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Tao Te Ching and Taoism

Updated on May 8, 2017
simplehappylife profile image

Daily life is my greatest inspiration for writing. My passion is finding ways to simplify things & sharing what I've learned with others.

What is Tao?

I’m sure for many of you, that the above excerpt from the Tao Te Ching [dou de jing] only serves to confuse you further. The reason the Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao is because Tao is not something to be explained.

It is a way of life.

The way to be more exact (while accurate translation does differ slightly, Tao in Chinese translates to ‘the way’ or ‘path’).

While much of the credit goes to the mysterious Lao Tzu (which roughly translates to old master/wise old man) for writing the 2,400+-year-old text known as the Tao Te Ching, he is not the creator of the Taoist philosophy. The Taoist philosophy is believed to have been practiced for at least 4,700+ years! You can Click Here to read Derek Lin’s discussion on the real origin of the Tao; if the true essence and history of Taoism is of interest to you, I highly recommend you read it.

There are two forms of Taoism; there is the universally philosophical (Tao Chia) and the religious (Tao Chiao). The philosophical is much broader and can be harmoniously paired with any religion or belief. The religion of Taoism consists of ritual and practices such as T'ai Chi and Qi Gong.

Taoism is an ancient Chinese wisdom.Some incorporate it into their personal religion.It is a universal philosophy of living in harmony with the living nature that exists all around us, by living from our nature. within,hubpages.com/@simplehappylife
Taoism is an ancient Chinese wisdom.Some incorporate it into their personal religion.It is a universal philosophy of living in harmony with the living nature that exists all around us, by living from our nature. within,hubpages.com/@simplehappylife | Source

The tao that can be told

is not the eternal Tao

The name that can be named

is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.

Naming is the origin

of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.

Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations

arise from the same source.

This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.

The gateway to all understanding.

— Verse 1, The Tao Te Ching -translation by Stephen Mitchell
The story has it that before leaving the town he resided in (to live a life in quiet contemplation), Lao Tzu wrote the Chinese classic known as the Tao Te Ching. hubpages.com/@simplehappylife
The story has it that before leaving the town he resided in (to live a life in quiet contemplation), Lao Tzu wrote the Chinese classic known as the Tao Te Ching. hubpages.com/@simplehappylife | Source
The Tao Te Ching. hubpages.com/@simplehappylife
The Tao Te Ching. hubpages.com/@simplehappylife
Tao Te Ching is a Chinese classic text written around the 6th century BC.

‘Tao’ means ‘way’ or ‘path’ and ‘Te’ means ‘virtue’. These two words are the opening words from each of the two sections. ‘Ching’ means ‘scripture’ or ‘classic’

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao_Te_Ching

“The Tao concept that began with Fu Hsi was all-inclusive. It applied to all aspects of life and was never limited to either religious or philosophical variations. Every religion or philosophy was simply a particular expression of the Tao. When we understand this unifying Tao the way that its earliest practitioners did, we would see that our many distinctions, divisions and categorizations really take us away from the original concept.”

-Derek Lin (http://www.taoism.net/ikuantao/origin/)

We all carry the energy of Tao yet at the same time move, live and navigate through it, when we are connected by living our own personal Tao. hubpages.com/@simplehappylife
We all carry the energy of Tao yet at the same time move, live and navigate through it, when we are connected by living our own personal Tao. hubpages.com/@simplehappylife | Source

A philosophy that teaches us to flow with the river of life

There have been 250+ Western translations of the Tao Te Ching. So, there are plenty of versions to choose from. I personally own a copy of Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Tao Te Ching and find it the most palatable that I have read to date.

Put simply; it is a philosophy that teaches us to flow with the river of life. Without force, without thought, without words. If we can adequately describe it, then we are not living it.

What a paradox I and many others find themselves in, when we attempt to share the philosophy of the Tao. How can something that can’t be described, be taught? I can only try to share my personal insight and experience with whoever will listen; it is up to the listener to quiet their mind in order to unfold and surrender to their own Tao.

There is the eternal Tao and within that exists our personal Tao. When we are living our own personal Tao, we are living from our individual nature in harmony with the nature of the eternal Tao.

When we give up our images of self-importance and our ideas of what should be, we can help things become what they need to be.

— The Te of Piglet, Benjamin Hoff
Every creation within the creation contains a piece of Tao, including each one of us. hubpages.com/@simplehappylife
Every creation within the creation contains a piece of Tao, including each one of us. hubpages.com/@simplehappylife | Source

How can there be TAO & then our Tao?

Tao is the essence and universal law of all creation. The Tao is not something that can be explained, for the Tao that is told is not the eternal Tao. It is the life force that is felt and followed. Every creation within the creation contains a piece of Tao. We all carry the energy of Tao yet at the same time move, live and navigate through it, when we are connected by living our own personal Tao.

Explaining the Tao is a futile exercise. As I've said before, it can only be felt and followed. Try to see it, it is not there, try to speak it, it is gone. It is simple and soft, and it just is. It is nowhere, yet everywhere. To explain it serves only to complicate it further and then it is not Tao.

In Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching (1988), he points out how the Tao is changeless, yet the essence remains. Again, you can find various translations of the Tao Te Ching available online and in bookstores. Preference of translation, I believe, lies in one's personal taste and style. I feel that Stephen get’s to the juice of it nicely, as best as one could.

There is an excerpt I’d like to leave you with; there is much more to it, but this gives you a nice little snippet to marinate in. As difficult as it is to explain Tao, I think he does a fantastic job in illustrating what it means to live our personal Tao.

Acts Without Doing

“acts without doing anything: Her actions are appropriate responses. Thus they are effortless. She embodies compassion, yet she doesn’t try to be compassionate. She doesn’t struggle to make money, yet she enjoys spending it when it comes to her. She goes her own way, yet she accepts help gratefully and has no pride in walking alone. She is not elated by praise, not discouraged by neglect. She doesn’t give even a moment’s thought to right or wrong. She never has to make a decision; decisions arise by themselves. She is like an actress who loves her role. The Tao is writing the script.”

~Stephen Mitchell, The Tao Te Ching

"A way of life that keeps saying ‘Around the next corner, above the next step,’ works against the natural order of things and makes it so difficult to be happy and good.”

-The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff

A way of life that keeps saying ‘Around the next corner, above the next step,’ works against the natural order of things and makes it so difficult to be happy and good.

— The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff

Flow like Water- Alan Watts (cc licensing)

© 2016 sannwi

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    • simplehappylife profile image
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      sannwi 11 months ago

      Amen :) I go through life in the same manner. One of my favorite sayings to remind myself from time-to-time is from Bruce Lee (probably my favorite, most famous Taoist), he always said: "Be Like Water.".

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I started studying Taoism back in the 60's while in college. I am a follower for sure. I do not struggle. I allow life to flow over and around me, and my job is to allow that to happen and become a part of the flow....and for the most part I am successful. I do not stress...I don't worry...life is a gift I plan on enjoying.

    • simplehappylife profile image
      Author

      sannwi 12 months ago

      Thanks So Much Michael. The comments you leave are always so helpful and encouraging ٩◔‿◔۶ and Appreciated!

      I totally agree with you. I practice not looking at it as a 'struggle'. Instead, I try to view it more as a challenge that I will accept and overcome. The challenge is Always with myself ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

      I have children and while I haven't had them read the Tao Te Ching, I do talk about it on a regular basis. I often find myself sharing its wisdom in direct correlation to whatever situation or issue they may be experiencing.

      Wonderful tips, and I appreciate you taking the time to guide me in this world of hubbing ●‿●

      Thanks Again!

    • Michael Kismet profile image

      Michael Kismet 12 months ago from Northern California

      Another great topic, finding inner peace is a life long struggle that I personally still deal with.. If more children read and studied insightful books and concepts like The Tao Te Ching, the world would be so much better off..

      I know for my children, it's going to be mandatory! Including "The 48 Laws of Power" and "The Art of War". My progeny won't be weak minded beings, they will have the sharpest minds with the strongest hearts.

      Anyway, great hub. As a matter of fact, you should do hubs on the two aforementioned books and interconnect them with links. So, traffic from one hub, will spill over to the others and vise versa, something every good Hubber does..

      You're doing awesome, keep it up!

    • simplehappylife profile image
      Author

      sannwi 12 months ago

      @Rock_nj, Thanks for coming by and reading (◠‿◠✿)

      If you focus on "keeping your ship out of rough waters," then you've have missed the point and are not living your Tao.

      See, rough waters come regardless to what we do. It is a part of life, a part of the balance, a part of the eternal Tao. If we are working to try and avoid it, change it or run from it, then we are not living in harmony with the flow of life.

      @readmikenow Thank you for reading as well (◠‿◠✿)

      I've barely scratched any surface to the Tao. The Tao Te Ching is small, it only has 81 very very short, one page chapters. So, while it's a quick read, it'll take a lifetime at least, to master ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      I love studying it and reminding myself to follow my own Tao (I fall short, it's a constant "checking in" with myself). I love that it is a universal philosophy that really has no "rules" or "limitations". There is no set belief you must have and no group to belong too. The Tao is in and all around us and it's up to us to wake up to it or not. There's no religion attached to it (while many Eastern religions have adopted much of its philosophy). I think an Athiest could even accept the essence of Tao.

      Thanks Again, for the comments guys (◠‿◠✿) If you found this brief intro interesting, you should consider picking up a copy of the Tao Te Ching and definitely check out Derek Lin's website that I share up there in the hub ^‿^

    • Readmikenow profile image

      Readmikenow 12 months ago

      Lots of good information. I didn't know anything about it, so I really enjoyed reading this.

    • Rock_nj profile image

      John Coviello 12 months ago from New Jersey

      Interesting to learn about the philosophy of Tao. I have certainly heard many of the famous sayings of Lao Tzu, but knew nothing about Tao. I like the idea of going with the flow, but you have to keep your ship out of rough waters.