Tao or Dao is the natural order of the universe whose character one’s intuition must discern to realize the potential for individual wisdom, as conceived in the context of East Asian philosophy, East Asian religions, or any other philosophy or religion that aligns to this principle. This intuitive knowing of life cannot be grasped as a concept. Rather, it is known through actual living experience of one’s everyday being. Its name, Tao or Dao came from Chinese, where it signifies the way, path, route, road, or sometimes more loosely doctrine, principle, or holistic belief.
Laozi in the Tao Te Ching explains that the Tao is not a name for a thing, but the underlying natural order of the Universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe because it is non-conceptual yet evident in one’s being of aliveness. The Tao is “eternally nameless” and to be distinguished from the countless named things that are considered to be its manifestations, the reality of life before its descriptions of it.
The Tao lends its name to the religious tradition and philosophical tradition (Wade–Giles, Tao chia; Pinyin, Daojia) that are both referred to in English with the single term Taoism.