Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Taoist Meander

For many years now, I've been inspired by Taoist teachings. Initially, it was the Tao Te Ching by Lao-tzu, which is a wonderful collection of about eighty short poems. It profoundly reflects on life, death, action, non-action, and wise governance. However, it is extremely subtle, paradoxical, and rarefied in its insight. Years later I discovered Chuang-Tzu. Chuang-tzu's writing is strange, poetic, and iconoclastic. He is famous for posing the question about whether he is a man dreaming that he is a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming that he is a man. His stories are dense with meaning; however, I would not recommend them to everyone.

Lastly, I happened upon the third great classical sage, Lieh-tzu. Ironically, he is almost unknown, although he is probably the most accessible of all. Eva Wong has compiled and translated a wonderful selection of his work in Lieh-tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Livingwhich will hopefully begin a rediscovery of his teachings. He lived and wrote around the fourth century BCE, and often comments on other great teachers such as Confucius and Lao-tzu. Through a mixture of simple storytelling and philosophical reverie he clearly explains the sometimes obscure meanings of his better-known peers. I would recommend Lieh-tzu to Taoists, the philosophically inclined, and t'ai chi practitioners.

- Ken

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