/dow, tow/, n. (sometimes l.c.)
1. (in philosophical Taoism) that in virtue of which all things happen or exist.
2. the rational basis of human activity or conduct.
3. a universal, regarded as an ideal attained to a greater or lesser degree by those embodying it.
[ < Chin (Wade-Giles) Tao4, (pinyin) dào lit., way]

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      (Chinese: “road,” or “way”), in Chinese philosophy, a fundamental concept signifying “the correct way,” or “Heaven's way.” In the Confucian tradition, tao signifies a morally correct path of human conduct and is thus limited to behaviour. In the rival school of Taoism (the name of which derives from tao), the concept takes on a metaphysical sense transcending the human realm. The Tao-te Ching (Daodejing), a Taoist classic of contested authorship and date (sometime between the 8th and 3rd century BC), opens with these words: “The tao that can be spoken about is not the Absolute Tao.” The Absolute Tao thus defies verbal definition, but language can make suggestions that may lead to an intuitive or mystical understanding of this fundamental reality.

      One aspect of the tao, however, can be perceived by man, namely, the visible process of nature by which all things change. From an observation of the visible manifestation of the Absolute Tao, it is possible to intuit the existence of an ultimate substratum that is the source of all things. Awareness of this process then leads toward an understanding of the Absolute Tao.

      Taoists view life and death as simply different stages, or manifestations, of the Absolute Tao and consequently advocate a life in accord with nature. The serenity of such a life stands in sharp contrast to the life of public service advocated by Confucius.

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Universalium. 2010.

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