The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 29 (cont.): The Robber Kih

Chuang Tzu

Tâo Kih, or 'The Robber Kih.' (cont.)

2. Tsze-kang asked Mân Kâu-teh, saying, 'Why do you not pursue a (righteous) course? Without such a course you will not be believed in; unless you are believed in, you will not be employed in office; and if not employed in office, you will not acquire gain. Thus, if you look at the matter from the point of reputation, or estimate it from the point of gain, a righteous course is truly the right thing. If you discard the thought of reputation and gain, yet when you think over the thing in your own mind, you will see that the scholar should not be a single day without pursuing a (righteous) course.' Mân Kâu-teh said, 'He who has no shame becomes rich, and he in whom many believe becomes illustrious. Thus the greatest fame and gain would seem to spring from being without shame and being believed in. Therefore if you look at the matter from the point of reputation, or estimate it from the point of gain, to be believed in is the right thing. If you discard the thought of fame and gain, and think over the thing in your own mind, you will see that the scholar in the course which he pursues is (simply) holding fast his Heavenly (nature, and gaining nothing).'

Tsze-kang said, 'Formerly Kieh and Kâu each enjoyed the honour of being the sovereign, and all the wealth of the kingdom was his; but if you now say to a (mere) money-grabber, "Your conduct is like that of Kieh or Kâu," he will look ashamed, and resent the imputation:-- (these two sovereigns) are despised by the smallest men. Kung-nî and Mo Tî (on the other hand) were poor, and common men; but if you say to a Prime Minister that his conduct is like that of Kung-nî or Mo Tî, then he will be put out and change countenance, and protest that he is not worthy (to be so spoken of):-- (these two philosophers) are held to be truly noble by (all) scholars. Thus it is that the position of sovereign does not necessarily connect with being thought noble, nor the condition of being poor and of common rank with being thought mean. The difference of being thought noble or mean arises from the conduct being good or bad.' Mân KAu-teh replied, 'Small robbers are put in prison; a great robber becomes a feudal lord; and in the gate of the feudal lord your righteous scholars will be found. For instance, Hsiâo-po, the duke Hwan, killed his elder brother, and took his sister-in-law to himself, and yet Kwan Kung became his minister; and Thien Khang, styled Khang-tsze, killed his ruler, and usurped the state, and yet Confucius received a present of silks from him. In their discussions they would condemn the men, but in their conduct they abased themselves before them. In this way their words and actions must have been at war together in their breasts;-- was it not a contradiction and perversity? As it is said in a book, "Who is bad? and who is good? The successful is regarded as the Head, and the unsuccessful as the Tail."'

Tsze-kang said, 'If you do not follow the usual course of what is held to be right, but observe no distinction between the near and remote degrees of kin, no difference between the noble and the mean, no order between the old and the young, then how shall a separation be made of the fivefold arrangement (of the virtues), and the six parties (in the social organisation)?' Mân Kâu-teh replied, 'Yâo killed his eldest son, and Shun banished his half-brother':-- did they observe the rules about the different degrees of kin? Thang deposed Kieh; king Wû overthrew Kâu:-- did they observe the righteousness that should obtain between the noble and the mean? King Kî took the place of his elder brother, and the duke of Kâu killed his:-- did they observe the order that should obtain between the elder and the younger? The Literati make hypocritical speeches; the followers of Mo hold that all should be loved equally:-- do we find in them the separation of the fivefold arrangement (of the virtues), and the six parties (in the social organisation)? And further, you, Sir, are all for reputation, and I am all for gain; but where the actual search for reputation and gain may not be in accordance with principle and will not bear to be examined in the light of the right way, let me and you refer the matter to-morrow to the decision of Wû-yo.'

(This Wû-yo) said, 'The small man pursues after wealth; the superior man pursues after reputation. The way in which they change their feelings and alter their nature is different; but if they were to cast away what they do, and replace it with doing nothing, they would be the same. Hence it is said, "Do not be a small man;-- return and pursue after the Heavenly in you. Do not be a superior man;-- follow the rule of the Heavenly in you. Be it crooked, be it straight, view the thing in the light of Heaven as revealed in you. Look all round on every side of it, and as the time indicates, cease your endeavours. Be it right, be it wrong, hold fast the ring in yourself in which all conditions converge. Alone by yourself, carry out your idea; ponder over the right way. Do not turn your course; do not try to complete your righteousness. You will fail in what you do. Do not haste to be rich; do not follow after your perfection. If you do, you will lose the heavenly in you."

'Pî-kan had his heart cut out; Tsze-hsü had his eyes gouged out:-- such were the evil consequences of their loyalty. The upright person bore witness against his father; Wei Shang was drowned:-- such were the misfortunes of good faith. Pao-tsze stood till he was dried up; Shan-tsze would not defend himself:-- such were the injuries brought on by disinterestedness. Confucius did not see his mother; Khwang-tsze did not see his father:-- such were the failures of the righteous. These are instances handed down from former ages, and talked about in these later times. They show us how superior men, in their determination to be correct in their words and resolute in their conduct, paid the penalty of these misfortunes, and were involved in these distresses.'