The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 21 (cont.): Thien Tsze-fang

Chuang Tzu

Thien Tsze-fang. (cont.)

4. Confucius went to see Lâo Tan, and arrived just as he had completed the bathing of his head, and was letting his dishevelled hair get dry. There he was, motionless, and as if there were not another man in the world. Confucius waited quietly; and, when in a little time he was introduced, he said, 'Were my eyes dazed? Is it really you? Just now, your body, Sir, was like the stump of a rotten tree. You looked as if you had no thought of anything, as if you had left the society of men, and were standing in the solitude (of yourself).' Lâo Tan replied, 'I was enjoying myself in thinking about the commencement of things.' 'What do you mean?' 'My mind is so cramped, that I hardly know it; my tongue is so tied that I cannot tell it; but I will try to describe it to you as nearly as I can. When the state of Yin was perfect, all was cold and severe; when the state of Yang was perfect, all was turbulent and agitated. The coldness and severity came forth from Heaven; the turbulence and agitation issued from Earth. The two states communicating together, a harmony ensued and things were produced. Some one regulated and controlled this, but no one has seen his form. Decay and growth; fulness and emptiness; darkness and light; the changes of the sun and the transformations of the moon:-- these are brought about from day to day; but no one sees the process of production. Life has its origin from which it springs, and death has its place from which it returns. Beginning and ending go on in mutual contrariety without any determinable commencement, and no one knows how either comes to an end. If we disallow all this, who originates and presides over all these phenomena?'

Confucius said, 'I beg to ask about your enjoyment in these thoughts.' Lâo Tan replied, 'The comprehension of this is the most admirable and the most enjoyable (of all acquisitions). The getting of the most admirable and the exercise of the thoughts in what is the most enjoyable, constitutes what we call the Perfect man.' Confucius said, 'I should like to hear the method of attaining to it.' The reply was, 'Grass-eating animals do not dislike to change their pastures; creatures born in the water do not dislike to change their waters. They make a small change, but do not lose what is the great and regular requirement (of their nature); joy, anger, sadness, and delight do not enter into their breasts (in connexion with such events). Now the space under the sky is occupied by all things in their unity. When they possess that unity and equally share it, then the four limbs and hundred members of their body are but so much dust and dirt, while death and life, their ending and beginning, are but as the succession of day and night, which cannot disturb their enjoyment; and how much less will they be troubled by gains and losses, by calamity and happiness! Those who renounce the paraphernalia of rank do it as if they were casting away so much mud;-- they know that they are themselves more honourable than those paraphernalia. The honour belonging to one's self is not lost by any change (of condition). Moreover, a myriad transformations may take place before the end of them is reached. What is there in all this sufficient to trouble the mind? Those who have attained to the Tâo understand the subject.'

Confucius said, '0 Master, your virtue is equal to that of Heaven and Earth, and still I must borrow (some of your) perfect words (to aid me) in the cultivation of my mind. Who among the superior men of antiquity could give such expression to them?' Lâo Tan replied, 'Not so. Look at the spring, the water of which rises and overflows;-- it does nothing, but it naturally acts so. So with the perfect man and his virtue;-- he does not cultivate it, and nothing evades its influence. He is like heaven which is high of itself, like earth which is solid of itself, like the sun and moon which shine of themselves;-- what need is there to cultivate it?'

Confucius went out and reported the conversation to Yen Hui, saying, 'In the (knowledge of the) Tâo am I any better than an animalcule in vinegar? But for the Master's lifting the veil from me, I should not have known the grand perfection of Heaven and Earth.'

5. At an interview of Kwang-Tsze with duke Âi of Lû, the duke said, 'There are many of the Learned class in Lû; but few of them can be compared with you, Sir.' Kwang-Tsze replied, 'There are few Learned men in Lû.' 'Everywhere in Lû,' rejoined the duke, 'you see men wearing the dress of the Learned;-- how can you say that they are few?' 'I have heard,' said Kwang-Tsze, 'that those of them who wear round caps know the times of heaven; that those who wear square shoes know the contour of the ground; and that those who saunter about with semicircular stones at their girdle-pendents settle matters in dispute as they come before them. But superior men who are possessed of such knowledge will not be found wearing the dress, and it does not follow that those who wear the dress possess the knowledge. If your Grace think otherwise, why not issue a notification through the state, that it shall be a capital offence to wear the dress without possessing the knowledge.' On this the duke issued such a notification, and in five days, throughout all Lû, there was no one who dared to wear the dress of the Learned. There was only one old man who came and stood in it at the duke's gate. The duke instantly called him in, and questioned him about the affairs of the state, when he talked about a thousand points and ten thousand divergences from them. Kwang-tsze said, 'When the state of Lû can thus produce but one man of the Learned class, can he be said to be many?'

6. The ideas of rank and emolument did not enter the mind of Pâi-lî Hsî, and so he became a cattle-feeder, and his cattle were all in fine condition. This made duke Mû of Khin forget the meanness of his position, and put the government (of his state) into his hands. Neither life nor death entered into the mind of (Shun), the Lord of Yü, and therefore he was able to influence others.

7. The ruler Yüan of Sung wishing to have a map drawn, the masters of the pencil all came (to undertake the task). Having received his instructions and made their bows, they stood, licking their pencils and preparing their ink. Half their number, however, remained outside. There was one who came late, with an air of indifference, and did not hurry forward. When he had received his instructions and made his bow, he did not keep standing, but proceeded to his shed. The duke sent a man to see him, and there he was, with his upper garment off, sitting cross-legged, and nearly naked. The ruler said, 'He is the man; he is a true draughtsman.'