The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 5: The Seal of Virtue Complete

Chuang Tzu

Teh Khung Fû, or 'The Seal of Virtue Complete.'

1. In Lû there was a Wang Thâi who had lost both his feet; while his disciples who followed and went about with him were as numerous as those of Kung-nî. Khang Kî asked Kung-nî about him, saying, 'Though Wang Thâi is a cripple, the disciples who follow him about divide Lû equally with you, Master. When he stands, he does not teach them; when he sits, he does not discourse to them. But they go to him empty, and come back full. Is there indeed such a thing as instruction without words? and while the body is imperfect, may the mind be complete? What sort of man is he?'

Kung-nî replied, 'This master is a sage. I have only been too late in going to him. I will make him my teacher; and how much more should those do so who are not equal to me! Why should only the state of Lû follow him? I will lead on all under heaven with me to do so.' Khang Kî rejoined, 'He is a man who has lost his feet, and yet he is known as the venerable Wang;-- he must be very different from ordinary men. What is the peculiar way in which he employs his mind?' The reply was, 'Death and life are great considerations, but they could work no change in him. Though heaven and earth were to be overturned and fall, they would occasion him no loss. His judgment is fixed regarding that in which there is no element of falsehood; and, while other things change, he changes not. The transformations of things are to him the developments prescribed for them, and he keeps fast hold of the author of them.'

Khang Kî said, 'What do you mean?' 'When we look at things,' said Kung-nî, 'as they differ, we see them to be different, (as for instance) the liver and the gall, or Khû and Yüeh; when we look at them, as they agree, we see them all to be a unity. So it is with this (Wang Thâi). He takes no knowledge of the things for which his ears and eyes are the appropriate organs, but his mind delights itself in the harmony of (all excellent) qualities. He looks at the unity which belongs to things, and does not perceive where they have suffered loss. He looks on the loss of his feet as only the loss of so much earth.'

Khang Kî said, 'He is entirely occupied with his (proper) self. By his knowledge he has discovered (the nature of) his mind, and to that he holds as what is unchangeable; but how is it that men make so much of him?' The reply was, 'Men do not look into running water as a mirror, but into still water;-- it is only the still water that can arrest them all, and keep them (in the contemplation of their real selves). Of things which are what they are by the influence of the earth, it is only the pine and cypress which are the best instances;-- in winter as in summer brightly green. Of those which were what they were by the influence of Heaven, the most correct examples were Yâo and Shun; fortunate in (thus) maintaining their own life correct, and so as to correct the lives of others.

'As a verification of the (power of) the original endowment, when it has been preserved, take the result of fearlessness,-- how the heroic spirit of a single brave soldier has been thrown into an army of nine hosts. If a man only seeking for fame and able in this way to secure it can produce such an effect, how much more (may we look for a greater result) from one whose rule is over heaven and earth, and holds all things in his treasury, who simply has his lodging in the six members of his body, whom his ears and eyes serve but as conveying emblematic images of things, who comprehends all his knowledge in a unity, and whose mind never dies! If such a man were to choose a day on which he would ascend far on high, men would (seek to) follow him there. But how should he be willing to occupy himself with other men?'

2. Shan-thû Kiâ was (another) man who had lost a his feet. Along with Tsze-khân of Kang he studied under the master Po-hwan Wû-zan. Tsze-khân said to him (one day), 'If I go out first, do you remain behind; and if you go out first, I will remain behind.' Next day they were again sitting together on the same mat in the hall, when Tsze-khân spoke the same words to him, adding, 'Now I am about to go out; will you stay behind or not? Moreover, when you see one of official rank (like myself), you do not try to get out of his way;-- do you consider yourself equal to one of official rank?' Shan-thû Kiâ replied, 'In our Master's school is there indeed such recognition required of official rank? You are one, Sir, whose pleasure is in your official rank, and would therefore take precedence of other men. I have heard that when a mirror is bright, the dust does not rest on it; when dust rests on it the mirror is not bright. When one dwells long with a man of ability and virtue, he comes to be without error. There now is our teacher whom you have chosen to make you greater than you are; and when you still talk in this way, are you not in error?' Tsze-khan rejoined, 'A (shattered) object as you are, you would still strive to make yourself out as good as Yâo! If I may form an estimate of your virtue, might it not be sufficient to lead you to the examination of yourself?' The other said, 'Most criminals, in describing their offences, would make it out that they ought not to have lost (their feet) for them; few would describe them so as to make it appear that they should not have preserved their feet. They are only the virtuous who know that such a calamity was unavoidable, and therefore rest in it as what was appointed for them. When men stand before (an archer like) Î with his bent bow, if they are in the middle of his field, that is the place where they should be hit; and if they be not hit, that also was appointed. There are many with their feet entire who laugh at me because I have lost my feet, which makes me feel vexed and angry. But when I go to our teacher, I throw off that feeling, and return (to a better mood);-- he has washed, without my knowing it, the other from me by (his instructions in) what is good. I have attended him now for nineteen years, and have not known that I am without my feet. Now, you, Sir, and I have for the object of our study the (virtue) which is internal, and not an adjunct of the body, and yet you are continually directing your attention to my external body;-- are you not wrong in this?' Tsze-khân felt uneasy, altered his manner and looks, and said, 'You need not, Sir, say anything more about it.'