I've spent a lot of time in my life on comparative religion studies. I'm a very big fan of Joseph Campbell and his works in mythology. I've read a
lot of the World's religions and spiritual texts. And of all of them, in my humble opinion, I find Taoism to be the most pure and closest to the
absolute truth of our existence. Maybe you will too. Here is the first chapter of Lao Tzu's principle teaching below.
The cool thing about Taoism is you can be a Taoist and still also practice and believe in your favorite existing dogma. Taoism does not replace your
religion. It simple augments it and allows you to have a richer experience of your existing religion.
TRANSLATION OF LAO TZU'S TAO TE CHING
THE TAO AND ITS NAME
1. Naming things enables us to differentiate between them, but names are
words, and words easily give rise to confusion. They do not replace the thing
or direct experience of the thing which they name, but only represent or
Consider a thing such as a strawberry. If we wish to find the word
'strawberry', we look in a dictionary; if we wish to find a description of a
strawberry, we look in an encyclopedia. But if we are hungry, we do not go to
the library, but to the field where fine strawberries may be found. If we do not
know where there is such a field, we might seek guidance as to where fine
strawberries may be found. A book on the Tao is like such a guide. It can
point us in the direction of the strawberry patch, but cannot provide the fruit
itself. It can give an idea of the taste of Tao, but of itself, has no taste to
compare with direct experience of the Tao.
Consider now three things: There is the universal principle which enables all
things to be, and to flourish naturally; there is the name 'Tao', by which that
universal principle is known; and there are words which describe the
manifestations of the Tao.
Even the name 'Tao' is only a convenience, and should not be confused with the
universal principle which bears that name, for such a principle embraces all
things, so cannot be accurately named nor adequately described. This means that
Tao cannot be understood, for it is infinite, whereas the mind of man is finite,
and that which is finite cannot encompass that which is infinite.
Although we cannot understand Tao, we are not prevented from having knowledge of
it, for understanding stems from one of the two forms of knowledge. It stems
from that which is called cognitive knowledge, the knowledge born of words and
numbers, and other similar devices. The other form of knowledge, conative
knowledge, needs no words or other such devices, for it is the form of knowledge
born of direct personal experience. So it is that conative knowledge is also
known as experiential knowledge.
Cognitive and experiential knowledge both have their roots in reality, but
reality is complex, and complexity is more of a barrier to cognitive knowledge
than it is to experiential knowledge, for when we seek cognitive knowledge of a
thing, that is, understanding of it, the knowledge we gain of that thing is
understanding only of its manifestations, which is not knowledge of the thing
We may seek to understand a thing, rather than to experience it, because, in a
world beset with man made dangers, it is frequently safer to understand than to
experience. Tao is not man made, and there is nothing in it to fear. So it is
that we may experience Tao without fear.
When we cease to seek cognitive knowledge, that is, cease to seek understanding
of a thing, we can gain experiential knowledge of that thing. This is why it is
said that understanding Tao is not the same as knowing Tao; that understanding
Tao is only to know that which it manifests, and that knowing Tao is to be one
with the universal principal which is Tao. This is to say that knowledge of Tao
is not the same as understanding Tao. To know Tao is to experience both Tao and
the manifestations of that universal principle. As human beings, we are born as
manifestations of Tao.
If this seems complex, the reason is because Tao is both simple and complex. It
is complex when we try to understand it, and simple when we allow ourselves to
experience it. Trying to understand Tao is like closing the shutters of a
window before looking for a shadow. We might close the shutters to prevent
anyone from discovering our treasure, but the same shutters prevent the
moonlight from entering the room. All there is in the room is darkness, and in
total darkness we cannot find the shadow, no matter how hard or diligently we
We call one thing a shadow, and another darkness, but the shadow is darkness,
and the darkness shadow, for in reality, both darkness and shadow are absence of
light, yet we call one shadow and the other darkness. The shadow is darkness in
the midst of light, but within total darkenss, the shadow seems to disappear,
for darkness is a shadow within shadows. We may think that the shadow has been
destroyed when all light is removed, but it has not been wiped away; in reality
it has grown, but we need light even to see that form of darkenss which we call
Such is the pursuit of the universal priciple called Tao, that if we seek to
understand it, we prevent the very means by which it may be found, for the only
way in which we might find Tao is through the experience of Tao. We find Tao
when we do not seek it, and when we seek it, it leaves us, just as the silver
moonlight leaves the room when we close the shutters. We find and know Tao
when we allow ourselves to find and know it, just as the moonlight returns when
we allow it to return.
We do not need to seek Tao as we seek physical treasures such as jade or gold.
We do not need to seek Tao as we seek such treasures as fame or titles. We do
not need to seek the treasure of Tao, for although the greatest of treasures, it
is also the most common. Perhaps it is bacause it is so common that so few men
find it; they seek it only in mysterious and secret places, in chasms and caves,
and in the workplace of the alchemist. The Tao is not hidden in these places,
and is hidden only from those who frequent and inhabit them, secretively, and
with the shutters closed.
Just as darkness may be known as the absence of light, so to may light be known
as the absence of darkness. When we experience darkness and light as having the
same source, we are close to the Tao, for Tao is the source of both darkness and
light, just as it is also the source of all other natural things. When we
experience ourselves as part of Tao, as a shadow or reflection of the universal
principle, we have found it, for it is said that "Experience of Tao is Tao".
edit on 28-10-2019 by dfnj2015 because: (no reason given)