzu and his philosophical concepts.

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Paper by Jhian

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