Contents at a Glance:
The Tao Te Ching, in most translations, begins with the following two lines:
The Tao (Way) that can be told of is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name
As these words imply, the Tao is a mysterious thing; something not easily attained, beyond our basic knowledge, descriptions, and identification. If we belueve that we understand the Tao, the way, the thought processes, the philosophy, the religion, or anything else about it, it is because we have dumb-ed it down and over simplified it.
The Book, Tao Te Ching, tries to give us some basic rudimentary understanding of the Tao. In the following passage attempts to describe the Tao:
There was something undifferentiated and yet complete;
Which existed before heaven and earth.
Soundless and formless, it depends on nothing and does not change.
It operates everywhere the mother of the universe.
I do not know its name, I call it Tao.
In one sense the Tao is the force of existence itself. In another sense, it is beyond even the force of existence, for the Tao Te Ching talks about nonexistence as being even more ultimate than existence: “All things in the world come from being. And being come from non being.”
The Tao Te Ching goes on to clarify that there is an interplay between existence and nonexistence: “Being and non being produce each other.” This mutuality is seen in the following analogy: “Clay is molded to form a utensil, but it is non being that the utility of the utensil depends.” In other words, a spoon is useful because of the “emptiness” (non being) within the curve (being) of the spoon.
Also out of non being comes the rest of the world:
Tao produced the One.
The One produced the two.
The two produced the three.
And the three produced the ten thousand things.
Therefore out of non being has come being. And from being has come the two which refers to yin and the yang. And from the two came the three which are ying, yang, and chi. And from the three has come the ten thousand things which is the world, and all it includes.
The Tao is not only the force of the of existence from which is the world flows, but it is also the “Way” or “Pattern” within that world. The picture that the word Tao connotes is the “Way” in which a river flows naturally along its force that flows through nature and that guides and moves every object in the way that is natural to it.
The way the Tao flows is always toward harmony, peace, health, and joy. By aligning ourselves with that underlying flow, we will experience our lives as such.
Read More about Taoism Beliefs : The Te.