Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tao Books - Do Nothing: Inner Peace for Everyday Living

Of the two chief volumes of classic texts for philosophical Taoism, the more difficult of the two to understand is the Book of Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu). While the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing) is 81 short verses of poetry, Zhuangzi is a much longer book of 33 chapters and nearly 300 pages. While Lao Tzu (Laozi) makes reference to a few historical and mythic figures, this is Zhuangzi's primary vehicle.

So, as I continue my study of Zhuangzi, I've been on the lookout for authors who both understand the Chinese language as well as possess a far greater understanding of Chinese history than I do. Utilizing both my local library (very limited when it comes to Taoism) and two online booksellers -- and -- I have slowly begun collecting books on the topic.

One of the first books in this genre, Do Nothing: Peace for Everyday Living: Reflections on Chuang Tzu's Philosophy by Siroj Sorajjakool is a real gem! I've already featured snippets from the book in the following posts:
Don't be shocked at all if you find me referencing this book again in the future! In fact, you should expect it.

What Sorajjakool has done in this short volume -- a little more than 100 pages in the main section of the book -- is to take some of the revolutionary aspects of Zhuangzi's thought and to concentrate his focus on these themes alone. He does so through an engaging and easy-to-read writing style filled with personal experiences and insights as well as pulling together numerous other source material.

It's a book of deep thought presented, at times, in a very playful way. While it would have been easy for me to polish it off in a day or two, I chose instead to read it slowly over the course of one month. It wasn't uncommon for me to read three or four pages, then set the book aside for a day or two as I allowed his insights to permeate and settle in my being. When the spirit moved me, I would jump back in to read the next few pages.

I would recommend this book to both novices and those more familiar with Zhuangzi's thought. I certainly wouldn't characterize it as light reading because Siroj challenges us to view life through a new lens -- a lens that can help us to see the inner peace that already resides within each of us!

[Note: To see what the author is thinking and writing about now, check out his blog, The Sacred and the Space In Between.]


  1. I got a copy to review, but still haven't gotten to it. I've never been that into Chuang Tzu, so am not finding it as compelling as you have. Nice review, thanks!

  2. My Chinese teacher of Tao is doing his own commentary on Chuang Tzu right now; from what I hear, the manuscript is already 600 pages!

  3. Re: TTC, there is a volume by Jonathan Star called "The Definitive Edition" which, in addition to a English translation and commentary, has a tabular character-by-character verbatim translation (with all the possible meanings of each character) which is quite interesting.


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