The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 12 (cont.): Heaven and Earth

Chuang Tzu

Thien Tî, or 'Heaven and Earth.' (cont.)

5. The teacher of Yâo was Hsü Yû; of Hsü Yû, Nieh Khüeh; of Nieh Khüeh, Wang Î; of Wang Î, Pheî-î. Yâo asked Hsü Yû, saying, 'Is Nieh Khüeh fit to be the correlate of Heaven? (If you think he is), I will avail myself of the services of Wang Î to constrain him (to take my place).' Hsü Yû replied, 'Such a measure would be hazardous, and full of peril to the kingdom! The character of Nieh Khüeh is this;-- he is acute, perspicacious, shrewd and knowing, ready in reply, sharp in retort, and hasty; his natural (endowments) surpass those of other men, but by his human qualities he seeks to obtain the Heavenly gift; he exercises his discrimination in suppressing his errors, but he does not know what is the source from which his errors arise. Make him the correlate of Heaven! He would employ the human qualities, so that no regard would be paid to the Heavenly gift. Moreover, he would assign different functions to the different parts of the one person. Moreover, honour would be given to knowledge, and he would have his plans take effect with the speed of fire. Moreover, he would be the slave of everything he initiated. Moreover, he would be embarrassed by things. Moreover, he would be looking all round for the response of things (to his measures). Moreover, he would be responding to the opinion of the multitude as to what was right. Moreover, he would be changing as things changed, and would not begin to have any principle of constancy. How can such a man be fit to be the correlate of Heaven? Nevertheless, as there are the smaller branches of a family and the common ancestor of all its branches, he might be the father of a branch, but not the father of the fathers of all the branches. Such government (as he would conduct) would lead to disorder. It would be calamity in one in the position of a minister, and ruin if he were in the position of the sovereign.'

6. Yâo was looking about him at Hwâ, the border-warden of which said, 'Ha! the sage! Let me ask blessings on the sage! May he live long!' Yâo said, 'Hush!' but the other went on, 'May the sage become rich!' Yâo (again) said, 'Hush!' but (the warden) continued, 'May the sage have many sons!' When Yâo repeated his 'Hush,' the warden said, 'Long life, riches, and many sons are what men wish for;-- how is it that you alone do not wish for them?' Yâo replied, 'Many sons bring many fears; riches bring many troubles; and long life gives rise to many obloquies. These three things do not help to nourish virtue; and therefore I wish to decline them.' The warden rejoined, 'At first I considered you to be a sage; now I see in you only a Superior man. Heaven, in producing the myriads of the people, is sure to have appointed for them their several offices. If you had many sons, and gave them (all their) offices, what would you have to fear? If you had riches, and made other men share them with you, what trouble would you have? The sage finds his dwelling like the quail (without any choice of its own), and is fed like the fledgling; he is like the bird which passes on (through the air), and leaves no trace (of its flight). When good order prevails in the world, he shares in the general prosperity. When there is no such order, he cultivates his virtue, and seeks to be unoccupied. After a thousand years, tired of the world, he leaves it, and ascends among the immortals. He mounts on the white clouds, and arrives at the place of God. The three forms of evil do not reach him, his person is always free from misfortune;-- what obloquy has he to incur?'

With this the border-warden left him. Yâo followed him, saying, 'I beg to ask-- ;' but the other said, 'Begone!'

7. When Yâo was ruling the world, Po-khang Tsze-kâo was appointed by him prince of one of the states. From Yâo (afterwards) the throne passed to Shun, and from Shun (again) to Yü; and (then) Po-khang Tsze-kâo resigned his principality and began to cultivate the ground. Yü went to see him, and found him ploughing in the open country. Hurrying to him, and bowing low in acknowledgment of his superiority, Yü then stood up, and asked him, saying, 'Formerly, when Yâo was ruling the world, you, Sir, were appointed prince of a state. He gave his sovereignty to Shun, and Shun gave his to me, when you, Sir, resigned your dignity, and are (now) ploughing (here);-- I venture to ask the reason of your conduct.' Tsze-kâo said, 'When Yâo ruled the world, the people stimulated one another (to what was right) without his offering them rewards, and stood in awe (of doing wrong) without his threatening them with punishments. Now you employ both rewards and punishments, and the people notwithstanding are not good. Their virtue will from this time decay; punishments will from this time prevail; the disorder of future ages will from this time begin. Why do you, my master, not go away, and not interrupt my work?' With this he resumed his ploughing with his head bent down, and did not (again) look round.

8. In the Grand Beginning (of all things) there was nothing in all the vacancy of space; there was nothing that could be named. It was in this state that there arose the first existence;-- the first existence, but still without bodily shape. From this things could then be produced, (receiving) what we call their proper character. That which had no bodily shape was divided; and then without intermission there was what we call the process of conferring. (The two processes) continuing in operation, things were produced. As things were completed, there were produced the distinguishing lines of each, which we call the bodily shape. That shape was the body preserving in it the spirit, and each had its peculiar manifestation, which we call its Nature. When the Nature has been cultivated, it returns to its proper character; and when that has been fully reached, there is the same condition as at the Beginning. That sameness is pure vacancy, and the vacancy is great. It is like the closing of the beak and silencing the singing (of a bird). That closing and silencing is like the union of heaven and earth (at the beginning). The union, effected, as it is, might seem to indicate stupidity or darkness, but it is what we call the 'mysterious quality' (existing at the beginning); it is the same as the Grand Submission (to the Natural Course).

9. The Master asked Lâo Tan, saying, 'Some men regulate the Tâo (as by a law), which they have only to follow;-- (a thing, they say,) is admissible or it is inadmissible; it is so, or it is not so. (They are like) the sophists who say that they can distinguish what is hard and what is white as clearly as if the objects were houses suspended in the sky. Can such men be said to be sages?' The reply was, 'They are like the busy underlings of a court, who toil their bodies and distress their minds with their various artifices;-- dogs, (employed) to their sorrow to catch the yak, or monkeys that are brought from their forests (for their tricksiness). Khiû, I tell you this;-- it is what you cannot hear, and what you cannot speak of:-- Of those who have their heads and feet, and yet have neither minds nor ears, there are multitudes; while of those who have their bodies, and at the same time preserve that which has no bodily form or shape, there are really none. It is not in their movements or stoppages, their dying or living, their falling and rising again, that this is to be found. The regulation of the course lies in (their dealing with) the human element in them. When they have forgotten external things, and have also forgotten the heavenly element in them, they may be named men who have forgotten themselves. The man who has forgotten himself is he of whom it is said that he has become identified with Heaven.'