dao visions

Chinese characters for "visions"

sleeping child holds doll, light and sun create shadow

Neither drug-induced
Nor self-induced visions:
Pierce all vision,
To see the void.

Tao is not to be found though drugs or any external means. While you most assuredly will have visions, how will you know what they mean? No matter how vivid, no matter how seemingly profound, they must be understood in order to be useful. By contrast, meditation also brings visions, voices, feelings, and absolute certainties. But prior philosophical inquiry is essential preparation for these experiences. The practitioner can instantly fit new experiences into a frame of reference. There is no confusion, and one can distinguish the true from the false. After all, even the perceptions of meditation may leave room for doubt.

Not everything that one receives during spiritual inquiry is true. Some are deceptions, and one must be able to see through them. The form that visions take is a function of your own degree of mental sophistication. As such, they are still in the circumference of your mind. If you want to receive impulses from the true Tao, you should know that they do not come as visions. Receiving Tao is to enter into a state of consciousness. Followers of Tao may indulge in spiritual visions for a time, but they eventually learn that there is something more important than the endless exploration of visions. The eventual object is to transcend all enslavement to perceptions. Only in attaining that state can one adequately judge reality.


365 Tao
Daily Meditations
Deng Ming-Dao
ISBN: 0-06-250223-9

Kuang Jian 2001
Oil on canvas 40" x 30"

Inventory #: KJ_0009
© The Hefner Collection lisenced one time use only

Stanford Studies on Daoism

Dao (Way, Guide, Road)

Daoism has a reputation of being impenetrable mainly because of its central concept, dao. Yet surprisingly, the almost universal translation in English uses one of the smallest, simplest, most familiar and least consciously noticed terms of the language — ‘way.’ This common translation, ‘way,’ is apt in several ways. Dao (Tao) is a pivotal concept of ancient Chinese thought. ‘Way’ is similarly primitive (it resists analytic definition). We can only offer synonyms: e.g., ‘course’, ‘method’, ‘manner’, ‘mode’, ‘style’, ‘means’, ‘practice’, ‘fashion’, ‘technique’ and so on. We discover the circularity when we try to analyze one of the synonyms without recourse to the term ‘way’ with which we began.

The partial synonyms, however, remind us of a second way in which ‘way’ is an apt translation of dao. A way is the answer to a "how" or "what-to-do" question. We typically use talk of ways in advising someone. Ways are practical (i.e., prescriptive or normative).

Dao is also used concretely to refer to a road or path in Chinese, e.g., Queen's Road. Again, ‘way’ fits — as in highway and Broadway. In figurative English use they are interchangeable — the road/way to salvation. Roads guide us and facilitate our arrival at a desired destination. The are, as it were, prescriptive structures.

Though practical, describing something as a dao or a way need not be to recommend it. The Zhuangzi reminds us that thievery has a dao . We can use both dao and ‘way’ mainly to describe — as when a Confucian undertakes to pursue his father's dao for three years after his death or we say "I saw the way you did that."

Now for some interesting differences between dao and ‘way’. Chinese nouns lack pluralization, so dao functions grammatically like a singular term and semantically like a plural. The first tempts translators to render each occurrence as "the way." The advice is to treat dao as a collective noun — as the sum of ways. What we think of as one way would be one part of dao.
a reading list of books and interpretations of the Daodejing
for a meditation sent to your
email address each day, please write

‘subscribe tao’ in the subject line
and send to lisbeth at

No comments: