Basically the Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff is about his belief that the children’s series about Winnie-the-Pooh is about more than a bear who loves honey and his adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood, but actually a parallel of the Three Teachings of China, and how the main character is a perfect example of the philosophy behind the religion of Taoism.

                So the book starts off explaining the Taoism with the Three Teachings of China. The best illustration most eastern philosophers will use is the Vinegar Wine Tasters. The picture shows each founder of each teaching; Confucius the founder of Confucianism, Siddhartha Gautama (more commonly known as Buddha) the founder of Buddhism and Lao-tzu the founder of Taoism. Each philosopher is tasting vinegar; the vinegar is the representation of life. Hoff takes time to explain what each expression and religious view of each philosopher. Confucius’ expression is sour, demonstrating the Confucianism belief that the present was out of balance with the past therefore he stressed reverence for the elders. Buddha viewed life as bitter; that attachments and desires led to suffering. Lao-tzu viewed life as sweet, and believed that the earth was a reflection of heaven and that it abides by the same “laws” as heaven. This is the basic belief of Taoism. Because there is a natural energy in the world, humanity disrupts that nature; therefore it is up to each individual to find their harmony with those genuine “laws” of nature.

                In the chapter “Spelling Tuesday”, Hoff explains to the reader and to the characters in Winnie the Pooh, how Owl portrays the qualities of Confucius. Confucius and Owl both agree on the use of education and analytical processes in order to solve problems. The problem with that when it comes Taoism, is that Taoism believes that problems can be solved naturally and that the solutions are innate; unlike Confucianism which believes that knowledge must be attained therefore the problems must be fixed step by step. Hoff explains that “scholarly knowledge” is useful for some things its almost useless in Taoism when exploring topics beyond “limited reach”.  He uses this quote from a Taoist follower Chuang-tse:

“A well frog cannot imagine the ocean, nor can a summer insect conceive of ice. How can a scholar understand the Tao? He is restricted by his own learning.”

According to Hoff, Owl chooses to learn about life from books instead of actually experiencing it, which leave his explanations of life missing major components. For example, in the story Hoff asks Owl to spell Tuesday and Owl comes up with the incorrect spelling of Twosday because logically it is the second day of the week making the spelling “Twos-day” so Pooh mistakenly thinks that this is correct. So when the author tries to correct Owl, Pooh settles on “Today” being his favorite day to avoid further confusion.

                Comparing Eeyore to Buddha is an idea I agree with completely. Although Eeyore didn’t start out in a perfect atmosphere like Siddhartha Gautama, they both came to view life in a pessimistic light.  In the animated television series the very tone of Eeyore’s voice is enough to bring down anyone. With his bitter outlook on life, the only thing he was able to do is complain about every situation. Eeyore even talks in the negative with the occasional use of heavy sarcasm.

                “Dear, dear, how unlucky! You ran too fast, I expect. You didn’t hurt yourself, Little Piglet?”

                “Or supposing you missed him by mistake…”

                “I didn’t stop to ask, Pooh. Even at the very bottom of the river I didn’t stop to say to myself, ‘Is this a hearty   joke, or is it the merest accident?’ I just floated to the surface and said to myself, ‘It’s wet.”

By staying in the pessimistic view, Eeyore and Buddha saw the world as a dark, dreary place with very few chances of brightness and positivity. In result, both missed out on the “sweetness of life” according to Taoism. Because Lao-tse was able to recognize the bitter and sweet moments of life, he was able to live it to the fullest.

                Winnie the Pooh in essence is Taoism because he follows one of its rules unintentionally. Wu Wei Wu, or Do Without Doing is the principle that things will happen by themselves randomly. Benjamin explains this idea in the chapter called “The Pooh Way”. Pooh unknowingly uses the natural forces in the world to solve his problems. He proves what Taoism is by being himself. The answers to his problems seem so simple, therefore they have simple solutions and eventually will work themselves out.

                This is basically the story of The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. Personally I liked it because I love Winnie the Pooh and I was curious to see how it played into an ancient Chinese philosophy. It made sense in some parts and I really liked seeing the connections from the children’s book to the Three Teachings of China.

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