The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 13: The Way of Heaven

Chuang Tzu

Thien Tâo, or 'The Way of Heaven.'

1. The Way of Heaven operates (unceasingly), and leaves no accumulation (of its influence) in any particular place, so that all things are brought to perfection by it; so does the Way of the Tîs operate, and all under the sky turn to them (as their directors); so also does the Way of the Sages operate, and all within the seas submit to them. Those who clearly understand (the Way of) Heaven, who are in sympathy with (that of) the sages, and familiar through the universe and in the four quarters (of the earth) with the work of the Tîs and the kings, yet act spontaneously from themselves:-- with the appearance of being ignorant they are yet entirely still.

The stillness of the sages does not belong to them as a consequence of their skilful ability; all things are not able to disturb their minds;-- it is on this account that they are still. When water is still, its clearness shows the beard and eyebrows (of him who looks into it). It is a perfect Level, and the greatest artificer takes his rule from it. Such is the clearness of still water, and how much greater is that of the human Spirit! The still mind of the sage is the mirror of heaven and earth, the glass of all things.

Vacancy, stillness, placidity, tastelessness, quietude, silence, and non-action;-- this is the Level of heaven and earth, and the perfection of the Tâo and its characteristics. Therefore the Tîs, Kings, and Sages found in this their resting-place. Resting here, they were vacant; from their vacancy came fullness; from their fullness came the nice distinctions (of things). From their vacancy came stillness; that stillness was followed by movement; their movemerts were successful. From their stillness came their non-action. Doing-nothing, they devolved the cares of office on their employés, Doing-nothing was accompanied by the feeling of satisfaction. Where there is that feeling of satisfaction, anxieties and troubles find no place; and the years of life are many.

Vacancy, stillness, placidity, tastelessness, quietude, silence, and doing-nothing are the root of all things. When this is understood, we find such a ruler on the throne as Yâo, and such a minister as Shun. When with this a high position is occupied, we find the attributes of the Tîs and kings,-- the sons of Heaven; with this in a low position, we find the mysterious sages, the uncrowned kings, with their ways. With this retiring (from public life), and enjoying themselves at leisure, we find the scholars who dwell by the rivers and seas, among the hills and forests, all submissive to it; with this coming forward to active life and comforting their age, their merit is great, and their fame is distinguished;-- and all the world becomes united in one.

2. (Such men) by their stillness become sages; and by their movement, kings. Doing-nothing, they are honoured; in their plain simplicity, no one in the world can strive with them (for the palm of) excellence. The clear understanding of the virtue of Heaven and Earth is what is called 'The Great Root,' and 'The Great Origin;'-- they who have it are in harmony with Heaven, and so they produce all equable arrangements in the world;-- they are those who are in harmony with men. Being in harmony with men is called the joy of men; being in harmony with Heaven is called the joy of Heaven. Kwang-tsze said, 'My Master! my Master! He shall hash and blend all things in mass without being cruel; he shall dispense his favours to all ages without being benevolent. He is older than the highest antiquity, and yet is not old. He overspreads the heavens and sustains the earth; from him is the carving of all forms without any artful skill! This is what is called the Joy of Heaven. Hence it is said, "Those who know the joy of Heaven during their life, act like Heaven, and at death undergo transformation like (other) things; in their stillness they possess the quality of the Yin, and in their movement they flow abroad as the Yang. Therefore he who knows the Joy of Heaven has no murmuring against Heaven, nor any fault-finding with men; and suffers no embarrassment from things, nor any reproof from ghosts. Hence it is said, 'His movements are those of Heaven; his stillness is that of Earth; his whole mind is fixed, and he rules over the world. The spirits of his dead do not come to scare him; he is not worn out by their souls. His words proceeding from his vacancy and stillness, yet reach to heaven and earth, and show a communication with all things:-- this is what is called the Joy of Heaven. This Joy of Heaven forms the mind of the sage whereby he nurtures all under the sky.'"'