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The Way of Chuang Tzu (Shambhala Library) Hardcover – March 9, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A most admirable introduction to this less known but important source book of Taoism. (Alan Watts, The New York Times Book Review)

Thomas Merton is the saintly man who caused the Dalai Lama to come to admire Christianity as the equal of his beloved Buddhism. (Robert Thurman)

Merton is an artist, a Zen. (Thich Nhat Hanh)” --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Thomas Merton (1915–1968) was a Trappist monk, spiritual director, political activist, social critic, and one of the most-read spiritual writers of the twentieth century. He is the author of many books, including The Seven Storey Mountain.

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Product Details

  • Series: Shambhala Library
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1 edition (March 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590301439
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590301432
  • Product Dimensions: 4.6 x 0.8 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,028,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dale A. Favier on December 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
I used this as a text in a highschool class on meditation. I chose it after looking at all the translations I could get my hands on (my Chinese, alas! is not yet up to reading the original.) Other translations were sometimes more literal and accurate, and some did a better job of conveying Chuang's brilliant word-play, but the overall impression they left of Chuang was either of a pedant (the older translations) or a sneering, bitter stand-up comic (the newer ones). This is much more deeply untrue to Chuang-Tzu than any passing inaccuracy or missed word-play could ever be.
There is only one way in which Merton is more qualified than Chuang's other interpreters: he, like Chuang, was a serious, long-time contemplative, a person who spent hours a day at meditation and prayer. But this qualification seems to me to have trumped all others. Merton and Chuang were brothers: no matter that they were two millenia and half a world apart. Somewhere right now they are walking together at a river's edge, watching the fish leap.
"I know the joy of fishes
In the river
Through my own joy, as I go walking
Along the same river"
My students, by the way -- rather to my surprise -- loved this book as much as I did.
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Format: Paperback
Anyone who may be coming to Chuang Tzu for the first time is in for a treat. Although Chuang Tzu is sometimes described as the most brilliant of all Chinese philosophers, what we find in him isn't what we normally understand by 'Philosophy' and isn't technical at all.
His appeal is not so much to the intellect as to the imagination, and he chose as a vehicle for his philosophical insights, not tedious and lengthy abstract treatises, but brief and witty anecdotes and dialogues and tales. His humor, sophistication, literary genius, and philosophical insights found their perfect expression in his brilliant fragments, and once having read them you never forget them.
Not much is known about Chuang Tzu, other than that he seems to have lived around the time of King Hui of Liang (370-319 B.C.). The received text of his book, which is sometimes referred to as 'the Chuang Tzu' (CT), is made up of thirty-three Chapters. Most scholars seem to feel that the CT is a composite text, and that only the first seven - the Inner Chapters - plus a few bits from the others are Chuang Tzu's own work, the remainder being by his followers.
Among the better known of his translators, all of them excellent, are Arthur Waley, Lin Yutang, and Burton Watson, though only the latter translated the complete text. An abridged version of Watson's complete translation was later made available for those who only want to read the Inner Chapters. All three of these scholars were Sinologists and had direct access to Chuang Tzu's stylistically brilliant though somewhat difficult Chinese.
In contrast to the linguistic expertise of Waley, Lin Yutang, and Watson, Thomas Merton frankly admits to having no Chinese at all.
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Format: Paperback
This little book is the perfect companion to Lao-Tzu's _Tao Te Ching_. Thomas Merton assembled it with admirable spiritual insight and sensitivity. Here is the path of the ancient sages. It is not a "how to" manual, for, "He who knows does not speak, and he who speaks does not know." And yet, this book somehow indirectly gives you a sense of what it is to be centered in the Tao. You get a fleeting sense of what it is like to live a life of such centerness and simplicity that it is difficult to tell where your own consciousness ends and the currents of the cosmos begin. This is the state of Wu Wei, effortless action in complete resonance with the Tao.

I suppose that what I found so refreshing during this rereading was the confirmation that men of wealth, station, and learning are not to be admired. They are the least enlightened of men. Indeed, the true man of Tao will live humble in simplicity and obscurity- and yet such beings are the true wellsprings of cosmic harmony between heaven and earth....
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Format: Paperback
If you like the Tao Te Ching, you will love this book.

The work of Chuang Tzu continues in the tradition of the Tao, and also dates back over 2,300 years. So this work has survived the test of time.

This book is a wisdom classic. Some aspects I love even more than the Tao Te Ching.

There are great stories about and by Chuang Tzu, and even Lao Tzu. You sense the feisty nature of Chuang Tzu. I particularly love the story The Joy of Fishes, which I gave to a few people in the office. They in turn copied it and distributed it to friends. Judge for yourself.

Chuang Tzu and Huih Tzu were crossing Hao river by the dam.

Chuang said "See how the free the fishes leap and dart, that is their happiness."

Hui replied "Since you are not a fish, how do you know what makes fishes happy?"

Chuang said "Since you are not I, how can you possibly know that I do not know what makes fishes happy?"

Hui argued " If I, not being you, cannot know what you know, It follows that you not being a fish cannot know what they know."

Chuang said "Wait a minute! Let us get back to the original question. What you asked me was 'How do you know what makes fishes happy? From the term of your question you evidently know that I know what makes fishes happy."

"I know the joy of fishes in the river
Through my own joy as I walk along the bank."

The Owl and The Phoenix is a short but extremely effective story. There is a story about a special monkey. Some of these stories have twists you would not predict.

The best story, I think is the Inner Laws, which seems to concentrate a few concepts from the Tao into a single powerful statement.
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