This blog is an interpretation of the Tao te Ching "Tao Virtue Book" which is attributed to Laozi "Lao Tze" a Chinese philosopher who lived circa 600 b.c.

Please remember always that this is the description of the Tao and not the experience of the living Tao. Hopefully, this blog will not serve as analysis or commentary but as a window into the Tao. You are encouraged to disagree with this interpretation, involve yourself in self-study, and ultimately leave all concepts behind and so experience the living Tao.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Understanding the Tao te Ching Chapter 1: What is Tao?


The Dao that can be understood cannot be the primal, or cosmic, Dao, just as an idea that can be expressed in words cannot be the infinite idea.

And yet this ineffable Dao was the source of all spirit and matter, and being expressed was the mother of all created things.

Therefore not to desire the things of sense is to know the freedom of spirituality; and to desire is to learn the limitation of matter.

These two things spirit and matter, so different in nature, have the same origin. This unity of origin is the mystery of mysteries, but it is the gateway to spirituality.

Tao de Jing Chapter 1


This passage makes two points.  One on the nature of Tao, one of the way to experience Tao.  

Many enlightened individuals have made the observation that the thinking mind, the "worried" mind can't understand the true nature of the Universe.  The argue goes like this "eyes don't hear,"  "ears don't see."  Your problem solving mind is only eyes or ears.  There are a lot of things going on in the universe that can't be seen or heard.  

This information is still experienceable, just not through thought.  A good way to get at this understanding is through the work of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor 

Dr. Taylor observes that only a very small part of our brains "think" thoughts, the rest is occupied with a wide array of feelings and understandings that are not thoughts, nor are they problems to be solved.  Joy, is not a thought, empathy is not a thought.  The  motivating force behind the Universe is not a thought.

Perhaps the first message of the Dao could be restated this way:  "You are not going to be able to think your way through this one.  The Universe does not think in any way that we understand nor does it need to think in order to act.  If you want to get to know it, you'll have to stop trying to figure it out."

Learning how to "know things" without "figuring them out, leads us to the second message.  It comes in the third stanza.  You can't really "want" to know Dao.  Desire inspires us to reason, to figure out, to find a way to get what you want.  If worried thoughts are not the path to the Tao, then desire can not lead you there.  It's like a deaf person staring harder at the radio in hopes of hearing.  The Tao already is.  You already are.  Understanding of the Tao is something you let happen, not make happen.  

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  1. Interesting analysis. I like how you stated, "You are not going to be able to think your way through this one."

  2. Thank you. I bought the book. But i was trying to understand, i guess i understand it better in this translation than my book in my language. But ive already failed because i was trying to figure that out xD