The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff Tao (pronounced Dow) means The Way

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The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

Tao (pronounced Dow) means The Way (to happiness). This sounds very nice, but what is the Way? To understand Taoism you have a great teacher - Winnie-the-Pooh!  This delightful book by Benjamin Hoff called "The Tao of Pooh" (Penguin Books, 1982) includes A. A. Milne's enchanting characters, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Eeyore, and Tigger. You may be surprised at how easy it is to learn about Taoism just by reading The Tao of Pooh. It's also a great deal of fun, which is very Taoist, as Taoists are firm believers in joy and laughter. Taoism is not a religion. Taoism is a philosophy, a way of looking at life and a way of thinking about things. Taoists believe if you look at life and think about things in the right way, you'll be much happier.  Here are two Taoist philosophy statements and two conversations from The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne. Can you guess which Taoist philosophy statement might go with which conversation? In other words, can you match them up?

Taoist philosophy

From The House at Pooh Corner

A clever mind is not a heart.

"Rabbit's clever," said Pooh thoughtfully.
"Yes," said Piglet. "Rabbit's clever."
"And he has Brain."
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit has Brain."
There was a long silence.
"I suppose," said Pooh, "that that's why he never understands anything."

There is more to knowing than just being correct.

"Lot's of people talk to animals," said Pooh.
"Maybe, but..."
"Not very many
listen, though," he said.
"That's the problem," he added.

Did you guess right? They're not mixed up at all. They're right across from each other. Nothing tricky here. Like Taoism, it's simple! 

Taoists believe it's very important to understand The Way Things Are. This does not mean that there are not things we need to change about ourselves, but it's important to recognize and trust our own Inner Nature, and discover who we are. In the story of "The Ugly Duckling," when does the duckling stop feeling ugly? - when he discovers he's a Swan. When he recognizes who he really is, a beautiful swan, he finds his Way to happiness.

Reading Schedule & Study Guide completion

Due Date

“The How of Pooh?” “ The Tao of Who?” (pages 1-21)


“Spelling Tuesday” “Cottleston Pie” (23-65)


“The Pooh Way” “Bisy Backson” (67-113)


“That Sort of Bear” “Nowhere and Nothing” “Backword”(115-158)


STUDY GUIDE: answer each section of questions below on a separate sheet of paper by the due dates indicated.

The How of Pooh?”

1. What does the allegorical tale involving The Vinegar Tasters explain?

It explains the three teachings of China: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism

2. What does the vinegar represent?


3. What is the response of each of the three masters and how does this relate to each school of thought? (K’ung Fu-tse (Confucius), Buddha, Lao-tse)

Confucianism: life was rather sour, believed the present was out step with the past, respect for ancestors, precisely adhered to a system of rituals

Buddhism: life on earth was bitter, filled with attachments and desires that led to suffering. World seen as a setter of traps, a revolving wheel of pain

Taoism: earth was a reflection of heaven; ruled by the laws of nature “Life is sweet”

The Tao of Who?”

4. What is P’u?

The Uncarved block

5. Explain the uncarved block.

Things in their original simplicity contain their own natural power, power that is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is changed.

6. What is the Taoist ideal?

The Taoist ideal is that of the still, calm, reflecting “mirror-mind” of the uncarved Block

“Life is fun”

7. Why can’t Pooh explain the uncarved block?

He can’t explain it – he is it.

Some examples of the opposite of P’U are below.

- Knowledge for the sake of appearing wise- keeping knowledge to himself as an act of superiority

- Knowledge for the sake of complaining about something

- Knowledge for the sake of being clever
Think about the characters of “Winnie the Pooh” and describe how each character fits into the Taoist thought either as P’U or the opposite of P’U. You should devote a minimum of 2-4 sentences to each of the characters and be sure to describe the character fully and talk about how those characteristics align with Taoist thought. Discuss each of the following: Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit, Eyeore, and Christopher Robbin.




Christopher Robbin:
Spelling Tuesday”

8. Explain what kind of scholar Owl represents.

To Taoists, scholars represented Confucianists – busy ants spoiling the picnic of life. So, Owl is like those busy ants and is the opposite of a wise Taoist who chooses just to be. Taoists also believe that deep thought is beyond the learned and that “knowledge & experience do not necessarily speak the same language” (29).

9. A well-frog cannot imagine the ocean, nor can a summer insect conceive of ice. How then can a scholar understand the Tao? He is restricted by his own learning. Explain the meaning of this. The scholar is incomplete and unbalanced unable to experience life as he is single minded about learning. He doesn’t practice Taoism in life.

10. What is ‘knowing’? more to knowing than just being correct
Cottleson Pie”

11. What is the Cottleson Pie Principle? Explain all 3 parts.

1) Things are as they are “A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly.” Everything has its own place and function. When you know & respect your own Inner Nature you know where you belong

2) I have certain limitations & I know what they are

3) Each of us has something special inside – important to recognize this. (the easiest way to get rid of a Minus is to change it into a Plus)

12. How is Tigger not a Taoist?

He is not calm – he’s bouncy

The Pooh Way”

13. How does Chuang-tse define Wu Wei? Wu Wei literally means “without doing, causing or making.” Or, as Chuang-tse defines it “I go down with the water and come up with the water. I follow it and forget myself. I survive because I don’t struggle against the water’s superior power.”

Bisy Backson”

14. Explain the idea behind the following quote:




The bisy backson is almost desperately active, working like a lunatic for some great unknown reward. This defines rabbit, always in a hurry and usually exhausted. (this is the opposite of enjoyment of the process).

15. What American author is quoted in the text on page 108 and what is the significance of this quote? When was this written? Henry David Thoreau Walden By trying to save time, the hurried and wasteful live life in a frenzy.

16. What is the youthful immortal? A person who lives his life appreciating the great secret to happiness and retains a youthful outlook, appearance, and energy.

17. What is the secret to combat the myths of the Great Reward and Saving Time?

Enjoyment of the process
That Sort of Bear”

18. Explain the significance of the Chinese story of The Stonecutter.

The importance of believing in our own authenticity, believing in the power within us.

19. Explain the two (2) anecdotes on pages 121-122.

Buckminster Fuller followed his instincts to help others; Thomas Edison followed his to become an inventor.

20. What is Tz’u? How can we apply it? Caring or compassion; from caring comes courage and wisdom. Not through buying things we don’t need to fill us up with false happiness.

21. What is the Tiddely Pom Principle?

Also known as the snowball effect it can create either positive or negative effects. Respect begets respect, etc.

Nowhere and Nothing”

22. What is T’ai Hsu? What does this mean according to the Taoist? The great nothing; to the Taoist nothing is something.

23. Explain the example on page 149. Finding the way is to forget or let go of the body and senses, and leave all appearance and information behind. Join the source of all things.

24. Now that you have read the book and studied the belief in class, what exactly is Taoism? How can we apply it to today’s society? Or can we? Taoism means to go with the flow of life not against it, to live with compassion, to recognize our true nature and accept who and what we are.


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