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The Second Book of the Tao Paperback – Jan 5 2010
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About the Author
Stephen Mitchell was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1943, educated at Amherst, the Sorbonne, and Yale, and de-educated through intensive Zen practice. His many books include the bestselling Tao Te Ching, The Gospel According to Jesus, Bhagavad Gita, The Book of Job, Meetings with the Archangel, and Gilgamesh. Mitchell is married to Byron Katie and cowrote two of her bestselling books: Loving What Is and A Thousand Names for Joy.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Unchain yourself from achievement
and enjoy an ordinary life.
Flow like the Tao unhindered,
with no goals, no expectations.
Be like a child, like a fool.
Know that there is nothing to know.
This is the direct way to freedom.
Though the Master does nothing,
her not-doing is the opposite of inaction.
Because she acts without effort,
Each task does itself in its own time.
Her body may move or not move,
but her mind is always at ease.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
a short introduction,
pp. 1-130 with even pages of highly "adapted" text & facing page commentary,
pp. 131-82--endnotes on both text & commentary,
pp. 183-200: endnotes on the adaptation (left out/added words).
It's an awkward structure IMHO--one must continually flip back & forth between these 3 parts. I particularly liked his introduction's summary of CT--p. xiii: "simply someone who doesn't linger in any mental construct about reality, someone who lives as effortless action & peace of heart, because he has freed himself from his own beliefs." The text/commentary section's pages are hardly full--padding the number of pages. Further, CT & CY are intermixed, unmarked as to source, out of order, & lack a discernible (to me) logical order.
Though I'd already read Lao Tze (e.g. Tao Te Ching), Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters, & Blofeld's Taoism: The Road to Immortality, I had few problems with the loose adaptation of the text except when a bit heavy-handed--e.g. important lines left out. I admired SM's 3rd section which explains the omissions/additions. While SM makes some valuable observations in his commentary (e.g. p. 61: "The Master lives a life of appropriate action because he doesn't believe his own thoughts, there is no barrier between his mind & reality" & p. 81: "Some people have an Atlas complex: they carry the world on their shoulders"), as another reviewer said, he has lowered these exalted teachings to his own level. Much of the somewhat inane commentary/notes demonstrates IMHO a rather superficial understanding & his attempts at humor are often silly. Perhaps he's learning by doing/writing? Still, it's worth reading.
Antithetically, SM has chosen some excellent quotes for his endnotes, notably:
p. 144: Shakespeare, Hamlet II ii--"There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so,"
p. 149: Epictetus "We are disturbed not by what happens to us but by our thoughts about what happens,"
p. 177: William Blake--"He has observed the golden rule Till he's become the golden fool" & delightful:
p. 171: Shunryu Suzuki Roshi --"Everything's perfect, but there's a lot of room for improvement."
Of course, Chuang Tzu's text is awesome (better than CY). My favorite lines (in SM's rendering) are:
p. 96: Let go of all your assumptions & the world will make perfect sense.
p. 82: "Only when you are truly unattached to words or to silence can you express the truth.
p. 192: When I talk about having no feelings, I mean that a man doesn't allow likes or dislikes to get in & do him harm. He just lets things be the way they are & doesn't try to help life along" & his paradoxical/fun:
p. 166: "Where can I find someone who has penetrated beyond words? That's whom I'd like to have a word with." But, Mitchell hasn't done so--there's a great difference between childish & childlike.
For possible further reading: Taoist Healing Imagery & The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and Self
If you already read THE BOOK OF CHANGES, then why not just buy Chang-Tzu's book, and read the original texts? Its not hard, its not incomprehensible. You can skip parts, make your OWN edits. Have a notebook handly and make your OWN comments. You dont need a Ivy League education to GET the Toa. If anything, an overdeveloped intellect would hamper the apprehension of a philosophy that at its heart, depends on a gentle, natural realization of the way nature flows. AND, if Chang Tzu is incomprehensible, perhaps youre not ready to read it...at least, not YET. These paradoxes, parables and idiomatic expressions, are easy to hold, but impossible to grasp. (If your worldview has no room for the mysterious and unknown, then the GREAT TOA will never be sensed.) The two source writings by the actual TRANSLATORS, are recommended over THE SECOND BOOK OF THE TOA. Had Mitchell anthologized ENTIRE poems in this book, with a good introduction commenting on the WHOLE work, I would have recommended the book far more. Why Mitchell didnt consistantly say which poet wrote which poem, i find annoying to no end. If you are not part of the HIPPY generation, Mitchell's commentaries, like when he quotes THREE DOG NIGHTS' "Joy to the World", or when he writes that he chose to limit his book to 64 selections, because that is the only TWO DIGIT number found in a Beatles song, really dates his work. Hey, nothing wrong with his humor, and if youre American, 60 or older, you'll gig his groovy vibe, man. Maybe what I found unsettling, is that these masters are CERTAINLY greater thinkers than Mitchell is. If the commentary was limited to explaining arcane references in the original text, it would suffice. ( Like Confusius' commentary on the I CHING, using wisdom to illuminate the text only.) There is just far too much of Mitchell's commentaries. They dont give the insight, the original text would.
I cant give this book a one or two star rating, because of course, it contains some of the greatest spiritual philosophy of mankind. However, even tho I am sure that Mitchell is a well meaning person, and no fool, I have to dock points, for the way the original manuscripts were handled, and severely edited, without consistant reference as to who's work you are reading. (He doesnt even footnote his changes to a passage.) From any scholarly perspective, its unacceptable. It approaches the point where saying that the selections were written by Chang tzu, or came from the Chung Yung, becomes plagerism. Unless you want to learn about Mitchell's thoughts on Toaism, I highly recommend the "Writings of Chuang Tzu", available here. To prove this, read a selection from this book, and then read a selection from Chuang-Tzu's original. You'll understand my point immediately. However, if you just want to dip your toe in the toaist water, or you enjoy this writer from past experience, then I'm sure you will enjoy this book as well. I'm not saying Mitchell's insights on Toaism are not worth reading. I do maintain that sources by the Toaist masters, are easy to read, and of more literary, spiritual, and artistic value than Steven Mitchell's overly edited, overly commented version. The problem with all Mitchell's commentary, is that Toaist truth IS paradoxical, like a Zen Koan. AND, koans dont work by explaining them, you have to contemplate their meaning, until you have a revelation of the GREAT TOA, that is beyond verbal explanation.
ѾѾѾ Somewhat recommended, with reservations and only lukewarm fuzzies.
First, a comment of what I mean by my title's reference to "cream cheese wontons". In the past, when people visiting from out-of-town ask me for advice on good Chinese restaurants in the area, my reply is always, "Do you want to eat at authentic Chinese restaurants or Americanized Chinese restaurants?" Sometimes, their reply will be, "What is the difference?" And I always tell them that many Americanized Chinese restaurants have cream cheese wontons, crab rangoon, and chop suey on the menu, along with wayyyyyy too much sugar added to their sauces, while most authentic Chinese restaurants do not have these on the menu. And while there is nothing wrong with enjoying the taste of these along with always ordering sesame chicken, I tell them that they should be aware that is not really true Chinese cooking.
And thus it is this similar non-authentic feeling that I am left with after reading Stephen Mitchell's adaptation of the Chuang Tzu and the Chung Yung. If you enter either of these terms in the Amazon Web site's 'Search' field, you will get far more true-to-form translations of these classics instead of one person's adapted and subjectively modified versions. Stephen's commentaries pull in a who's who of Western references (Einstein, Shakespeare, Yeats, and William Blake get mentioned along with various others), and the commentaries are almost poetic at times because of that. This is a good read, but please do yourself a favor and first read a more authentic translation of these classics. Otherwise, it would be like going to hear your local symphony play "The Music of Led Zeppelin" or "The Music of The Eagles" without having ever heard their original recordings.
I found his book relaxing to read especially after a hectic day when I am too tired to concentrate on anything. I could savor each word and read slowly because he writes in such a succinct clear way.
If you like metaphysical books and you have challenges in your daily life that you want to look at from a more spiritual perspective, this book is an excellent choice for inspiration and support.
Also, Mitchell has some interesting things to say in his commentaries, many in a sort of Zen style. So as long as one recognizes that this is definitely a 21st-century product, I would recommend spending some time with it.