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Introduction Philosophy or in particular, Chinese philosophy has the most concern in the way of life.

The way of life in the Oriental context always takes a high position in any theory, especially philosophy. Whenever considering the way of life, we cannot have a sufficient view without saying Dao in Daodejing of Lao-Tzu. Dao is so important that Wing Tsit Chan wrote Taoism alone is known by that name (Dao) .1 This short writing does not dare to go through into what is Dao named by Lao-Tzu on Daodejing but only simply represents some features of Dao according to limited ability of a scholastic who is still a toddler in philosophy. Consequently, there are some points about of an overview of Dao and, in practice, of the way of Dao as showed below. 1. An Overview of Word Dao in Daodejing Dao (or Tao) is one of the main topics in Daodejing (DDJ). In Chinese language, Dao means a way or road on which people go. In the context of philosophy, Dao is a general concept referring to different schools in China, such as school of Confucianism, school of Buddhism or school of Taoismin which, each of schools presents its own theory. Concretely, for Confucians, Dao signifies the correct way in dealing with other people. In this sense, Dao becomes a moral behavior. For Taoism, Dao has various meanings. In Philosophy of Ancient China, Afredo P. Co lists some important names expressing Dao in Dao De Jing, such as The Truth , The Absolute, Nature, The Encompassing, The Principle, The Pervading Reality, The Universal Law, The Way, The Right Path, The Way of Nature, etc. Finally, he summarizes that Dao is the Absolut, the Way of the Absolute and the Way to the Absolute.2 In this meaning, the concept of Dao states the ultimate reality which transcends all so-called realities founded in this visible world. The word Dao in Daodejing is counted about seventy times and put into a disorder way. It seems like that every chapter mostly mentions Dao. Nguyen Hien Le, a Vietnamese scholar in Chinese philosophy gives the opinion that in order of eighty-one chapters in Daodejing, there is no proper order. It may be occur that Lao-Tzu just writes down in

Cf. Wing Tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1963, p. 136.

Cf. Afredo P. Co, Philosophy of Ancient China, UST Publishing House, Manila, 2005, pp. 130-131.

constant way whatever he thinks out. Each of steps of writing comes close to the Way gradually. Hence, there are some ideas repeated. Sometimes, Lao-Tzus thoughts seem to move away from the notion of Dao. Moreover, Lao-Tzu says about Dao vaguely. There are two reasons given by Nguyen Hien Le to explain for that confusing order of thought of Dao: the first one, the later people did not know how to arrange Lao-Tzu thoughts; the second one, it is very that Lao-Tzu did not want to-or was not able to- present more clearly. All above reasons fail in making the notion of Dao become plain.3 2. Dao under Metaphysical View There are two aspects of Dao which are usually studied by scholars: ontological aspect and cosmogenetical aspect (discussing on the origin of cosmos). According to Thome H. Fang, we can give out six points as summary text on ontological thought showed in Daodejing4: a. Dao as the fathomless unity of all things, existing even before God; b. Dao as the fundamental root of Heaven and Earth, infinite in nature, invisible in shape, but having great function for all things are begotten from it; c. Dao as the primitive One having ingression into all forms of creatures; d. Dao as unique pattern of all kinds of activities, rambling but wholesome, twisted around but straight-forward, emptying out but remaining full, dilapidating but forever renovating, ultimately comprehensive of all perfection; e. Dao as the Great Form, in which all creatures are included, unrestricted of harm, and filled of peace, as if babies held close to the bosoms of their mothers. f. Finally, Tao-Tzu describes Das as the final fortune to which all creatures, after clearing out every kind of unrealistic activities in the progress of life, will return for the effortlessness and peace of rest comprehended under the form of eternity and achieved in the spirit of immortality.

Cf. Nguyn Hin L, Lo T, o c Kinh, NXB Vn Ha, H Ni, 1994, tr.58.

Cf. Thome H. Fang, The World and Individual in Chinese Metaphysics, chap. in The Chinese MindEssentials of Chinese Philosophy and Culture, eds. Charles A. Moore, East-West Center Press &University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1967, pp. 244-245. 5

On cosmology, Daodejing presents Dao as the all-pervasive function that is Dao can be compared with an inexhaustible store of powerful energy. Otherwise, Dao belongs to the transcendental realm of Nothingness invisibly. However, Dao darts itself out and down into the realm of Being. Hence, we can deduce that in the beginning, there was Being, and Being was with Nothingness. What contained in Dao is dynamic energy. This power is within the boundaries of Dao and may be spent by dispersing. For the world of Being, it will resort to the transcendental of Dao for a fresh impartation of energy.5 3. Dao as the Origin of Universe Some scholars think that Lao-Tzu is the first person saying on the origin of universe. They give reason that before Lao-Tzu, there was no one bringing the beginning and ending of universe into question. For them, it is very Lao-Tzu who mentions that universe has its origin would seem have not its ending.6 In Daodejing, some chapters half-open something of Dao as the origin of universe. Carefully, on chapter 25, Lao-Tzu says on Dao as a thing was form murkily; she was generated before heaven and earth () She can be the mother of the world.

Later, on

chapter 52, he adds that: The world was conceived, by she who is the mother of the world. and on chapter 4 I do not know whose child she is,before the rst god, she was. It can be said that a thing which before the first god, she was did not be named before. Thus, no one can call its name. Lao-Tzu temporarily names it Dao, I do not know her name; I entitle her the Way. (Chapter 25) In this point, Nguyen Hien Le comments that Lao-Tzu did not create a new word, but he used the old word to express a new idea. The first meaning of Dao is the way or path for transportation, the second as a principle or a norm people should obey, the last in an open meaning, Dao refers to a natural law or the order in natural. On Dao as the origin of universe, it may be said that Lao-Tzu wants to use Dao in the last meaning.8 Actually, Lao-Tzu has a reason to say in uncertain way of Dao, because he wrote that Of ways you may speak, but not the Perennial Way; by names you may name, but not the Perennial Name (Chapter 1) Human beings, a very small part of this universe, could not

Ibid., p. 245. Cf. Nguyn Hin L, Lo T, o c Kinh, NXB Vn Ha, H Ni, 1994, tr.56.

From this note, when quoting Daodejing, we will use the translated version of Daodejing into English of Edmund Ryden (see Laozi, Daodejing, A New Translation by Edmund Ryden, Oxford University Press, New York, 2008.)

Cf. Nguyn Hin L, Lo T, o c Kinh, NXB Vn Ha, H Ni, 1994, tr.57.

name Dao which is infinitive and seem to be endless in its essence. From that, Lao-Tzu just uses the certain name (Dao) to call what cannot be named. Furthermore, in general, people only can call something this name or that name in case that a thing exists in a visible world. Dao exists in another way. It has no shape but Look at her and you do not see her: name her invisible; listen to her and you do not hear her, name her inaudible; touch her and you do not feel her, name her intangible. (Chapter 14) For these three characters invisible, inaudible, and intangible, Lao-Tzu affirms that she cannot be name. (Chapter 14) As so, there is no similar thing to Dao in order that we can rely on it to name Dao. In chapter 67, Lao-Tzu writes that Everyone says I am great, great yet unlike others. Now it is precisely because I am unlike others that I can be great. Were I like others thenoh so long ago!I would have become small. According to Nguyen Hien Le, he translates pronoun I here with meaning my great way or it that is Dao. 9 In short, human kind is not able to find a proper name to identify what is Dao. 4. On The Way of Dao Besides understanding Dao as a metaphysical concept as mentioned above, now we continue taking a look Dao as an ethical concept. In common sense, an ethical act is an act considered under right or wrong way. Dao is certainly a right way to which should be followed. In Daodejing, Lao-Tzu teaches that not only human beings have to follow Dao but also even heaven and earth should do so, because The Way is great, heaven is great, earth is great, and the King is also great and Humans imitate the earth; earth imitates heaven; heaven imitates the Way; the Way imitates her natural self. (Chapter 25) In the translated version of Nguyen Hien Le and Moss Roberts, they do not use the King but nhn or man to refer human beings.10 To follow Dao is to follow the law of nature. The law of nature as Lao-Tzu says will bring benefit to all creatures as the reservoir, to good persons as the treasure and even to bad persons as the protector. (Chapter 62) After that, at the end of Daodejing, chapter 81, he emphasizes that The way of heaven prots and does not hurt. Imitating Dao will help man become moderate for living in harmony within nature. At the deepest place of human heart, Dao represses all bad desires, because Dao can make a

Ibid., p. 260.


Cf. Nguyn Hin L, Lo T, o c Kinh, tr. 202 and Moss Roberts (trans & notes), Lao Zi, Dao De Jing, The Book of Way, University of California Press, California, 2001, p 81. 5

muddy pool clear (Chapter 16). It is not true that Dao will stop or reject bad desires immediately or once but in process. Therefore, a man who keep to follow Dao in daily life will be gotten rid of all bad desires from his heart. On this point, at chapter 48, Lao-Tzu writes that: A person given to studies makes daily progress; a person given to the Way makes daily regress. Regress and again regress, until coming to not acting. When not acting then there is nothing not done For Lao-Tzu, bad desire or ill breaks into human being through senses. Human senses here are listed such as ears, mouth as gates or ways on which desire trespasses into men. He says, The ve colours turn a mans eyes blind; the ve notes turn a mans ears deaf; the ve tastes turn a mans palate dull; Racing through elds hunting turns a mans heart wild (Chapter 12) Therefore, that the first thing a man should do is bolt your ears; plug your mouth. This means that we should not let our senses causing desires but keeping our heart quiet. If not, All life long you shall not be well. (Chapter 52) It is undoubted that for Lao-Tzu, human beings need to contribute to purifying themselves under direction of Dao. In practice, Lao-Tzu tells us that there are three different kinds of people approaching Dao in dissimilar ways. The first ones, called top officials according to Ryden, (Chapter 41) a man of superior talent of P. Co or thng s (sagacious men) in the work of Nguyen Hien Le, effort practice what are spoken by Dao. Nguyen Hien Le adds annotation that listening to Dao has to accompany with understanding (Dao). The second ones also hear the Way, but parts they keep; parts they lose or half-believe in Lo T, o c Kinh. The last ones, who laugh when they hear Dao, are the low officials or ti tm (means the completely dim-headed for Nguyens version. For this kind of man, Dao is a fabulous thing. However, Lao-Tzu satirizes that Bt tiu, bt tc d vi o (that is if there is no laughter, Dao will be not Dao any more.) 11 It is clear that Dao is not for the hermit, as Wing Tsit Chan says, but for the saga-ruler who governs society with non-interference or keeps society operates according to the law of nature. When man follows Nature, his nature will be not eliminated but fulfilled. When Dao overwhelms all individual things such as man, society, and government, it will be a pattern for those things, because at that time, they are based on and guided by Dao. Dao as a type or a way of life that is it denotes simplicity, spontaneity, tranquility, weakness, and most


Cf. Afredo P. Co, Philosophy of Ancient China, p 153. & Nguyn Hin L, Lo T, o c Kinh, tr. 226.

important of all, non-action. These characteristics of Dao invade all things and take them into the way of Nature.12 Dao is the way of nature and brings in itself the law of nature; however, it is not far from away human beings. Actually, human beings can achieve Dao (c o) in meaning that they can hear the voice of Dao to follow and practice it. Hence, Lao-Tzu writes of the one who has already gotten Dao that The good Way-farers of olden days were always unseen, mysterious, communing with the abstruse, so deep they could not be fathomed. (Chapter 15) Conclusion In summary, Dao is a mystical notion to which it is difficult to understand. For this notion, we can just explain it on some dimensions. Here are the metaphysical and ethical aspects of Dao as a collection from reflections of some scholars. It is certain that the author of this writing represents this thought clumsily. However, as Daodejing, Of ways you may speak, but not the Perennial Way; by names you may name, but not the Perennial Name. (Chapter 1) Therefore, this effort is just as a self-reflection and as a way to do re-examination of the owners living way after the course of Chinese philosophy. In that feeling, I am ready to receive wholehearted counsel in order to have a bright understanding of Dao, the way of living in harmony with nature.


Cf. Wing Tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1963, p. 136. 5