The Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu. Chapter 13. Argument: Tao is repose. Repose the secret of the universe. Cultivation of essentials. Neglect of accidentals. The sequence of Tao. Spontaneity of true virtue. Tao is unconditioned. Tao cannot be conveyed.*

The Tao of God operates ceaselessly; and all things are produced. The Tao of the sovereign operates ceaselessly; and the empire rallies around him. The Tao of the Sage operates ceaselessly; and all within the limit of surrounding ocean acknowledge his sway. He who apprehends God, who is in relation with the Sage, and who recognizes the radiating virtue of the sovereign, ‹ his actions will be to him unconscious, the actions of repose.

The repose of the Sage is not what the world calls repose. His repose is the result of his mental attitude. All creation could not disturb his equilibrium: hence his repose.

When water is still, it is like a mirror, reflecting the beard and the eyebrows. It gives the accuracy of the water-level, and the philosopher makes it his model. And if water thus derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind? The mind of the Sage being in repose becomes the mirror the universe, the speculum of all creation.

Repose, tranquillity, stillness, inaction, these were the levels of the universe, the ultimate perfection of Tao. Therefore wise rules and Sages rest therein. Resting therein they reach the unconditioned, from which springs the conditioned; and with the conditioned comes order. Again, from the unconditioned comes repose, and from repose comes movement, and from movement comes attainment. Further, from repose comes inaction, and from inactions comes potentiality of action. And inaction is happiness; and where there is happiness no cares can abide, and life is long.

Repose, tranquillity, stillness, inaction, these were the source of all things. Due perception of this was the secret of Yao's success as a ruler, and of Shun's success as his minister. Due perception of this constitutes the virtue of sovereigns on the throne, the Tao of the inspired Sage and of the uncrowned King below. Keep to this in retirement, and the lettered denizens of sea and dale will recognize your power. Keep to this when coming forward to pacify a troubled world, and your merit shall be great and your name illustrious, and the empire united into one. In your repose you will be wise; in your movements, powerful. By inaction you will gain honour; and by confining yourself to the pure and simple, you will hinder the whole world from struggling with you to show.

To fully apprehend the scheme of the universe, this is called the great secret of being in accord with God, whereby the empire is so administered that the result is accord with man. To be in accord with man is human happiness; to be in accord with God is the happiness of God.

Chuang Tzu said, 'O my exemplar! Thou who destroyest all things, and dost not account it cruelty; those who benefitest all time, and dost not account it charity; thou who art older than antiquity and dost not account it age; thou who supportest the universe, shaping the many forms therein, and dost not account it skill; ‹ this is the happiness of God!'

Therefore it has been said, 'Those who enjoy the happiness of God, when born into the world, are but fulfilling their divine functions; when they die, they do but undergo a physical change. In repose, they exert the influence of the Negative; in motion, they wield the power of the Positive.'

Thus, those who enjoy the happiness of God have no grievance against God, no grudge against man. Nothing material injures them; nothing spiritual punishes them. Accordingly it has been said, 'Their motion is that of heaven; their repose is that of earth. Mental equilibrium gives them the empire of the world. Evil spirits do not harass them without; demons do not trouble them within. Mental equilibrium gives them sovereingty over all creation.' Which signifies that in repose to extend to the whole universe and to be in relation with all creation, this is the whole happiness of God. This enables the mind of the Sage to cherish the whole empire.

For the action of the wise ruler is modelled upon the universe, is guided by Tao, and is ever occupied in inaction. By inaction, he administers the empire, and has energy to spare; but by action he finds his energy inadequate to the administration of the empire. Therefore the men of old set great store by inaction.

But if rulers practise inaction and the rules also practise inaction, the ruled will equal the rulers, and will not be as their subjects. On the other hand, if the ruled practise action and rulers also practise action, rulers will assimilate themselves to the ruled, and will not be as their masters. Rulers must practise inaction in order to administer the empire. The ruled must practise action in order to subserve the interests of the empire. This is an unchangeable law.

Thus, the men of old, although their knowledge did not extend throughout the universe, were not troubled in mind. Although their intellectual powers beautified all creation, they did not rejoice. Although their abilities exhausted all things within the limits of ocean, they did not act.

Heaven has no parturitions, yet all things are evolved. Earth knows no increment, yet all things are nourished. The wise ruler practises inaction, and the empire applauds him. Therefore it has been said, 'There is nothing more mysterious than heaven, nothing richer than earth, nothing greater than the wise ruler.' Wherefore also it has been said, 'The virtue of the wise ruler makes him the peer of heaven and earth.' Charioted upon the universe, with all creation for his team, he passes along the highway of mortality.

The essential is in the ruler; the accidental in the ruled. The ultima ratio lies with the prince; representation is the duty of the minister.

Appeal to arms is the lowest form of virtue. Rewards and punishments are the lowest form of education. Ceremonies and laws are the lowest form of government. Music and fine clothes are the lowest form of happiness. Weeping and mourning are the lowest form of grief. These five should follow the movements of the mind.

The ancients indeed cultivated the study of accidentals, but they did not allow it to precede that of essentials. The prince precedes, the minister follows. The father precedes, the son follows. The elder brother precedes, the younger follows. Seniors precede, juniors follow. Men precede, women follow. Husbands precede, wives follow. Distinctions of rank and precedence are part of the scheme of the universe, and the Sage adopts them accordingly. In point of spirituality, heaven is honourable, earth is lowly. Spring and summer precede autumn and winter: such is the order of the seasons. In the constant production of all things, there are phases of existence. There are the extremes of maturity and decay, the perpetual tide of change. And if heaven and earth, divinest of all, admit of rank and precedence, how much more man?

In the ancestral temple, parents rank before all; at court, the most honourable; in the village, the elders; in matters to be accomplished, the most trustworthy. Such is the order which appertains to Tao. He who in considering Tao disregards his order, thereby disregards Tao; and he who in considering Tao disregards Tao, ‹ whence will he secure Tao?

Therefore, those of old who apprehended Tao, first apprehended god. Tao came next, and then charity and duty to one's neighbour, and then the functions of public life, and then forms and names, and then employment according to capacity, and then distinctions of good and bad, and then discrimination between right and wrong, and then rewards and punishments. Thus wise men and fools met with their dues; the exalted and the humble occupied their proper places. And the virtuous and the worthless being each guided by their own natural instincts, it was necessary to distinguish capabilities, and to adopt a corresponding nomenclature, in order to serve the ruler, nourish the ruled, administer things generally, and elevate self. Where knowledge and plans are of no avail, one must fall back upon the natural. This is perfect peace, the acme of good government. Therefore it has been written, 'Wherever there is form, there is also its name'. Forms and names indeed the ancients had, but did not give precedence to them.

Thus, those of old who considered Tao, passed through five phases before forms and names were reached, and nine before rewards and punishments could be discussed. To rise per saltum to forms and names is to be ignorant of their source; to rise per saltum to rewards and punishments is to be ignorant of their beginning. Those who invert the process of discussing Tao, arguing in a directly contrary sense, are rather to be governed by others than able to govern others themselves.

To rise per saltum to forms and names and rewards and punishments, this is to understand the instrumental part of government, but not to understand the great principle of government. This is to be of use in the administration of the empire, but not to be able to administer the empire. This is to be a sciolist, a man of narrow views.

Ceremonies and laws were indeed cultivated by the ancients; but they were employed in the serve of the rulers by the ruled. Rulers did not employ them as a means of nourishing the ruled.

Of old, Shun asked Yao, saying, 'How does your Majesty employ your faculties?'

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* Translated from the Chinese by Herbert A. Giles. First edition, 1889; second edition, 1923.


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