AMONG THE THOUSANDS of books about the Tao, Deng Ming-Dao’s new book, The Lunar Tao: Meditations in Harmony with the Seasons, invites us to explore the Chinese spiritual world in fresh ways. At first glance, readers can tell this book was designed with great care—from a soft-to-the-touch matte cover to the hundreds of black and white sketches and photographs that draw the eye into the 365 daily meditations.
Why choose this volume over the heaps of other books exploring the Tao? First, consider the author’s stature. Author Deng Ming-Dao has been writing about the Tao for 30 years. His grandfather emigrated from southern China to San Franciso 100 years ago and Deng (that’s his family name) grew up immersed in Chinese culture. His first name, Dao, is the same as the Chinese word we Anglicize as Tao—so he grew up immersed in The Way.
Deng is no latter-day convert—some former Baptist or Catholic who left a career in marketing to start a meditation center and attract seekers. Deng has been in this for the long haul and his work stands up over time. After 20 years, his 365 Tao: Daily Meditations still sells briskly on Amazon. (That 1992 book currently has 87 of its 94 Amazon reviewers ranking it with either 4 or 5 stars!)
What is the Tao? The Way?
The Tao is the more-than-2,000-year-old spiritual system founded by Lao-Tsu (sometimes spelled Laozi, as Deng does in his book). “Taoism is China’s oldest and only indigenous spiritual tradition,” Deng explains to readers. “Buddhism came from India, and Confucianism is a system of morality, philosophy and governance. Taoists believe in following Tao—the Way. They believe that there is a Way that all of nature and all human endeavors follow. Furthermore, they believe that everyone has a personal Way.”
While firmly rooted in the tradition, Deng is gracious in broadening his presentation of the Tao. He touches on Confucian and Zen teachings, as well, and says that the Tao is not limited to Chinese people or Chinese culture. He writes: “Nothing is true just because it’s Chinese. We still need to take the ideas and find the right way to apply them to our own lives, regardless of who we are or where we live. … There is no reason to try to be Chinese if you aren’t.”
What’s inside this massive book? A lot! The Lunar Tao is as big as an old-fashioned telephone book. This certainly isn’t a little volume of meditations to tuck into your bag on a busy day. The trade off is that Deng is able to pack a startling amount of material between these covers. Do you enjoy the New Year’s Lantern Festival? Deng not only explains the festival, he also provides a meditation about lanterns, a tip for experiencing the holiday, an overview of how this holiday relates to other festivals—plus three fascinating legends about the Lantern Festival involving emperors who were surprised at this time of year.
Every day of the year is given at least a full page with at least two different texts to consider. Pick up a copy of this book of wonders, whatever your faith may be, and you’re sure to find something enlightening as the seasons turn this year.
REVIEW BY READTHESPIRIT EDITOR DAVID CRUMM
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.