The Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu. Chapter 15. Argument: Would-be sages. The vanity of effort. Method of the true Sage. Passivity the key. The soul and mortality. Re-absorption into the immortal.*

Self-conceit and assurance, which lead men to quit society, and be different from their fellows, to indulge in tall talk and abuse of others, these are nothing more than personal over-estimation, the affectation of recluses and those who have done with the world and have closed their hearts to mundane influences.

Preaching of charity and duty to one's neighbour, of loyalty and truth, of respect, of economy, and of humility, this is but moral culture, affected by would-be pacificators and teachers of mankind, and by scholars at home or abroad.

Preaching of meritorious services, of fame, of ceremonial between sovereign and minister, of due relationship between upper and lower classes, this is mere government, affected by courtiers or patriots who strive to extend the boundaries of their own State and to swallow up the territory of others.

Living in marshes or in wildernesses, and passing one's days in fishing, this is mere inaction, affected by wanderers who have turned their backs upon the world and have nothing better to do.

Exhaling and inhaling, getting rid of the old and assimilating the new, stretching like a bear and craning like a bird, ‹ this is but valetudinarianism, affected by professors of hygiene and those who try to preserve the body to the age of P'eng Tsu.

But in self-esteem without self-conceit, in moral culture without charity and duty to one's neighbour, in government without rank and fame, in retirement without solitude, in health without hygiene, there we have oblivious absolute coupled with possession of all things; an infinite calm which becomes an object to be obtained by all.

Such is the Tao of the universe, such is the virtue of the Sage. Wherefore it has been said, 'In tranquillity, in stillness, in the unconditioned, in inaction, we find the levels of the universe, the very constitution of Tao.' Wherefore it has been said, 'The Sage is a negative quantity, and is consequently in a state of passivity. Being passive he is in a state of repose. And where passivity and repose are, there sorrow and anxiety do not enter, and foul influences do not collect. And thus his virtue is complete and his spirituality unimpaired.'

Wherefore it has been said, 'The birth of the Sage is the will of God; his death is but a modification of existence. In repose, he shares the passivity of the Yin; in action, the energy of the Yang. He will have nothing to do with happiness, and so has nothing to do with misfortune. He must be influenced ere he will respond. He must be urged ere he will move. He must be compelled ere he will arise. Ignoring the future and the past, he resigns himself to the laws of God.

'And therefore no calamity comes upon him, nothing injures him, no man is against him, no spirit punishes him. He floats through life to rest in death. He has no anxieties; he makes no plans. His honour does not make him illustrious. His good faith reflects no credit upon himself. His sleep is dreamless, his awaking without pain. His spirituality is pure, and his soul vigorous. Thus unconditioned and in repose, he is a partaker of the virtue of God.'

Wherefore it has been said, 'Sorrow and happiness are the heresies of virtue; joy and anger lead astray from Tao; love and hate cause the loss of virtue. The heart unconscious of sorrow and happiness, ‹ that is perfect virtue. One, without change, ‹ that is perfect repose. Without any obstruction, that is the perfection of the unconditoned. Holding no relations with the external world, ‹ that is perfection of the negative state. Without blemish of any kind, that is the perfection of purity.'

Wherefore it has been said, 'If the body toils without rest, it dies. If the mind is employed without ceasing, it becomes wearied; and being wearied; its power is gone.'

Pure water is by nature clear. If untouched, it is smooth. If damned, it will not flow, neither will it be clear. It is an emblem of the virtue of God. Wherefore it has been said, 'Pure, without admixture; uniform, without change; negative, without action; moved, only at the will of God; such would be the spirituality nourished according to Tao.'

Those who possess blades from Kan or Yüeh, keep them carefully in their scabbards, and do not venture to use them. For they are precious in the extreme. The spirit spreads forth on all sides: there is no point to which it does not reach, attaining heaven above, embracing earth beneath. Influencing all creation, its form cannot be portrayed. Its name is then Of-God.

The Tao of the pure and simple consists in preserving spirituality. He who preserves his spirituality and loses it not, becomes one with that spirituality. And through that unity the spirit operates freely, and comes into due relationship with God.

A vulgar saying has it, 'The masses value money; honest men, fame; virtuous men, resolution; and Sages, the soul.'

Thus, the pure is that in which there is nothing mixed; the simple is that which implies no injury to the spirituality. And he who can keep the pure and simple within himself, he is a divine man.

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


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