The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 4 (cont.): Man in the World, Associated with other Men

Chuang Tzu

Zan Kien Shih, or 'Man in the World, Associated with other Men.' (cont.)

2. Yen Hui said, 'I can go no farther; I venture to ask the method from you.' Kung-nî replied, 'It is fasting, (as) I will tell you. (But) when you have the method, will you find it easy to practise it? He who thinks it easy will be disapproved of by the bright Heaven.' Hui said, 'My family is poor. For months together we have no spirituous drink, nor do we taste the proscribed food or any strong-smelling vegetables;-- can this be regarded as fasting?' The reply was, 'It is the fasting appropriate to sacrificing, but it is not the fasting of the mind.' 'I venture to ask what that fasting of the mind is,' said Hui, and Kung-nî answered, 'Maintain a perfect unity in every movement of your will, You will not wait for the hearing of your ears about it, but for the hearing of your mind. You will not wait even for the hearing of your mind, but for the hearing of the spirit. Let the hearing (of the ears) rest with the ears. Let the mind rest in the verification (of the rightness of what is in the will). But the spirit is free from all pre-occupation and so waits for (the appearance of) things. Where the (proper) course is, there is freedom from all pre-occupation;-- such freedom is the fasting of the mind.' Hui said, 'Before it was possible for me to employ (this method), there I was, the Hui that I am; now, that I can employ it, the Hui that I was has passed away. Can I be said to have obtained this freedom from pre-occupation?' The Master replied, 'Entirely. I tell you that you can enter and be at ease in the enclosure (where he is), and not come into collision with the reputation (which belongs to him). If he listen to your counsels, let him hear your notes; if he will not listen, be silent. Open no (other) door; employ no other medicine; dwell with him (as with a friend) in the same apartment, and as if you had no other option, and you will not be far from success in your object. Not to move a step is easy; to walk without treading on the ground is difficult. In acting after the manner of men, it is easy to fall into hypocrisy; in acting after the manner of Heaven, it is difficult to play the hypocrite. I have heard of flying with wings; I have not heard of flying without them. I have heard of the knowledge of the wise; I have not heard of the knowledge of the unwise. Look at that aperture (left in the wall);-- the empty apartment is filled with light through it. Felicitous influences rest (in the mind thus emblemed), as in their proper resting place. Even when they do not so rest, we have what is called (the body) seated and (the mind) galloping abroad. The information that comes through the ears and eyes is comprehended internally, and the knowledge of the mind becomes something external:-- (when this is the case), the spiritual intelligences will come, and take up their dwelling with us, and how much more will other men do so! All things thus undergo a transforming influence. This was the hinge on which Yü and Shun moved; it was this which Fû-hsî and Kî-khü practised all their lives: how much more should other men follow the same rule!'

3. Tsze-kâo, duke of Sheh, being about to proceed on a mission to Khî, asked Kung-nî, saying, 'The king is sending me, Kû-liang, on a mission which is very important. Khî will probably treat me as his commissioner with great respect, but it will not be in a hurry (to attend to the business). Even an ordinary man cannot be readily moved (to action), and how much less the prince of a state! I am very full of apprehension. You, Sir, once said to me that of all things, great or small, there were few which, if not conducted in the proper way, could be brought to a happy conclusion; that, if the thing were not successful, there was sure to be the evil of being dealt with after the manner of men; that, if it were successful, there was sure to be the evil of constant anxiety; and that, whether it succeeded or not, it was only the virtuous man who could secure its not being followed by evil. In my diet I take what is coarse, and do not seek delicacies,-- a man whose cookery does not require him to be using cooling drinks. This morning I received my charge, and in the evening I am drinking iced water;-- am I not feeling the internal heat (and discomfort)? Such is my state before I have actually engaged in the affair;-- I am already suffering from conflicting anxieties. And if the thing do not succeed, (the king) is sure to deal with me after the manner of men. The evil is twofold; as a minister, I am not able to bear the burden (of the mission). Can you, Sir, tell me something (to help me in the case)?'

Kung-nî replied, 'In all things under heaven there are two great cautionary considerations:-- the one is the requirement implanted (in the nature); the other is the conviction of what is right. The love of a son for his parents is the implanted requirement, and can never be separated from his heart; the service of his ruler by a minister is what is right, and from its obligation there is no escaping anywhere between heaven and earth. These are what are called the great cautionary considerations. Therefore a son finds his rest in serving his parents without reference to or choice of place; and this is the height of filial duty. In the same way a subject finds his rest in serving his ruler, without reference to or choice of the business; and this is the fullest discharge of loyalty. When men are simply obeying (the dictates of) their hearts, the considerations of grief and joy are not readily set before them. They know that there is no alternative to their acting as they do, and rest in it as what is appointed; and this is the highest achievement of virtue. He who is in the position of a minister or of a son has indeed to do what he cannot but do. Occupied with the details of the business (in hand), and forgetful of his own person, what leisure has he to think of his pleasure in living or his dislike of death? You, my master, may well proceed on your mission.

'But let me repeat to you what I have heard:-- In all intercourse (between states), if they are near to each other, there should be mutual friendliness, verified by deeds; if they are far apart, there must be sincere adherence to truth in their messages. Those messages will be transmitted by internuncios. But to convey messages which express the complacence or the dissatisfaction of the two parties is the most difficult thing in the world. If they be those of mutual complacence, there is sure to be an overflow of expressions of satisfaction; if of mutual dissatisfaction, an overflow of expressions of dislike. But all extravagance leads to reckless language, and such language fails to command belief. When this distrust arises, woe to the internuncio! Hence the Rules for Speech say, "Transmit the message exactly as it stands; do not transmit it with any overflow of language; so is (the internuncio) likely to keep himself whole."