FAQ 1: What is the Dao?

What is (The*) Dao?

Tao or Dao translates literally as ‘way’ or ‘path’ and more loosely as the natural way of the universe.

The most recognised text is the Dao de Jing which is a thin book said to be written by the sage LaoZi around 600 BC that contains 81 brief verses.

Dao depicts the natural order of the universe and to truly intuit this is to realise the potential for inner wisdom.  This intuitive knowing of ‘life’ (inner wisdom) is not a concept to be grasped but an experience to be lived through ‘being’.

Scholars have tried to explain the Dao, but as the first verse of the text teaches, Dao cannot be described in words. Human language can only give hints that may lead the mind to insights to how it works (it just does, as the sun’s rays warm the earth, as the planets revolve around the sun, as gravity dictates things fall to Earth…).

Dao in its original intent is neither a religion nor a philosophy but rather gives an insight into the Absolute and a system of guidance for the human spirit. Philosophical speculation about what the Tao actually is, is less important. The most important thing about the Dao is to embody the natural order of things and how to relate with this and live with conscious awareness to it.

Dao captures in one word the following concepts:

  • the source of creation
  • the ultimate
  • the inexpressible and indefinable
  • the unnameable
  • the natural universe as a whole
  • the way of nature as a whole

*Western attempts to explain Dao often includes ‘the’ before it. It is not in the original Chinese term and should be dropped. Because it gives Westerners the idea that the Dao is a metaphysical reality, a thing like an object or like a ‘god’.



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