The Tao of Pooh

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November 28, 2020

Book Review – The Tao of Pooh

I originally read, The Tao of Pooh in 1994 and I’ve re-read it a few times since.  Having studied Taoism for a number of years I found Mr. Hoff’s use of A.A. Milne’s characters from Winnie the Pooh made Taoism easy to understand for the general reader.

The Tao of Pooh
by Benjamin Hoff

I found the book to be a presentation of philosophy, and spirituality in a simplified manner that made it easy to understand the concepts Hoff put forward. I especially liked his use of actual text from Milne’s children’s books juxtaposed along side the writings of Chinese philosopher Chuang-tse to show how the Tao of Pooh is just like the original Tao writings.

One passage I especially liked was:

In a passage from Chuang-tse, who’s talking to a student, he points out that the person didn’t like a crooked tree, only because he couldn’t see the inherent value in it when the student only looked through his lens as a builder and couldn’t see other possibilities – like using its wide branches for shade. Chuang-tse said to the student, “It’s useless to you only because you want to make it into something else and not use it in its proper way.”

Hoof goes on to point out:

“In other words, everything has its own place and function. That applies to people, although many don’t seem to realize it, stuck as they are in the wrong job, the wrong marriage, or the wrong house. When you know and respect your own Inner Nature, you know where you belong. You also know where you don’t belong.” He goes on to write, “One man’s food is often another man’s poison, and what is glamorous and exciting to some can be a dangerous trap to others…”

I liked Hoff’s discussion about one’s own Inner Nature and how Pooh was a perfect example of just being a simple bear with simple needs – honey and his friends – not trying to be anything other than who Pooh is.

In the chapter called The Pooh Way, Hoff uses the analogy of a stream (very noisy and bubbly), which grows up to be a river that moved slowly (and was much quieter). “For it knew now where it was going and it said to itself, ‘There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.’” Hoff also uses the river to demonstrate the Chinese concept of Wu Wei – the art of inaction, or effortless action and the art of listening to one’s intuition.

There’s a chapter called Bisy Backson (from the A.A. Milne books) that Hoff uses to illustrate the difference between North American life of being constantly busy and the Tao concept of Wu Wei.

Throughout the book, Hoff presents areas of contrast from aspects of the North American way of life with the Chinese philosophy of Taoism – Simplicity, Inner Wisdom, Being true to one’s Self (one’s Innate Nature and also recognizing one’s Spiritual Nature, as well as the concept of Nowhere to Now Here.

From the chapter of Nowhere and Nothing, Hoff again uses the writings of Chuang-tse who wrote:

“I forget my body and sense, and leave all appearance and information behind,” answered Yen Hui. “In the middle of Nothing, I join the Source of All Things.”

The Master bowed. “You have transcended the limitations of time and knowledge. I am far behind you. You have found the Way!”

I loved this little book and highly recommend it.


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