Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

The Way of Chuang Tzu

Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
February 2019
Fred's Rating: 
Thomas Merton
Total Pages: 
New Directions

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) entered the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky in 1949. During the 1960s, he was increasingly drawn into a dialogue between Eastern and Western religions. In 1968, the Dalai Lama praised Merton for having a more profound knowledge of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known. (For his books I've read, click on his name.)

I bought the paperback edition but I give here Amazon's website for the Kindle edition, for it contains the 1996 1-p 'Tribute to Thomas Merton' by the Dalai Lama, the 1965 4-pp 'A Note to the Reader,' and the first 2-pp of the 18-pp 'A Study of Chuang Tzu':

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this book's covers at the website above.]

The Home page has a brief summary (click on 'Read more'). It is identical to the summary from the back cover of my paperback edition. Further down the home page are some Top customer reviews. The one that summarizes my opinion about this book is by “C. Cannone” entitled “Just a Series of Quotes.” This reader was looking for insights by Thomas Merton for the meaning of these many quotes. Since he didn't find insights, he rates this book at just three stars – a rating that I find to be very reasonable.

One of these quotes is a 2-pp story about “The Woodcarver.” I read this story, and the insights it holds in the book 'The Active Life' by Parker J. Palmer (book 8 that I reviewed on Feb. 3, 2009). Palmer has a whole chapter on the insight of the woodcarver. I know an artist who carves in stone – he has to find a stone that reveals to him what lies within the stone that he can 'release' from the stone. Many artists of sculptures need to use their talent to discover, with their 'minds eye,' what lies within the wood or stone . Many painters have stared at a blank canvas to obtain their 'mind's eye' to discover what the canvas 'wants' to be painted on it. (The canvas doesn't have within it an image of the 2D (two dimensional) idea of what to paint on it. Whereas, in my opinion, the idea of a 3D object 'existing' within a stone or a block of wood is much easier for me to accept.

The poetry or prose of the many stories or ideas found in The Way of Chuang Tzu are clearly an early form of Zen Buddhism. However, the earlier works of Lao Tzu are at least partly seen in 'The Way of Chuang Tzu'. And interpretations of these ancient works seem to vary a lot with the translator, which makes it hard for modern people like Thomas Merton to share his insights. I was looking for much more. Thus I rate this book at three stars.