What Is The Tao?

ISBN: 1580632254

I’ve previously reviewed Osho’s When The Shoe Fits, but this book may actually serve as a better reading for complete beginners to Tao since it’s more introductory in nature. However, it does lack the parables that make it as interesting as When The Shoe Fits.

Buddha has walked, Lao Tzu has walked, Jesus has walked, but those ways are not going to help you because you are not Jesus, and you are not Lao Tzu, and you are not Lieh Tzu. You are you, a unique individual. Only by walking, only by living your life, will you find the way.

When you study another man, you are studying his path, and what is unique to him. When you read my game work, and all the pickup lines I’ve used, you feel empowered with the knowledge, but until you use those lines yourself, you won’t have experienced game. A baby can watch his parents walk for months, but the first step he takes will still cause him to fall over.

Christianity, Hinduism, Mohammedanism, are superhighways; you need not risk anything, you simply follow the crowd, you go with the mob. With Tao you have to go alone, you have to be alone.

Religions are useful in that they hand you an already cooked meal of morality and rules that will likely be enough for you to lead a productive life, but their one-size-fits-all approach does clash with the modern notions of individualism that encourage us to be our own Gods, which is why so few today are truly religious.

…ignorance is not the barrier against truth—knowledge is the barrier.

All the knowledge you have jammed in your brain causes your ego to exclude experience that conflicts with what you think you know. The more knowledge you have, the more you live a filtered experience of neverending cycles of confirmation bias, all because your ego doesn’t want to ever have to admit it’s wrong or that the time and energy spent educating yourself was a waste. This is why taking the red pill is impossible for some people, because it would force the person to admit that they have believed in the wrong ideas for the bulk of their lives, and that much of their college education was useless.

Thinking cannot deliver truth. Truth is an experience, and the experience happens only when thinking is no longer there.

All the truth I’ve realized in my life has come from direct experience. I can read a book where a man explains the truth to me, but unless I have experience that led me to believing that truth, I will not believe it with conviction.

Thinking is dreaming with words, dreaming is thinking with pictures—that’s the only difference. Dreaming is a primitive way of thinking, and thinking is a more evolved way of dreaming—more civilized, more cultured, more intellectual, but it is the same—only the pictures have been replaced by words. And, in a way, because pictures have been replaced by words, it has gone even farther away from reality, because reality is closer to pictures than to words.

Thinking is seen as a negative process in Tao because it’s shaped and controlled by the ego, which is a self-protection mechanism that doesn’t want to see reality as it is. The more you think, the more your ego is guiding you into a pre-determined safe space that will not conflict with your existing knowledge and past experience.

The more you have of this world, the less you have of happiness, because the more you have of this world, the stronger becomes your ego, the more strengthened is your ego, more crystallized—hence unhappiness.

Material possessions drain your happiness because you now have to expend energy, time, and work into keeping and maintaining them, on top of new fears of losing them. I thought that as I saved more money over the years, I would be less fearful of entering poverty, but that didn’t happen because I became anxious of vague economic forces and black swan events that may take my money away. The anxiety was of a different nature, but the absolute amount of the anxiety remained the same. The only person who is not anxious at all of poverty is the man already deep in it, and who has no possessions of his own.

Drop your intellect, and you will not lose anything. Carry your intellect with yourself, and you will lose all. Drop your intellect, and you will lose only your imprisonment, your falsity. Drop your intellect, and suddenly your consciousness will soar high, will be on its wings… and you can go to the very south, to the open seas where you belong. Intellect is the burden on man.


Begin with ignorance, and some day you may be fortunate enough to know. Begin with knowledge, and this is certain: that you will never be able to know.

But if I drop my intellect, how will I contribute to mankind? How will I help man fly to Mars? How will I solve the intricate problems of modern society? How will I make more money to accumulate greater material possessions? These are all questions demanded by the ego. Observe low IQ people and you will see that lacking intelligence is not a hindrance to their life, and in some cases, they are able to experience reality more fully because they lack rules, principles, and expectations that constrain their more intelligent counterparts.

Only an inferior person thinks in terms of superiority. A real person, an authentic person, is neither superior nor inferior. He simply is— unique; nobody is lower than him and nobody is higher than him.

Most of your social behavior has an aim of showing yourself as superior, in the most subtle of ways. For example, helping other people is a way for you to show your superiority, especially when it is done publicly. You want others to see how generous and kind you are, and for them to commend you. This gets out of control in the case of virtue signalling, where people show how “kind” they are to third-world foreigners in a way that actively harms their neighbor’s safety or economic well-being.

A comparative happiness is a pseudohappiness. “I have a big car and you don’t have. Because you don’t have, I am happy.” This is something foolish. How can I be happy because you don’t have a car? What has it to do with my happiness that you don’t have a car? “I have a big house and you don’t have a big house, so I am happy.” This happiness seems more interested in making others unhappy rather than in being happy oneself. “You don’t have a car, you don’t have a good house— I am happy because you are miserable.” Look at the logic of it, the mathematics is simple: “I am happy when people are miserable, so if people are more miserable, I will be more happy; if the whole world is turned into hell, I will be supremely happy.” This is the logic, and this is what man has been doing.


Comparison is the root cause of misery. To be noncomparative—to be neither higher nor lower, just to be yourself, not to think in relation to others, just to think in terms of your tremendous aloneness—then you are happy.

Many times we compare ourselves to those more fortunate, and it leads to insecurity. Then we see a crippled man on the street and we feel better, because we realize we are not as bad off as others. And then we see a rich man in a Ferrari, and again we feel insecure. We derive our entire self-worth through external comparison that has an end result of wanting everyone else to be less fortunate than ourselves. This method of comparison has actually been institutionalized in many countries, such as the Scandinavian Jante Law, which aims to push down others who are succeeding in life.

Contentment comes only when you are not comparing, when you are simply within yourself, totally in yourself—centered, rooted. And by being in your being, you suddenly realize that the whole is yours, and you are of the whole; you are not separate. The ego has disappeared, you have become universal. In that moment, there is great contentment, great benediction. But that benediction, that contentment, does not come through rationalization; it comes through realization—that is the difference. Consolation is a rationalization, contentment is a realization.

How does contentment come about? Through accepting reality as it is, without filters put in place by your ego and society, and that existence alone, of simply being alive, is the point of life. You are breathing right now, and you are conscious; congratulations, you have achieved an incredible feat in this vast universe. Nothing more is needed besides satisfying your needs of survival, which if you’re able to read this, I guarantee is being satisfied at a high level of material comfort.

A man who is trying to “figure it out” is bound to fall into a tremendous trap and will not be able to come out of it easily. Once you start intellectualizing about life, you start going astray. Life has to be lived. Life has to be lived existentially and not intellectually. Intellect is not a bridge but a barrier.

The reason we develop theories to figure out life is because we want to minimize pain and suffering. Intellectual theories that explain what is happening right now can then be extended to predict what will happen, and if I know what will happen, I can steer around the difficulty and protect myself.

Thousands of men in Silicon Valley are developing artificial intelligence to take away any potential downside of life, but at the same time, they are removing any upside as well. The joyful surprises of love and friendship will be reduced to mathematical formulas and algorithms. You will know everything about a new lover before you meet her, you will know what diseases you’ll get and when you’ll get them, and you will be told what type of jobs or hobbies to perform without finding out on your own. You will even be told on which day you will die.

That which is caused is never eternal, that which is caused is temporal. When the cause disappears, it will disappear; it is a by-product. That which is uncaused is going to be forever and forever, because there is nothing that can destroy it.

Uncaused is when you’re “happy for no reason.” You feel an energy coming from your spirit that is not based on a direct cause from your environment.

I commonly see uncaused happiness in people who are highly religious. They believe God is guiding them and their experiences. Even in the face of evil, they are calm and content. Those who use stocism alone are not able to accept negative events as easily as the religious, since they apply a material logic to the nature of the world that can still lead them to the question of “Why me and not him?”

If your happiness is caused, keeping it simple is the best strategy, as I mentioned in my podcast on hedonic adaptation. If you climb the biggest mountain in the world, how can you be happy when visiting a little park? If you make love to the most beautiful girl in the world, how can you be happy with a girlfriend or wife who has flaws? The more experience and excitement you seek, the more you desensitize you to the little causes of happiness.

An ambitious man will always regret. Alexander died sad, in great frustration, because ambition by its very nature is unfulfillable.


Only a nonambitious person can be happy. An ambitious person is bound to be always frustrated.

The sum of pleasure you achieve through any gain must be equal to the sum of pain that is experienced through its loss. There is no other possibility in a universe where matter can neither be created nor destroyed. If you date a girl for one year, all the pleasure you received from her will be given back in pain when you break up. (Breaking up is so acute since the pain is experienced in a shorter time period than the pleasure gained.) Anything you buy right now will give you a pleasurable rush, which is given back in the debt or labor you have to pay for that object along with the pain experienced when it no longer gives you pleasure.

A question may arise: so why bother? Why even try anything? Why not go live in a cave and meditate for hours a day? Well, many people do! Taoists don’t recommend this approach because it’s the forced opposite of hedonistic ambition. They advocate for living according to your nature, without ego, though the interpretation of that can be subjective.

But even if in the Old Testament you have two pages [of recognition], or twenty, or two hundred, what is the meaning of it? And as history grows bigger, those two pages will become smaller and smaller and smaller, and one day [you will become] just a footnote. And then when history will become even longer—and it is becoming longer every day— the footnotes will also disappear somewhere in the appendix, and by and by you are gone.

Tomorrow you may be remembered as a great man. Books will be written about you. Then you will be remembered in compilations with other men, and as history goes on, the words that describe you get smaller until you exist in name only. If you’re lucky, you will turn into a meme, like Hitler, or by pscyhoanalyzed for your faults in the future or suspected of being secretely gay, like Alexander, but none of that recognition can compete to living in the present.

…philosophy creates a screen of words and you cannot see the reality as it is. It distorts reality, it interprets reality, it gives a garb to reality, it hides reality, it covers reality.

Has philosophy ever been helpful? Outside of stoicism, I can’t think of any philosophical work that has made much of a difference to the individual. Either that philosophy has been long dead, its realizations made impotent by the hands of time, or it was dropped into a vast sea of other ideas and philosophies, its effect neutered by new avalanches of work. Philosophy is great for the men who invent the philosophies, who are able to leave their mark and feel like they contributed something that can allow them to control the world from beyond the grave.

…the moment you start asking, “What is truth?” your mind starts supplying words; it knows the answers. Those answers are all false, those answers are all borrowed, but it gives you beautiful answers. They satisfy you for a while, and if your inquiry is not great, they may satisfy you forever. Only a great inquirer sees the point that words are meaningless.

Analyzing an experience can only offer rationalizations that soothe your ego into maintaining its image of superiority.

The rebellious person is one who does not bother about the society at all. He simply lives through his innermost core; he is one who follows his Tao. If society fits with that inner Tao, good, he goes with the society; he is not reactionary. If the society does not fit with his inner Tao, he goes alone. He is not a traditional, conventional, straight person. His criterion is his inner soul.

A man who is purely reactionary, who is attempting to fight the mainstream culture, is actually swimming with the culture, because his behavior is wholly determined by it, just as much—if not more—as someone who is for the culture. Counter-culture is yang to the culture’s yin—they are inseparable. The clash between the culture and counter-culture breeds the synthesis that creates the culture of tomorrow.

An untrue life is worse than a true death: a true death is better. An untrue happiness is worse than a true unhappiness— let this be remembered always. True tears are better than false smiles, because growth comes through being true. Growth never comes through falsity, and the ideal of gentleman is the ideal of the false man.

For many years I have put on the clown mask to engage in fornication with women. I’ve concealed, danced, and acted. The end result of those orgasms were only satisfying for a brief moment, because I had to put the mask back on as soon as the ejaculation was completed. When the pain of acting or fulfilling other people’s expectations of you become greater than the pleasure received from keeping up with appearances, you are beginning to listen to your true nature.

…let there be a harmony in the contradictions within you, then you will reach to the highest point and the highest peak. Don’t choose one, choose both together. Be courageous. Don’t be miserly in choosing. When life gives you a paradox, choose the whole paradox; swallow it all and whole, and digest it completely and you will become a flying dragon.

For every personal conviction you have, there is the opposite lurking within. For many behaviors you have ever criticized, you have done it or are doing it, and within every person you despise, there is a part of you within them. Your ego wants to imagine itself as perfect, as flawless, but we are not perfect, both the good and bad exist within us, and that which we eagerly attack may be what we are composed of the most, because it’s our ego’s way of dealing with the inner contradiction.

Lao Tzu is passing through a forest, and the forest is being cut. Thousands of carpenters are cutting the trees. Then he comes near a big tree—a very big tree, one thousand bullock carts can rest underneath it—and it is so green and beautiful. He sends his disciples to inquire of the carpenters why this tree has not been cut yet. And they say, “It is useless. You cannot make anything out of it. Furniture cannot be made, it cannot be used as fuel—it gives too much smoke. It is of no use; that’s why we have not cut it.” And Lao Tzu says to his disciples, “Learn from this tree. Become as useless as this tree, then nobody will cut you.”


Don’t become a human commodity and nobody will be able to use you. And if nobody is able to use you, you will have a beautiful life of your own—independent, free, joyful. If nobody can use you, nobody can reduce you to a means. You will never be insulted, because in this life there is no greater insult than to become a means: somebody or other is going to use you—your body, your mind, your being.


You feel very happy if people come and say, “When you are gone we will never be able to replace you.” You feel tremendously happy, but what are they saying? They are saying, “You are a thing we are using.”

Because I am useful to men, they will always make demands of me. “You are a good writer, Roosh, so why don’t you write more articles?” “Make more Youtube videos and podcasts for me.” “Your game advice needs updating.” “I don’t like how your beard is getting so long.” “When are you going to do a happy hour?” And on and on. The second you become useful to someone, you enter a subservient role where the relationship can only be kept intact by continuing to provide usefulness.

Life cannot have any purpose, because if life has any purpose then something will become more valuable than life, and again the question will arise: What is the purpose of that? If we say, “Life is to attain truth,” then truth becomes the real purpose. But then what is the purpose of truth? If we say, “Life is to seek God,” then the question arises: “What is the purpose of God, or of achieving God, or of realizing God?” In the end you have to drop the word purpose…

Until you can arrive at the conclusion of “This existence is the purpose, and the sole purpose,” you will enter a un-answerable chain of never-ending causality. The essence of being is the purpose.

Hope is dressed-up desire. Be hopeless. Nothing is going to happen. Nothing ever happens. There is no future, so drop all ambition. Only this moment exists, so don’t rush hither and thither; it is pointless, it is neurotic, it is mad. Just relax in this moment, just be.

Some may interpret statements like this as nihilism, but there is a subtle difference. Nihilists believe existence has no purpose, nothing has value, and there is no objective truth. Taoists believe that existence is the purpose, and everything within that existence contains its own unique consciousness, energy, and place within the universe, because if something exists, it must be an important part of the universal whole, no matter how insignificant. Taoists also believe objective truth can be derived from nature itself.

When the intellect claims, “I am the whole,” then there is trouble. When the intellect says, “I am just a part of a vast entity, of a huge entity, and I do my work— beyond that I don’t know what is going on,” then there is no problem.

The universe is the whole, and we are a small part within that universe, but are not separate from it, and this is proven through studies in quantum mechanics, like the double slit and the delayed choice experiments, which show that the conscious observer is a necessary part of determining how the universe is composed of in the present, and how it was composed of in the past. If you think of yourself as distinct from the universe, you will continually suffer when having its effects thrust upon you for seemingly no reason.


Once logic claims, “I am the whole,” life becomes meaningless. Once somebody says, “Life is nothing but science,” then it is a reduction and everything is reduced to the lowest denominator. Then love is nothing but chemistry—a hormonal thing. Then everything can be reduced to the lowest, then the lotus is nothing but mud.

By reducing everything to a scientific theory, to a product of “evolution,” to explanations of “love is like eating chocolate,” we remove the joy from our existence. Then there is no soul, spirit, or truth, just a collection of atoms that are randomly hurtling through space and colliding with other atoms. Take it far enough and you may even conclude that suicide is rational.

…if you are trying to improve yourself, you will try to improve others. Your own disease goes on overflowing onto others. Once you stop improving upon yourself, once you accept yourself as you are, unconditionally, with no grudge, with no complaint, once you start loving yourself as you are, all interference disappears.

Those who are most sick will attempt to make others as sick as them to normalize their sickness, to feel that they are not alone. A woman who is morbidly obese will teach others that beauty exists “at every size” so that she feels better about herself. A man who struggles in loving one woman will teach others to bang hundreds of girls around the world.

What a man tries to prove to you that he is, he is not, because what is does not require proof. What a man does not try to prove, he is, because he is so filled with the quality that he doesn’t even notice, just like you have forgotten that you are breathing in this instance until I mentioned it.

This is none of your business what others are doing. This should be one of the basic attitudes—not to think about what the other is doing. That is his life. If he decides to live it that way, that is his business. Who are you even to have an opinion about it? Even to have an opinion means that you are ready to interfere, you have already interfered.


To have an opinion about you means that deep down somewhere I want to manipulate you. To have some opinion about you, this way or that, means that I have a deep desire to be powerful over people.

How about if a man is trying to kill others? How about if he wants to molest children? How about if he wants to promote homosexual families over heterosexual families? At what point do we actively try to control and impose our will for the health of society?

The problem with believing that there are standards to uphold is that you will inevitably enter a logic where you can justify killing 100 people if you believe that it will save 1 million, or you will kill one man if you know it will prevent the rape of 100 children. This logic will then find it justifiable to start wars and torture others with ideas that are different from yours, all to stop an evil that may very well be objectively based. Imposing standards or morals upon someone is the beginning of a path to killing, so the hard question is asking which standards are worth imposing upon others, because any imposition—at its core—is a concealed form of violence.

Ultimately, Osho and other Taoists believe you should live passively in the “feminine” to allow life to merely happen to you. Taoists stand against living life as the masculine, as an aggressive ego that is trying to impose your will and standards upon others to receive fleeting worldly benefits, but don’t confuse the Taoist use of feminine and masculine with the modern definitions concerning individual behavior. There is no Taoist that advises a man to act like a woman or change his sex and become one, because that would be going against his nature.

Ironically, the modern woman acts in a more masculine manner than men according to the Tao, because they are aggressive in seeking status and fame while pursuing material excess. Even the ego of a woman is higher than that of a man, because a woman is unable to ever admit she is wrong or to accept rejection, things that men are far more capable of doing.

Gender revelations aside, I highly recommend this book by Osho. Him and Alan Watts have done a lot to relieve the angst of my existence, and I have found more value in the Tao than other philosophies I have studied.

Read More: “Tao: The Pathless Path” on Amazon

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