The Dao (Tao) translates as the way, as in a path or road ahead. In the philosophy of Daoism and other Chinese systems of thinking, it is the way of nature, a path to be followed and the course along which things progress. In Daoism the Dao cannot be controlled, diverted or influenced, and to attempt to do so only causes problems. The Dao does not represent a divine intelligence, or is represented by any persona, whilst it is a creative force it does not act with intention.
These principles of the Dao and of Daoism are set out in the Daodejing (Tao Teh Ch'ing) reputedly the work Lao Tzu "The Old Master" a contemporary of Confucius in the 5th centaury BCE. Set out in 81 brief cryptic chapters, the Daodejing - "The book of the way and its power" Is a guide to living, leadership and nature. The themes of the book are:
- Ineffability of the Dao - "Without words the Dao can be experienced, and without a name it can be known" (chapter 2) it is intangible, unfathomable and indescribable - it is something you experience.
- The Concept of Wu Wei or action-less action, which relates to a policy of non-intervention, or actions without intent, such as going with the flow. For politicians the book advises against seeking acclaim and glory, or to meddle with nature. The Dao and therefore nature does not work with intention (chapter 5).
- The inherent virtue, beauty and power of natures forms, the "un-carved block" (chapter 19 and chapter 33), Therefore the wise man is guided by this simplicity, chapter 26. The also book considers the usefulness of empty spaces, the inside of a pot, the hub of wheel, and a doorway (chapter 11).
- The need to find balance and avoidance of extremes, "The cup is easier to hold when not filled to overflowing" (chapter 9). As with Wu Wei we should follow a path of least resistance and a accept change as a manifestation of the Dao.
The Daodejing is liberal and eco-friendly manifesto from two and half millennia ago, arguing for a society that cares for the poor, does not revel in war, whose politicians avoid a high profile, and one which preserves the natural world.
In the centuries that followed the compilation of the Daodejing, Daoism split into the philosophical and the religious. With organised religions being formed, these Daoist sects found within the text guidance for their pursuit of immortality and the book as an object, acquired sacred significant similar to that of the bible and Lao Tzu himself was elevated to the pantheon Chinese deities. The vocabulary and meditation techniques of the internal alchemy practiced by these cults are found later in Tai Chi and Qigong theory and practice, as are many of the notions descried in the Daodejing. The book advocates softness, "Even the hardest sword against water is no avail" chapter 4, "That which is soft supple my overcome the hard" Chapter 36, along with the concepts of yielding, stillness overcoming motion, finding balance and a centre.Chinese Philosophy
http://www.vl-site.org/taoism/ttcstan1.html Stan Rosenthal's Translation of the Tao Te Ching