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Tao: The Watercourse Way (Pelican books) Paperback – 25 Jan 1979

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (25 Jan. 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140221549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140221541
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 85,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

In this final book, completed after Alan Watt's death by his friend and collaborator Al Ching-liang Huang, the author has lifted the academic veil which so often obscures the Tao. He felt that Taoism is of immense importance to modern man, whose efforts to rule nature by technical force often have disastrous consequences.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Sept. 2003
Format: Paperback
There are many books on Taoism written by amateurs who often missrepresent it. If you have read anything else by Alan Watts (including his excellent 'Way of Zen') you'll he isn't one of them. He writes beautifully, providing authoritative and well researched information in a lively and interesting manner. A joy to read and not full of new-age garbage. Alan Watts should be remembered as one of the best writers (in English) on Taosim and Zen of all time. Whoever you are, buy it.
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By J on 11 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A really interesting book for those looking for contents related to Taoism.
A perfect complement to the basics, Lao Zi and Chuang Tzu.
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By sp on 27 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Amazing book from fantastic Alan Watts! He explains Tao through various Taoists.
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By Akintoye on 27 Nov. 2014
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 0 reviews
By Steven H Propp - Published on
Format: Paperback
Alan Wilson Watts (1915-1973) was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as a populariser of Eastern philosophy. He and his then-wife left England for America in 1938 on the eve of WWII, and he became an Episcopal priest---but he left the priesthood in 1950 and moved to California, where he became a cult figure in the Beat movement of the 1950s and later. He wrote many popular books, such as The Spirit of Zen, The Way of Zen, Nature, Man and Woman, This Is It, Psychotherapy East & West, Beyond Theology, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Does It Matter?, Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown, and his autobiography, In My Own Way.

He wrote in the Preface to this posthumously-published book, "Certain Chinese philosophers ... explained ideas and a way of life that have come to be known as Taoism---the way of man's cooperation with the course or trend of the natural world... my real interest is in what these far-off echoes of philosophy mean to me and to our own historical situation... Having done as well as we can to record the past we must go on to make use of it in our present context, and this is my main interest in writing this book. I want to interpret and clarify the principles of such writings... in the terms and ideas of our own day... I am obviously more interested in the Spirit---the actual experiencing and feeling of that attitude to life which is the following of the Tao."

He notes that "The yin-yang view of the world is serenely cyclic. Fortune and misfortune, life and death, whether on small scale or vast, come and go everlastingly without beginning or end, and the whole system is protected from monotony by the fact that, in just the same way, remembering alternates with forgetting." (Pg. 31) He cites the Buddhist Fa-Tsang school, which "expounded the mutual interpenetration and interdependence of everything happening in the universe. Pick up a blade of grass and all the worlds come with it. In other words, the whole cosmos is implicit in every member of it, and every point in it may be regarded as its center. This is the bare and basic principle of the organic view." (Pg. 35)

Later, he states, "Because of the mutual interdependence of all beings, they will harmonize if left alone and not forced into conformity with some arbitrary, artificial, and abstract notion of order, and this harmony will emerge tzu-jan, of itself, without external compulsion. NO organization... is organic. Organizations... are based on the following of linear rules and laws imposed from above... which can never grasp the complexity of nature, although nature is only 'complex' in relation to the impossible task of translating it into these linear signs." (Pg. 44)

He observes, "Li may therefore be understood as organic order, as distinct from mechanical or legal order, both of which go by the book. Li is the asymmetrical, nonrepetitive, and unregimented order which we find in the patterns of moving water, the forms of trees and clouds, of frost crystals on the window, or the scattering of pebbles on beach sand." (Pg. 46)

The introductory and closing material by Al Chung-liang Huang is both illuminating, and---to many of us at the time it was published---somewhat shocking, as we read statements such as: "I suddenly remembered one morning at a Chicago seminar. Alan was unusually tired and feeling slightly inebriated when one super-intellectual-bigger-than-life question was put to him... a couple of us... knew for certain that Alan had simply decided to take a short catnap, while everyone else expected... that he was deep in meditation... When he finally came to and realized he had totally forgotten the question, he managed with great finesse and eloquence to come up with an even-more-super-intellectual... answer to dazzle us all." (Pg. xiii) "Alan was able to... create for himself and others a curious kind of balance which somehow sustained him. In later life, he depended more on his external need to perform and to receive support from his audience. Constantly pulled by outside demands, he was too successful to stop---and too brilliant to submit to his own nature... He revealed the crux of this tragedy ... by admitting, 'But I don't like myself when I am sober,' as he surrendered to another shot of vodka at a time when he knew he need not and should not rely on it any more." (Pg. 125) "The few times I remember his being affectionate and embraceable were usually after we had been dancing. And in order to dance as easily and joyously as we did, a few loosening-up drinks were often necessary." (Pg. 126)

This book will be of great interest to all lovers of Watts’ books.
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