The Way of Chuang Tzu (Second Edition)

Narrated by: Greg Chun
Length: 2 hrs and 51 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (108 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Classic writings from the great Zen master in exquisite versions by Thomas Merton, with a preface by his holiness the Dalai Lama, now in audio for the first time.

Working from existing translations, Thomas Merton composed a series of his own versions of the classic sayings of Chuang Tzu, the most spiritual of Chinese philosophers. Chuang Tzu, who wrote in the fourth and third centuries BC, is the chief authentic historical spokesperson for Taoism and its founder, Lao Tzu (a legendary character known largely through Chuang Tzu’s writings). Indeed, it was because of Chuang Tzu and the other Taoist sages that Indian Buddhism was transformed, in China, into the unique vehicle we now call by its Japanese name: Zen.

The Chinese sage abounds in wit and paradox and shattering insights into the true ground of being. Thomas Merton, no stranger to Asian thought, brings a vivid, modern idiom to the timeless wisdom of Tao.

©1965 The Abbey of Gethsemani (P)2018 New Directions
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Way of Merton -- Chuang Tzu, not so much

I am a casual scholar of Taoism and a drooling fan of Chuang Tzu. I also like Merton at his best. This isn't that. Merton seems so anxious to explain away Chuang Tzu's points and make him acceptable (my word) to a mid-20th century Catholic (if monastic) sensibility, he winds up making a hash of it all. Merton winds up, to my ears, making Chuang Tzu resemble nothing so much as a bureaucratized (if witty) Confucian underneath, the ultimate absurdity. Really a nice and caring guy underneath, really all about a very warmed-over sociable "love." All sugar and iced tea and not to cause too many ripples around the comfy listener's porch, or among acceptable company. Merton never really stretched beyond his origins and center all that much: sort of a spiritual locker-room football coach in the 20th century men's club, a back-slapping caring buddy who really couldn't comprehend something (or portend anything) truly outside of that. He has glimpses, but not a full sense. It is a palliative, something to make the listener feel nice and good inside. Well, the world is already overflowing with those; a (sometimes) truly different angle like Chuang Tzu's is the rarity. It takes guts in the listening and in the telling, to face parts of it. And even Merton's (I think, submerged) attempted goal to smooth over Chuang Tzu seems garbled. I guess Merton could be allowed a miss once in awhile.

I recommend (here at audible) Chuang Tsu Inner Chapters, A Companion Volume to Tao Te Ching by: Gia Fu Feng, Jane English. Bits may seem pretty odd at first, but a little patience unfolds the writings, straight-up. They speak most eloquently for themselves. And yes, there is a humane inner glow, but not what I hear from Merton, this time around.

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Wow

Always a pleasure to hear about the similarities as opposed to the differences.
Book leaves you in deep reflective thought.

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My mind is blown

This shall be a book I will read a thousand times and will still learn something new. Profound teaching appropriate at all time.

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  • Dave Kinsella
  • 12-27-19

Not Bad Overall.

The narrator speaks a little too fast (which can be slowed down) and the main body of the book is not separated into chapters, which is a real shame. The selections themselves are fine and intro is okay (if you're a Christian I suppose you'd get more out of it). Merton was clearly dissatisfied with Christianity but for his own reasons stuck with it to the end.