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The Second Book of the Tao Paperback – Jan 5 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (Jan. 5 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143116703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143116707
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.5 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #243,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


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.

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Format: Paperback
Translator Stephen Mitchell has drawn upon the teachings of the legendary Lao-tzu's disciple Chuang-tzu and Confucius' grandson Tzu-ssu to create a companion volume to the Tao Te Ching (the 'first' book of the Tao). Each of the sixty-four short chapters, which are presented in verse form, are accompanied by Mitchell's commentary on the facing page. Most of the teaching are so lucid that the reader may find the commentary being left unread, although Mitchell's insights are usually worth reading. This is a really nice volume which provides the reader with a beautiful and accessible introduction to the Taoist view of life; in some ways it may be a better entry point for the uninitiated than the Tao Te Ching.


Unchain yourself from achievement
and enjoy an ordinary life.
Flow like the Tao unhindered,
unnoticed, unnamed,
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9d1da870) out of 5 stars 67 reviews
35 of 45 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b5a0c60) out of 5 stars How now brown Tao? April 5 2009
By Neal J. Pollock - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Based on Chuang Tzu's (CT's) "Inner Chapters" & Confucius' grandson's "Chung Yung" (CY), this work consists of
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
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b5a230c) out of 5 stars If everything is a paradox, can anything be a paradox? April 11 2009
By W.T.Hoffman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
First off, a few matters need to be clarified, that are obscured from the product discription. Stephen Mitchell does NOT give us a TRANSLATION from the Chinese of quotes from these two classics of Toaism, but rather gives us ADAPTATIONS. Mitchell relied upon various English translations of these books, mostly Burton Watson's translation of the Chuang-Tzu selections, and various others for the Chung Yung. After picking thru the two classics, he edited, changed allusions, added sentences here and there, and transformed the original poems into prose. In fact, because he doesnt say next to his 64 selections, and rarely in his notes, which "poem" or poet he is working from, there's mostly no way of knowing WHICH ORIGINAL PIECE youre reading. Next to his selections, he devotes a page of personal insight and commentary. In one, he comments more on his own intellectual trip, by naming eight western geniuses, to make his point. Citing the ancient geniuses of one's culture, to prove one's assertation, is EXACTLY what Chang Tzu pokes fun at, in his "Free and Easy Wandering" Poem. Even if you have the most vague about the Toa, any two paragraph introduction tells you Toaism is centered around the paradoxes of the world, and that the true Toa is ineffable. Most toaist poems like to equivocate with language and terms, (written chinese characters by nature, often have many layers of meaning). So semantic twists, or parables, are used by the Toaist master, to shock our rational mind to see the world fresh and new. If we can see the world as a baby, whose thoughts are flexible, pliable and lack preconception, we see the toa like the wise old master. But Mitchell's commentary can at times delve into solipism, or merely expanding what the source text says. It's not that Mitchell doesnt get the point of what he pulls out of the original texts. He usually has comments cogent to the poem at hand. Other times, he seems to be commenting on himself, and nothing more. These poems by great Toaist masters, either reveal our own inner spiritual connection to the Toa, or they dont reach us, and we must pass them by. We have to rely on our OWN spirit, to gather wisdom from them. Sometimes intellectual people believe that WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE are the same. If that happens, often preconscously, they dont turn themselves into the MASTER, but rather turn the MASTER into themselves. Their mirror only turns inward, instead of being clear glass looking out at the naked truth of Existence. Discovering truth isnt suppose to be hard, but work's involved. You often have to push some heavy furnature when you rearrange your living room, to let in more light from blocked windows. Just rearranging the furniture, or getting rid of most of your furniture, and hanging artificial light bulbs up, and calling it the same, doesnt cut the mustard. I found in his commentaries, he just moved ideas around, hung up some artifical light bulbs, and called it further illumination. Perhaps a lack of depth, and pellucid insights came from the extensive editing of the source material. The original masters said it better, than Mitchell's commentaries could, so why was so little of the source material given? From his editorial decisions, I had problems with the book.

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 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.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b5a2540) out of 5 stars Taking classic works and heavily "adapting" them for a modern Western palate; edible... in a cream cheese wontons sort of way... April 22 2009
By ƒůℤźϔ ωൠ≥ζŷ ♥☮♭♩♪♫♬♮☯☺♡✈ - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
இ Fuzzy Wuzzy's Summary:
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.
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b5a28b8) out of 5 stars Excellent Book for Inspiration and Support April 18 2009
By An Avid Book Lover - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is an incredible book. Stephen's book is really in sync with his wife, Byron Katie's, work. There are some very timeless qualities that he references with his poetry - such as impermanence, or that life is precious and doesn't go on forever. In his commentary, he links up these philosophical concepts with the modern world in very specific ways which I could relate to easily.
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.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b5a2ac8) out of 5 stars Not quite the originals, but ... Feb. 28 2009
By J. Johanning - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Fortunately, there are plenty of available translations of Chuang-tzu and the Chung Yung for those who prefer the originals (or rather, translations of the originals), but there is something to be said for writing new texts inspired by the old ones, as Mitchell essentially does. Translating faithfully from the originals results in texts that may contain many details that were important to the ancient Chinese, but simply puzzle 21st-century readers.

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.