1: The conditions of life
He who understands the conditions of life does not strive after what is of no use to life; and he who understands the conditions of Destiny does not strive after what is beyond the reach of knowledge. In nourishing the body it is necessary to have beforehand the things (appropriate to its support); but there are cases where there is a superabundance of such things, and yet the body is not nourished. In order to have life it is necessary that it do not have left the body; but there are cases when the body has not been left by it, and yet the life has perished.
When life comes, it cannot be declined; when it goes, it cannot be detained. Alas! the men of the world think that to nourish the body is sufficient to preserve life; and when such nourishment is not sufficient to preserve the life, what can be done in the world that will be sufficient? Though (all that men can do) will be insufficient, yet there are things which they feel they ought to do, and they do not try to avoid doing them. For those who wish to avoid caring for the body, their best plan is to abandon the world. Abandoning the world, they are free from its entanglements. Free from its entanglements, their (minds) are correct and their (temperament) is equable. Thus correct and equable, they succeed in securing a renewal of life, as some have done'. In securing a renewal of life, they are not far from the True (Secret of their being). But how is it sufficient to abandon worldly affairs? and how is it sufficient to forget the (business of) life? Through the renouncing of (worldly) affairs, the body has no more toil; through forgetting the (business of) life, the vital power suffers no diminution. When the body is completed and the vital power is restored (to its original vigour), the man is one with Heaven. Heaven and Earth are the father and mother of all things. It is by their union that the body is formed; it is by their separation that a (new) beginning is brought about. When the body and vital power suffer no diminution, we have what may be called the transference of power. From the vital force there comes another more vital, and man returns to be the assistant of Heaven.
2: The gate-warden Yi
My master Master Lieh asked Yin, (the warden) of the gate, saying,
'The perfect man walks under water without encountering any obstruction, treads on fire without being burned, and walks on high above all things without any fear; let me ask how he attains to do this?'
The warden Yin replied,
'It is by his keeping of the pure breath (of life); it is not to be described as an achievement of his skill or daring. Sit down, and I will explain it to you. Whatever has form, semblance, sound, and colour is a thing; how can one thing come to be different from another? But it is not competent for any of these things to reach to what preceded them all; – they are but (form and) visibility. But (the perfect man) attains to be (as it were) without form, and beyond the capability of being transformed. Now when one attains to this and carries it out to the highest degree, how can other things come into his way to stop him? He will occupy the place assigned to him without going beyond it, and lie concealed in the clue which has no end. He will study with delight the process which gives their beginning and ending to all things. By gathering his nature into a unity, by nourishing his vital power, by concentrating his virtue, lie will penetrate to the making of things. In this condition, with his heavenly constitution kept entire, and with no crevice in his spirit, how can things enter (and disturb his serenity)?
'Take the case of a drunken man falling from his carriage; – though he may suffer injury, he will not die. His bones and joints are the same as those of other men, but the injury which he receives is different: his spirit is entire. He knew nothing about his getting into the carriage, and knew nothing about his falling from it. The thought of death or life, or of any alarm or affright, does not enter his breast; and therefore he encounters danger without any shrinking from it. Completely under the influence of the liquor he has drunk, it is thus with him; – how much more would it be so, if he were under the influence of his Heavenly constitution! The sagely man is kept hid in his Heavenly constitution, and therefore nothing can injure him.
'A man in the pursuit of vengeance would not break the (sword) Mo-yê or Yü-kiang (which had done the deed); nor would one, however easily made wrathful, wreak his resentment on the fallen brick. In this way all under heaven there would be peace, without the disorder of assaults and fighting, without the punishments of death and slaughter: such would be the issue of the course (which I have described). If the disposition that is of human origin be not developed, but that which is the gift of Heaven, the development of the latter will produce goodness, while that of the former would produce hurt. If the latter were not wearied of, and the former not slighted, the people would be brought nearly to their True nature.'
3: Take notice enough to succeed
When Kung-ni was on his way to Ku, as he issued from a forest, he saw a hunchback receiving cicadas (on the point of a rod), as if he were picking them up with his hand.
'You are clever!' said he to the man. 'Is there any method in it?'
The hunchback replied,
'There is. For five or six months, I practised with two pellets, till they never fell down, and then I only failed with a small fraction of the cicadas (which I tried to catch). Having succeeded in the same way with three (pellets), I missed only one cicada in ten. Having succeeded with five, I caught the cicadas as if I were gathering them. My body is to me no more than the stump of a broken trunk, and my shoulder no more than the branch of a rotten tree. Great as heaven and earth are, and multitudinous as things are, I take no notice of them, but only of the wings of my cicadas; neither turning nor inclining to one side. I would not for them all exchange the wings of my cicadas; – how should I not succeed in taking them?'
Confucius looked round, and said to his disciples,
'Where the will is not diverted from its object, the spirit is concentrated;" – this might have been spoken of this hunchback gentleman.'
4: Good handling and good swimming
Yen Yü an asked Kung-ni, saying,
'When I was crossing the gulf of Khang-shän, the ferryman handled the boat like a spirit. I asked him whether such management of a boat could be learned, and he replied, "It may. Good swimmers can learn it quickly; but as for divers, without having seen a boat, they can manage it at once." He did not directly tell me what I asked; – I venture to ask you what he meant.'
'Good swimmers acquire the ability quickly; – they forget the water (and its dangers). As to those who are able to dive, and without having seen a boat are able to manage it at once, they look on the watery gulf as if it were a hill-side, and the upsetting of a boat as the going back of a carriage. Such upsettings and goings back have occurred before them multitudes of times, and have not seriously affected their minds. Wherever they go, they feel at ease on their occurrence.
'He who is contending for a piece of earthenware puts forth all his skill. If the prize be a buckle of brass, he shoots timorously; if it be for an article of gold, he shoots as if he were blind. The skill of the archer is the same in all the cases; but (in the two latter cases) he is under the influence of solicitude, and looks on the external prize as most important. All who attach importance to what is external show stupidity in themselves.'
5: "They who skilfully nourish their life are like shepherds"
Thien Khâi-kih was having an interview with duke Wei of Kâu, who said to him,
'I have heard that (your master) Ku Hsin has studied the subject of Life. What have you, good Sir, heard from him about it in your intercourse with him?'
Thien Khâi-kih replied,
'In my waiting on him in the courtyard with my broom, what should I have heard from my master?'
Duke Wei said,
'Do not put the question off, Mr. Thien; I wish to hear what you have to say.'
Khâi-kih then replied,
'I have heard my master say that they who skilfully nourish their life are like shepherds, who whip up the sheep that they see lagging behind.'
'What did he mean?' asked the duke. The reply was,
'In Lu there was a Shan Pâo, who lived among the rocks, and drank only water. He would not share with the people in their toils and the benefits springing from them; and though he was now in his seventieth year, he had still the complexion of a child. Unfortunately he encountered a hungry tiger, which killed and ate him. There was also a Kang Î, who hung up a screen at his lofty door, and to whom all the people hurried (to pay their respects). In his fortieth year, he fell ill of a fever and died. (Of these two men), Pho nourished his inner man, and a tiger ate his outer; while I nourished his outer man, and disease attacked his inner. Both of them neglected whipping up their lagging sheep.'
'A man should not retire and hide himself; he should not push forward and display himself; he should be like the decayed tree which stands in the centre of the ground. Where these three conditions are fulfilled, the name will reach its greatest height. When people fear the dangers of a path, if one man in ten be killed, then fathers and sons, elder brothers and younger, warn one another that they must not go out on a journey without a large number of retainers; – and is it not a mark of wisdom to do so? But there are dangers which men incur on the mats of their beds, and in eating and drinking; and when no warning is given against them; – is it not a mark of error?'
6: The officer of Prayer and the pigs
The officer of Prayer in his dark and square-cut robes goes to the pig-pen, and thus counsels the pigs,
'Why should you shrink from dying? I will for three months feed you on grain. Then for ten days I will fast, and keep vigil for three days, after which I will put down the mats of white grass, and lay your shoulders and rumps on the carved stand; – will not this suit you?'
If he had spoken from the standpoint of the pigs, he would have said,
'The better plan will be to feed us with our bran and chaff, and leave us in our pen.'
When consulting for himself, he preferred to enjoy, while he lived, his carriage and cap of office, and after death to be borne to the grave on the ornamented carriage, with the canopy over his coffin. Consulting for the pigs, he did not think of these things, but for himself he would have chosen them. Why did he think so differently (for himself and) for the pigs?
7: Could a ghost injure you?
(Once), when duke Hwan was hunting by a marsh, with Kwan Kung driving the carriage, he saw a ghost. Laying his hand on that of Kwan Kung, he said to him,
'Do you see anything, Father Kung?'
'Your servant sees nothing,' was the reply. The duke then returned, talking incoherently and becoming ill, so that for several days he did not go out. Among the officers of Khi there was a Master Hwang Kâo-âo, who said to the duke,
'Your Grace is injuring yourself; how could a ghost injure you? When a paroxysm of irritation is dispersed, and the breath does not return (to the body), what remains in the body is not sufficient for its wants. When it ascends and does not descend, the patient becomes accessible to gusts of anger. When it descends and does not ascend, he loses his memory of things. When it neither ascends nor descends, but remains about the heart in the centre of the body, it makes him ill.'
The duke said,
'Yes, but are there ghostly sprites?'
The officer replied,
'There are about mountain tarns there is the Li; about furnaces, the Khieh; about the dust-heaps inside the door, the Lei-thing. In low-lying places in the north-east, the Pei-a and Wa-lung leap about, and in similar places in the north-west there dwells the Yi-yang. About rivers there is the Wang-hsiang; about mounds, the Hsin; about hills, the Khwei; about wilds, the Fang-hwang; about marshes, the Wei-tho.'
'Let me ask what is the Wei-tho like?' asked the duke. Master Hwang said,
'It is the size of the nave of a chariot wheel, and the length of the shaft. It wears a purple robe and a red cap. It dislikes the rumbling noise of chariot wheels, and, when it hears it, it puts both its hands to its head and stands up. He who sees it is likely to become the leader of all the other princes.'
Duke Hwan burst out laughing and said,
'This was what I saw.'
On this he put his robes and cap to rights, and made Master Hwang sit with him. Before the day was done, his illness was quite gone, he knew not how.
Lin Hsi-hung: Ensnared by the world, men sacrifice their higher life for it, and are not so wise as pigs are for their life.
8: The fighting-cock for the king
Master Ki Hsing was rearing a fighting-cock for the king. Being asked after ten days if the bird were ready, he said,
'Not yet; he is still vain and quarrelsome, and relies on his own vigour.'
Being asked the same after other ten days, he said,
'Not yet; he still responds to the crow and the appearance of another bird.'
After ten days more, he replied,
'Not yet. He still looks angrily, and is full of spirit.'
When a fourth ten days had passed, he replied to the question,
'Nearly so. Though another cock crows, it makes no change in him. To look at him, you would say he was a cock of wood. His quality is complete. No other cock will dare to meet him, but will run from him.'
9: An old man swimming in a large waterfall
Confucius was looking at the cataract near the gorge of Lü, which fell a height of 240 cubits, and the spray of which floated a distance of forty li, (producing a turbulence) in which no tortoise, gavial, fish, or turtle could play. He saw, however, an old man swimming about in it, as if he had sustained some great calamity, and wished to end his life. Confucius made his disciples hasten along the stream to rescue the man; and by the time they had gone several hundred paces, he was walking along singing, with his hair dishevelled, and enjoying himself at the foot of the embankment. Confucius followed and asked him, saying,
'I thought you were a sprite; but, when I look closely at you, I see that you are a man. Let me ask if you have any particular way of treading the water.'
The man said,
'No, I have no particular way. I began (to learn the art) at the very earliest time; as I grew up, it became my nature to practise it; and my success in it is now as sure as fate. I enter and go down with the water in the very centre of its whirl, and come up again with it when it whirls the other way. I follow the way of the water, and do nothing contrary to it of myself; – this is how I tread it.'
'What do you mean by saying that you began to learn the art at the very earliest time; that as you grew up, it became your nature to practise it, and that your success in it now is as sure as fate?'
The man replied,
'I was born among these hills and lived contented among them; – that was why I say that I have trod this water from my earliest time. I grew up by it, and have been happy treading it; – that is why I said that to tread it had become natural to me. I know not how I do it, and yet I do it; – that is why I say that my success is as sure as fate.'
10: The fabulous bell-stand
Khing, the Worker in Rottlera wood, carved a bell-stand, and when it was completed, all who saw it were astonished as if it were the work of spirits. The marquis of Lu went to see it, and asked by what art he had succeeded in producing it.
'Your subject is but a mechanic,' was the reply; 'what art should I be possessed of? Nevertheless, there is one thing (which I will mention), When your servant had undertaken to make the bell-stand, I did not venture to waste any of my power, and felt it necessary to fast in order to compose my mind. After fasting for three days, I did not presume to think of any congratulation, reward, rank, or emolument (which I might obtain by the execution of my task); after fasting five days, I did not presume to think of the condemnation or commendation (which it would produce), or of the skill or want of skill (which it might display). At the end of the seven days, I had forgotten all about myself; – my four limbs and my whole person. By this time the thought of your Grace's court (for which I was to make the thing) had passed away; everything that could divert my mind from exclusive devotion to the exercise of my skill had disappeared. Then I went into the forest, and looked at the natural forms of the trees. When I saw one of a perfect form, then the figure of the bell-stand rose up to my view, and I applied my hand to the work. Had I not met with such a tree, I must have abandoned the object; but my Heaven-given faculty and the Heaven-given qualities of the wood were concentrated on it. So it was that my spirit was thus engaged in the production of the bell-stand.'
11: Knowing horses
Tung-yê Ki was introduced to duke Kwang to exhibit his driving. His horses went forwards and backwards with the straightness of a line, and wheeled to the right and the left with the exactness of a circle. The duke thought that the lines and circles could not be surpassed if they were woven with silken strings, and told him to make a hundred circuits on the same lines. On the road Yen Ho met the equipage, and on entering (the palace), and seeing the duke, he said,
'Ki 's horses will break down,' but the duke was silent, and gave him no reply. After a little the horses did come back, having broken down; and the duke then said,' How did you know that it would be so?'
Yen Ho said,
'The horses were exhausted, and he was still urging them on. It was this which made me say that they would break down.'
12: The artisan Shui
The artisan Shui made things round (and square) more exactly than if he had used the circle and square. The operation of his fingers on (the forms of) things was like the transformations of them (in nature), and required no application of his mind; and so his Intelligence I was entire and encountered no resistance.
13: Thoughts on mastery
To be unthought of by the foot that wears it is the fitness of a shoe; to be unthought of by the waist is the fitness of a girdle. When one's wisdom does not think of the right or the wrong (of a question under discussion), that shows the suitability of the mind (for the question); when one is conscious of no inward change, or outward attraction, that shows the mastery of affairs. He who perceives at once the fitness, and never loses the sense of it, has the fitness that forgets all about what is fitting.
❋ Deep ability may not have to be much verbalised.
14: Characteristics of a fit man
There was a Sun Hsiu who went to the door of Master Pien Khing Tzu, and said to him in a strange perturbed way,
'When I lived in my village, no one took notice of me, but all said that I did not cultivate (my fields); in a time of trouble and attack, no one took notice of me, but all said that I had no courage. But that I did not cultivate my fields, was really because I never met with a good year; and that I did not do service for our ruler, was because I did not meet with the suitable opportunity to do so. I have been sent about my business by the villagers, and am driven away by the registrars of the district; – what is my crime? O Heaven! how is it that I have met with such a fate?'
Master Pien said to him,
'Have you not heard how the perfect man deals with himself? He forgets that he has a liver and gall. He takes no thought of his ears and eyes. He seems lost and aimless beyond the dust and dirt of the world, and enjoys himself at ease in occupations untroubled by the affairs of business. He may be described as acting and yet not relying on what he does, as being superior and yet not using his superiority to exercise any control. But now you would make a display of your wisdom to astonish the ignorant; you would cultivate your person to make the inferiority of others more apparent; you seek to shine as if you were carrying the sun and moon in your hands. That you are complete in your bodily frame, and possess all its nine openings; that you have not met with any calamity in the middle of your course, such as deafness, blindness, or lameness, and can still take your place as a man among other men; – in all this you are fortunate. What leisure have you to murmur against Heaven? Go away, Sir.'
Master Sun on this went out, and Master Pien went inside. Having sitten down, after a little time he looked up to heaven, and sighed. His disciples asked him why he sighed, and he said to them,
'Hsiu came to me a little while ago, and I told him the characteristics of the perfect man. I am afraid he will be frightened, and get into a state of perplexity.'
His disciples said,
'Not so. If what he said was right, and what you said was wrong, the wrong will certainly not be able to perplex the right. If what he said was wrong, and what you said was right, it was just because he was perplexed that he came to you. What was your fault in dealing with him as you did?'
Master Pien said,
'Not so. Formerly a bird came, and took up its seat in the suburbs of Lu. The ruler of Lu was pleased with it, and provided an ox, a sheep, and a pig to feast it, causing also the Kiu-shâo to be performed to delight it. But the bird began to be sad, looked dazed, and did not venture to eat or drink. This was what is called "Nourishing a bird, as you would nourish yourself." He who would nourish a bird as a bird should be nourished should let it perch in a deep forest, or let it float on a river or lake, or let it find its food naturally and undisturbed on the level dry ground. Now Hsiu (came to me), a man of slender intelligence, and slight information, and I told him of the characteristics of the perfect man, it was like using a carriage and horses to convey a mouse, or trying to delight a quail with the music of bells and drums; could the creatures help being frightened?'
1: Of great benefits and dangers of seeming useless to others
Master Chuang was walking on a mountain, when he saw a great tree with huge branches and luxuriant foliage. A wood-cutter was resting by its side, but he would not touch it, and, when asked the reason, said, that it was of no use for anything, Master Chuang then said to his disciples,
'This tree, because its wood is good for nothing, will succeed in living out its natural term of years.'
Having left the mountain, the Master lodged in the house of an old friend, who was glad to see him, and ordered his waiting-lad to kill a goose and boil it. The lad said,
'One of our geese can cackle, and the other cannot; – which of them shall I kill?'
The host said,
'Kill the one that cannot cackle.'
Next day, his disciples asked Master Chuang, saying,
'Yesterday the tree on the mountain (you said) would live out its years because of the uselessness of its wood, and now our host's goose has died because of its want of power (to cackle); – which of these conditions, Master, would you prefer to be in?'
Master Chuang laughed and said,
'(If I said that) I would prefer to be in a position between being fit to be useful and wanting that fitness, that would seem to be the right position, but it would not be so, for it would not put me beyond being involved in trouble; whereas one who takes his seat on the Tao and its Attributes, and there finds his ease and enjoyment, is not exposed to such a contingency. He is above the reach both of praise and of detraction; now he (mounts aloft) like a dragon, now he (keeps beneath) like a snake; he is transformed with the (changing) character of the time, and is not willing to addict himself to any one thing; now in a high position and now in a low, he is in harmony with all his surroundings; he enjoys himself at ease with the Author of all things; he treats things as things, and is not a thing to them: where is his liability to be involved in trouble? This was the method of Shän Näng and Hwang-Ti. As to those who occupy themselves with the qualities of things, and with the teaching and practice of the human relations, it is not so with them. Union brings on separation; success, overthrow; sharp corners, the use of the file; honour, critical remarks; active exertion, failure; wisdom, scheming; inferiority, being despised: where is the possibility of unchangeableness in any of these conditions? Remember this, my disciples. Let your abode be here,- in the Tao and its Attribute.'
2: A sad-looking marquis
Î-liâo, an officer of Shih-nan, having an interview with the marquis of Lu, found him looking sad, and asked him why he was so. The marquis said,
'I have studied the ways of the former kings, and cultivated the inheritance left me by my predecessors. I reverence the spirits of the departed and honour the men of worth, doing this with personal devotion, and without the slightest intermission. Notwithstanding, I do not avoid meeting with calamity, and this it is which makes me sad.'
The officer said,
'The arts by which you try to remove calamity are shallow. Think of the close-furred fox and of the elegantly-spotted leopard. They lodge in the forests on the hills, and lurk in their holes among the rocks; – keeping still. At night they go about, and during day remain in their lairs; so cautious are they. Even if they are suffering from hunger, thirst, and other distresses, they still keep aloof from men, seeking their food about the Kiang and the Ho; – so resolute are they. Still they are not able to escape the danger of the net or the trap; and what fault is it of theirs? It is their skins which occasion them the calamity.
'And is not the state of Ku your lordship's skin? I wish your lordship to rip your skin from your body, to cleanse your heart, to put away your desires, and to enjoy yourself where you will be without the presence of any one. In the southern state of Yüeh, there is a district called "the State of Established Virtue." The people are ignorant and simple; their object is to minimise the thought of self and make their desires few; they labour but do not lay up their gains; they give but do not seek for any return; they do not know what righteousness is required of them in any particular case, nor by what ceremonies their performances should be signalised; acting in a wild and eccentric way as if they were mad, they yet keep to the grand rules of conduct. Their birth is an occasion for joy; their death is followed by the rites of burial. I should wish your lordship to leave your state; to give up your ordinary ways, and to proceed to that country by the directest course.'
The ruler said,
'The way to it is distant and difficult; there are rivers and hills; and as I have neither boat nor carriage, how am I to go?'
The officer from Shih-nan rejoined,
'If your lordship abjure your personal state, and give up your wish to remain here, that will serve you for a carriage.'
The ruler rejoined,
'The way to it is solitary and distant, and there are no people on it; – whom shall I have as my companions? I have no provisions prepared, and how shall I get food? - how shall I be able to get (to the country)?'
The officer said,
'Minimise your lordship's expenditure, and make your wants few, and though you have no provisions prepared, you will find you have enough. Wade through the rivers and float along on the sea, where however you look, you see not the shore, and, the farther you go, you do not see where your journey is to end; – those who escorted you to the shore will return, and after that you will feel yourself far away. Thus it is that he who owns men (as their ruler) is involved in troubles, and he who is owned by men (as their ruler) suffers from sadness; and hence Yao would neither own men, nor be owned by them. I wish to remove your trouble, and take away your sadness, and it is only (to be done by inducing you) to enjoy yourself with the Tao in the land of Great Vacuity.
'If a man is crossing a river in a boat, and another empty vessel comes into collision with it, even though he be a man of a choleric temper, he will not be angry with it. If there be a person, however, in that boat, he will bawl out to him to haul out of the way. If his shout be not heard, he will repeat it; and if the other do not then hear, he will call out a third time, following up the shout with abusive terms. Formerly he was not angry, but now he is; formerly (he thought) the boat was empty, but now there is a person in it. If a man can empty himself of himself, during his time in the world, who can harm him?'
❋ A real danger to largely attractive ones is that they are desired and hunted down by many. To protect oneself from being too attractive may take many different turns.
3: Pei-kung Shê collecting Taxes
Pei-kung Shê was collecting taxes for duke Ling of Wei, to be employed in making (a peal of) bells. (In connexion with the work) he built an altar outside the gate of the suburban wall; and in three months the bells were completed, even to the suspending of the upper and lower (tiers). The king's son Khing-ki saw them, and asked what arts he had employed in the making of them. Shê replied,
'Besides my undivided attention to them, I did not venture to use any arts. I have heard the saying, "After all the carving and the chiselling, let the object be to return to simplicity." I was as a child who has no knowledge; I was extraordinarily slow and hesitating; they grew like the springing plants of themselves. In escorting those who went and meeting those who came, my object was neither to hinder the corners nor detain the goers. I suffered those who strongly opposed to take their way, and accepted those who did their best to come to terms. I allowed them all to do the utmost they could, and in this way morning and evening I collected the taxes. I did not have the slightest trouble, and how much more will this be the case with those who pursue the Great Way (on a grand scale)!'
4: Confucius is told how death may be avoided
Confucius was kept (by his enemies) in a state of siege between Khän and Zhâi, and for seven days had no food cooked with fire to eat. The Tai-kung Zân went to condole with him, and said,
'You had nearly met with your death.'
'Yes,' was the reply.
'Do you dislike death?'
Then Zän continued,
'Let me try and describe a way by which (such a) death may be avoided. – In the eastern sea there are birds which go by the name of Î-is; they fly low and slowly as if they were deficient in power. They fly as if they were leading and assisting one another, and they press on one another when they roost. No one ventures to take the lead in going forward, or to be the last in going backwards. In eating no one ventures to take the first mouthful, but prefers the fragments left by others. In this way (the breaks in) their line are not many, and men outside them cannot harm them, so that they escape injury.
'The straight tree is the first to be cut down; the well of sweet water is the first to be exhausted. Your aim is to embellish your wisdom so as to startle the ignorant, and to cultivate your person to show the unsightliness of others. A light shines around you as if you were carrying with you the sun and moon, and thus it is that you do not escape such calamity. Formerly I heard a highly accomplished man say, "Those who boast have no merit. The merit which is deemed complete will begin to decay. The fame which is deemed complete will begin to wane." Who can rid himself of (the ideas of) merit and fame, and return and put himself on the level of the masses of men? The practice of the Tao flows abroad, but its master does not care to dwell where it can be seen; his attainments in it hold their course, but he does not wish to appear in its display. Always simple and commonplace, he may seem to be "bereft of reason. He obliterates the traces of his action, gives up position and power, and aims not at merit and fame. Therefore he does not censure men, and men do not censure him. The perfect man does not seek to be heard of; how is it that you delight in doing so?'
'Excellent;' and thereupon he took leave of his associates, forsook his disciples, retired to the neighbourhood of a great marsh, wore skins and hair cloth, and ate acorns and chestnuts. He went among animals without causing any confusion among their herds, and among birds without troubling their movements. Birds and beasts did not dislike him; how much less would men do so!
5: Confucius receives vital instructions
Confucius asked Tzu-sang Hu, saying,
'I was twice driven from Lu; the tree was felled over me in Sung; I was obliged to disappear from Wei; I was reduced to extreme distress in Shang and Kâu; and I was kept in a state of siege between Khän and Zhâi. I have encountered these various calamities; my intimate associates are removed from me more and more; my followers and friends are more and more dispersed; – why have all these things befallen me?'
Tzu-sang Hu replied,
'Have you not heard of the flight of Lin Hui of Kiâ ; – how he abandoned his round jade symbol of rank, worth a thousand pieces of silver, and hurried away with his infant son on his back? If it be asked, "Was it because of the market value of the child?" But that value was small (compared with the value of the jade token). If it be asked again, "Was it because of the troubles (of his office)?" But the child would occasion him much more trouble. Why was it then that, abandoning the jade token, worth a thousand pieces of silver, he hurried away with the child on his back? Lin Hui (himself) said, "The union between me and the token rested on the ground of gain; that between me and the child was of Heaven's appointment." Where the bond of union is its profitableness, when the pressure of poverty, calamity, distress, and injury come, the parties abandon one another; when it is of Heaven's appointment, they hold in the same circumstances to one another. Now between abandoning one another, and holding to one another, the difference is great. Moreover, the intercourse of superior men is tasteless as water, while that of mean men is sweet as new wine. But the tastelessness of the superior men leads on to affection, and the sweetness of the mean men to aversion. The union which originates without any cause will end in separation without any cause.'
'I have reverently received your instructions.'
And hereupon, with a slow step and an assumed air of ease, he returned to his own house. There he made an end of studying and put away his books. His disciples came no more to make their bow to him (and be taught), but their affection for him increased the more.
Another day Sang Hu said further to him,
'When Shun was about to die, he charged Yü, saying,
'Be on your guard. (The attraction of) the person is not like that of sympathy; the (power of) affection is not like the leading (of example). Where there is sympathy, there will not be separation; where there is (the leading of) example, there will be no toil. Where there is neither separation nor toil, you will not have to seek the decoration of forms to make the person attractive, and where there is no such need of those forms, there will certainly be none for external things.'
❋ Many parents learn how children are certain cares.
6: Chuang Tzu in poverty
Master Chuang in a patched dress of coarse cloth, and having his shoes tied together with strings, was passing by the king of Wei, who said to him,
'How great, Master, is your distress?'
Master Chuang replied,
'It is poverty, not distress! While a scholar possesses the Tao and its Attributes, he cannot be going about in distress. Tattered clothes and shoes tied on the feet are the sign of poverty, and not of distress. This is what we call not meeting with the right time. Has your majesty not seen the climbing monkey? When he is among the plane trees, rottleras, oaks, and camphor trees, he grasps and twists their branches (into a screen), where he reigns quite at his ease, so that not even Î or Phäng Mäng could spy him out. When, however, he finds himself among the prickly mulberry and date trees, and other thorns, he goes cautiously, casts sidelong glances, and takes every trembling movement with apprehension; – it is not that his sinews and bones are straitened, and have lost their suppleness, but the situation is unsuitable for him, and he cannot display his agility. And now when I dwell under a benighted ruler and seditious ministers, how is it possible for me not to be in distress? My case might afford an illustration of the cutting out the heart of Pi-kan!'
❋ Much distress could be avoided by wrath-control in time. (Cf. anger management)
7: Disciple talk around Confucius in great distress
When Confucius was reduced to great distress between Khän and Khâi, and for seven days he had no cooked food to eat, he laid hold of a decayed tree with his left hand, and with his right hand tapped it with a decayed branch, singing all the while the ode of Piâo-shih. He had his instrument, but the notes were not marked on it. There was a noise, but no blended melody. The sound of the wood and the voice of the man came together like the noise of the plough through the ground, yet suitably to the feelings of the disciples around. Yen Hui, who was standing upright, with his hands crossed on his breast, rolled his eyes round to observe him. Kung-ni, fearing that Hui would go to excess in manifesting how he honoured himself, or be plunged in sorrow through his love for him, said to him,
'Hui, not to receive (as evils) the inflictions of Heaven is easy; not to receive (as benefits) the favours of men is difficult. There is no beginning which was not an end. The Human and the Heavenly may be one and the same. Who, for instance, is it that is now singing?'
'I venture to ask how not to receive (as evils) the inflictions of Heaven is easy.'
'Hunger, thirst, cold, and heat, and having one's progress entirely blocked up; – these are the doings of Heaven and Earth, necessary incidents in the revolutions of things. They are occurrences of which we say that we will pass on (composedly) along with them. The minister of another does not dare to refuse his commands; and if he who is discharging the duty of a minister feels it necessary to act thus, how much more should we wait with case on the commands of Heaven!'
'What do you mean by saying that not to receive (as benefits) the favours of men is difficult?'
'As soon as one is employed in office, he gets forward in all directions; rank and emolument come to him together, and without end. But these advantages do not come from one's self; – it is my appointed lot to have such external good. The superior man is not a robber; the man of worth is no filcher; – if I prefer such things, what am I? Hence it is said, "There is no bird wiser than the swallow." Where its eye lights on a place that is not suitable for it, it does not give it a second glance. Though it may drop the food from its mouth, it abandons it, and hurries off. It is afraid of men, and yet it stealthily takes up its dwelling by his; finding its protection in the altars of the Land and Grain.
'What do you mean by saying that there is no beginning which was not an end?'
'The change – rise and dissolution – of all things (continually) goes on, but we do not know who it is that maintains and continues the process. How do we know when any one begins? How do we know when he will end? We have simply to wait for it, and nothing more.'
'And what do you mean by saying that the Human and the Heavenly are one and the same?'
'Given man, and you have Heaven; given Heaven, and you still have Heaven (and nothing more). That man can not have Heaven is owing to the limitation of his nature'. The sagely man quietly passes away with his body, and there is an end of it.'
❋ "Neither a robber nor a filcher be" is sound, general advice.
8: Seeing a strange bird
As Kwang Kâu was rambling in the park of Tiâo-ling he saw a strange bird which came from the south. Its wings were seven cubits in width, and its eyes were large, an inch in circuit. It touched the forehead of Kâu as it passed him, and lighted in a grove of chestnut trees.
'What bird is this?'said he, 'with such great wings not to go on! and with such large eyes not to see me!' He lifted up his skirts, and hurried with his cross-bow, waiting for (an opportunity to shoot) it. (Meanwhile) he saw a cicada, which had just alighted in a beautiful shady spot, and forgot its (care for its) body. (Just then), a preying mantis raised its feelers, and pounced on the cicada, in its eagerness for its prey, (also) forgetting (its care for) its body; while the strange bird took advantage of its opportunity to secure them both, in view of that gain forgetting its true (instinct of preservation). Kwang Kâu with an emotion of pity, said,
'Ah! So it is that things bring evil on one another, each of these creatures invited its own calamity.'
(With this) he put away his cross-bow, and was hurrying away back, when the forester pursued him with terms of reproach.
When he returned and went into his house, he did not appear in his courtyard for three [days]. (When he came out), Lan Zü (his disciple) asked him, saying,
'Master, why have you for this some time avoided the courtyard so much?'
Master Chuang replied,
'I was guarding my person, and forgot myself; I was looking at turbid water, till I mistook the clear pool. And moreover I have heard the Master say', "Going where certain customs prevail, you should follow those customs." I was walking about in the park of Tiâo-ling, and forgot myself. A strange bird brushed past my forehead, and went flying about in the grove of chestnuts, where it forgot the true (art of preserving itself). The forester of the chestnut grove thought that I was a fitting object for his reproach. These are the reasons why I have avoided the courtyard.'
❋ To look attractive and desirable with a plan might work well, depending on the plan and how it is carried through among other things.
9: The ugly and beautiful concubines
Master Yang, having gone to Sung, passed the night in a lodging-house, the master of which had two concubines; one beautiful, the other ugly. The ugly one was honoured, however, and the beautiful one contemned. Master Yang asked the reason, and a little boy of the house replied,
'The beauty knows her beauty, and we do not recognise it. The ugly one knows her ugliness, and we do not recognise it.'
Master Yang said,
'Remember it, my disciples. Act virtuously, and put away the practice of priding yourselves on your virtue. If you do this, where can you go to that you will not be loved?'
1: Why Thien Tzu-fang did not quote his own master
Thien Tzu-fang, sitting in attendance on the marquis Wän of Wei, often quoted (with approbation) the words of Khi Kung. The marquis said,
'Is Khi Kung your preceptor?'
'No. He only belongs to the same neighbourhood. In speaking about the Tao, his views are often correct, and therefore I quote them as I do.'
The marquis went on,
'Then have you no preceptor?'
'And who is he?'
'He is Master Tung-kwo Shun.'
'And why, my Master, have I never heard you quote his words?'
'He is a man who satisfies the true (ideal of humanity); a man in appearance, but (having the mind of) Heaven. Void of any thought of himself, he accommodates himself to others, and nourishes the true ideal that belongs to him. With all his purity, he is forbearing to others. Where they are without the Tao, he rectifies his demeanour, so that they understand it, and in consequence their own ideas melt away and disappear. How should one like me be fit to quote his words?'
When Tzu-fang went out, the marquis Wän continued in a state of dumb amazement all the day. He then called Lung Li-khin, and said to him,
'How far removed from us is the superior man of complete virtue! Formerly I thought the words of the sages and wise men, and the practice of benevolence and righteousness, to be the utmost we could reach to. Since I have heard about the preceptor of Tzu-fang, my body is all unstrung, and I do not wish to move, and my mouth is closed up, and I do not wish to speak; – what I have learned has been only a counterfeit of the truth. Yes, (the possession of Wei) has been an entanglement to me.'
2: Expressing sentiments
Master Wän-po Hsüeh, on his way to Khï, stayed some time in Lu, where some persons of the state begged to have an interview with him. He refused them, saying,
'I have heard that the superior men of these Middle States understand the (subjects of) ceremony and righteousness, but are deplorably ignorant of the minds of men. I do not wish to see them.'
He went on to Khi; and on his way back (to the south), he again stayed in Lu, when the same persons begged as before for an interview. He then said,
'Formerly they asked to see me, and now again they seek an interview. They will afford me some opportunity of bringing out my sentiments.'
He went out accordingly and saw the visitors, and came in again with a sigh. Next day the same thing occurred, and his servant said to him,
'How is it that whenever you see those visitors, you are sure to come in again sighing?'
'I told you before,' was the reply, 'that the people of these Middle States understand (the subjects of) ceremony and righteousness, but are deplorably ignorant of the minds of men. Those men who have just seen me, as they came in and went out would describe, one a circle and another a square, and in their easy carriage would be like, one a dragon and another a tiger. They remonstrated with me as sons (with their fathers), and laid down the way for me as fathers (for their sons). It was this which made me sigh.'
Kung-ni saw the man, but did not speak a word to him. Tzu-lu said,
'You have wished, Sir, to see this Master Wän-po Hsüeh for a long time; what is the reason that when you have seen him, you have not spoken a word?'
'As soon as my eyes lighted on that man, the Tao in him was apparent. The situation did not admit of a word being spoken.'
3: The death of the mind is a cause of sorrow to Kung-ni
Yen Yü an asked Kung-ni, saying,
'Master, when you pace quietly along, I also pace along; when you go more quickly, I also do the same; when you gallop, I also gallop; but when you race along and spurn the dust, then I can only stand and look, and keep behind you'.'
The Master said,
'Hui, what do you mean?'
The reply was,
'In saying that when you, Master, pace quietly along, I also pace along," I mean that when you speak, I also speak. By saying, "When you go more quickly, I also do the same," I mean I that when you reason, I also reason. By saying, "When you gallop, I also gallop," I mean that when you speak of the Way, I also speak of the Way; but by saying, "When you race along and spurn the dust, then I can only stare, and keep behind you," I am thinking how though you do not speak, yet all men believe you; though you are no partisan, yet all parties approve your catholicity; and though you sound no instrument, yet people all move on harmoniously before you, while (all the while) I do not know how all this comes about; and this is all which my words are intended to express.'
'But you must try and search the matter out. Of all causes for sorrow there is none so great as the death of the mind; – the death of man's (body) is only next to it. The sun comes forth in the east, and sets in the extreme West; – all things have their position determined by these two points. All that have eyes and feet wait for this (sun), and then proceed to do what they have to do. When this comes forth, they appear in their places; when it sets, they disappear. It is so with all things. They have that for which they wait, and (on its arrival) they die; they have that for which they wait, and then (again) they live. When once I receive my frame thus completed, I remain unchanged, awaiting the consummation of my course. I move as acted on by things, day and night without cessation, and I do not know when I will come to an end. Clearly I am here a completed frame, and even one who (fancies that he) knows what is appointed cannot determine it beforehand. I am in this way daily passing on, but all day long I am communicating my views to you; and now, as we are shoulder to shoulder you fail (to understand me); – is it not matter for lamentation? You are able in a measure to set forth what I more clearly set forth; but that is passed away, and you look for it, as if it were still existing, just as if you were looking for a horse in the now empty place where it was formerly exhibited for sale. You have very much forgotten my service to you, and I have very much forgotten wherein I served you. But nevertheless why should you account this such an evil? What you forget is but my old self; that which cannot be forgotten remains with me.'
4: Confucius seeing Lao Tzu
Confucius went to see Lao 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).'
Lao 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 bow either comes to an end. If we disallow all this, who originates and presides over all these phenomena?'
'I beg to ask about your enjoyment in these thoughts.'
Lao 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.'
'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 Tao understand the subject.'
'O 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?'
Lao 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) Tao 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.'
❋ People who renounce paraphernalia may be more honourable than paraphernalia.
❋ We can benefit from sage words of others to aid in the cultivation of the inner sides of ourselves somehow.
5: Chuang Tzu with duke Âi
At an interview of Master Chuang with duke Âi of Lu, the duke said,
'There are many of the learned class in Lu; but few of them can be compared with you, Sir.'
Master Chuang replied,
'There are few learned men in Lu.'
'Everywhere in Lu,' rejoined the duke, 'you see men wearing the dress of the learned; – how can you say that they are few?'
'I have heard,' said Master Chuang, '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 Lu, 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 at once 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. Master Chuang said,
'When the state of Lu can thus produce but one man of the learned class, can he be said to be many?'
❋ It is not wearing a cowl that makes the monk (Proverb).
6: Cattle in fine condition
The ideas of rank and emolument did not enter the mind of Pâi-li Hsi, and so he became a cattle-feeder, and his cattle were all in fine condition. This made duke Mu 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 true draughtsman was nearly naked
The ruler Yü an 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.'
8: An old man of Zang fishing
King Wän was (once) looking about him at Zang, when he saw an old man fishing. But his fishing was no fishing. It was not the fishing of one whose business is fishing. He was always fishing (as if he had no object in the occupation). The king wished to raise him to office, and put the government into his hands, but was afraid that such a step would give dissatisfaction to his great ministers, his uncles, and cousins. He then wished to dismiss the man altogether from his mind, but he could not bear the thought that his people should be without (such a) Heaven (as their Protector). On this, (next) morning, he called together his great officers, and said to them,
'Last night, I dreamt that I saw a good man with a dark complexion and a beard, riding on a piebald horse, one half of whose hoofs were red, who commanded me, saying, "Lodge your government in the hands of the old man of Zang; and perhaps the evils of your people will be cured."' The great officers said eagerly,
'It was the king, your father.'
King Wän said,
'Let us then submit the proposal to the tortoise-shell.'
'It is the order of your father. Let not your majesty think of any other. Why divine about it?'
(The king) then met the old man of Zang, and committed the government to him. The statutes and laws were not changed by him; not a one-sided order (of his own) was issued; but when the king made a survey of the kingdom after three years, he found that the officers had destroyed the plantations (which harboured banditti), and dispersed their occupiers, that the superintendents of the official departments did not plume themselves on their successes, and that no unusual grain measures were allowed within the different states. When the officers had destroyed the dangerous plantations and dispersed their occupants, the highest value was set on the common interests; when the chiefs of departments did not plume themselves on their successes, the highest value was set on the common business; when unusual grain measures did not enter the different states, the different princes had no jealousies. On this king Min made the old man his Grand Preceptor, and asked him, with his own face to the north, whether his government might be extended to all the kingdom. The old man looked perplexed and gave no reply, but with aimless look took his leave. In the morning he had issued his orders, and at night he had gone his way; nor was he heard of again all his life. Yen Yü an questioned Confucius, saying,
'Was even king Wän unequal to determine his course? What had he to do with resorting to a dream?'
'Be silent and do not say a word! King Win was complete in everything. What have you to do with criticising him? He only had recourse (to the dream) to meet a moment's difficulty.'
9: Steady shooting
Lieh Yü-khâu was exhibiting his archery' to Po-hwän Wu-zän. Having drawn the bow to its full extent, with a cup of water placed on his elbow, he let fly. As the arrow was discharged, another was put in its place; and as that was sent off, a third was ready on the string. All the while he stood like a statue. Po-hwän Wu-zän said,
'That is the shooting of an archer, but not of one who shoots without thinking about his shooting. Let me go up with you to the top of a high mountain, treading with you among the tottering rocks, till we arrive at the brink of a precipice, 800 cubits deep, and (I will then see) if you can shoot.'
On this they went up a high mountain, making their way among the tottering rocks, till they came to the brink of a precipice 800 cubits deep. Then Wu-zän turned round and walked backwards, till his feet were two-thirds of their length outside the edge, and beckoned Yü-khâu to come forward. He, however, had fallen prostrate on the ground, with the sweat pouring down to his heels. Then the other said,
'The Perfect man looks up to the azure sky above, or dives down to the yellow springs beneath, or soars away to the eight ends of the universe, without any change coming over his spirit or his breath. But now the trepidation of your mind appears in your dazed eyes; your inward feeling of peril is extreme!'
❋ A steady aim calls for a steady person.
10: Your honour belongs to the dignity
Kien Wu asked Sun-shu Âo, saying,
'You, Sir, were three times chief minister, and did not feel elated; you were three times dismissed from that position, without manifesting any sorrow. At first I was in doubt about you, (but I am not now, since) I see how regularly and quietly the breath comes through your nostrils. How is it that you exercise your mind?'
Sun-shu Âo replied,
'In what do I surpass other men? When the position came to me, I thought it should not be rejected; when it was taken away, I thought it could not be retained. I considered that the getting or losing it did not make me what I was, and was no occasion for any manifestation of sorrow; – that was all. In what did I surpass other men? And moreover, I did not know whether the honour of it belonged to the dignity, or to myself. If it belonged to the dignity, it was nothing to me; if it belonged to me, it had nothing to do with the dignity. While occupied with these uncertainties, and looking round in all directions, what leisure had I to take knowledge of whether men honoured me or thought me mean?'
Kung-ni heard of all this, and said,
'The True men of old could not be fully described by the wisest, nor be led into excess by the most beautiful, nor be forced by the most violent robber. Neither Fu-hsi nor Hwang-Ti could compel them to be their friends. Death and life are indeed great considerations, but they could make no change in their (true) self; and how much less could rank and emolument do so? Being such, their spirits might pass over the Tai mountain and find it no obstacle to them; they might enter the greatest gulfs, and not be wet by them; they might occupy the lowest and smallest positions without being distressed by them. Theirs was the fulness of heaven and earth; the more that they gave to others, the more they had.'
The king of Ku and the ruler of Fan were sitting together. After a little while, the attendants of the king said,
'Fan has been destroyed three times.'
The ruler of Fan rejoined,
'The destruction of Fan has not been sufficient to destroy what we had that was most deserving to be preserved.'
Now, if the destruction of Fan had not been sufficient to destroy that which it had most deserving to be preserved, the preservation of Ku had not been sufficient to preserve that in it most deserving to be preserved. Looking at the matter from this point of view, Fan had not begun to be destroyed, and Ku had not begun to be preserved.