The word “Tao” is everywhere. Tons of books have been published with titles in the format of “The Tao of X” where X is anything you can imagine. On one hand it’s a convenient way to make a subject sound deep. But in some ways it points to something even deeper.
What does Tao mean, anyway? Taken from the ancient Chinese religion of Taoism, Tao is usually translated as “way.” That is, the way in which the world tends to behave. So The Tao of something is basically its characteristic manner of being and operating. And, the idea goes, if we understand its Tao, we can better make use of its lessons and benefits.
When we use the word “Tao” in this way, what are we really saying? That there is a comprehensible pattern behind abstract things which can be explained and understood. Moreover, the Tao that governs one thing has similar characteristics as the Tao that governs all things. And so, the more types of Tao we understand the more we come to understand the way the whole world works.
But what are these patterns? They are generally rules of thumb about how to interact with people and things, situations and opportunities in order to maximize harmony and value. Mainly, these rules tend to favor flexibility, adaptability and humility. That is, the more we develop a sense of “going with the flow” and developing an attitude of non-attachment, the better our lives may be. We are counseled not to coerce other people, or to force things to happen. Rather, we should learn learn to see the ebbs and flows of the bigger natural patterns all around us, and ride their waves accordingly. In order to do so, we are taught not to see ourselves in the center of things, but rather as part of a much greater, highly interconnected living system of organization.
Although this all may sound profoundly passive and fatalistic, Tao is within us just as it is all around us. So our interests and orientations can be manifestations of Tao as well. The point is to get our insides to work more naturally and efficiently with our outsides.
Most of what we need to know about Tao can be found in the Tao Te Ching, a slender book of 81 poetic verses that obliquely illuminate what Tao is and how we can learn to interface with it. It is essentially a very logical, down to earth handbook for getting the most out of life. The Tao Te Ching has been translated more times than any other book besides the Christian Bible, with hundreds of various translations in English alone. We ourselves have created a few different versions. Currently:
- An original annotated Daoist version of the Tao Te Ching
- A Dudeist version, The Dude De Ching
- A Dowist version, The Tao of the Dow
This is just the start, however: We plan to create a version for each of our ministries, examining the many Tao that make up the one Tao. Like the Hindu parable of the blind men and the elephant, each Tao has something to say about the whole, and taken together they can help us understand what is too big to be easily apprehended.
If you’d like to help create a version, please let us know.