About Tao-Te

This section is supposed to explain the Tao Te Ching basic concepts but I did it in the Teachings section.

tao graph
The old Tao graph on the left is made of the images for head and walking feet, The meaning of the graph is walking with head, that is consciously.

Here I’ll say a few things about the terms Tao and Te.

Tao means almost everything. From path and (the Greek) logos, to the skill of someone who is a good archer (to give an example). In Tao Te Ching, Tao is the origin of everything, that is, in the words of James Legge, the Great Pervader. His acting is based on several key-concepts such as wu and wu-wei. I already explained these concepts in the Teaching section.

Now what is Te? It seems is part of the Tao as long as it made the title of the Book itself. Te is commonly translated as “virtue”. Many people think that “virtue” is similar with morality, thus Te would mean something like moral conduct (Christian-like). Therefore Tao Te Ching should translate as the Classic (“ching” means a holly book) about Tao (a.k.a the Great Pervader) and Virtue. This is why many Western experts believe that Taoism taught by Lao Tzu is a moral doctrine much like the one taught by Confucius.

te graph
Te graph

But the meaning of Te is not virtue (or morality).  It is “power” (as many translates Tao Te Ching as the Classic of the Way and its Power). But not “power” related to muscular activity or brute force – it is the power of generating or expressing itself. Therefore I agree with the translation of this term in the words of James Legge meaning “characteristics”. That is, Tao’s characteristics, the way(s) of conduct (or acting) of Tao. This is why the name of the Book will be: the Classic about Tao and its Characteristics.

Therefore I must stress that Tao Te Ching is not a book of moral teachings but about the Tao, as the absolute principle of the universe, and how it manifests itself. The Book also presents some ideas about the Taoist’s (the person who follows Tao) ideal behavior.

Both topics were approached by Master Jhian in his online course dedicated to the Tao Te Ching teachings. The course is available through Google Play Books from here.


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