Introduction to Tao Philosophy
This reading provides a general understanding of Tao. The words of Lao Tzu can be interpreted to have different definition to each reader. However, the message is pretty clear provided you understand the basic concept. The goal here is to realize the concept and understand Tao to the extent the reader walks away with increased knowledge. How you apply it to your life and move forward in your learnings is your path to choose. Therefore, you are already on the path. The way of the Tao.
For the purposes of allowing the reader to understand what is unexplainable in a word, I have paraphrased and utilized the word ineffable in my translation of the Tao Te Ching reading referenced below.
adjective. incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible:
As you read through Chapter 1 of “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu, let your thoughts ponder for a moment during each break in the writing, Review each statement separately and in the order written to gain your perspective of the meaning. What do we believe is meant here? Think about it…at the end, we will give an overview of the writing, it’s meaning and the takeaway.
Tao Te Ching – Chapter 1
The Tao cannot be told
If so, it is not the eternal Tao
The Tao cannot be named
If so, it is not the eternal Tao
The eternal Tao is ineffable
Naming would give it particular meaning
Demystifying does not come from desire
Desire leads only to manifestations
Yet both mystery and the manifestation come from the same
They come from the ineffable source, which is the darkness
Darkness within darkness opens the door to understanding
Wrapping Our Head Around The Meaning
In a sense, we have something that cannot be explained with words. It cannot be described or named. Therefore, it is ineffable. If we desire to find it, we will manifest and if we manifest, we will derive a conclusion that negates the purpose. It is not to be named, told, or assumed. We see causes and effects daily; these are defined as laws of nature, but there is an essence to it all that we cannot explain. It is when we cannot explain something(this is the Tao).
Then we understand what it is. It is the unexplainable. It is that mystery that we seek. But we cannot seek it through desire or manifestation takes over. So, we can only admire it’s entwined way that it exists within everything we observe. In the end, we understand that darkness(not knowing) is the essence of knowing the Tao. The realization of this emptiness, is what makes us understand Tao – it is the state beyond that which we assert to be true through intellectual reason. It is the thing that we cannot explain but we feel it interacting with us everyday.
Living With The Everyday Tao
Everyone wakes and rests in the same cycles. The sun rises and sets. The seasons change. We all age with these same cycles. We live the Tao daily as it is entwined in the cycles of natural law and it is the essence of everything that is mysterious about the laws of nature. Therefore, we our living our lives with the Tao daily. It is part of us and everything around us. To begin the path of Tao is to understand nature and that we are a part of it, entwined with the Tao.
Once we accept that Tao is, in essence, entwined with all. Then, we begin to “go with the flow”. In the following quote, you will see how Bruce Lee references the Tao without naming it. He uses water as the analogy, which represents nature and the law of nature that water follows. And then, the point is driven home that we can go with the flow, “like water”, or we can crash.
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash.” – Bruce Lee
Be one with the Tao and let it flow through you, “like water”. Allow your mind to consider the ineffable source as entwined in all things manifested, all elements that form a manifestation, and the essence of being before manifestation. Think about it like a thread that weaves through all before, all present and will weave through all in the future. Following this thread through what it weaves is traveling the path of Tao. Go along the path as it takes the form of its environment, “like water” flowing through the container that forms its shape. The Tao travels the way of the environment in which it resides. It follows the laws of nature and is entwined within everything. We, as humans, are elements that carry the Tao just as water is an element. We both follow laws of nature in our daily being. We take shape in our travels and age with the cycles.
This is the start to your journey along the path with the Tao. You will follow this path onward with a better understanding of unity with an open mind to possibilities. Based on the circumstances of the moment and knowing these circumstances are temporary, you can now take the path that is laid out for you and go with the flow.
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