Origin of Bodhi and Dao

person 802075 - Origin of Bodhi and DaoBodhidaoism is the combination of the Sanskrit and Pali word bodhi and the Chinese word dao. Let’s look closer at each word and its meanings.


According to The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, in both Sanskrit and Pali, bodhi literally means “awakening” or “enlightenment.” The word Buddha, according to A Concise Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, actually means the “awakened one.” So bodhi is at the heart of Buddhism, regardless of the tradition. “All understand bodhi as wisdom or understanding achieved through progress on the Buddhist path of cultivation,” says the Encyclopedia of Buddhism.

In Japanese, the word for awakening is satori, which, according to Oxford’s Dictionary of Buddhism, means “an intuitive apprehension of the nature of reality.” And they also note that kensho, which is another term for awakening, literally means “to see (one’s true) nature” (Oxford 141).

From this, you can see why I define bodhi as “awakening to the true nature of reality.” By this, I mean both the reality of the objective world and the subjective reality of one’s own mind.


There are two major systems for how to transcribe Chinese words into English. Tao is from the older Wade-Giles system, and dao is from the newer Pinyin. The Pinyin system is the one officially endorsed by China, and it is the one most modern scholars now follow.

In Chinese, the word dao (tao), according to The Shambhala Dictionary of Taoism, literally means the “way.” The Chinese scholar Wing-Tsit Chan calls it “the natural way” (1963, 136). And that is how I use it here. In the Tao-de ching it says,  “Being one with Nature, he is in accord with Tao” (1963, 148). Of course this view is from philosophical Taoism (Tao-chia), and not religious Taoism (Tao-chiao).


The suffix ism means, according the Webster’s New World College Dictionary, “the doctrine, school, theory, or principle of.” In the case of Bodhidaoism, it is the principles and practices of the way of awakening.

Taken together, Bodhidaoism is the way of awakening to reality, the way things really are. Subjectively, it means awakening to the reality of our own mind, discovering how it creates its own unhappiness. And objectively, it means awakening to the reality of the Cosmos, understanding what is real and what is not.


• Chan, Wing-Tsit, tr. (1963) A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
A Concise Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (2010) Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber, Franz-Karl Ehrhard, and Michael S. Diener eds., Michael H. Kohn, tr. Boston: Shambhala Publications.
Encyclopedia of Buddhism (2008) Edward A. Irons, ed. New York: Checkmark Books.
A Dictionary of Buddhism (2003) Damien Keown, ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (2014) Robert E. Buswell, Jr. and Donald S. Lopez, Jr. eds. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
The Shambhala Dictionary of Taoism (1996) Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber, ed, Werner Wunsche, tr.Boston: Shambhala Publications.
Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 5th ed. (2014) New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

What is Bodhidaoism?

The Definition of Bodhidaoism

Bodhidaoism is a personal non-religious worldview, built upon the foundations of philosophical naturalism and current scientific consensus, which combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism, Stoicism, and Humanism into a coherent and evidence-based philosophical system. Bodhidaoism was created by philosopher and author Jay N. Forrest in 2017.

Bodhidaoism is derived from the Pali word bodhi, meaning “awakening” and the Chinese word dao, meaning “way”. So Bodhidaoism is the way of awakening. Awakening to what? Awakening to reality, the way things really are. Subjectively, it means awakening to the reality of our own mind, discovering how it creates its own unhappiness. And objectively, it means awakening to the reality of the Cosmos, understanding what is real and what is not.

The Explanation of Bodhidaoism

Bodhidaoism is a non-religious worldview. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines a worldview as, “The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.” Everyone has a worldview, it is the perspective from which one thinks. Like a pair of glasses, worldviews are things that we look through not look at.

By saying that Bodhidaoism is non-religious, we mean that it does not accept the existence of God or gods, nor any other supernatural things. In this sense it is like Humanism, being more a philosophy of life.

Bodhidaoism is build on the foundation of naturalism. Naturalism is the conclusion, based on the evidence, that the natural world is a closed system and that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws. Therefore there is no support for supernatural explanations. Questions about what exists are basically scientific questions, rather than philosophical or religious questions. The particular form of naturalism adopted by Bodhidaoism is called Dualistic Naturalism. Naturalism holds that the Cosmos is one “harmonious and orderly system” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary). Dualistic means that this unity is manifested in duality. Taoism and the idea of the Yin and Yang is a good example of Dualistic Naturalism.

Bodhidaoism is also built on the foundation of current scientific consensus. Most religious systems get into trouble because they ignore or contradict science. Bodhidaoism is designed not just in harmony with science, but is built on it. Science is our best means of knowledge, and therefore, any worldview worthy of acceptance in the the modern world should be based on our best means of knowledge.

Bodhidaoism combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism, Stoicism, and Humanism. Upon the foundation of naturalism and science, we flesh out our worldview by combining it with the best insights of other systems. There are four that stand out, namely Buddhism, Taoism, Stoicism, and Humanism. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. For example, Buddhism has many valid insights into the mind and the importance of meditation, but it also includes such unscientific doctrines as karma and rebirth. Taoism has many valid insights into the nature of reality, a reality that is a unity manifested in duality. This is seen in the yin yang symbol. But Taoism also ended up incorporating ideas of immortality and deities. Stoicism is the philosophical inspiration for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, one of the most evidence-based psychotherapies. But Stoicism believes in God, though it tends towards Pantheism. And Humanism, while denying the supernatural, affirms humanity’s “ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity” (Humanist Manifesto III). But it neglects the spiritual dimension of human experience.

Bodhidaoism takes all of these elements and tries to put them into a coherent and evidence-based philosophical system. The aim is to produce a modern-day worldview or philosophy of life. Coherence means that there are no contradictions in its system of beliefs. Saying that it is evidence-based means that beliefs are chosen, not by mere whim or personal bias, but by an honest assessment of the available evidence.

How to Become a Bodhidaoist

Since Bodhidaoism is not a religion, there are no churches or temples to join. Therefore becoming a Bodhidaoist is simply a matter of belief. In other words, if you believe the basic principles of Bodhidaoism, you can call yourself a Bodhidaoist. It is that simple.