The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 11 (cont.): Letting Be, and Exercising Forbearance

Chuang Tzu

Tsâi Yû, or 'Letting Be, and Exercising Forbearance.' (cont.)

6. The ordinary men of the world all rejoice in men's agreeing with themselves, and dislike men's being different from themselves. This rejoicing and this dislike arise from their being bent on making themselves distinguished above all others. But have they who have this object at heart so risen out above all others? They depend on them to rest quietly (in the position which they desire), and their knowledge is not equal to the multitude of the arts of all those others! When they wish again to administer a state for its ruler, they proceed to employ all the methods which the kings of the three dynasties considered profitable without seeing the evils of such a course. This is to make the state depend on the peradventure of their luck. But how seldom it is that that peradventure does not issue in the ruin of the state! Not once in ten thousand instances will such men preserve a state. Not once will they succeed, and in more than ten thousand cases will they ruin it. Alas that the possessors of territory,-- (the rulers of states),-- should not know the danger (of employing such men)! Now the possessors of territory possess the greatest of (all) things. Possessing the greatest of all things,-- (possessing, that is, men),-- they should not try to deal with them as (simply) things. And it is he who is not a thing (himself) that is therefore able to deal with (all) things as they severally require. When (a ruler) clearly understands that he who should so deal with all things is not a thing himself, will he only rule the kingdom? He will go out and in throughout the universe (at his pleasure); he will roam over the nine regions, alone in going, alone in coming. Him we call the sole possessor (of this ability); and the sole possessor (of this ability) is what is called the noblest of all.

The teaching of (this) great man goes forth as the shadow from the substance, as the echo responds to the sound. When questioned, he responds, exhausting (from his own stores) all that is in the (enquirer's) mind, as if front to front with all under heaven. His resting-place gives forth no sound; his sphere of activity has no restriction of place, He conducts every one to his proper goal, proceeding to it and bringing him back to it as by his own movement. His movements have no trace; his going forth and his re-enterings have no deviation; his course is like that of the sun without beginning (or ending).

If you would praise or discourse about his personality, he is united with the great community of existences. He belongs to that great community, and has no individual self. Having no individual self, how should he have anything that can be called his? If you look at those who have what they call their own, they are the superior men of former times; if you look at him who has nothing of the kind, he is the friend of heaven and earth.

7. Mean, and yet demanding to be allowed their free course;-- such are Things. Low, and yet requiring to be relied on;-- such are the People. Hidden (as to their issues), and yet requiring to be done;-- such are Affairs. Coarse, and yet necessary to be set forth;-- such are Laws. Remote, and yet necessary to have dwelling (in one's self);-- such is Righteousness. Near, and yet necessary to be widely extended;-- such is Benevolence. Restrictive, and yet necessary to be multiplied;-- such are Ceremonies. Lodged in the centre, and yet requiring to be exalted;-- such is Virtue. Always One, and yet requiring to be modified;-- such is the Tâo. Spiritlike, and yet requiring to be exercised;-- such is Heaven.

Therefore the sages contemplated Heaven, but did not assist It. They tried to perfect their virtue, but did not allow it to embarrass them. They proceeded according to the Tâo, but did not lay any plans. They associated benevolence (with all their doings), but did not rely on it. They pursued righteousness extensively, but did not try to accumulate it. They responded to ceremonies, but did not conceal (their opinion as to the troublesomeness of them). They engaged in affairs as they occurred, and did not decline them. They strove to render their laws uniform, but (feared that confusion) might arise from them. They relied upon the people, and did not set light by them. They depended on things as their instruments, and did not discard them.

They did not think things equal to what they employed them for, but yet they did not see that they could do without employing them. Those who do not understand Heaven are not pure in their virtue. Those who do not comprehend the Tâo have no course which they can pursue successfully. Alas for them who do not clearly understand the Tâo!

What is it that we call the Tâo? There is the Tâo, or Way of Heaven; and there is the Tâo, or Way of Man. Doing nothing and yet attracting all honour is the Way of Heaven; Doing and being embarrassed thereby is the Way of Man. It is the Way of Heaven that plays the part of the Lord; it is the Way of Man that plays the part of the Servant. The Way of Heaven and the Way of Man are far apart. They should be clearly distinguished from each other.