The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 13 (cont.): The Way of Heaven

Chuang Tzu

Thien Tâo, or 'The Way of Heaven.' (cont.)

6. Anciently, Shun asked Yâo, saying, 'In what way does your Majesty by the Grace of Heaven exercise your mind?' The reply was, 'I simply show no arrogance towards the helpless; I do not neglect the poor people; I grieve for those who die; I love their infant children; and I compassionate their widows.' Shun rejoined, 'Admirable, as far as it goes; but it is not what is Great.' 'How then,' asked Yâo, 'do you think I should do?' Shun replied, 'When (a sovereign) possesses the virtue of Heaven, then when he shows himself in action, it is in stillness. The sun and moon (simply) shine, and the four seasons pursue their courses. So it is with the regular phenomena of day and night, and with the movement of the clouds by which the rain is distributed.' Yâo said, 'Then I have only been persistently troubling myself! What you wish is to be in harmony with Heaven, while I wish to be in harmony with men.' Now (the Way of) Heaven and Earth was much thought of of old, and Hwang-Tî, Yâo, and Shun united in admiring it. Hence the kings of the world of old did nothing, but tried to imitate that Way.

7. Confucius went to the west to deposit (some) writings in the library of Kâu, when Tsze-lû counselled him, saying, 'I have heard that the officer in charge of this Kang Repository of Kâu was one Lâo Tan, who has given up his office, and is living in his own house. As you, Master, wish to deposit these writings here, why not go to him, and obtain his help (to accomplish your object).' Confucius said, 'Good;' and he went and saw Lâo Tan, who refused his assistance. On this he proceeded to give an abstract of the Twelve Classics to bring the other over to his views. Lâo Tan, however, interrupted him while he was speaking, and said, 'This is too vague; let me hear the substance of them in brief.' Confucius said, 'The substance of them is occupied with Benevolence and Righteousness.' The other said, 'Let me ask whether you consider Benevolence and Righteousness to constitute the nature of man?' 'I do,' was the answer. 'If the superior man be not benevolent, he will not fulfil his character; if he be not righteous, he might as well not have been born. Benevolence and Righteousness are truly the nature of man.' Lâo Tan continued, 'Let me ask you what you mean by Benevolence and Righteousness.' Confucius said, 'To be in one's inmost heart in kindly sympathy with all things; to love all men; and to allow no selfish thoughts;-- this is the nature of Benevolence and Righteousness.' Lâo Tan exclaimed, 'Ah! you almost show your inferiority by such words! "To love all men!" is not that vague and extravagant? "To be seeking to allow no selfish thoughts!"-- that is selfishness! If you, Master, wish men not to be without their (proper) shepherding, think of Heaven and Earth, which certainly pursue their invariable course; think of the sun and moon, which surely maintain their brightness; think of the stars in the zodiac, which preserve their order and courses; think of birds and beasts, which do not fail to collect together in their flocks and herds; and think of the trees, which do not fail to stand up (in their places). Do you, Master, imitate this way and carry it into practice; hurry on, following this course, and you will reach your end. Why must you further be vehement in putting forward your Benevolence and Righteousness, as if you were beating a drum, and seeking a fugitive son, (only making him run away the more)? Ah! Master, you are introducing disorder into the nature of man!'

8. Shih-khang Khî, having an interview with Lâo-tsze, asked him, saying, 'I heard, Master, that you were a sage, and I came here, wishing to see you, without grudging the length of the journey. During the stages of the hundred days, the soles of my feet became quite callous, but I did not dare to stop and rest. Now I perceive that you are not a sage. Because there was some rice left about the holes of the rats, you sent away your younger sister, which was unkind; when your food, whether raw or cooked, remains before you not all consumed, you keep on hoarding it up to any extent.' Lâ-tsze looked indifferent, and gave him no answer.

Next day Khî again saw Lâo-tsze, and said, 'Yesterday I taunted you; but to-day I have gone back to a better mood of mind. What is the cause (of the change)?' Lâo-tsze replied, 'I consider that I have freed myself from the trammels of claiming to be artfully knowing, spirit-like, and sage. Yesterday if you had called me an ox, you might have done so; or if you had called me a horse, you might have done so. If there be a reality (corresponding to men's ideas), and men give it a name, which another will not receive, he will in the sequel suffer the more. My manner was what I constantly observe;-- I did not put it on for the occasion.'

Shih-khang Khî sidled away out of Lâo's shadow; then he retraced his steps, advanced forward, and asked how he should cultivate himself. The reply was, 'Your demeanour is repelling; you stare with your eyes; your forehead is broad and yet tapering; you bark and growl with your mouth; your appearance is severe and pretentious; you are like a horse held by its tether, you would move, but are restrained, and (if let go) would start off like an arrow from a bow; you examine all the minutiae of a thing; your wisdom is artful, and yet you try to look at ease. All these are to be considered proofs of your want of sincerity. If on the borders one were to be found with them, he would be named a Thief.'