1: Stillness and plenitude within
The Way of Heaven operates (unceasingly), and leaves no accumulation (of its influence) in any particular place, so that all things are brought to perfection by it; so does the Way of the Ti s operate, and all under the sky turn to them (as their directors); so also does the Way of the Sages operate, and all within the seas submit to them. Those who clearly understand (the Way of) Heaven, who are in sympathy with (that of) the sages, and familiar through the universe and in the four quarters (of the earth) with the work of the Ti s and the kings, yet act spontaneously from themselves: with the appearance of being ignorant they are yet entirely still.
The stillness of the sages does not belong to them as a consequence of their skilful ability; all things are not able to disturb their minds; – it is on this account that they are still. When water is still, its clearness shows the beard and eyebrows (of him who looks into it). It is a perfect Level, and the greatest artificer takes his rule from it. Such is the clearness of still water, and how much greater is that of the human Spirit! The still mind of the sage is the mirror of heaven and earth, the glass of all things.
Vacancy, stillness, placidity, tastelessness, quietude, silence, and non-action; – this is the Level of heaven and earth, and the perfection of the Tao and its characteristics. Therefore the Ti s, Kings, and Sages found in this their resting-place. Resting here, they were vacant; from their vacancy came fullness; from their fullness came the nice distinctions (of things). From their vacancy came stillness; that stillness was followed by movement; their movements were successful. From their stillness came their non-action. Doing-nothing, they devolved the cares of office on their employé s. Doing-nothing was accompanied by the feeling of satisfaction. Where there is that feeling of satisfaction, anxieties and troubles find no place; and the years of life are many.
Vacancy, stillness, placidity, tastelessness, quietude, silence, and doing-nothing are the root of all things. When this is understood, we find such a ruler on the throne as Yao, and such a minister as Shun. When with this a high position is occupied, we find the attributes of the Ti s and kings, – the sons of Heaven; with this in a low position, we find the mysterious sages, the uncrowned kings, with their ways. With this retiring (from public life), and enjoying themselves at leisure, we find the scholars who dwell by the rivers and seas, among the hills and forests, all submissive to it; with this coming forward to active life and comforting their age, their merit is great, and their fame is distinguished; – and all the world becomes united in one.
❋ Balancing deep ◦Transcendental Meditation, TM sessions with active living is much in TM circles.
2: Simple, taciturn, and joyful
(Such men) by their stillness become sages and by their movement, kings. Doing-nothing, they are honoured; in their plain simplicity, no one in the world can strive with them (for the palm of) excellence. The clear understanding of the virtue of Heaven and Earth is what is called 'The Great Root,' and 'The Great Origin;' – they who have it are in harmony with Heaven, and so they produce all equable arrangements in the world; – they are those who are in harmony with men. Being in harmony with men is called the joy of men; being in harmony with Heaven is called the joy of Heaven. Master Chuang said,
'My Master! my Master! He shall hash and blend all things in mass without being cruel; he shall dispense his favours to all ages without being benevolent. He is older than the highest antiquity, and yet is not old. He overspreads the heavens and sustains the earth; from him is the carving of all forms without any artful skill! This is what is called the Joy of Heaven. Hence it is said, "Those who know the Joy of Heaven during their life, act like Heaven, and at death undergo transformation like (other) things; in their stillness they possess the quality of the Yin, and in their movement they flow abroad as the Yang. Therefore he who knows the joy of Heaven has no murmuring against Heaven, nor any fault-finding with men; and suffers no embarrassment from things, nor any reproof from ghosts. Hence it is said, His movements are those of Heaven; his stillness is that of Earth; his whole mind is fixed, and he rules over the world. The spirits of his dead do not come to scare him; he is not worn out by their souls. His words proceeding from his vacancy and stillness, yet reach to heaven and earth, and show a communication with all things: this is what is called the joy of Heaven. This joy of Heaven forms the mind of the sage whereby he nurtures all under the sky."'
3: Superiors and inferiors
It was the Way of the Ti s and Kings to regard Heaven and Earth as their Author, the Tao and its characteristics as their Lord, and Doing-nothing as their constant rule. Doing-nothing, they could use the whole world in their service and might have done more; acting, they were not sufficient for the service required of them by the world. Hence the men of old held non-inaction in honour. When superiors do nothing and their inferiors also do nothing, inferiors and superiors possess the same virtue; and when inferiors and superiors possess the same virtue, there are none to act as ministers. When inferiors act, and their superiors also act, then superiors and inferiors possess the same Tao; and when superiors and inferiors possess the same Tao, there is none to preside as Lord. But that the superiors do nothing and yet thereby use the world in their service, and that the inferiors, while acting, be employed in the service of the world, is an unchangeable principle. Therefore the ancient kings who presided over the world, though their knowledge embraced (all the operations of) Heaven and Earth, took no thought of their own about them; though their nice discrimination appreciated the fine fashioning of all things, they said not a word about it; though their power comprehended all within the seas, they did nothing themselves. Heaven produces nothing, yet all things experience their transformations; Earth effects no growth, yet all things receive their nurture; the Ti s and Kings did nothing, yet all the world testified their effective services. Hence it is said,
'There is nothing more spirit-like than Heaven; there is nothing richer than Earth; there are none greater than the Ti s and Kings.'
Hence it is said (further),
'The attributes of the Tis and kings corresponded to those of Heaven and Earth.'
It was thus that they availed themselves of (the operations of) Heaven and Earth, carried all things on unceasingly (in their courses), and employed the various classes of men in their service.
4: The men of old employed arts and priorities
Originating belongs to those in the higher position; details (of work) to those who are in the lower. The compendious decision belongs to the lord; the minutiae of execution, to his ministers. The direction of the three hosts and their men with the five weapons is but a trifling quality; rewards and penalties with their advantages and sufferings, and the inflictions of the five punishments are but trivial elements of instruction; ceremonies, laws, measures, and numbers, with all the minutiae of jurisprudence, are small matters in government; the notes of bells and drums, and the display of plumes and flags are the slightest things in music, and the various grades of the mourning garments are the most unimportant manifestations of grief. These five unimportant adjuncts required the operation of the excited spirit and the employment of the arts of the mind, to bring them into use. The men of old had them indeed, but they did not give them the first place.
The ruler precedes, and the minister follows; the father precedes, and the son follows; the elder brother precedes, and the younger follows; the senior precedes, and the junior follows; the male precedes, and the female follows; the husband precedes, and the wife follows.
This precedence of the more honourable and sequence of the meaner is seen in the (relative) action of heaven and earth, and hence the sages took them as their pattern. The more honourable position of heaven and the lower one of earth are equivalent to a designation of their spirit-like and intelligent qualities. The precedence of spring and summer and the sequence of autumn and winter mark the order of the four seasons. In the transformations and growth of all things, every bud and feature has its proper form; and in this we have their gradual maturing and decay, the constant flow of transformation and change. Thus since Heaven and Earth, which are most spirit-like, are distinguished as more honourable and less, and by precedence and sequence, how much more must we look for this in the ways of men! In the ancestral temple it is to kinship that honour is given; in court, to rank; in the neighbourhoods and districts, to age; in the conduct of affairs, to wisdom; such is the order in those great ways. If we speak of the course (to be pursued in them), and do not observe their order, we violate their course. If we speak of the course, and do not observe it, why do we apply that name to it?
5: Benevolent and Righteous
Therefore the ancients who clearly understood the great Tao first sought to apprehend what was meant by Heaven, and the Tao and its characteristics came next. When this was apprehended, then came Benevolence and Righteousness. When these were apprehended, then came the Distinction of duties and the observance of them. This accomplished, there came objects and their names. After objects and their names, came the employment of men according to their qualities: on this there followed the examination of the men and of their work. This led to the approval or disapproval of them, which again was succeeded by the apportioning of rewards and penalties. After this the stupid and the intelligent understood what was required of them, and the honourable and the mean occupied their several positions. The good and the able, and those inferior to them, sincerely did their best. Their ability was distributed; the duties implied in their official names were fulfilled. In this way did they serve their superiors, nourish their inferiors, regulate things, and cultivate their persons. They did not call their knowledge and schemes into requisition; they were required to fall back upon (the method of) Heaven: this was what is called the Perfection of the Rule of Great Peace. Hence it is said in the Book,
'There are objects and there are their names.'
Objects and their names the ancients had; but they did not put them in the foremost place.
When the ancients spoke of the Great Tao, it was only after four other steps that they gave a place to 'Objects and their Names,' and after eight steps that they gave a place to 'Rewards and Penalties.'
If they had all at once spoken of 'Objects and their Names,' they would have shown an ignorance of what is the Root (of government); if they had all at once spoken of 'Rewards and Penalties,' they would have shown an ignorance of the first steps of it. Those whose words are thus an inversion of the (proper) course, or in opposition to it, are (only fit to be) ruled by others; - how can they rule others? To speak all at once of 'Objects and their Names,' and of 'Rewards and Penalties,' only shows that the speaker knows the instruments of government, but does not know the method of it, is fit to be used as an instrument in the world, but not fit to use others as his instruments: he is what we call a mere sophist, a man of one small idea. Ceremonies, laws, numbers, measures, with all the minutiae of jurisprudence, the ancients had; but it is by these that inferiors serve their superiors; it is not by them that those superiors nourish the world.
6: Deep stillness
Anciently, Shun asked Yao, saying,
'In what way does your Majesty by the Grace of Heaven' exercise your mind?'
The reply was,
'I simply show no arrogance towards the helpless; I do not neglect the poor people; I grieve for those who die; I love their infant children; and I compassionate their widows.'
'Admirable, as far as it goes; but it is not what is Great.'
How then,' asked Yao, 'do you think I should do?'
'When (a sovereign) possesses the virtue of Heaven, then when he shows himself in action, it is in stillness. The sun and moon (simply) shine, and the four seasons pursue their courses. So it is with the regular phenomena of day and night, and with the movement of the clouds by which the rain is distributed.'
'Then I have only been persistently troubling myself! What you wish is to be in harmony with Heaven, while I wish to be in harmony with men.'
Now (the Way of) Heaven and Earth was much thought of of old, and Hwang-Ti, Yao, and Shun united in admiring it. Hence the kings of the world of old did nothing, but tried to imitate that Way.
❋ To be in harmony is thought highly of.
7: What Confucious was taught by Lao Tzu
Confucius went to the west to deposit (some) writings in the library of Kâu, when Tzu-lu counselled him, saying,
'I have heard that the officer in charge of this Käng Repository of Kâu was one Lao Tan, who has given up his office, and is living in his own house. As you, Master, wish to deposit these writings here, why not go to him, and obtain his help (to accomplish your object).'
'Good;' and he went and saw Lao Tan, who refused his assistance. On this he proceeded to give an abstract of the Twelve Classics to bring the other over to his views. Lao Tan, however, interrupted him while he was speaking, and said,
'This is too vague; let me hear the substance of them in brief'. Confucius said,
'The substance of them is occupied with Benevolence and Righteousness.'
The other said,
'Let me ask whether you consider Benevolence and Righteousness to constitute the nature of man?'
'I do,' was the answer.
'If the superior man be not benevolent, he will not fulfil his character; if he be not righteous, he might as well not have been born. Benevolence and Righteousness are truly the nature of man.'
Lao Tan continued,
'Let me ask you what you mean by Benevolence and Righteousness.'
'To be in one's inmost heart in kindly sympathy with all things; to love all men; and to allow no selfish thoughts; – this is the nature of Benevolence and Righteousness.'
Lao Tan exclaimed,
'Ah! you almost show your inferiority by such words! "To love all men!" is not that vague and extravagant? "To be seeking to allow no selfish thoughts!" – that is selfishness! If you, Master, wish men not to be without their (proper) shepherding, think of Heaven and Earth, which certainly pursue their invariable course; think of the sun and moon, which surely maintain their brightness; think of the stars in the zodiac, which preserve their order and courses; think of birds and beasts, which do not fail to collect together in their flocks and herds; and think of the trees, which do not fail to stand up (in their places). Do you, Master, imitate this way and carry it into practice; hurry on, following this course, and you will reach your end. Why must you further be vehement in putting forward your Benevolence and Righteousness, as if you were beating a drum, and seeking a fugitive son, (only making him run away the more)? Ah! Master, you are introducing disorder into the nature of man!'
❋ To gather one's flocks and herds of followers and put their goings into order, may not always be bad, and could even be a good thing.
8: Lao Tzu claims he has freed himself from being artfully knowing, spirit-like, and sage
Shih-khäng Khi, having an interview with Master Lao, asked him, saying,
'I heard, Master, that you were a sage, and I came here, wishing to see you, without grudging the length of the journey. During the stages of the hundred days, the soles of my feet became quite callous, but I did not dare to stop and rest. Now I perceive that you are not a sage. Because there was some rice left about the holes of the rats, you sent away your younger sister, which was unkind; when your food, whether raw or cooked, remains before you not all consumed, you keep on hoarding it up to any extent.'
Master Lao looked indifferent, and gave him no answer.
Next day Khi again saw Master Lao, and said,
'Yesterday I taunted you; but today I have gone back to a better mood of mind. What is the cause (of the change)?'
Master Lao replied,
'I consider that I have freed myself from the trammels of claiming to be artfully knowing, spirit-like, and sage. Yesterday if you had called me an ox, you might have done so; or if you had called me a horse, you might have done so. If there be a reality (corresponding to men's ideas), and men give it a name, which another will not receive, he will in the sequel suffer the more. My manner was what I constantly observe; – I did not put it on for the occasion.'
Shih-khäng Khi slided away out of Lao's shadow; then he retraced his steps, advanced forward, and asked how he should cultivate himself. The reply was,
'Your demeanour is repelling; you stare with your eyes; your forehead is broad and yet tapering; you bark and growl with your mouth; your appearance is severe and pretentious; you are like a horse held by its tether, you would move, but are restrained, and (if let go) would start off like an arrow from a bow; you examine all the minutiae of a thing; your wisdom is artful, and yet you try to look at ease. All these are to be considered proofs of your want of sincerity. If on the borders one were to be found with them, he would be named a Thief.'
❋ It helps to observe skilfully, says Lao Tzu, telling about how lack of sincerity might be shown in old times.
9: The perfect man is described
The Master said,
'The Tao does not exhaust itself in what is greatest, nor is it ever absent from what is least; and therefore it is to be found complete and diffused in all things. How wide is its universal comprehension! How deep is its unfathomableness! The embodiment of its attributes in benevolence and righteousness is but a small result of its spirit-like (working); but it is only the perfect man who can determine this. The perfect man has (the charge of) the world; – is not the charge great? and yet it is not sufficient to embarrass him. He wields the handle of power over the whole world, and yet it is nothing to him. His discrimination detects everything false, and no consideration of gain moves him. He penetrates to the truth of things, and can guard that which is fundamental. So it is that heaven and earth are external to him, and he views all things with indifference, and his spirit is never straitened by them. He has comprehended the Tho, and is in harmony with its characteristics; he pushes back benevolence and righteousness (into their proper place), and deals with ceremonies and music as (simply) guests: yes, the mind of the perfect man determines all things aright.'
10: Collected works are collected words - just dregs and sediments of older times
What the world thinks the most valuable exhibition of the Tao is to be found in books. But books are only a collection of words. Words have what is valuable in them; – what is valuable in words is the ideas they convey. But those ideas are a sequence of something else; – and what that something else is cannot be conveyed by words. When the world, because of the value which it attaches to words, commits them to books, that for which it so values them may not deserve to be valued; – because that which it values is not what is really valuable.
Thus it is that what we look at and can see is (only) the outward form and colour, and what we listen to and can hear is (only) names and sounds. Alas! that men of the world should think that form and colour, name and sound, should be sufficient to give them the real nature of the Tao. The form and colour, the name and sound, are certainly not sufficient to convey its real nature; and so it is that 'the wise do not speak and those who do speak are not wise.'
How should the world know that real nature?
Duke Hwan, seated above in his hall, was (once) reading a book, and the wheelwright Phien was making a wheel below it. Laying aside his hammer and chisel, Phien went up the steps, and said,
'I venture to ask your Grace what words you are reading?'
The duke said, 'The words of the sages.'
'Are those sages alive?' Phien continued.
'They are dead,' was the reply.
'Then,' said the other, 'what you, my Ruler, are reading are only the dregs and sediments of those old men.'
The duke said,
'How should you, a wheelwright, have anything to say about the book which I am reading? If you can explain yourself, very well; if you cannot, you shall die!' The wheelwright said,
'Your servant will look at the thing from the point of view of his own art. In making a wheel, if I proceed gently, that is pleasant enough, but the workmanship is not strong; if I proceed violently, that is toilsome and the joinings do not fit. If the movements of my hand are neither (too) gentle nor (too) violent, the idea in my mind is realised. But I cannot tell (how to do this) by word of mouth; there is a knack in it. I cannot teach the knack to my son, nor can my son learn it from me. Thus it is that I am in my seventieth year, and am (still) making wheels in my old age. But these ancients, and what it was not possible for them to convey, are dead and gone: so then what you, my Ruler, are reading is but their dregs and sediments!'
❋ What is valuable in words of wisdom is their conveyed ideas, yet much cannot be conveyed by words alone.
1: Wondering about the revolving heavens and rain
How (ceaselessly) heaven revolves! Flow (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.
Wu-hsien Thiâo said,
'Come, and I will tell you. To heaven there belong the six Extreme Points, and the five Elements. When the Tis 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: Words on benevolence are very often partial
Tang, the chief administrator of Shang, asked Master Chuang about Benevolence, and the answer was,
'Wolves and tigers are benevolent.'
'What do you mean?' said Tang.
Master Chuang 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.
Master Chuang 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?'
Master Chuang 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 Yao 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 Tao admits of no substitute.'
3: A musical piece
Pei-män Keng asked Hwang-Ti, saying,
'You were celebrating, O Ti, a performance of the music of the Hsien-khih, in the open country near the Thung-thing lake. When I heard the first part of it, I was afraid; the next made me weary; and the last perplexed me. I became agitated and unable to speak, and lost my self-possession.'
The Ti said,
'It was likely that it should so affect you! It was performed with (the instruments of) men, and all attuned according to (the influences of) Heaven. It proceeded according to (the principles of) propriety and righteousness, and was pervaded by (the idea of) the Grand Purity.
'The Perfect Music first had its response in the affairs of men, and was conformed to the principles of Heaven; it indicated the action of the five virtues, and corresponded to the spontaneity (apparent in nature). After this it showed the blended distinctions of the four seasons, and the grand harmony of all things; – the succession of those seasons one after another, and the production of things in their proper order. Now it swelled, and now it died away, its peaceful and military strains clearly distinguished and given forth. Now it was clear, and now rough, as if the contracting and expanding of the elemental processes blended harmoniously (in its notes). Those notes then flowed away in waves of light, till, as when the hibernating insects first begin to move, I commanded the terrifying crash of thunder. Its end was marked by no formal conclusion, and it began again without any prelude. It seemed to die away, and then it burst into life; it came to a close, and then it rose again. So it went on regularly and inexhaustibly, and without the intervention of any pause: it was this which made you afraid.
'In the second part (of the performance), I made it describe the harmony of the Yin and Yang, and threw round it the brilliance of the sun and moon. Its notes were now short and now long, now soft and now hard. Their changes, however, were marked by an unbroken unity, though not dominated by a fixed regularity. They filled every valley and ravine; you might shut up every crevice, and guard your spirit (against their entrance), yet there was nothing but gave admission to them. Yea, those notes resounded slowly, and might have been pronounced high and clear. Hence the shades of the dead kept in their obscurity; the sun and moon, and all the stars of the zodiac, pursued their several courses. I made (my instruments) leave off, when (the performance) came to an end, and their (echoes) flowed on without stopping. You thought anxiously about it, and were not able to understand it; you looked for it, and were not able to see it; you pursued it, and were not able to reach it. All amazed, you stood in the way all open around you, and then you leant against an old rotten dryandra tree and hummed. The power of your eyes was exhausted by what you wished to see; your strength failed in your desire to pursue it, while I myself could not reach it. Your body was but so much empty vacancy while you endeavoured to retain your self-possession: it was that endeavour which made you weary.
'In the last part (of the performance), I employed notes which did not have that wearying effect. I blended them together as at the command of spontaneity. Hence they came as if following one another in confusion, like a clump of plants springing from one root, or like the music of a forest produced by no visible form. They spread themselves all around without leaving a trace (of their cause); and seemed to issue from deep obscurity where there was no sound. Their movements came from nowhere; their home was in the deep darkness; – conditions which some would call death, and some life; some, the fruit, and some, (merely) the flower. Those notes, moving and flowing on, separating and shifting, and not following any regular sounds, the world might well have doubts about them, and refer them to the judgement of a sage, for the sages understand the nature of this music, and judge in accordance with the prescribed (spontaneity). While the spring of that spontaneity has not been touched, and yet the regulators of the five notes are all prepared; – this is what is called the music of Heaven, delighting the mind without the use of words. Hence it is said in the eulogy of the Lord of Piâo, "You listen for it, and do not hear its sound; you look for it, and do not perceive its form; it fills heaven and earth; it envelopes all within the universe." You wished to hear it, but could not take it in; and therefore you were perplexed.
'I performed first the music calculated to awe; and you were frightened as if by a ghostly visitation, I followed it with that calculated to weary; and in your weariness you would have withdrawn. I concluded with that calculated to perplex; and in your perplexity you felt your stupidity. But that stupidity is akin to the Tao; you may with it convey the Tao in your person, and have it (ever) with you.'
❋ Music is made and performed to serve many ends.
4: A music-master's view
When Confucius was travelling in the west in Wei, Yen Yü an asked the music-master Kin, saying,
'How is it, do you think, with the course of the Master?'
The music-master replied,
'Alas! it is all over with your Master!'
'How so?' asked Yen Yüan; and the other said,
'Before the grass-dogs are set forth (at the sacrifice), they are deposited in a box or basket, and wrapt up with elegantly embroidered cloths, while the representative of the dead and the officer of prayer prepare themselves by fasting to present them. After they have been set forth, however, passers-by trample on their heads and backs, and the grass-cutters take and burn them in cooking. That is all they are good for. If one should again take them, replace them in the box or basket, wrap them up with embroidered cloths, and then in rambling, or abiding at the spot, should go to sleep under them, if he do not get (evil) dreams, he is sure to be often troubled with the nightmare. Now here is your Master in the same way taking the grass-dogs, presented by the ancient kings, and leading his disciples to wander or abide and sleep under them. Owing to this, the tree (beneath which they were practising ceremonies) in Sung was cut down; he was obliged to leave Wei; he was reduced to extremities in Shang and Kâu: were not those experiences like having (evil) dreams? He was kept in a state of siege between Khän and Zhâi, so that for seven days he had no cooked food to eat, and was in a situation between life and death: were not those experiences like the nightmare?
'If you are travelling by water, your best plan is to use a boat; if by land, a carriage. Take a boat, which will go (easily) along on the water, and try to push it along on the land, and all your lifetime it will not go so much as a fathom or two: are not ancient time and the present time like the water and the dry land? and are not Kâu and Lu like the boat and the carriage? To seek now to practise (the old ways of) Kâu in Lu is like pushing along a boat on the dry land. It is only a toilsome labour, and has no success; he who does so is sure to meet with calamity. He has not learned that in handing down the arts (of one time) he is sure to be reduced to extremity in endeavouring to adapt them to the conditions (of another). 'And have you not seen the working of a shadoof? When (the rope of) it is pulled, it bends down; and when it is let go, it rises up. It is pulled by a man, and does not pull the man; and so, whether it bends down or rises up, it commits no offence against the man. In the same way the rules of propriety, righteousness, laws, and measures of the three Hwangs and five Tis derived their excellence, not from their being the same as those of the present day, but from their (aptitude for) government. We may compare them to haws, pears, oranges, and pummeloes, which are different in flavour, but all suitable to be eaten. Just so it is that the rules of propriety, righteousness, laws, and measures, change according to the time.
'If now you take a monkey, and dress it in the robes of the duke of Kâu, it will bite and tear them, and will not be satisfied till it has got rid of them altogether. And if you look at the difference between antiquity and the present time it is as great as that between the monkey and the duke of Kâu. In the same way, when Hsi Shih was troubled in mind, she would knit her brows and frown on all in her neighbourhood. An ugly woman of the neighbourhood, seeing and admiring her beauty, went home, and also laying her hands on her heart proceeded to stare and frown on all around her. When the rich people of the village saw her, they shut fast their doors and would not go out; when the poor people saw her, they took their wives and children and ran away from her. The woman knew how to admire the frowning beauty, but she did not know how it was that she, though frowning, was beautiful. Alas! it is indeed all over with your Master!'
5: Confucius and Tao
When Confucius was in his fifty-first year, he had not heard of the Tao, and went south to Phei to see Lao Tan, who said to him,
'You have come, Sir; have you? I have heard that you are the wisest man of the North; have you also got the Tao?'
'Not yet,' was the reply; and the other went on,
'How have you sought it?'
'I sought it in measures and numbers, and after five years I had not got it.'
'And how then did you seek it?'
'I sought it in the Yin and Yang, and after twelve years I have not found it.'
Master Lao said,
'Just so! If the Tao could be presented (to another), men would all present it to their rulers; if it could be served up (to others), men would all serve it up to their parents; if it could be told (to others), men would all tell it to their brothers; if it could be given to others, men would all give it to their sons and grandsons. The reason why it cannot be transmitted is no other but this, – that if, within, there be not the presiding principle, it will not remain there, and if, outwardly, there be not the correct obedience, it will not be carried out. When that which is given out from the mind (in possession of it) is not received by the mind without, the sage will not give it out; and when, entering in from without, there is no power in the receiving mind to entertain it, the sage will not permit it to lie hid there. Fame is a possession common to all; we should not seek to have much of it. Benevolence and righteousness were as the lodging-houses of the former kings; we should only rest in them for a night, and not occupy them for long. If men see us doing so, they will have much to say against us.
'The perfect men of old trod the path of benevolence as a path which they borrowed for the occasion, and dwelt in Righteousness as in a lodging which they used for a night. Thus they rambled in the vacancy of Untroubled Ease, found their food in the fields of Indifference, and stood in the gardens which they had not borrowed. Untroubled Ease requires the doing of nothing; Indifference is easily supplied with nourishment; not borrowing needs no outlay. The ancients called this the Enjoyment that Collects the True.
'Those who think that wealth is the proper thing for them cannot give up their revenues; those who seek distinction cannot give up the thought of fame; those who cleave to power cannot give the handle of it to others. While they hold their grasp of those things, they are afraid (of losing them). When they let them go, they are grieved; and they will not look at a single example, from which they might perceive the (folly) of their restless pursuits: such men are under the doom of Heaven.
'Hatred and kindness; taking and giving; reproof and instruction; death and life: these eight things are instruments of rectification, but only those are able to use them who do not obstinately refuse to comply with their great changes. Hence it is said, "Correction is Rectification." When the minds of some do not acknowledge this, it is because the gate of Heaven (in them) has not been opened.'
❋ Grasping for outer wealth by marriage, restless pursuits or being otherwise driven, may suggest one is hankering for a sort of doom.
6: Lao Tzu informs Confucius about benevolence and righteousness
At an interview with Lao Tan, Confucius spoke to him of benevolence and righteousness. Lao Tan said,
'If you winnow chaff, and the dust gets into your eyes, then the places of heaven and earth and of the four cardinal points are all changed to you. If musquitoes or gadflies puncture your skin, it will keep you all the night from sleeping. But this painful iteration of benevolence and righteousness excites my mind and produces in it the greatest confusion. If you, Sir, would cause men not to lose their natural simplicity, and if you would also imitate the wind in its (unconstrained) movements, and stand forth in all the natural attributes belonging to you! – why must you use so much energy, and carry a great drum to seek for the son whom you have lost? The snow-goose does not bathe every day to make itself white, nor the crow blacken itself every day to make itself black. The natural simplicity of their black and white does not afford any ground for controversy; and the fame and praise which men like to contemplate do not make them greater than they naturally are. When the springs (supplying the pools) are dried up, the fishes huddle together on the dry land. Than that they should moisten one another there by their gasping, and keep one another wet by their milt, it would be better for them to forget one another in the rivers and lakes.'
From this interview with Lao Tan, Confucius returned home, and for three days did not speak. His disciples (then) asked him, saying,
'Master, you have seen Lao Tan; in what way might you admonish and correct him?'
'In him (I may say) that I have now seen the dragon. The dragon coils itself up, and there is its body; it unfolds itself and becomes the dragon complete. It rides on the cloudy air, and is nourished by the Yin and Yang. I kept my mouth open, and was unable to shut it; – how could I admonish and correct Lao Tan?'
❋ Fame and praise do not in themselves make people greater than they actually are.
7: Tzu-kung seeing Lao Tzu
'So then, can (this) man indeed sit still as a representative of the dead, and then appear as the dragon? Can his voice resound as thunder, when he is profoundly still? Can he exhibit himself in his movements like heaven and earth? May I, Zhze, also get to see him?'
Accordingly with a message from Confucius he went to see Lao Tan.
Lao Tan was then about to answer (his salutation) haughtily in the hall, but he said in a low voice,
'My years have rolled on and are passing away, what do you, Sir, wish to admonish me about?'
'The Three Kings and Five Tis ruled the world not in the same way, but the fame that has accrued to them is the same. How is it that you alone consider that they were not sages?'
'Come forward a little, my son. Why do you say that (their government) was not the same?'
'Yao,' was the reply, 'gave the kingdom to Shun, and Shun gave it to Yü. Yü had recourse to his strength, and Tang to the force of arms. King Wän was obedient to Kâu (-hsin), and did not dare to rebel; king Wu rebelled against Kâu, and would not submit to him. And I say that their methods were not the same.'
Lao Tan said,
'Come a little more forward, my son, and I will tell you how the Three Hwangs and the Five Tis ruled the world. Hwang-Ti ruled it, so as to make the minds of the people all conformed to the One (simplicity). If the parents of one of them died, and he did not wail, no one blamed him. Yao ruled it so as to cause the hearts of the people to cherish relative affection. If any, however, made the observances on the death of other members of their kindred less than those for their parents, no one blamed them. Shun ruled it, so as to produce a feeling of rivalry in the minds of the people. Their wives gave birth to their children in the tenth month of their pregnancy, but those children could speak at five months; and before they were three years old, they began to call people by their surnames and names. Then it was that men began to die prematurely. Yü ruled it, so as to cause the minds of the people to become changed. Men's minds became scheming, and they used their weapons as if they might legitimately do so, (saying that they were) killing thieves and not killing other men. The people formed themselves into different combinations; – so it was throughout the kingdom. Everywhere there was great consternation, and then arose the Literati and (the followers of) Mo (Ti). From them came first the doctrine of the relationships (of society); and what can be said of the now prevailing customs (in the marrying of) wives and daughters? I tell you that the rule of the Three Kings and Five Tis may be called by that name, but nothing can be greater than the disorder which it produced. The wisdom of the Three Kings was opposed to the brightness of the sun and moon above, contrary to the exquisite purity of the hills and streams below, and subversive of the beneficent gifts of the four seasons between. Their wisdom has been more fatal than the sting of a scorpion or the bite of a dangerous beast. Unable to rest in the true attributes of their nature and constitution, they still regarded themselves as sages: was it not a thing to be ashamed of? But they were shameless.'
Tzu-kung stood quite disconcerted and ill at ease.
8: How Confucius found his Tao
Confucius said to Lao Tan,
'I have occupied myself with the Shih, the Shu, the Li, the Yo, the Yi, and the Khun Khiu, those six Books, for what I myself consider a long time, and am thoroughly acquainted with their contents. With seventy-two rulers, all offenders against the right, I have discoursed about the ways of the former kings, and set forth the examples of (the dukes of Kâu and Shâo; and not one of them has adopted (my views) and put them in practice: how very difficult it is to prevail on such men, and to make clear the path to be pursued!'
Master Lao replied,
'It is fortunate that you have not met with a ruler fitted to rule the age. Those six writings are a description of the vestiges left by the former kings, but do not tell how they made such vestiges; and what you, Sir, speak about are still only the vestiges. But vestiges are the prints left by the shoes; – are they the shoes that produced them? A pair of white herons look at each other with pupils that do not move, and impregnation takes place; the male insect emits its buzzing sound in the air above, and the female responds from the air below, and impregnation takes place; the creatures called lêi are both male and female, and each individual breeds of itself. The nature cannot be altered; the conferred constitution cannot be changed; the march of the seasons cannot be arrested; the Tao cannot be stopped. If you get the Tao, there is no effect that cannot be produced; if you miss it, there is no effect that can.'
Confucius (after this) did not go out, till at the end of three months he went again to see Lao Tan, and said,
'I have got it. Ravens produce their young by hatching; fishes by the communication of their milt; the small-waisted wasp by transformation; when a younger brother comes, the elder weeps. Long is it that I have not played my part in harmony with these processes of transformation. But as I did not play my part in harmony with such transformation, how could I transform men?'
Master Lao said,
'You will do. Khiu, you have found the Tao.'
1: Arrogance and self-cultivation
Ingrained ideas and a high estimate of their own conduct; leaving the world, and pursuing uncommon ways; talking loftily and in resentful disparagement of others; – all this is simply symptomatic of arrogance. This is what scholars who betake themselves to the hills and valleys, who are always blaming the world, and who stand aloof like withered trees, or throw themselves into deep pools, are fond of.
Discoursing of benevolence, righteousness, loyalty, and good faith; being humble and frugal, self-forgetful and courteous; – all this is simply symptomatic of (self-)cultivation. This is what scholars who wish to tranquillise the world, teachers and instructors, men who pursue their studies at home and abroad, are fond of.
Discoursing of their great merit and making a great name for themselves; insisting on the ceremonies between ruler and minister; and rectifying the relations between high and low; – all this shows their one object to be the promotion of government. This is what officers of the court, men who honour their lord and would strengthen the state and who would do their utmost to incorporate other states with their own, are fond of.
Resorting to marshes and lakes; dwelling in solitary places; occupying themselves with angling and living at ease; – all this shows their one object to be to do nothing. This is what gentlemen of the rivers and seas, men who avoid the society of the world and desire to live at leisure, are fond of.
Blowing and breathing with open mouth; inhaling and exhaling the breath; expelling the old breath and taking in new; passing their time like the (dormant) bear, and stretching and twisting (the neck) like a bird; – all this simply shows the desire for longevity. This is what the scholars who manipulate their breath, and the men who nourish the body and wish to live as long as Päng Zu, are fond of.
As to those who have a lofty character without any ingrained ideas; who pursue the path of self-cultivation without benevolence and righteousness; who succeed in government without great services or fame; who enjoy their ease without resorting to the rivers and seas; who attain to longevity without the management (of the breath); who forget all things and yet possess all things; whose placidity is unlimited, while all things to be valued attend them: such men pursue the way of heaven and earth, and display the characteristics of the sages. Hence it is said,
'Placidity, indifference, silence, quietude, absolute vacancy, and non-action: these are the qualities which maintain the level of heaven and earth and are the substance of the Tao and its characteristics.'
❋ Arrongance has many more outlets than sullied blaming.
❋ Long life may be good too, well lived.
2: Sages of the past
In accordance with this it is said,
'The sage is entirely restful, and so (his mind) is evenly balanced and at ease. This even balance and ease appears in his placidity and indifference. In this state of even balance and ease, of placidity and indifference, anxieties and evils do not find access to him, no depraving influence can take him by surprise; his virtue is complete, and his spirit continues unimpaired.'
Therefore it is (also) said,
'The life of the sage is (like) the action of Heaven; and his death is the transformation common to (all) things. In his stillness his virtue is the same as that of the Yin, and in movement his diffusiveness is like that of the Yang. He does not take the initiative in producing either happiness or calamity. He responds to the influence acting on him, and moves as he feels the pressure. He rises to act only when he is obliged to do so. He discards wisdom and the memories of the past; he follows the lines of his Heaven (-given nature); and therefore he suffers no calamity from Heaven, no involvement from things, no blame from men, and no reproof from the spirits of the dead. His life seems to float along; his death seems to be a resting. He does not indulge any anxious doubts; he does not lay plans beforehand. His light is without display; his good faith is without previous arrangement. His sleep is untroubled by dreams; his waking is followed by no sorrows. His spirit is guileless and pure; his soul is not subject to weariness. Vacant and without self-assertion, placid and indifferent, he agrees with the virtue of Heaven.'
Therefore it is said (further),
'Sadness and pleasure show a depraving element in the virtue (of those who feel them); joy and anger show some error in their course; love and hatred show a failure of their virtue. Hence for the mind to be free from sorrow and pleasure is the perfection of virtue; to be of one mind that does not change is the perfection of quietude; to be conscious of no opposition is the perfection of vacancy; to have no intercourse with (external) things is the perfection of indifference; and to have no rebellious dissatisfactions is the perfection of purity.'
3: Gain, fame, or purity?
Therefore it is said (still further),
'If the body be toiled, and does not rest, it becomes worn out; if the spirit be used without cessation, it becomes toiled; and when toiled, it becomes exhausted. It is the nature of water, when free from admixture, to be clear, and, when not agitated, to be level; while if obstructed and not allowed to flow, it cannot preserve its clearness; – being an image of the virtue of Heaven.'
Hence it is said (once again),
'To be guileless and pure, and free from all admixture; to be still and uniform, without undergoing any change; to be indifferent and do nothing; to move and yet to act like Heaven: this is the way to nourish the spirit. Now he who possesses a sword made at Kan-yüeh preserves it carefully in a box, and does not dare to use it; – it is considered the perfection of valuable swords. But the human spirit goes forth in all directions, flowing on without limit, reaching to heaven above, and wreathing round the earth beneath. It transforms and nourishes all things, and cannot be represented by any form. Its name is "the Divinity (in man)." It is only the path of pure simplicity which guards and preserves the Spirit. When this path is preserved and not lost, it becomes one with the Spirit; and in this ethereal amalgamation, it acts in harmony with the orderly operation of Heaven.'
There is the vulgar saying,
'The multitude of men consider gain to be the most important thing; pure scholars, fame; those who are wise and able value their ambition; the sage prizes essential purity.'
Therefore simplicity is the denomination of that in which there is no admixture; purity of that in which the spirit is not impaired. It is he who can embody simplicity and purity whom we call the True Man.
❋ Proper simplicity can amount to guard the human spirit.