The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 27 (cont.): Metaphorical Language

Chuang Tzu

Yü Yen, or 'Metaphorical Language.' (cont.)

4. Yen Khang Tsze-yû said to Tung-kwo Tsze-khî, 'When I (had begun to) hear your instructions, the first year, I continued a simple rustic; the second year, I became docile; the third year, I comprehended (your teaching); the fourth year, I was (plastic) as a thing; the fifth year, I made advances; the sixth year, the spirit entered (and dwelt in me); the seventh year, (my nature as designed by) Heaven was perfected; the eighth year, I knew no difference between death and life; the ninth year, I attained to the Great Mystery.

'Life has its work to do, and death ensues, (as if) the common character of each were a thing prescribed. Men consider that their death has its cause; but that life from (the operation of) the Yang has no cause. But is it really so? How does (the Yang) operate in this direction? Why does it not operate there?

'Heaven has its places and spaces which can be calculated; (the divisions of) the earth can be assigned bv men. But how shall we search for and find out (the conditions of the Great Mystery)? We do not know when and how (life) will end, but how shall we conclude that it is not determined (from without)? and as we do not know when and how it begins, how should we conclude that it is not (so) determined?

In regard to the issues of conduct which we deem appropriate, how should we conclude that there are no spirits presiding over them; and where those issues seem inappropriate, how should we conclude that there are spirits presiding over them?'

5. The penumbrae (once) asked the shadow, saying, 'Formerly you were looking down, and now you are looking up; formerly you had your hair tied up, and now it is dishevelled; formerly you were sitting, and now you have risen up; formerly you were walking, and now you have stopped: how is all this?' The shadow said, 'Venerable Sirs, how do you ask me about such small matters? These things all belong to me, but I do not know how they do so. I am (like) the shell of a cicada or the cast-off skin of a snake;-- like them, and yet not like them. With light and the sun I make my appearance; with darkness and the night I fade away. Am not I dependent on the substance from which I am thrown? And that substance is itself dependent on something else! When it comes, I come with it; when it goes, I go with it. When it comes under the influence of the strong Yang, I come under the same. Since we are both produced by that strong Yang, what occasion is there for you to question me?'

6. Yang Tsze-kü had gone South to Phei, while Lâo Tan was travelling in the west in Khin. (He thereupon) asked (Lâo-tsze) to come to the border (of Phei), and went himself to Liang, where he met him. Lâo-tsze stood in the middle of the way, and, looking up to heaven, said with a sigh, 'At first I thought that you might be taught, but now I see that you cannot be.' Yang Tsze-kü made no reply; and when they came to their lodging-house, he brought in water for the master to wash his hands and rinse his mouth, along with a towel and comb. He then took off his shoes outside the door, went forward on his knees, and said, 'Formerly, your disciple wished to ask you, Master, (the reason of what you said); but you were walking, and there was no opportunity, and therefore I did not presume to speak. Now there is an opportunity, and I beg to ask why you spoke as you did.' Lâo-tsze replied, 'Your eyes are lofty, and you stare;-- who would live with you? The purest carries himself as if he were soiled; the most virtuous seems to feel himself defective.' Yang Tsze-kü looked abashed and changed countenance, saying, 'I receive your commands with reverence,'

When he first went to the lodging-house, the people of it met him and went before him. The master of it carried his mat for him, and the mistress brought the towel and comb. The lodgers left their mats, and the cook his fire-place (as he passed them). When he went away, the others in the house would have striven with him about (the places for) their mats.