Saturday, 11 December 2010

Tao Te Ching

Meh!  I have known a couple of people who really rave about this book, and I thought I would give it a read, but after reading it, not exactly been blown away. I also can’t help but think that it is in some ways, very pop philosophy. Next time I meet one of said people, I am going to ask them to actually explain what they think it means - in a nice way of course

So what got my back up about the book ? I think firstly, I never felt engaged by the writings. Something like Marcus Aurellius’ meditations, I can get very lost in and even though I found it confusing and annoying, the Tibetan Book of the Dead still had a great deal of engagement to be found. With the Tao Te Ching, It just seems to be a collection of some very odd sayings all thrown together - I cant think of any that I read, that made me want to stop and think.  To give you an example

“My Words are easy to understand and easier to put into practice. Yet no one in the world seems to understand them nor are they able to apply what I teach “

Can’t be very good choice of words then. I think the other thing that bugged me is the style that it is written, its all a bit flowery and a bit la-de-da, which might be the fault of the translation but I think also to do with the style of philosophy. On the note of translations, this was the by the same company that I bought the Tibetan Book of the Dead from and as before l not going to moan about a book that cost 99p nor recommend it either.

Going back to the book, another gripe is, it also seems to lack any backbone which is stressed by the opening line

“The Tao that be be described is not the eternal Tao”

So great, all I am about to read is not the real deal and then finally to add insult to injury the text then calls me foolish

“When a superior person hears of the Tao, she dilligently puts it into practice. When an average person hears of the Tao, he believes half of it, and doubts the other half. When a foolish person  hears of a the Tao, he laughs out loud at the very idea . If he didn’t laugh, it wouldn't be the Tao”

And in case you are reading this wondering what Tao is, then to slightly paraphrase chapter 4 and 5 of the Tao Te Ching

“The Tao is like an empty container
it can never be emptied and it can never be filled ….
It is hidden but always present …

… The more it produces; the more you talk of it , the less you comprehend It is better not to speak of things you do not understand “ - the missing bits in the above are about straw dogs, which I didn’t include as it might have made you laugh, and then you would have been foolish.

So to the sum up the Tao Te Ching, a book which is not meant to be understood and if you do understand it, the more you understand it, the less you understand.

Kind of makes me wonder if Yoko Ono would of been a far better artist is she had done nothing at all.

1 comment:

  1. I found The Complete Idiot's Guide to Taoism by Brandon Toropov & Chad Hansen to be an entertaining and useful guide for the Tao Te Ching. I haven't read either one recently enough though to try to answer your questions.



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