Over the last 60 years or so many books have been written about Taoism, very few of them, however, were written by those trained in the Taoist sciences. Many were written by Orientalists (academics and journalists devoted to destroying the history and cultures of the east and middle east), disillusioned hippies (searching for a way to escape their societal responsibilities) and fake eastern gurus. It is the last category that perhaps has caused the most harm, as more often than not, the person searching for answers will fall the hardest for the person who (on outward appearances alone) seems to fit the mold of the one they are searching for.
This review is not about the author, however, and as such the National Taoism Examiner will focus on some of the contents of the book which claims to be “An Introduction to the Tao in Everyday Life”, Scholar Warrior by Deng Ming-Dao.
The book is divided into three main sections with twelve subsections:
Book 1: Beginnings
Scholar Warrior: maximizing the versatility
Three Treasures: the basis for personal health
The Marrow Washing Classic: a complete approach to stretching and exercise
Northern Star Qigong: cultivating internal energy
Herbs: the secret of dietary transformation
Book II: Philosophy and Issues
Tao: grounding yourself philosophically
Masters and Students: the advantages and problems of study
Resolving Doubts: confronting controversy
Book III: Meditation and Transcendence
Daoyin: the bridge from exercise to mediation
Meditation: the heart of Taoism
Withdrawal: the opportunity to be spiritual
Returning to the Source: the ultimate wisdom
The first few pages of the book are actually fairly good and the introduction does a good job creating how a person in so called modern times can learn about Tao and practice it as well. Unfortunately, after the introduction the book begins to become a mass of confusion and misinformation, beginning with the first chapter: Scholar Warrior Maximizing Versatility. On page 14, the author gives a description of the Manchu warriors as the epitome of a Scholar Warrior and describes them in other worldly terms even as exceeding the skill and training of the Shaolin and Wudang schools/temples. This is a major point of contention, as it is regarded by many that the Manchus are partly responsible for the destruction of China and that they paved the way for the last several hundred years of turmoil that China is just now beginning to recover from.
He describes how the Qing court required training in the following areas: “painting, poetry, music, calligraphy, history, the classics [does not mention what classics], mathematics, sciences [whose sciences?], medicine, statecraft, swordsmanship, horsemanship, archery, martial arts and strategy”...after properly demonstrating skill in each of these areas a person would gain the title of "Scholarly and Military Complete Talent". It is this title that he uses as the basis for the “Scholar Warrior” which he claims is the proper image of a Taoist.
The points of emphasis were added because the author repeatedly does not mention the sources of his information, nor does he give proper credit to the practitioners of the tradition. For example, the classics being studied would have been the Taoist and Confucian classics as well as some Zen, the sciences would have been the 8 Sciences/Subjects of Taoism etc.... In fact, every so called skill of the Qing court listed in the book was a Taoist science/subject, spanning over 8,000 years of recorded history.
Moving forward in the first chapter, the author speaking on behalf of hygiene and nutrition gives the false statement that Taoists advocated drinking large amounts of liquids in general and in particular water. He advises people to drink more than 6-8 glasses of water per day. Again, this statement is proven erroneous with proper knowledge of Taoism and the classics where the advice given is to “drink when you are thirsty, eat when you are hungry, and sleep when you are tired”, other advice in Taoism includes the warning of not drinking too much (more than 36 ounces in 24 hours) as it damages the Kidneys and promotes water retention. The author of this book tells people the opposite, that drinking too little causes water retention. Which brings up another point, is the author misinformed or purposefully misinforming others?
More advice is given on eating three types of vegetables with each meal representing, according to the author, the three important colors of Taoism: red, yellow and green. What about the 5 colors or tastes which Taoism teaches should be present in meals? Why leave out the other two colors (white and black/purple)? In the same section he advises leaving out the following types of food and claims Taoist authority as the reason: turkey, pheasant, pigs, duck, geese, shellfish of all kinds, deep fried-greasy foods and heavily spicy food. Oh dear reader, you may already know that Taoism teaches ways to balance practically any meal and finds ways to the benefits of all food in their meals. For instance, pork and shellfish are very good for reducing tumors and hardness in the body, as well as decreasing internal heat.
Sexology and Dual Cultivation...
Let us take a break from the nutritional errors and move on to another important subject of Taoism: Sexology, often translated as dual cultivation. On page 31 the author states that dual cultivation is unfair to women and is nothing more than the man taking advantage of the woman to fulfill his sexual desires and goals. The fact that the technique is called “dual cultivation” should inform the author that the act is designed to benefit both people, whether it be to help overcome a health problem or to help further their physical-mental and spiritual cultivation. Another technique important to the Tao of Sexology is for the man to practice “holdbacks” to prolong love making and increase the benefits for the man and woman, it is actually designed to especially benefit the woman since it allows for higher levels of orgasm and multiple orgasms.
Your National Taoism Examiner must begin to conclude this review as an attempt to list all of the erroneous parts of the book would render the article far too long.
The final area of the book which exposes the true intention of Scholar Warrior is when the author makes the claim that Taoism borrowed many of its techniques and philosophical beliefs from India (Hinduism) and the Buddhists. The fact that Taoism predates both of those systems and the fact that Buddhism borrowed heavily from Taoism must have been unknown to or forgotten by the author.
A few good tips for the Master and Student...
There is an interesting section towards the end of the book listing some of the common faults of a “Master” (exploitation, hypocrisy, abuse of spiritual power, cruelty, possessiveness, inattentiveness, dishonesty and failure) and the common faults of a “Student” (faithlessness, immaturity, laziness, materialism, bullying, obsession, fantasy, poor memory and immorality). The “faults” listed are very good general guidelines to help both teachers and students along the path.
One person leaving a review on Amazon.com stated:
“An unfortunate attitude ruins an otherwise informative book....this book is full of useful information, but unfortunately the author's view on Taoism is rather discouraging.” And yet another stated: “Egotistical Tao?... Just ignore the meaning of his proses and rhetoric and you'll actually find this book invaluable.”
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