Laozi’s precepts for daily life in the contemporary world: two popular Western (American) interpretations

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Abstract

The paper aims to discuss two popular interpretations of Daoism and its application to contemporary world: The Dao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff and The Truth of Tao by Alex Anatole. In the first part, it will concentrate on the interpretation of Daoist concept of simplicity (pu ) in B.Hoff’s book, pointing out to the problem of its simplification and elucidating the cluster of the meanings (or aspects) of pu in this book and in comparison with its understanding in Classical Daoism. In the second part, it will discuss the main points of interpretation of Daoism as a “reflective mirror” for illuminating the problems of Western (in this case, American) contemporary consumer culture, presented in Alex Anatole’s book, with the particular attention on his ideal of “contentment” and “ideal day”. It is claimed, that such popular versions of Daoism, although seemingly contradictory and superficial, and because of this rather mostly ignored by sinologists and investigators of Daoist practices, deserve more careful study by professional scholars, since they are the manifestations of the process of globalization of Daoism, which is inevitable in 21st century. Moreover, they are especially influential in forming a popular image of Daoist teaching, since the messages of such books spread to a far wider public, than the monographs by academic specialists in Chinese (Daoist) studies.

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