March 3, 2005 at 7:40 pm #2996
Hi everyone. I am sure you are probably thinking by now that we have covered this ground before but here is the background for the question.
I have a friend. I have discussed on very light terms the concept of Taoism and Taoist practices and sciences of various kinds.
He recently said to me on a business trip “Hey, can you get me a book on Taoism. Just one book that would explain what it is, so that when I’m done reading all 567 pages of it I will have a good general understanding of what it is.”
Of course I smiled to myself and thought “Oh sure like it’s that easy to define something as broad as Taoism even in one big Tome.”
Also of course, you would think I would be emminently qualified to answer such a question after so many years of involvement in such things.
But perhaps I’m too immersed in it to see what would be the best approach here.
So I throw it out to you all.
Many thanks to you all in advance.
CraigMarch 3, 2005 at 8:35 pm #2997
I’d recommened two books, one logical and the other poetic.
1) Miller, James. 2003. Daoism: a short introduction. 192 pages. He is a professor of religion and a former student of Livia Kohn’s. Excellent overview written very simply and sympathetically.
2) Tao te Ching. If your friend is into poetry, I’d recommend the 1993 translation by Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo. If your friend is more literal, I’d recommend Ursula LeGuin’s “translation”. Even the common one by Stephen Mitchell would be good (I don’t like it, but I know that Winn does).
Total cost would be under $30, under $20 if you go for used books.
I hope it helps your friend.
ChrisMarch 3, 2005 at 11:02 pm #2999
in addition to these i would also reccomend other books that are written more for western mindsets.
stephen t chang’s book “the great tao” covers the whole lot, the ‘8 pillars of taoism’. this is an abbreviated version of all his other books chucked into one, along with a few extras.
also daniel reid has a book “taoism for health, sex and longevity”. whilst this book doesn’t cover things such as geomancy, i ching, numerology, astrology, etc, it does cover aspects that are very practical and good to get in order before any of the others could be of interest (i mean health, sex and longevity are of great importance to all of us). the book gets a little specific sometimes, reccomending you do this cleanse or that and such and such, but its easy to ignore that. it also provides a history of taoism, and some basic breathing and stretching exercises that can get you started in the right direction.March 3, 2005 at 11:46 pm #3001
In descending order of complexity:
Vitality, Energy, Spirit
The Scholar Warrior
The Tao of Pooh
Any one of them, really good intros.March 5, 2005 at 5:37 am #3003
I think it also depends on whether your friend is looking for information/short lhistory on historical taoism or wants to experience its writings directly in a sampler form.
Isabelle Robinet’s Taoism: History of a Relgiion is superb, and reflects the early superiority of french sinology. Its chapters on internal alchemy are unusually insighful for a non-adept. Its overall a scholarly but very readable history. I haven’t read Miller’s Short History yet, on my list, but I know him from several conferences and he is very sharp, one of the recent group of young scholars well trained by Livia Kohn. The other option is Eva Wong’s Shambala Guide to Taoism, which gives more of a contemporary feel for the different types of Taoists and taoist practices in a very readable survey.
Kristof Schipper’s The Taoist Body is supposedly about just the Celestial Masters (you stayed in the temple named for them at Qingchengshan) and their ritualized exterior alchemy and cosmology, but it gives great insight into broader Taoist ideas and has lots of detailed excerpts that give the flavor of Taoist thinking. A must read for serious students in any case. It owuld give your friend a ddeper feeling than a scholarly survery, but warn it is about one particular sect.
Lighter and broader reading would be the already suggested Energy, Vitality, Spirit anthology.
michaelMarch 5, 2005 at 9:05 pm #3005
Are you ever going to put the 7 formulas of Immortality in writing? I am listening to your Fusion tapes and you say you prefer to teach it live or through audio so people get the verbal and personal transmission. That makes sense. Do you think it’s possible to comminicate the 7 formulas in written form? Maybe an e-book download for students that already met you or taken your audio courses?
Or is the live transmission absolutely essential to it?March 6, 2005 at 5:18 am #3007
Thanks for asking.
Keith Frantzen nudged me to do this several years ago, and I have now transcribed all of my weekend courses and many of the kan and li courses.
Several I had transcribed more than once,as I felt the material had improved.
This doesn’t change my opinion about the overriding importance of verbal transmission and the impact that oral tranmission has on the kidney spirit being forced to listen and reshape its jing/substance patterns. You cannot learn alchemy from a book in my experience. The mental body/faculty filters and co-opts the process to its own ends. The
I think the written material will be excellent support for people who have aldready listened, but want a quicker way to review topics. So with a few exception (introductory ebooks on the Five Animals and possibly Orbit), the written materials will be available only to people who have purchased the audio courses in the past or are currently buying a set at small extra cost.
I am also converting everything to CD form for easier training access to different tracks, switching between lectures and meditations. Webmaster is working now to begin putting them on website, but is backed up. You can call for CD versions on 888 999 0555 office number. They are about 1 hour longer than the cassette tapes (4 CD’s vs. 3 tapes for any given day of teaching) and cost $10. more.
Unfortunately, the transcript project has been slowed down by my heavy travel and teaching schedule, demands of running Healing Tao summer university, and more recently, need to upgrade or rewrite parts of website (especially retreats) lost to virus in November. But a flood of written material is now accumulated and waiting to be edited and released. It is my top priority to finish as much of it as possible this spring along with a new Blissful Breathing video.
I plan to post on the articles page the first hour long introductory lecture to each course to give people a better idea of what is inside each audio course.
And I also plan to stay in regular touch with the cyber-taoist community via this discussion board. I get so many emails with good questions that it makes more sense to do it in this forum and share the insights. I learn a lot from people questions and from their experiences. I may eventually collate some of this materail into a FAQ section on the site.
So yes, its coming, I’m working on it as we “speak”.
MichaelMarch 6, 2005 at 6:10 am #3009
Forgot to mention Livia Kohn’s anthology, The Taoist Experience.
I think it is betterfor a new reader than Cleary’s Energy, Vitality, Spirit.
Both quote from a wide range of texts and give the flavor of different taoists ways of thinking, but liv’a’s book is more lively and better illustrated.
If your friend wants the best short introduction to Taoist alchemical thinking, then probably the classic here is Chang Po Tuan’s The Inner Teaching of Taoism (Shambala), originally called the 400 words on the Gold Elixir. It also has lots of diagrams on Tao cosmology.
michaelMarch 7, 2005 at 5:57 am #3011
If he seeks feeling, audio might be fast track.
Unless he is extreme fast reader, he will get a lot in same time. And if he is, he is already attuning: and he can still do it via audio.
Also: find the best person you know. Give your friend his (her?) work. ‘taoism’ is people and energy, not history or secondary food.March 7, 2005 at 6:53 am #3013
…of all practitioners you respect.
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