Posted by: B Gourley | December 27, 2012

Book Review: “Master Within” by Master Chen

Master Within: Passion for Life is at once a self-help book, a lesson in Taoism, and an autobiographical outline of the life of the author. As the name implies, as a self-help book it encourages the reader to find the wisdom that lies within them. It is empowering, and emphasizes the power of forgiveness– especially of oneself.

As a treatise in Taoism, the book benefits from Master Chen’s many years in the U.S. Because of this background Chen is able to communicate effectively about the Tao to a Western audience; he tells the reader about an esoteric subject with references that will make sense to American readers. Some readers may be put off by the stream of consciousness tracts that come across as rambling and disjoint. This, too, is part of the brilliance of the book. It is part of a tradition that encourages one to not get too cerebral about trying to follow the Way.

As an autobiographical outline, the book uses key moments in Master Chen’s life to elucidate points about the Tao. Chen has lived an intriguing life. As a young child he went to the Wudang Mountain to learn Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Qi Gong, and Taoist meditation methods. Wudang will be known to readers from movies like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and the new [Jackie Chan] version of “Karate Kid.” He had an intense period of training, and then was directed to go to the West. He writes of the death-defying training he received at Wudang. He talks about his experience being smuggled out of China and going to America by way of Bangkok. He tells about working in a McDonald’s to earn a living in his early days in the U.S. and how he figuratively turned lemons into lemonade.

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