The Tao

Dr. Robert Sawicki has been a frequent contributor to this project in more ways than one, and, over the years, I've come to notice that there is a great wealth of information that resides within him, especially with respect to the martial arts and the Eastern foundations that underlie them. Learning the physical aspects of the martial arts are one thing; understanding the real concepts that go along with them are another. In this section, Dr. Bob undertakes an approach towards understanding the Tao. doc

I have been asked to write background information on the TAO. Before attempting such a heady task, there needs to be some foundation laid that allows us all to start from approximately the same region of experience.

Differences between Occidental and Oriental perceptions of the world.

Western approaches to perception are based for the most part on consensual reality: that which exists, exists because we all agree that it exists. Eastern perception allows for the individual experience. Eastern perception also allows for individual discovery that may not be shared by anyone else. In the West, religious mystics are viewed as operating in this fashion. However, in the West such "mystical" experience is characterized as occult, metaphysical, and generally unapproachable by the common person; and more generally it is characterized as "unscientific." Once characterized as unscientific such experience is then discounted as everything from unreal to fantasy to aberrant (i.e., crazy).

Eastern perception is based more on emotional content. Much like languages of the East in which a single inflection on a syllable can significantly change the meaning of a word or a sentence, that which arises from personal discovery can significantly change the meaning of what is perceived in the world and how one lives in the world. Such a change in personal orientation can have effects in what a person is able to do. For example, after achieving a certain state of consciousness, a person might change blood pressure, limit breathing, leap higher than ought to be possible by usual standards, or break objects with hands, fingers or feet that should not be breakable by hands, fingers or feet by usual standards.

In the East one achieves that state of conscious through personal discovery, training, meditation, and even perhaps Enlightenment. In the West, someone tries to replicate that state by measuring (e.g., EEG, EKG, metabolic assays, psychological assessment, etc.) a person who has achieved that state. Then once the measures have been validated (with another individual or individuals), someone attempts to re-create the test findings on themselves in the belief that when the test benchmarks are achieved, one will also achieve the same level of consciousness and control. Though it is frequently possible to measure altered states of consciousness, it has not been possible to reach that same state of consciousness by simply achieving the metric benchmarks.

To try to discover the TAO, I ask the reader to set-aside for a moment the need to categorize, measure and relate everything that is read to concrete prior experience. My words will never show you the TAO, since the TAO that can be written is not the true TAO. At best, my words can only be a finger pointing at the moon ….. never confuse the moon with the finger.

Lao Tzu was a scholar who lived more than 2500 years ago. He lived in an age when people seemed to have lost direction and no longer believed that they had any influence on their day-to-day world. Day by day life felt powerless; people felt that they existed at the whim of everything, from distant leaders to a punishing fate. As he withdrew from a climate marked by hopelessness, Lao Tzu left the Tao Te Ching. Tao referring to the universal laws that affect both people and environment; Te referring to personal power; and Ching loosely translated meaning classic. In summary, the message of the classic work was: Discover who you are …. Sense and learn directly from all that is around you …. Contemplate what you discover and let it percolate through until you learn to trust your perceptions and intuition ….  Do not rely on beliefs, ideologies or truths that come from others …. Use attitude instead of action to guide others  ……  Manage others based on their relationship with you not based on your control of them. Once you have blended with the TAO use the power to direct events without relying on force.


Here are a few excerpts from the Tao Te Ching. Read them as you might observe a mountain sunset without analyzing the color spectrum. Simply let it wash over you and through you; discover what emerges.



The Way

Polarity is the movement of the Tao.

Receptivity is the way it is used.

The world and All Things were produced from its existence.

Its existence was produced from nonexistence.



I.         The Beginning of Power

The Tao that can be expressed

            Is not the Tao of the Absolute.

The name that can be named

            Is not the name of the Absolute.


The nameless originated Heaven and Earth.

The named is the Mother of All Things.


Thus, without expectation,

            One will always perceive the subtlety;

And, with expectation,

            One will always perceive the boundary.


The source of these two is identical,

Yet their names are different.

Together they are called profound,

Profound and mysterious,

The gateway to the Collective Subtlety.


II.               Keeping Peace

Do not exalt the very gifted,

            And people will not contend.

Do not treasure goods that are hard to get,

            And people will not become thieves.

Do not focus on desires,

            And people’s minds will not be confused.


Therefore, Evolved Individuals lead others by

            Opening their minds,

            Reinforcing their centers,

            Relaxing their desires,

            Strengthening their characters.


Let the people always act without strategy or desire;

            Let the clever not venture to act.

Act without action,

            And nothing is without order.


III.           The Nature of the Tao

The Tao is empty and yet useful;

Somehow it never fills up.

So profound!

It resembles the source of All Things.


It blunts the sharpness,

Unties the tangles,

And harmonizes the brightness.

It identifies with the ways of the world.


So deep!

It resembles a certain existence.

I do not know whose offspring it is.

This image in front of the source.


IV.              Noncompetitive Values

The highest value is like water.


The value in water benefits All Things,

            And yet does not contend.

It stays in places that others disdain,

            And therefore is close to the Tao.


The value in a dwelling is location.

The value in a mind is depth.

The value in relations is benevolence.

The value in words is sincerity.

The value in leadership is order.

The value in work is competence.

The value in effort is timeliness.


Since, indeed, the do not contend,

There is no resentment.


V.                  The Essence of Tao

Looked at but not seen:

            Its name is formless.

Listened to but not heard:

            Its name is soundless.

Reached for but not obtained:

            Its name is intangible.


These three cannot be analyzed,

            So they mingle and act as one.


Its rising is not bright;

            Its setting is not dark.

Endlessly the nameless goes on,

            Merging and returning to nothingness.


That is why it is called

            The form of the formless,

            The image of nothingness.

That is why it is called the elusive.

            Confronted, its beginning is not seen.

            Followed, its end is not seen.


Hold on to the ancient Tao;

            Control the current reality.

Be aware of the ancient origins;

            This is called the Essence of Tao.


VI.              The Power in Subtle Force

Those skillful in the ancient Tao

Are subtly ingenious and profoundly intuitive.

They are so deep they cannot be recognized.

Since, indeed, they cannot be recognized,

Their force can be contained.


So careful!

            As if wading a stream in winter.

So hesitant!

            As if respecting all sides in the community.

So reserved!

            As if acting as a guest.

So yielding!

            As if ice about to melt.

So candid!

            As if acting with simplicity.

So open!

            As if acting as a valley.

So integrated!

            As if acting as muddy water.


Who can harmonize with muddy water,

            And gradually arrive at clarity?

Who can move with stability,

            And gradually bring endurance to life?


Those who maintain the Tao

            Do not desire to become full.

Indeed, since they are not full,

            They can be used up and also renewed.


VII.          Following the Pattern

What is curved become whole;

            What is crooked becomes straight.

What is deep becomes filled;

            What is exhausted becomes refreshed.

What is small becomes attainable;

            What is excessive becomes confused.


Thus Evolved Individuals hold to the One

And regard the world as their Pattern.


They do not display themselves;

            Therefore they are illuminated.

They do not define themselves;

            Therefore they are distinguished.

They do not make claims;

            Therefore they are credited.

They do not boast;

            Therefore they advance.


Since, indeed, they do not compete,

The world cannot compete with them.


The ancient saying: “What is curve becomes whole” –

            Are these empty words?

To become whole,

            Turn within.


VIII.      The Art of Survival

As life goes out, death comes in.


Life has thirteen paths;

            Death has thirteen paths.

Human life arrives at the realm of death

            Also in thirteen moves.


Why is this so?

Because life is lived lavishly.


Now, as it is well known,

            Those skilled at attracting life

Can travel across the land

            And not meet a rhinoceros or tiger.

When the military comes in,

            Their defense cannot be attacked.


The rhinoceros is without a place to thrust its horn.

The tiger is without a place to affix its claw.

The military is without a place to admit its blade.


Why is this so?

Because they are without the realm of death.


Robert F. Sawicki, PhD

Las Vegas, Nevada

May, 2000


Reference:         Wing, RL (1986) The Tao of Power. Doubleday: New York.

                        Wing, RL (1988) The Art of Strategy. Doubleday: New York.

                        Capra, F (1975) The Tao of Physics. Bantam Books: New York.

                        Lao Tzu: The Tao Te Ching (1997) Element: Rockport, Massachusetts.