At the same time that Confucius lived, the Grand Old Master or Lao Tzu was formulating his own perception of nature through meditation. The life of Lao Tzu is shrouded in mystery, and all we know of him is proclaimed in legend. It is said in one of these stories that Confucius, upon hearing of Lao Tzu visited the sage and said afterwards:
I know a bird can fly;
Lao Tzu was known for his contemplative intellect, and began the Chinese School of Thought known as Taoism. Lao Tzu, saddened and alarmed by China's cultural condition (See Confucianism), is said to have left China on a Water Buffalo and moved out West. Upon his exodus, the gatekeeper at Hankao Pass asked him to reason why he would leave the homeland. Lao Tzu returned three days later with a collection of poetic verses now called the Tao Te Ching, or The Way and the Power.
The Tao Te Ching grapples with the meaning of the Tao. In Chinese Tao literally means the way or path. But the Tao means much more.
The Tao is the way of ultimate reality, and of course, not easily grasped or conceptualized. It is so impossible to understand, that even speaking of the Tao shows that you do not understand its true meaning. The tao that is spoken is not the true Tao.
In being ultimate reality, the Tao cannot be approached with reason or the regular modes of human understanding.
One who searches for the Tao need not look any further than to the reality that surrounds; one that looks for alignment with the Tao must only look within. To become aligned with the Tao means discovering nature through internal perception and understanding. The Tao can also be seen as the way of the universe, the rhythm of nature, the integrating spirit of the whole. The Tao ultimately becomes the Human Way of Life, as a part of the universe and of reality, and most of Taoism is about how to approach the Tao as an individual.
The object of Taoism is to align oneself with the Tao, and since the Tao cannot be approached by reason or speech it must be found in other, simpler ways. One must ride the energy flow of the Tao, and live one's life shuttled through existence by means of the Tao. This state of being is called Wu-Wei, or Creative Quietude. Wu-Wei, literally translated as do-nothingless, means to move in ultimate action without strain. Thus the body becomes most productive and relaxed through the inner flow of the Tao, and this flow through the world is called chi. The flow of chi is what can open the mind and body to higher levels of creativity, action, quietude, and peace.
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