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  • File Size: 3666 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; 2 edition (March 30, 2010)
  • Publication Date: August 20, 2013
  • Language: English

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The Way of Chuang Tzu, by Jones Merton, is the product of five years of concentration, study, prayer, and representation on the task of Zhuangzi, one of the towering figures in Chinese Taoism (Daojia) who lived sometime between the Fourth and Third Century BC.

Based to Merton, the records based on his meditative readings, " have attained a condition of their own and have become, as it were, 'imitations' of Chuang Tzu. " Merton goes on to describe these imitations as personal spiritual interpretations and should not be wrong for scholarship.
What evolves then turns into a multi-layered tapestry of the poetic, intuitive, provocative, and complex. Merton has found a kindred spirit in Chuang Tzu, and there is little doubt that Merton and Master Chuang share a viewpoint of life that may be common to many monastics across an extensive spectrum of spiritual and philosophical disciplines. This kinship needs no reason by Merton, a towering figure of Twentieth Century Catholicism in his own right; and Merton goes on to say that he " may be pardoned for consorting with a Chinese recluse who gives the climate and peace of my own kind of solitude, and who is my own kind of person. "

To try an understanding of Chuang Tzu, it is essential to understand the world through which he lived. Confucianism was your dominant Chinese viewpoint of Chuang Tzu's time; and while Chuang Tzu often ridiculed Confucianism as too restrictive, it would be too simplistic to convey that Taoism stood in direct contrast to Confucianism. Based to Merton, " if Chuang Tzu reacted against the Ju doctrine [of Confucianism], it was not with the intention of something lower-the animal spontaneity of the personal who does not want to be bothered with a lot of tiresome duties-but in the name of something altogether higher. This is the main reality to consider when we westerners confront the seeming antinomianism of Chuang Tzu or of the Zen experts. " While Confucius could advocate for Tao, Chuang Tzu believed that he was not referring to what he believed was the " great Tao" which is invisible and incomprehensible-the Eternal Tao.

With regard to Chuang Tzu, the Everlasting Tao was your source of all things. Chuang Tzu critiqued Confucius because he refused to focus his teachings on the Everlasting Tao mainly because it was unknowable. According to Chuang Tzu, only when one was attached in some way to the Eternal Tao (a connection beyond both words and silence), could one truly start to understand how to live. Merton interprets Confucian understanding of Tao to be an " ethical Tao" or a " Tao of man, " and he equates this understanding to be on par with the Christian interpretation of the Golden Rule. Merton concludes that this interpretation of Tao is not the Eternal Tao that Chuang Tzu espouses. Chuang Tzu eventually discarded this Confucian interpretation as illusory; where everything is unadulterated and categorized into a universal ethic of Tao (The Tao of Fatherhood is given as an example).

Merton brilliantly generates Chuang Tzu's critique of the Confucian ethic of the " Superior Man" with the example of the heroic and the virtuous public servant by explaining that your good and the noble person:

Engages in a self-conscious and deliberate campaign to 'do his duty' in the belief that this is right and therefore productive of happiness. He views 'happiness' and 'the good' as 'something to be attained, ' and thus he places them outside themself in the world of objects. In so doing, he becomes involved in a section from which there is no escape: between the present, in which he is not yet in possession of what he looks for, and the future through which he thinks he will have what he desires...

Chuang Tzu believed that abstractions such as " happiness, " " advantage, " and " justice" were concepts located into the world of objects to be attained, and should be considered ambiguous at best, dangerous at worst. In this article he means that whatever one considers good (the good) to be attained (as outside of one's self), the greater the good becomes abstracted and unattainable. Instead, Chuang Tzu advocated Wu Wei, or non-action.

According to Chuang Tzu, Wu Wei is not concerned with conscious planning; in fact self-conscious action of any type is restrictive and stands opposed to the Eternal Tao. When you are in harmony with the Everlasting Tao, right action, advantage, and good, which always manifest at the appropriate time without self-conscious deliberation, will intuitively become known to you, and you will act with Tao in full freedom. This concept of Wu Wei is reminiscent of the Gospel passage from St . Matthew, " Then Jesus thought to his disciples, " Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (MT 16: 24). " Dying to one's self or dying to one's self-consciousness is essential. Similarly, Saint Paul echoes this theme in Galatians 2: 20 when he says, " I have recently been crucified with Christ and I will no longer live, but Christ lives in me. " It is not difficult to imagine the phrase appearing similar to this: I no lengthier live, but Tao (the Eternal Tao) lives in me.

Here is where I believe Merton discovers a kindred spirit in Chuang Tzu. Merton acknowledges that Chuang Tzu is actually moving into an area of mysticism which goes beyond mere object good, into metaphysical truth. He does not disdain advantage, good, happiness etc... He transcends them. I like that Merton recognizes in Chuang Tzu a man who challenges Merton's own vocation to solitude and contemplation, and I enjoy Merton all the more for confronting Chuang Tzu's critiques of contemplation and the interior life by deeply connecting his monasticism with Tao. " The particular true tranquility sought by the 'man of tao' is Ying ning, tranquility in the action of non-action, in other words, a tranquility which goes beyond the division between activity and contemplation by entering into union with the nameless and invisible Tao. " I believe Merton equates this with work union.

Finally, it is critical to recognize that for Chuang Tzu, Tao is found everywhere; in the same way that Christians assume that God is both omnipresent and omniscient (Proverbs 15: 3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good). Merton attached to the abstraction personally. In living out Wu Wei, Chuang Tzu advocated a non-action that was in complete harmony with Tao-in other words-perfect action. Merton referred to this as " action not carried out independently of Heaven and world... in perfect harmony with the whole. It is not necessarily mere passivity, but it is action that seems both effortless and spontaneous because performed " rightly, " in perfect accordance with our nature and with our place in the scheme of things. This is completely free as there is in it no push and no violence. It is not " conditioned" or " limited" by our own individual needs and desires, or even by our own theories and ideas. "

Today, when I read John 17: twenty one, " that every one of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may assume that you have sent me, " it is not difficult to feel that Thomas Merton, perhaps more than any Catholic over the last century, truly identified the most popular spiritual unity (the oneness of each other's souls as grounded in the Triune-One) we all share as littermates in this world. Reading The particular Way of Chuang Tzu, truly contemplating Merton’s interpretive message which is seated in his own Christology, and then living it through Chuang Tzu's concept of non-action, becomes a great way to carry on the wonderful ecumenical work Merton employed in so selflessly when he recognized how connected with each other he was with his brother Chuang Tzu, and how God (Eternal Tao) ultimately connects all of us with each other in the oneness of mystery and truth., I have read many of Thomas Merton's works. I enjoy his introductions in the main, but this time I thought the introduction " awfully wordy; " not incorrect, or inadequately thought out; just packed with verbiage. This is my only complaint.

The method with Taoism, by a Cistercian Monk seemingly moving away from dogma -- but not really from dogma -- a kind of Chuang Tzu method is welcomed in a world where Catholicism is being challenged more and more. I am a lapsed Catholic that " religiously" prays the Liturgy of the Hours.

This book gives a novel way of approaching whatever we consider reality. It does not suggest a way to God, it implies an approach in living and thinking., Love this book and especially this format. Would like to see more, that one is currently out of print and hard to find. Regardless, Merton retells these stories more credibly than other translations We have read., Merton's translation is infinitely readable. My favorite of the many out there. His intro is amazing as well—except for that one part about comparing Changzi to the Apostle Paul (go figure! )., A book that should be in the curriculum of each and every well rounded individual., I throughly enjoyed this interpretation of the writings of Chuang Tzu. Thomas Merton's interpretation of this spiritual traditional is complete with the humor and shock methods in Chuang Tzu theories. Most of the material show the ironies of conceptual thought as a placement for levels of consciousness. Dualistic thinking is also made fun of and even attacked when seen in places of power, such as the politics realm. It is amazing how true that still is today.

This material is timeless, it shows much of the faults of the human condition, the limited perspectives of those dominated by the pride. However examples are also given on good command; promoting community by allowing every person contribute in tranquility with the Tao. The particular words are also very poetic and stimulate far reaching thoughts of who we are, what we are, and Where we are going.
The simple answer being all things, nothing, just about everywhere, nowhere, no beginning and no end. If such thoughts aren't interesting to you then you most likely is just not appreciate this book., I am a recently retired teacher who for thirty-five years have begun every course (Theology, Sexuality, Physics, Hormone balance, Math and in summers Arts and Crafts to kids 4-12 years old) with a sounding of small brass cymbals (Tibetan), a minute of silent inhaling then a short reading from the Tao Ght Ching, Emily Dickinson, a portion of the Rollo on the Mount, or the Way of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton.
I meet former students now pushing into their fifties who baldly admit that those occasions have remained with them all these a number of they have incorporated meditation as one of the main activities in their lives.
Thomas Merton's Introductory Notes say it far better than I ever could and may be read.
I can only totally recommend that you buy this book and keep it at your desk or bedside for a quick better aligning of your brain concerning what is really important in life., wonderful quotes from old school Chinese soul challenging

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Way Chuang Tzu Second
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