The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 24 (cont.): Hsü Wû-kwei

Chuang Tzu

Hsü Wû-kwei. (cont.)

12. Nieh Khüeh met Hsü Yû (on the way), and said to him, 'Where, Sir, are you going to?' 'I am fleeing from Yâo,' was the reply. 'What do you mean?' 'Yâo has become so bent on his benevolence that I am afraid the world will laugh at him, and that in future ages men will be found eating one another. Now the people are collected together without difficulty. Love them, and they respond with affection; benefit them, and they come to you; praise them, and they are stimulated (to please you); make them to experience what they dislike, and they disperse. When the loving and benefiting proceed from benevolence and righteousness, those who forget the benevolence and righteousness, and those who make a profit of them, are the many. In this way the practice of benevolence and righteousness comes to be without sincerity and is like a borrowing of the instruments with which men catch birds. In all this the one man's seeking to benefit the world by his decisions and enactments (of such a nature) is as if he were to cut through (the nature of all) by one operation;-- Yâo knows how wise and superior men can benefit the world, but he does not also know how they injure it. It is only those who stand outside such men that know this.'

There are the pliable and weak; the easy and hasty; the grasping and crooked. Those who are called the pliable and weak learn the words of some one master, to which they freely yield their assent, being secretly pleased with themselves, and thinking that their knowledge is sufficient, while they do not know that they have not yet begun (to understand) a single thing. It is this which makes them so pliable and weak. The easy and hasty are like lice on a pig. The lice select a place where the bristles are more wide apart, and look on it as a great palace or a large park. The slits between the toes, the overlappings of its skin, about its nipples and its thighs,-- all these seem to them safe apartments and advantageous places;-- they do not know that the butcher one morning, swinging about his arms, will spread the grass, and kindle the fire, so that they and the pig will be roasted together. So do they appear and disappear with the place where they harboured:-- this is why they are called the easy and hasty.

Of the grasping and crooked we have an example in Shun. Mutton has no craving for ants, but ants have a craving for mutton, for it is rank. There was a rankness about the conduct of Shun, and the people were pleased with him. Hence when he thrice changed his residence, every one of them became a capital city. When he came to the wild of Tang, he had 100,000 families about him. Yâo having heard of the virtue and ability of Shun, appointed him to a new and uncultivated territory, saying, 'I look forward to the benefit of his coming here.' When Shun was appointed to this new territory, his years were advanced, and his intelligence was decayed;-- and yet he could not find a place of rest or a home. This is an example of being grasping and wayward.

Therefore (in opposition to such) the spirit-like man dislikes the flocking of the multitudes to him. When the multitudes come, they do not agree; and when they do not agree, no benefit results from their coming. Hence there are none whom he brings very near to himself, and none whom he keeps at a great distance. He keeps his virtue in close embrace, and warmly nourishes (the spirit of) harmony, so as to be in accordance with all men. This is called the True man. Even the knowledge of the ant he puts away; his plans are simply those of the fishes; even the notions of the sheep he discards. His seeing is simply that of the eye; his hearing that of the ear; his mind is governed by its general exercises. Being such, his course is straight and level as if marked out by a line, and its every change is in accordance (with the circumstances of the case).

13. The True men of old waited for the issues of events as the arrangements of Heaven, and did not by their human efforts try to take the place of Heaven. The True men of old (now) looked on success as life and on failure as death; and (now) on success as death and on failure as life. The operation of medicines will illustrate this:-- there are monk's-bane, the kieh-kang, the tribulus fruit, and china-root; each of these has the time and case for which it is supremely suitable; and all such plants and their suitabilities cannot be mentioned particularly. Kâu-kien took his station on (the hill of) Kwâi-khî with 3,000 men with their buff-coats and shields:-- (his minister) Kung knew how the ruined (Yüeh) might still be preserved, but the same man did not know the sad fate in store for himself. Hence it is said, 'The eye of the owl has its proper fitness; the leg of the crane has its proper limit, and to cut off any of it would distress (the bird).' Hence (also) it is (further) said, 'When the wind passes over it, the volume of the river is diminished, and so it is when the sun passes over it. But let the wind and sun keep a watch together on the river, and it will not begin to feel that they are doing it any injury:-- it relies on its springs and flows on.' Thus, water does its part to the ground with undeviating exactness; and so does the shadow to the substance; and one thing to another. Therefore there is danger from the power of vision in the eyes, of hearing in the ears, and of the inordinate thinking of the mind; yea, there is danger from the exercise of every power of which man's constitution is the depository. When the danger has come to a head, it cannot be averted, and the calamity is perpetuated, and goes on increasing. The return from this (to a state of security) is the result of (great) effort, and success can be attained only after a long time; and yet men consider (their power of self-determination) as their precious possession:-- is it not sad? It is in this way that we have the ruin of states and the slaughtering of the people without end; while no one knows how to ask how it comes about.

14. Therefore, the feet of man on the earth tread but on a small space, but going on to where he has not trod before, he traverses a great distance easily; so his knowledge is but small, but going on to what he does not already know, he comes to know what is meant by Heaven. He knows it as The Great Unity; The Great Mystery; The Great Illuminator; The Great Framer; The Great Boundlessness; The Great Truth; The Great Determiner. This makes his knowledge complete. As The Great Unity, he comprehends it; as The Great Mystery, he unfolds it; as the Great Illuminator, he contemplates it; as the Great Framer, it is to him the Cause of all; as the Great Boundlessness, all is to him its embodiment; as The Great Truth, he examines it; as The Great Determiner, he holds it fast. Thus Heaven is to him all; accordance with it is the brightest intelligence. Obscurity has in this its pivot; in this is the beginning. Such being the case, the explanation of it is as if it were no explanation; the knowledge of it is as if it were no knowledge. (At first) he does not know it, but afterwards he comes to know it. In his inquiries, he must not set to himself any limits, and yet he cannot be without a limit. Now ascending, now descending, then slipping from the grasp, (the Tâo) is yet a reality, unchanged now as in antiquity, and always without defect:-- may it not be called what is capable of the greatest display and expansion? Why should we not inquire into it? Why should we be perplexed about it? With what does not perplex let us explain what perplexes, till we cease to be perplexed. So may we arrive at a great freedom from all perplexity!