Taoism embraces simplicity - which is more advanced than we may think /Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
I feel compelled to share the amazing and invaluable insights that I have gleaned from Benjamin Hoff’s “The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet”.
Taoism was a philosophy that I had heard of, but it was not until reading this amusing read that is filled with lessons that are truly life-changing, despite the simplicity of its style, that I feel I can grasp, and more importantly, apply the essence of the book’s message.
Firstly, Taoism is distinct from the teachings of Confucianism. This teaching essentially is not considered a helpful existence because the complicated and extensive rituals that are at the foundation of this philosophy created a result where man is left feeling inferior, and unworthy of Heaven or reward.
Essentially the way of man, the harmony of nature, Man’s inner nature due to these restrictions which favoured the powerful and left the poorer man inevitably in a worse situation, could never be in harmony with “Heaven”. It involved a great deal of thinking – and was thus seen as some as superior.
Buddhism, also is not the same as Taoism. It is somewhat better in the easing of the restrictions on man, and the acceptance of the ‘now’ – but it still involves the concept that man must transcend a certain state to reach nirvana/happiness or heaven.
In contrast, Taoism predates that harmony can always be found, between Heaven and man, between Heaven and earth. The essential Inner Nature of man, which technology, money, power and loss of respect for the environment and our fellow creatures have essentially been lost.
Winnie the Pooh, the beloved character of the childhood book by A.A. Milne is a bear loveable because of his simplicity – “a bear of little brain”.
However, as is uncovered as one reads this amazing illustration of human kind and our natural tendency to overthink, overanalyse, be forever chasing something toward the future, becomes entangled in a never-ending state of dissatisfaction, of a loss of harmony, intuition and values.
Rather than seeing Pooh as a “Bear of Little Brain”, it is more that he just doesn’t see the need to overthink matters. He describes it as “The Way”, synonymous with Taosim, and knows that things will work out. He doesn’t think how, but they always do. Pooh “just is”.
Piglet is another character who we can learn a lot from.
He has a complex about being physically of a very small size. However, he learns throughout the book, that physical size is irrelevant – it is the courage that he grows from facing his challenges, along with the support of Pooh and Christopher Robin.
It also requires that he ignores Eeyore to a degree – this is the character who is inevitably sure that things will turn out bad. He looks and sees the bad in everything.
However, he has confidence in technology, much of which has been developed at the expense of nature, and people and their role – in other words, the natural harmony that we were born to be in tune with.
And yet, the Puritans who came to America share Eeyore’s attitude, and aren’t too worried about what they will say to Saint Peter when they finally come to the Pearly Gates.
Tigger, the rather hyperactive Tiger, epitomises our fast-moving impulsive head-first, overconfident, overenthusiastic to be “super-this” or “super-that”. The trouble is this causes Tigger to make some decisions which end up getting his friends into trouble. He moves a little too fast.
Pooh is simple, doesn’t overcomplicate things, appreciates and notices the beauty around him. He has it all – he is peaceful, doesn’t rush – and he is unmistakeably the happiest of these characters.
In summary, Taoism is about reconnecting with our intuition, our Inner Nature – trusting it.
Thinking actually complicates matters as we try to over-rely on our brains to come up with solutions. Where have these solutions led us? We see – celebrities who have it all, world famine, poverty, childhood is lost – we are too busy trying to overload their brains – nature, creativity, pleasure, have all been frowned upon.
Peace can be found. Pooh the bear with little brain mightn’t be so dumb after all.