Religion & Spirituality

Learn to govern your mind, and the universe will govern itself with the The Second Book of Tao by Stephen Mitchell

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The most widely translated book in world literature after the Bible is Lao-tzu's Tao Te Ching, or Book of the Way—the classic manual on the art of living. Following the phenomenal success of his translation of the Tao Te Ching, renowned scholar Stephen Mitchell gives us The Second Book of the Tao. Drawn from the work of Lao-tzu's disciple Chuang-tzu and Confucius's grandson Tzu-ssu, The Second Book of the Tao offers Western readers precious new lessons in the Tao. Mitchell has selected the freshest, clearest teachings from these two great students of the Tao and adapted them to reveal the poetry, depth, and humor of the original texts, with vivid new clarity.

The Second Book of the Tao is a twenty-first-century form of ancient wisdom, bringing a sequel of the Tao Te Ching into the modern world. Alongside each translated passage, Mitchell includes his own commentary, to explicate and complement the work for contemporary readers. His meditations and provocative reimagining of the original texts comprise a book that is both a companion volume and an anti-manual to the Tao Te Ching. Mitchell renders these ancient teachings at once modern, relevant, and timeless.

Wise and witty, challenging and inspirational, The Second Book of the Tao reconnects us to our own fundamental wisdom, to which now—in these chaotic times more than ever—we should return, in order to live truthfully, and to live well.

Read an excerpt from The Second Book of Tao:

The Dream of a Butterfly

Chuang-tzu dreamt that he was a butterfly, fluttering here and there, carefree, unaware of a Chuang-tzu. Then he woke up, and there he was: Chuang-tzu, beyond a doubt. But was he Chuang-tzu who had dreamt that he was a butterfly, or a butterfly now dreaming that he was Chuang-tzu? There must be some difference between Chuang-tzu and a butterfly! This is called "the transformation of things."

The most famous dream in human history. You may feel that, as with Zeno's paradoxes, there is something specious going on here, if only you could put your finger on it. But the more closely you examine the story, the more penetrating Chuang-tzu's question becomes. He's the anti-serpent in the garden, tempting you to take one little bite from the Tree of Life. He's Alice's Caterpillar, puffing on his hookah and asking, "Who are you?" In fact, with time running backward as in a Feynman diagram, Alice's Caterpillar could well have metamorphosed into Chuang-tzu's butterfly, just to prove a point.

You may be recalling that psychē the Greek word for "soul," can also mean "butterfly." But let's leave the Greeks out of this. Chuang-tzu is definitely Chinese, he thinks. His butterfly is not a metamorphosis, not a metaphor; it's just a butterfly. Just? How can we know what depths of joy lie hidden within that pinpoint of a brain? The whole world contained in a garden, in a single flower! All time contained in a summer's day, and life one all-embracing multiorgasmic fragrance!

And who knows what a butterfly might dream of? Of an ancient Chinese philosopher, perhaps, or of a nineteenth-century Oxford don who was enchanted by little girls. This particular butterfly woke up as Chuang-tzu—or was it Chuang-tzu who woke up as himself? "There he was again, beyond a doubt." Beyond a doubt? Ha!

Things change before our very eyes, whether our eyes are open or shut. A butterfly becomes a man, a man becomes a question mark, a question mark becomes a winged creature, carefree, doing whatever it likes. Thus identity melts away, and we are left with something more valuable: a self—a non-self—that includes it all.

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