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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).

The first mistake is to think that the tao can not be defined. We find a very clear definition of this term in I-ching - The Book of Changes. There are also definitions of 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 talent, a special ability of someone, we can say that the person has a "personal tao": he can be an excellent archer, or a great chef, a remarkable artist, a born warrior or a harsh leader. We have to admit that the term "tao" has several meanings: that defined by I-ching, by the Taoists and Confucians, or in relation to someone's talent or method of doing such a thing as no one else.

There is a sense of the word "tao" when we relate it to the Taoist notion of Heaven - the Tao of Heaven, or the Way of Heaven. The Way of Heaven is one of the basic concepts we encounter in Tao-te ching or other works of 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 also approached in our course entitled Lao-tzu and Tao-te ching Revealed.

Paper by Jhian

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