The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 14: The Revolution of Heaven

Chuang Tzu

Thien Yün, or 'The Revolution of Heaven.'

1. How (ceaselessly) heaven revolves! How (constantly) earth abides at rest! And do the sun and moon contend about their (respective) places? Who presides over and directs these (things)? Who binds and connects them together? Who is it that, without trouble or exertion on his part, causes and maintains them? Is it, perhaps, that there is some secret spring, in consequence of which they cannot be but as they are? Or is it, perhaps, that they move and turn as they do, and cannot stop of themselves?

(Then) how the clouds become rain! And how the rain again forms the clouds! Who diffuses them so abundantly? Who is it that, without trouble or exertion on his part, produces this elemental enjoyment, and seems to stimulate it?

The winds rise in the north; one blows to the west, and another to the east; while some rise upwards, uncertain in their direction. By whose breathing are they produced? Who is it that, without any trouble and exertion of his own, effects all their undulations? I venture to ask their cause.

Wû-hsien Thiâo said, 'Come, and I will tell you. To heaven there belong the six Extreme Points, and the five Elements. When the Tîs and Kings acted in accordance with them, there was good government; when they acted contrary to them, there was evil. Observing the things (described) in the nine divisions (of the writing) of Lo, their government was perfected and their virtue was complete. They inspected and enlightened the kingdom beneath them, and all under the sky acknowledged and sustained them. Such was the condition under the august (sovereigns) and those before them.'

2. Tang, the chief administrator of Shang, asked Kwang-tsze about Benevolence, and the answer was, 'Wolves and tigers are benevolent.' 'What do you mean?' said Tang. Kwang-tsze replied, 'Father and son (among them) are affectionate to one another. Why should they be considered as not benevolent?' 'Allow me to ask about perfect benevolence,' pursued the other. Kwang-tsze said, 'Perfect benevolence does not admit (the feeling) of affection.' The minister said, 'I have heard that, without (the feeling of) affection there is no love, and without love there is not filial duty;-- is it permissible to say that the perfectly benevolent are not filial?' Kwang-tsze rejoined, 'That is not the way to put the case. Perfect Benevolence is the very highest thing;-- filial duty is by no means sufficient to describe it. The saying which you quote is not to the effect that (such benevolence) transcends filial duty;-- it does not refer to such duty at all. One, travelling to the south, comes (at last) to Ying, and there, standing with his face to the north, he does not see mount Ming. Why does he not see it? Because he is so far from it. Hence it is said, "Filial duty as a part of reverence is easy, but filial duty as a part of love is difficult. If it be easy as a part of love, yet it is difficult to forget one's parents. It may be easy for me to forget my parents, but it is difficult to make my parents forget me. If it were easy to make my parents forget me, it is difficult for me to forget all men in the world. If it were easy to forget all men in the world, it is difficult to make them all forget me."

'This virtue might make one think light of Yâo and Shun, and not wish to be they. The profit and beneficial influences of it extend to a myriad ages, and no one in the world knows whence they come. How can you simply heave a great sigh, and speak (as you do) of benevolence and filial duty? Filial duty, fraternal respect, benevolence, righteousness, loyalty, sincerity, firmness, and purity;-- all these may be pressed into the service of this virtue, but they are far from sufficient to come up to it. Therefore it is said, "To him who has what is most noble, all the dignities of a state are as nothing; to him who has what is the greatest riches, all the wealth of a state is as nothing; to him who has all that he could wish, fame and praise are as nothing." It is thus that the Tâo admits of no substitute.'