Taoism is one of the world's oldest belief systems, originating in China in the fourth century before Christ. One of its most influential founders was Chuang Tzu; Mark Forstater's The Spiritual Teachings of the Tao
is a new selection of his writings. The first third of the book is Forstater's own introduction to the Tao--"the Way"--and its relevance today. He faces head-on the first problem in writing about the Tao, lines by Chuang Tzu saying "The Tao that can be talked about is not the real Tao... He who knows does not speak, he who speaks does not know." But words in books, as Chuang Tzu says, are for conveying ideas, just as fishing baskets are for catching fish, and once you have grasped the ideas you can forget the words. The Tao cannot be described, but Forstater's book is a useful aid toward understanding it.
The Tao is about living in the world as it is; Chuang Tzu would have understood the phrase "go with the flow". It's about being in tune with the way of nature, so fits in well with today's Gaian philosophy. Taoism, Forstater explains, is "a true marriage of mind, body and spirit"; it underlies acupuncture, massage, herbal medicine, Tai Chi and much more. "A life in touch and flowing with the original essence of existence can restore us to the wholeness that we seek."
The second part of the book is a selection from Chuang Tzu's writings--poems, teachings and many delightful stories. There is a warmth and gentle humour underlying them, which makes them as readable today as when Chuang Tzu first wrote them 2300 years ago. "All Chuang Tzu wants is for us to live a full and enjoyable life," says Forstater. "It seems so easy and simple. Yet how many of us can manage it?" For those who follow the Tao, this book may help.--David V Barrett
About the Author
Mark Forstater is a producer of films and television documentaries. His most famous production is Monty Python and The Holy Grail. An American, he lives and works in London. He is married with three daughters.
Chuang Tzu (369-286BCE) was one of the founders of Philosophical Taoism. We know little of his life, except that he was married with children, held a minor government job, and refused wealth, power and title.