Chuang Tzu

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The Book of Chuang Tzu

The Inner Chapters by Chuang Tzu
The Inner Chapter One:
Free and Easy Wandering

The Inner Chapter Two:
Theories on all things being equal

The Inner Chapter Three:
Opinions on Nurturing Life

The Inner Chapter Four:
Relating to the Human World

The Inner Chapter Five:
Calculations on Filfilling Virtue

The Inner Chapter Six:

Teachings from those who were Great who are no longer alive

The Inner Chapter Seven:
Responding to (Complying with) Emperors and Kings

Interpretations of The Inner Chapters
Interpretation of Chapter 1: Loosening the Bonds of our Fixed Preconceptions - The Tao Way Interpretation of Chapter 2: Overcome Dualism by Smoothing Things Out Interpretation of Chapter 3: Skills as Expression of Dao Interpretation of Chapter 4: Avoid Involvement in Society and its Conflicts - Stay Natural Interpretation of Chapter 5: Deviance as a Virtue beyond Social and Natural Conventions - the Art of Nature Interpretation of Chapter 6: The Tao of Stoicism and Sociality Interpretation of Chapter 7: Preserve your Life by withdrawing from Society

Chapter 1: Free and Easy Wandering

In the northern darkness there is a fish and his name is K’un. The K’un is so huge I don’t know how many thousand li he measures. He changes and becomes a bird whose name is P’eng. The back of the P’eng measures I don’t know how many thousand li across and, when he rises up and flies off, his wings are like clouds all over the sky. When the sea begins to move, this bird sets off for the southern darkness, which is the Lake of Heaven.

The Universal Harmony records various wonders, and it says: “When the P’eng journeys to the southern darkness, the waters are roiled for three thousand li. He beats the whirlwind and rises ninety thousand li, setting off on the sixth-month gale.” Wavering heat, bits of dust, living things blown about by the wind - the sky looks very blue. Is that its real color, or is it because it is so far away and has no end? When the bird looks down, all he sees is blue too. If water is not piled up deep enough, it won’t have the strength to bear up a big boat. Pour a cup of water into a hollow in the floor and bits of trash will sail on it like boats. But set the cup there and it will stick fast, for the water is too shallow and the boat too large. If wind is not piled up deep enough, it won’t have the strength to bear up great wings. Therefore when the P’eng rises ninety thousand li, he must have the wind under him like that. Only then can he mount on the back of the wind, shoulder the blue sky, and nothing can hinder or block him. Only then can he set his eyes to the south.

The cicada and the little dove laugh at this saying, “When we make an effort and fly up, we can get as far as the elm or the sapanwood tree, but sometimes we don’t make it and just fall down on the ground. Now how is anyone going to go ninety thousand li to the south!” If you go off to the green woods nearby, you can take along food for three meals and come back with your stomach as full as ever. If you are going a hundred li, you must grind your grain the night before; and if you are going a thousand li you must start getting together provisions three months in advance. What do these two creatures understand? Little understanding cannot come up to great understanding; the short-lived cannot come up to the long-lived. How do I know this is so? The morning mushroom knows nothing of twilight and dawn; the summer cicada knows nothing of spring and autumn. They are short-lived. South of Ch’u there is a caterpillar which counts five hundred years as one spring and five hundred years as one autumn. Long, long ago there was a great rose of Sharon that counted eight thousand years as one spring and eight thousand years as one autumn. Yet P’eng-tsu alone is famous today for having lived a long time, and everybody tries to ape him. Isn’t it pitiful!

Among the questions of T’ang to Ch’i we find the same thing. In the bald and barren north, there is a dark sea, the Lake of Heaven. In it is a fish which is several thousand li across, and no one knows how long. His name is K’un. there is also a bird there, named P’eng, with a back like Mount T’ai and wings like clouds filling the sky. He beats the whirlwind, leaps into the air, and rises up ninety thousand li, cutting through the clouds and mist, shouldering the blue sky, and then he turns his eyes south and prepares to journey to the southern darkness. The little quail laughs at him, saying, “Where does he think he’s going? I give a great leap and fly up, but I never get more than ten or twelve yards before I come down fluttering among the weeds and brambles. And that’s the best kind of flying anyway! Where does he think he’s going?” Such is the difference between big and little.

Therefore a man who has wisdom enough to fill one office effectively, good conduct enough to impress one community, virtue enough to please one ruler, or talent enough to be called into service in one state, has the same kind of self-pride as these little creatures. Sung Jung-tzu would certainly burst out laughing at such a man. The whole world could praise Sung Jung-tzu and it wouldn’t make him exert himself; the whole world could condemn him and it wouldn’t make him mope. He drew a clear line between the internal and the external, and recognized the boundaries of true glory and disgrace. But that was all. As far as the world went, he didn’t fret or worry, but there was still ground he left unturned. Lieh Tzu could ride the wind and go soaring around with cool and breezy skill, but after fifteen days he came back to earth. As far as the search for good fortune went, he didn’t fret and worry. He escaped the trouble of walking, but he still had to depend on something to get around. If he had only mounted on the truth of Heaven and Earth, ridden the changes of the six breaths, and thus wandered through the boundless, then what would he have had to depend on?

Therefore I say, the Perfect Man has no self; the Holy Man has no merit; the Sage has no fame. Yao wanted to cede the empire to Hsü Yu. “When the sun and moon have already come out,” he said, “it’s a waste of light to go on burning the torches, isn’t it? When the seasonal rains are falling, it’s a waste of water to go on irrigating the fields. If you took the throne, the world would be well ordered. I go on occupying it, but all I can see are my failings. I beg to turn over the world to you.”

Hsü Yu said, “You govern the world and the world is already well governed. Now if I take your place, will I be doing it for a name? But name is only the guest of reality - will I be doing it so I can play the part of a guest? When the tailor-bird builds her nest in the deep wood, she uses no more than one branch. When the mole drinks at the river, he takes no more than a bellyful. Go home and forget the matter, my lord. I have no use for the rulership of the world! Though the cook may not run his kitchen properly, the priest and the impersonator of the dead at the sacrifice do not leap over the wine casks and sacrificial stands and go take his place.” Chien Wu said to Lien Shu, “I was listening to Chieh Yü’s talk - big and nothing to back it up, going on and on without turning around. I was completely dumbfounded at his words - no more end than the Milky Way, wild and wide of the mark, never coming near human affairs!” “What were his words like?” asked Lien Shu. “He said that there is a Holy Man living on faraway Ku-she Mountain, with skin like ice or snow, and gentle and shy like a young girl. He doesn’t eat the five grains, but sucks the wind, drinks the dew, climbs up on the clouds and mist, rides a flying dragon, and wanders beyond the four seas. By concentrating his spirit, he can protect creatures from sickness and plague and make the harvest plentiful. I thought this was all insane and refused to believe it.”

“You would!” said Lien Shu. “We can’t expect a blind man to appreciate beautiful patterns or a deaf man to listen to bells and drums. And blindness and deafness are not confined to the body alone - the understanding has them too, as your words just now have shown. This man, with this virtue of his, is about to embrace the ten thousand things and roll them into one. Though the age calls for reform, why should he wear himself out over the affairs of the world? There is nothing that can harm this man. Though flood waters pile up to the sky, he will not drown. Though a great drought melts metal and stone and scorches the earth and hills, he will not be burned. From his dust and leavings alone you could mold a Yao or a Shun! Why should he consent to bother about mere things?” A man of Sung who sold ceremonial hats made a trip to Yüeh, but the Yüeh people cut their hair short and tattoo their bodies and had no use for such things. Yao brought order to the people of the world and directed the government of all within the seas. But he went to see the Four Masters of the far away Ku-she Mountain, and when he got home north of the Fen River, he was dazed and had forgotten his kingdom there. Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu, “The king of Wei gave me some seeds of a huge gourd. I planted them, and when they grew up, the fruit was big enough to hold five piculs. I tried using it for a water container, but it was so heavy I couldn’t lift it. I split it in half to make dippers, but they were so large and unwieldly that I couldn’t dip them into anything. It’s not that the gourds weren’t fantastically big - but I decided they were no use and so I smashed them to pieces.”

Chuang Tzu said, “You certainly are dense when it comes to using big things! In Sung there was a man who was skilled at making a salve to prevent chapped hands, and generation after generation his family made a living by bleaching silk in water. A traveler heard about the salve and offered to buy the prescription for a hundred measures of gold. The man called everyone to a family council. `For generations we’ve been bleaching silk and we’ve never made more than a few measures of gold,’ he said. `Now, if we sell our secret, we can make a hundred measures in one morning. Let’s let him have it!’ The traveler got the salve and introduced it to the king of Wu, who was having trouble with the state of Yüeh. The king put the man in charge of his troops, and that winter they fought a naval battle with the men of Yüeh and gave them a bad beating. A portion of the conquered territory was awarded to the man as a fief. The salve had the power to prevent chapped hands in either case; but one made used it to get a fief, while the other one never got beyond silk bleaching - because they used it in different ways. Now you had a gourd big enough to hold five piculs. Why didn’t you think of making it into a great tub so you could go floating around the rivers and lakes, instead of worrying because it was too big and unwieldly to dip into things! Obviously you still have a lot of underbrush in your head!” Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu, “I have a big tree named ailanthus. Its trunk is too gnarled and bumpy to apply a measuring line to, its branches too bent and twisty to match up to a compass or square. You could stand it by the road and no carpenter would look at it twice. Your words, too, are big and useless, and so everyone alike spurns them!” Chuang Tzu said, “Maybe you’ve never seen a wildcat or a weasel. It crouches down and hides, watching for something to some along. It leaps and races east and west, not hesitating to go high or low - until it falls into the trap and dies in the net. Then again there’s the yak, big as a cloud covering the sky. It certainly knows how to be big, though it doesn’t know how to catch rats. Now you have this big tree and you’re distressed because it’s useless. Why don’t you plant it in NotEven-Anything Village, or the field of Broad-and-Boundless, relax and do nothing by its side, or lie

down for a free and easy sleep under it? Axes will never shorten its life, nothing can ever harm it. if there’s no use for it, how can it come to grief or pain?”

The Inner Chapter Two:

Theories on all things being equal

Nan Guo Zi Qi (Mr. Intense of a Southern neighborhood) sat alone at his table, looking up at the sky and sighing. He seemed despondent, as though he’d lost an important part of himself. Yan Cheng Zi You (Mr. Image of a Succesful Traveler) stood waiting patiently in front of him, then said: “Who is it that’s sitting here? Can a body really be made to resemble dead wood, and a heart be made to resemble dying embers? Now this lone man sitting at his table isn’t the same person who was sitting here a while ago.”

Zi Qi said:

“Sitting here, I didn’t think it was good to question what was happening, but I’ll come up with an answer! At this moment I lost myself - do you know what I mean? You may have heard the music made by people, but not heard the music made by the earth. You may have heard the music made by the earth, but not heard the music made by the heavens.” Zi You replied: “I’d really appreciate it if you’d explain more about that.” Zi Qi said: “When the Great Clod (the earth) belches vapors, it’s called the wind. That’s only the beginning. Then it proceeds to rage and make loud noises through all the valleys and holes on earth. Haven’t you ever heard the sounds of the wind blowing? In the awesome elegant mountain forests there are huge trees surrounded by crevaces and caves which are like noses, like mouths, like ears, like sockets, like goblets, like mortars, like canals, like sewers. Roaring, screeching, shouting, sucking, wailing, howling, whistling, growling, the headwinds sing “Yoooh!”, and the tailwinds sing “Yaaah!” The soft winds contribute the undertones, and the strong winds contribute the overtones. The harsh winds blow through all the empty holes and caves. Haven’t you ever been an audience to this harmonious melody, to these peculiar sounding instruments?” Zi You replied: “The music produced by the earth uses the many crevaces and caves. The music produced by people uses various bamboo instruments. I’d appreciate it if you’d explain more about the music of the heavens.” Zi Qi said: “It blows on each of the thousands of things differently, but makes each of them follow their own patterns. By themselves they all attain what’s right for them, so is there anyone who’d really be able to enslave them?” Great knowledge concentrates on what’s close and vivid. Small knowledge concentrates on what’s far away and obscure.

Big talk is bright and flashy. Small talk is chattering and scattered. When sleeping there’s a connection with the spirit. When awake other shapes are revealed.

Connecting and meeting together, each day our hearts and minds compete. We may become apathetic, depressed and secretive. Small fears create worry and concern. Big fears create apathy and seclusion. They shoot out like arrows from a crossbow, trying to take control of what they determine to be Right or Wrong. They kill as easily as autumn turns to winter, using words that vanish in the course of a day. They indulge in their own motivated actions, not being able to turn away from them. Their disgust closes in on them, and they use words that have become as stagnant as sewer water. Nearly dead in their hearts, nothing can cause them to return to seeing the bright side of things. All they experience is happiness/anger, sorrow/pleasure,worry/distress, adaptability/ restrictions, stress/laziness, openness/pretense. Enjoyment can arise from what was once empty, just like mushrooms can be produced by the vapors on the soil. Day and night naturally follow each other, and no one knows how that happens. Enough! Enough already! There’s dawn, and there’s sunset. They each have their place for creating life! There is no “other” without a “me.” There is no “me” without something to grab hold of. That seems easy enough to understand, but if it’s not understood there’s no reason to do anything else. It might seem like there’s some perfect truth, but what’s special can’t really be observed clearly. It’s possible to have personal beliefs, but not to allow them take an actual form - to have feelings about things but not to create dogma around them.

A hundred bones, nine openings and six organs complete our existence. Which of those do we feel closest to? Do you express joy for all of them? Do you cherish one over another? Don’t they all act as your servants? Are any of those servants capable enough to control one of the others? Do any of them give themself over as a servant and accept another as their ruler? Does a truly perfect ruler exist among them? If we try to extablish that kind of heirarchy, their working relationship would become useless and decrease to the point where nothing would work in perfect harmony. Once we’ve received this body, we don’t lose the use of it until we’ve exhausted it. Living things destroy each other and make waste of each other. They wear themselves out by galloping all over the place, and nothing is able to stop them. Isn’t that sad! After a whole life of battling and fighting, they still don’t achieve the success they were reaching for. They’ve tired themselves out completely with all their battling, and still don’t have a clue how to get out of it. That’s definitely something to be sad about! What advantage is it for anyone to speak about Immortality? If their shape is so twisted that their minds can’t make sense any more, that’s really incredibly sad! Are people originally born with those kinds of ridiculous thoughts? Am I the only one who thinks that’s ridiculous, or are there others who agree?

If it was meant for everyone to follow a teacher, would there be a single person who’d be without a teacher for a moment? Does the quest for knowledge mean replacing one’s true feelings with the teachings of someone else? Fools tend to group together. If you haven’t yet succeded in connecting with your own heart but have a sense of Right and Wrong, that’s as silly as thinking you could set out for Yue today and arrive there yesterday. That would be like trying to make something out of nothing. To make something out of nothing - even the Great Yu wouldn’t know how to do that. How could one as simple as me be able to follow those instructions! Speaking isn’t merely blowing wind out of our mouths. One who speaks is actually saying something. But what he’s intending to say might seem really vague. So what’s the point of speaking? What if there were no words? Speaking is thought to be different from the chirping of baby birds. Can words be used to clarify? Can they be used to confuse? How has Dao become so hidden that there is True and False? How has speech become so hidden that there is Right and Wrong?

Where is it that Dao doesn’t exist? Which words are there that shouldn’t exist? Dao is hidden in small accomplishments. Words are hidden in grandiose speeches. Then we have the Confucian and Mohist ideas of Right and Wrong. What one thinks is Right, the other thinks is Wrong. What one thinks is Wrong, the other thinks is Right. In order to make Right into Wrong, and Wrong into Right - then you’d really have to be sharp-sighted.

Things are merely a That or a This. If you look at something as a That, it can’t be seen clearly. If you have knowledge of yourself, others can be understood. Therefore, it’s been said: “That stems from This, and This is also on account of That.” That and This make comparisons about life with their own theories. So……. One may compare life to death, One may compare death to life; One may compare what’s suitable with what’s not suitable; One may compare what’s not suitable with what’s suitable; The reason there is Right is because there is Wrong, The reason there is Wrong is because there is Right. Therefore, a wise person doesn’t follow that course of reasoning, but reflects on what comes from the heavens, using this reasoning: This is also That. That is also This. That has a set of Rights and a set of Wrongs. This has a set of Rights and a set of Wrongs. Does that result in there still being a That and a This? Is the result that there is no longer a That and a This? When That and This find nothing to keep them apart - that’s refered to as the pivot of Dao. Only when the pivot is in the middle of an unbroken ring can it respond endlessly. What’s Right is part of the endless circle. What’s Wrong is part of the endless circle.

That’s why it’s been said: “You really have to be sharp-sighted.” To use a finger as a representation to show what’s a finger and what’s not a finger, isn’t as good as using something that’s not a finger as a representation of what’s a finger and what’s not a finger. To use a horse as a representation to show what’s a horse and what’s not a horse, isn’t as good as using something that’s not a horse as a representation of what’s a horse and what’s not a horse. Heaven and earth are fingers. The ten thousand things are horses. What can, can. What can’t, can’t. Go with Dao and there’s success. Things that are spoken become so. How could it be so? What’s so is so. How could it not be so? What’s not so is not so. Things actually are somewhat so. Things actually somewhat can. Without anything, nothing is so. Without anything, nothing can. Therefore, as to a small shoot of grass and a mighty pillar; an ugly ogre and Xi Shi (woman known as an acme of beauty), what would stand out as unusual? Dao joins with all of them. To differentiate between them brings a result, and that result is their destruction. Ordinary things are without differentiation and destruction, and since they can relate to each other, they unite. Only someone with keen perception can find the unity in all things, not because of looking for their usefulness but by dwelling in the idea that everything is ordinary. What’s ordinary is useful. What’s useful makes connections. What makes connections gets a hold of something. Very few get ahold of something they’re content with. When they stop without not knowing why they’ve done that, they’re getting the gist of Dao. To wear out your spirit and intelligence trying to unify everything without knowing they’re already in harmony is called “three in the morning.” What’s meant by “three in the morning”? There was a monkey keeper who gave these instructions for feeding nuts to the monkeys: “Give them three in the morning and four at night.” The monkeys were all outraged. So he said: “Okay, give them four in the morning and three at night.” The monkeys were all happy. The amount they were fed didn’t change, but their reactions showing pleasure or anger got them what they wanted. Therefore, a

wise person finds harmony with Right and Wrong and relaxes with the equality of the heavens. This is called being able to adapt. Since ancient times people have been trying to extend their knowledge. In what way did they do that? First they believed that things did not really exist as separate entities. That was the extent of it and nothing more needed to be added. Next, they came up with a belief that there actually were separate things, but they didn’t place any one thing above another. Then they came up with the belief that some things really were above others, but they hadn’t made a determination of which things were Right and which were Wrong. When they came to the conclusion that they could make a distinction between what was Right and what was Wrong, they really lost their way. Losing their way, they began to cherish their own accomplishments. Could there really be any sense of accomplishment while one was so lost? Could there be no sense of accomplishment while one was so lost? Feeling a sense of accomplishment while lost, clansman Zhao (a famous musician) would play the zither. Not feeling a sense of accomplishment while lost, clansman Zhao wouldn’t play the zither.

Zhao Wen played the zither. Shi Kuang weilded his baton. Hui Zi leaned against a shade tree. How much did these three gentlemen know? All of them were prosperous, so they were famous for the rest of their lives. Each of them were so good at what they did that they acted like it was easy enough for anyone to have the ability to be as talented as they were. However, other people didn’t have the same talents as they did, even though they had abilities in different areas. So their determination to teach others was in vain and their talent died with them. Furthermore, all of Wen’s students kept fiddling with the strings for the rest of their lives, but in all that time they didn’t accomplish anything. If that can be called an accomplishment, then I’ve also accomplished things. If that can’t be called accomplishment, then neither I nor anyone else has accomplished anything. Therefore, slipping into doubt about what’s dazzling, that’s what a wise person uses as a

map. Instead of looking for what’s useful, but rather accepting that everything is simply ordinary, that’s called really being sharp-sighted. Nowadays there are all sorts of words. There’s no way to know which category they fit into. Maybe they don’t fit into any category. One category may not fit in with another. Grouped together, they might form a new category. If they were all grouped together, then there’d be no need for distinctions. Although that may be so, please check out these words. There was a beginning. There has not yet been a beginning that began anything. There is existence. There is non-existence. Existence and non-existence have not yet begun. There is no beginning to existence just as there is no beginning to non-existence. If after a while existence and non-existence came to an end, then not knowing whether there actually was an existence or a non-existence, there’d be no point in determining what was existence and what was non-existence. Now that I’ve already made those statements, I don’t know if I’ve really said anything, or haven’t said anything at all. In the whole world there’s nothing larger than the tip of an animal’s hair, and a huge mountain is small. Nothing has a longer life than a stillborn child, and Peng Zu (a man who lived for eight hundred years) is young.

The whole universe and I came into being together, and all living things are connected to me. Since there’s already this connection, what’s the use of speaking about it? Since that’s all that can be said about this ultimate connection, can we stop talking about it? One together with words becomes two. These two (separately) with one (the two together) becomes three. Going forward with these calculations, even the cleverest mathemetician couldn’t reach the end, to say nothing of ordinary people! Therefore, if we proceed from nothing to something and arrive at three, just imagine what would happen if we proceeded from something to something! Let’s not proceed. Let’s call it quits. As for Dao, there never were distinctions. Words have never been consistent, so they definitely have limits. I’d like to say something about those limits. There is Left; there is Right. There are personal

ethics; there are societal mandates. There is detachment; there are debates. There are conversations; there is one-up-manship. These are called the eight expressions of the heart. What’s outside the realm of this world, a wise person leaves open to doubt. What’s inside the realm of this world, a wise person will discuss but won’t come to definitive conclusions about any of it. About the ancient records of the first kings (historical events), a wise person will come to their own conclusions, but not get into arguments over it. Therefore, even with detachment there is nondetachment. With disagreements, there are no arguments. One might ask: “How can that be?” A wise person holds on to what he believes, whereas everybody else argues trying to make their point. That’s why it’s been said: “Those who argue can’t see past their own noses.”

Magnificent Dao makes no determinations. Magnificent arguments use no words. Magnificent compassion is not benevolent. Magnificent honesty doesn’t mediate. Magnificent courage doesn’t cause distress. Dao that is obvious is not Dao. Words used in arguments are futile. Consistent compassion is unsuccessful. Sincere honesty isn’t believed. Courage which causes distress attains nothing. Of these five, how many could be correctly followed?

Therefore, one who knows when to stop at what they don’t know has arrived. Knowing how to argue without words and how to follow Dao without guideposts - it would seem like having the ability to really know something. That would be called self-sufficiency. Poured into, yet not filled up. Flushed out, yet not emptied. Not knowing the place from which anything arises - this would be called preserving a bright light in the darkness. A long time ago, Yao asked some questions of Shun (his prime minister), saying: “I want to attack the states of Zong, Kuai and Xu Ao. Even though I’m sitting here on a throne with so much power, I still feel uncomfortable about it. What’s causing me to feel this way?” Shun replied: “The rulers of those three states are still living among cottontails and mugwort (undeveloped states and thus easily conquered). How could you not feel uncomfortable? A long time ago ten suns all came out at once. All living things were exposed by that brightness, and now the message of your own heart is coming through to you as brightly as those suns!” Nie Que (Cracked and Missing Teeth) asked of Wang Ni (Master of Bewilderment): “Do you know of anything that everyone would agree is Right?” Ni said: “How would I know that!” “Do you know what you don’t know?” “How would I know that! “If that’s true, then doesn’t anyone know anything?”

“How would I know that! Nevertheless, I’ll try to say something about it. How can I know if what I
claim I know to be true is rejecting the idea that there is something I might not know? How can I know if what I claim I don’t know to be true is rejecting the idea that there is something I do know? Now let me ask you some questions. If a person slept in a damp place, they’d get rheumatism in their backs and walk bent over. Would it be the same for an eel? If a person lived in a tree, they’d tremble with fear and shake uncontrolably. Would it be the same for a monkey? Of those three, which knows the right place to make a home? People eat herbivorous animals. Elks and deer eat grass and hay. Centipedes taste sweet to snakes. Hawks and crows have a taste for mice. Of those four, which knows what tastes best? Male monkeys find female monkeys attractive. Stags mate with does. Eels and fish mate in the water. Mao Qiang and Li Ji were considered beautiful by most people, but when fish saw them they’d plunge deep into the water, and if birds saw them they’d soar high up into the sky, and if deer saw them they’d gallop quickly away. Of those four, which knows the most about feminine attractiveness? From my point of view, the principles of benevolence and righteousness, and the ways of Right and Wrong are enmeshed in confusion and chaos. How would I be able to tell them apart!” Ni Que said: “If you don’t know what’s beneficial or harmful, then a fully achieved person wouldn’t know what’s beneficial or harmful either!” Wang Ni replied: “A fully achieved person is like a spirit! The great marshes could be set on fire, but she wouldn’t feel hot. The rivers in China could all freeze over, but she wouldn’t feel cold. Thunder could suddenly echo through the mountains, wind could cause a tsunami in the ocean, but she wouldn’t be startled. A person like that could ride through the sky on the floating clouds, straddle the sun and moon, and travel beyond the four seas. Neither death nor life can cause changes within her, and there’s little reason for her to even consider benefit or harm.”

Qu Que Zi (Mr. Startled Squawking Bird) asked of Chang Wu Zi (Mr. Full Grown Shade Tree): “I’ve heard my Master say that a wise person is considered to be someone who doesn’t get involved in a career. They don’t strive for profit, don’t look to avoid bankruptcy, don’t find enjoyment in competetion, and have no reason to get involved in those things. There’s no way to describe him, and any description of him is inadequate since he travels outside the dust and dirt (troubles of everyday life). My Master thinks that’s a pretty hasty and impulsive way of looking at things, but I think it’s the way of moving with mysterious Dao. How does it seem to you, my friend?” Chang Wu Zi said: “Upon hearing this, even the Yellow Emperor would be perplexed, so how could Qiu (Confucius) fully understand it! As for you, you’re getting way ahead of yourself. You see an egg and can’t wait for it to crow. You see a crossbow and can’t wait to have a bird roasting in the oven. I’ll give you some abstract words to savor, and you listen to them abstractly, okay?

“Trying to hold the outer edges of the sun and moon to restrain the whole universe; trying to become intimate with everything; trying to make sense out of what’s evasive and chaotic; trying to be subserviently respectful to others - everybody labors at those things. A wise person is foolishly childlike, participating in a long life because they’ve succeded at connecting with simplicity. If all living things availed themselves of what they are, in that way they’d be beneficial to each other. “How could I know that enjoyment of life isn’t a delusion? How could I know that a dislike of death isn’t like a simpering fledgling who doesn’t know how to get back to his nest? Li Ji was the daughter of the border warden Ai. On her way to the state of Jin (to become a concubine for the

king) she wept to much that she soaked the front of her dress. But when she arrived at the palace, shared with the king his luxuriuos bed, and ate the tender grain-fed meat at his table - then she regretted ever having cried. How could I know if the dead wouldn’t repent their former craving for life! “One who dreams of a drunken banquet wakes up in the morning weeping and sobbing. One who dreams of weeping and sobbing wakes up in the morning and goes hunting. While they’re dreaming, they don’t know they’re dreaming. In the middle of a dream they might think they’re actually a part of the dream, but when they wake up they realize it was just a dream. After one has completely woken up they realize it was all just a big dream. A fool believes himself to be awake, inwardly and privately actually believing he knows who he really is. Princes! Paupers! Indeed! You and Qiu (Confucius) are both dreaming. When I call you a dreamer, I’m also a dreamer. As for what I’ve said, it could be called a flight of fancy. If in all the generations to come we could meet up with someone who had such great wisdom that they knew how to explain all this, it would be like dawn and sunset occuring at the same time. “Suppose we have an argument with each other. If you beat me instead of me beating you, are you necessarily Right and I’m Wrong? If I beat you instead of you beating me, am I necessarily Right and you’re Wrong? Must one of us be Right, and the other Wrong? Could both of us be Right, and both of us be Wrong? Since neither of us can come to an agreement on that, then other people would be impervious to our muddled ignorance. Should we ask someone else to decide who’s Right? What if we ask someone who agrees with you? Since he already agrees with you, how can he make the decision! What if we ask someone who agrees with me? Since he already agrees with me, how can he make the decision! What if we ask someone who disagrees with both of us? Since he already disagrees with both of us, how can he make the decision! What if we ask someone who agrees with both of us? Since he already agrees with both of us, how can he make the decision! Since that’s so, then you and I and others wouldn’t be able to come to any agreement. Do we depend on other people’s opinions? “Each changing tone of sound might be waiting for another sound to reverberate with, or it might not seem to be waiting for anything, but they’re harmonized within the scope of the heavens. In that way they spread out gracefully then fade away after running their course. What’s meant by being ‘harmonized within the scope of the heavens?’ One could say: Right may not be Right; So may not be So. If Right was no different from Non-Right, then there’d be no reason for arguments about what was Right and what was Non-Right. If So was no different from Non-So, then there’d be no reason for arguments about what was So and what was Non-So. Forget the passage of time; forget righteousness. Vibrate with boundlessness. In that way totally dwell in boundlessness.”

The penumbra asked the shadow: “A little while ago you moved, and now you’ve stopped. A little while ago you sat down, and now you’re standing up. How can you act so irrationally?” The shadow replied: “Do I have to depend on something else to be the way I am? Does what I depend on also have to depend on something else to be what it is? Is my dependence like a snake’s on its scales or a cicada’s on its wings? How can I know why I am so? How can I know why I am not otherwise?” (Note: Penumbra: A space of partial illumination [as in an eclipse] between the perfect shadow on all sides and the full light. The luminous outline around a shadow.) A while ago I, Zhuang Zhou (Zhuangzi), dreamed I was a butterfly. Happily absorbed in being a butterfly, I was thrilled to fly around and do what butterflies do. I didn’t even know I was Zhou. When I woke up, I suddenly found that I was Zhou. I didn’t know if I was Zhou dreaming I was a butterfly, or if I was a butterfly dreaming I was Zhou. There must be something that separates Zhou from the butterfly. It’s called metamorphosis.

The Inner Chapter Three:

Opinions on Nurturing Life

There are limits in our lives, but there are no limits to knowledge. Using what’s limited to try to catch up with what’s unlimited can only bring trouble. Someone who already thinks they’re knowledgable is really in trouble. Acting with kindness doesn’t necessarily bring warm responses. Acting badly doesn’t necessarily bring punishment. If you sort through for the strongest points fate has provided to you and set your course by them, then your body can be protected, your life can be perfected, your loved ones can be supported, and you can live out your natural life span.

Cook Ding was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen Hui (Kind Gentle Official). With his hands in place, his shoulders hunched, his foot thrust forward, and his knee bent - every slice of meat fell in front of him as his knife seemed to hum a melody. With a steady rhythm, it didn’t miss a beat. It was equal to the dancing performed to the music of “The Mulberry Grove,” and as skillful as the musicians playing “The Jing Shou.” Lord Wen Hui said: “Oh, excellent! How did you come up with such a perfect technique?” Cook Ding set down his knife and replied: “Your servant is fond of Dao, which advances techniques. At the time when I first began as a butcher, all I could see was a whole ox. Three years later, I no longer saw the ox as a whole. Nowadays, I sense with my spirit instead of looking with my eye. My brain knows when to stop and let my spirit take over. Following the natural grain, noting the large gaps between the cartilage and observing the huge hollows - they already provide me with a map. When I come upon places where muscle and bone connect, that’s the only time I need to be forceful! A good cook changes his knife every year because he cuts. An ordinary cook changes his knife every month because he hacks. I’ve had my knife for nineteen years, and I’ve butchered over a thousand oxen. It’s as sharp now as it was when it was first honed. Each section of the ox has a gap, and the edge of my knife is narrower than that opening. Those are the gaps where I thrust my narrow blade. So wide are those places where I place my knife that there’s lots of leeway. That’s why I’ve had this knife for nineteen years and it’s still like new. Nevertheless, every time I come to a dense spot, I look for its difficulties. I proceed with caution and keep my guard up, considering when I should stop and when I should move slowly. I move the knife just a little bit and that part is quickly separated, like a clump of dirt

shifitng on the ground. Then I lift up my knife and stand up straight, pausing to look at at all my work until I’m satisfied with it. Then I properly clean my knife and stow it away.”

Lord Wen Hui said: “Excellent! What I’ve gotten from your words is how to nourish life.” When Gong Wen Xuan (Official Concealed Chariot) saw the Teacher of the Right, he was startled and said: “Who is that guy? Why is he so removed from the rest of us? Is he more related to the heavens, or is he more related to people?” “To the heavens, not to people. The life the heavens has given him is what makes him appear so isolated. Most people try to act in ways that bring them approval from other people. He prefers to have understanding of the heavens, not of people. “A marsh pheasant will take ten steps to get one peck of food; a hundred steps to get one drink of water. It wouldn’t stay in a cage if it was given unlimited amounts of food and water. If it was treated like a god or a king, that would be bad for it.” When Lao Dan (Lao Zi) died, Qin Shi mourned for him by uttering three howls and leaving. A disciple asked:

“Weren’t you a friend of the Master?” “Yes, I was.” “If that’s so, then can you really be comfortable mourning in this way?” “Yes, I can. At first I thought of him as a man, but now I don’t. When I went in to mourn, there were a lot of old people crying - as though they were crying for the loss of their own children. A few of them cried as though they were crying for the loss of their own mothers. Each of them, therefore, who came to assemble here wanted not to be alone while saying their words; not to be alone while crying their tears. By trying to escape their many natural emotions, they’ve forgotten they can endure their suffering. The ancients called this trying to escape natural torment. When it was appropriate for him to come, the Master took that opportunity. When it was appropriate for him to leave, the Master submitted. By peacefully accepting the opportunity and later comfortably submitting, sorrow and happiness don’t enter the picture. In ancient times this was called dismissing the ruler from his earthly responsibilities.” If you keep pointing at stuff you’ll become like firewood. The flame will keep burning you up and you won’t know when it’ll stop.

The Inner Chapter Four:

Relating to the Human World

Yan Hui (a disciple of Confucius) went to see Zhong Ni (Confucius) and asked his permission to take a hiatus. “Where are you going?”

“To the state of Wei.” “What for?

Hui replied: “The news reports that the prince of Wei is acting like a spoiled brat. He’s taking advantage of his position and can’t see the mistakes he’s making. He thinks nothing at all of his people dying, and their bodies litter the countryside like weeds in a swamp. The people can’t do anything about it. I remember something you once said, Master: ‘If a country is in order, leave it. If a country is in turmoil, go to it.’ The doctor’s offices are filled with sick people. If you can share with me your thoughts about this, I’d like to come up with a way to reform all or at least some of what’s going on there.” Zhong Ni said: “Ha, ha! It seems dangerous to go there just to get your ear chopped off! The Way isn’t about wanting to fit all the pieces together. Try to fit all the pieces together, and you’ll just find more pieces lying around. The more they multiply, the more upset you’ll get. When you’re upset you’ll be worried and sad. With so much worrying, then there’s no way to help anyone. Before the ideals of society took over, an achieved person worked first on getting all the parts within himself attuned before trying to attune all the parts in others. If there’s still something not dealt with in yourself, how would you have the time to go around trying to fix the cruelty of others! In addition, do you know how virtue is wasted and how knowledge is expressed? Virtue is wasted on trying to become famous, and knowledge is expressed in disputes. One who tries to become famous steps on others, and one who wants to show off their knowledge uses it as a weapon in debates. Both of those are terrible methods, and neither will get you anywhere. If you already think you have substantial virtue and solid beliefs, you haven’t even begun to consider the essence of other people. If you can

give up on competing for fame, then you wouldn’t be trying to take over a precious place in other people’s hearts. Being chastized by having rules and regulations about benevolence and righteousness pointed out is the type of violent method that people have already had to deal with, but if you show the evilness in that then you’d just appear to be trying to make yourself look better than they are. Then your approach would be like calling people weeds which needed to be sorted through. If you sort through people like that, people will revolt against it. It seems pretty dangerous to approach people like that.

“Besides, the prince might not have any preference for those who are worthy, nor may he hate those who are unworthy. What would be the use in asking him to change his ways? If you spend too much time pondering over how to instruct him, the prince would inevitably take advantage of your lack of preparedness. Then your eyes would start to burn, your expression would go dumb, your mouth would drop open, your shape would go limp, and your mind for the time being would take in everything he said. This would be like using fire to fight fire or using water to try to stop a flood. Then you’d just be increasing what was already there. Start out that way and it’d never end. On the other hand, if you gave a hint that you didn’t believe in the profound words he was saying, that would put you in serious trouble, and you’d probably end up being killed right there in front of such a violent person! “Keep in mind that Jie (a tyrant) killed Guan Long Feng (his minister), and Zhou (a tyrant) killed Prince Bi Gan (his minister). Everyone had warned those ministers ahead of time that they should remain subserviant and not raise a ruckus, but they let the rulers push them down so low that the rulers thought nothing of squashing them. They were that desperate to keep their titles. “As for some other ancient rulers - Yao attacked the states of Cong, Zhi and Xu Ao; Yu attacked You Hu. Those states were laid to waste, bodies were tortured and killed, their warfare continued, and yet there was no end to their thirst for material gain. Haven’t you heard of their obsession with fame and posessions? The desire to become rich and famous is something even a wise person couldn’t overcome, much less you!

“Okay, since you must have had something in mind to begin with, give me the gist of it.” Yan Hui said: “What if I were to remain level-headed and open, devoting serious effort and being single-minded in my purpose? How about that?” “Huh? What are you thinking? That man (the prince) creatively puts on a showy display of greatness, but you can’t be sure from all those theatrics what’s really in his spirit. Ordinary people won’t disobey him because he makes mandates on their feelings and controls what’s in their hearts. A person like that is gradually diminishing their own virtue, while having a strong belief their virtue is great! He’ll hold on to that belief and refuse to change, shutting himself off from any advice coming from others while not finding anything to criticize within himself. How could he find any use for you!” “Okay then. I could keep centered within myself, but be so adaptable on the outside that I’d appear to be like him. Keeping what I know to be right to myself, I could follow on the tails of the actions of the heavens. Since I’d simply be following the actions of the heavens, I know the emperor would look on me like a child of the heavens. Then how could my words be taken as seeking approval from others or seeking their disapproval? Being this way, people would call me childish, as though I was merely a follower of the heavens. Being adaptable on the outside, I’d simply be a follower of the people. Offering sacrifices, kneeling in submission, bowing down, and beating my chest with my fist - these are the rituals performed by respectful people. All people do that, so why would I dare to act otherwise? By conducting myself in this way, people wouldn’t be able to find fault with me, and in that way I’d be seen as a follower of the people. Being successful at appearing to be like him (the prince), I would thus be seen as a follower of the respected ancients. My words would echo what they taught and be substantial for that reason. I’d be citing what the ancients believed, not what I myself believe. In that way I’d be echoing what’s true and correct, not acting from my own selfinterest. If I’m just citing what the ancients said in the past, then would that do?”

Zhong Ni replied: “Huh? What are you thinking? For the most part you’re right, although your methods are a little shaky, but you’d manage to get away without being accused of any crime. Even though someone might stop and listen to you, how would that really get anyone to make any drastic changes! You’d still sound a bit like a preacher.” Yan Hui said: “I don’t know what else to try. I’m asking for your suggestions.” Zhong Ni replied: “Go on a fast, then I’ll tell you what I think. Do you think it’s easy to come up with a plan of action? If you think it’s easy, then you’re not in tune with the heavens.” Yan Hui said: “My household is poor. I don’t remember having a drink of wine or a bite of meat in several months. Can that be considered fasting?” “That’s the kind of fasting one does for religious rituals, not the fasting of the heart/mind.”

Hui asked: “Can I ask what’s the fasting of the heart/mind?” Zhong Ni replied: “Unify your frame of mind. Give up listening with your ears, but listen with your heart. Give up listening with your heart, but listen with the vital essence of your spirit! Listening stops at the ears. The heart stops at making calculations. In the essence of the spirit is openness that’s waiting to receive all things. Pondering Dao accumulates more openness. In that openness is the fasting of the heart.” Yan Hui said: “I haven’t yet gotten a grip on just what I’m supposed to be doing, or who I really am. If I’ve gotten to the point of having no sense of who I am, would that be called openness?” The Master said: “You’ve got it. Now we’re speaking the same language! You can go about traveling in his realm and not be affected by fame. If you make any headway, then speak naturally. If you don’t make headway, then stop. With no need to physically or mentally escape the situation, realizing that all environments are the same and you have no alternative than to be where you are, then you’d almost be done. To walk without leaving tracks is easy, but it’s difficlut to walk without touching the ground. It’s easy to be a fake if you’re trying to act like everyone else, but it’s difficult to be a fake if your actions arise naturally. We’ve all heard about things that have wings and can fly. We haven’t heard about things that don’t have wings and can fly. We’ve all heard about people who are smart that are considered to be knowledgable. We haven’t heard about those who are ignorant that are considered to be knowledgable.

“Look for each of the places where there’s a blockage. An empty room lets in the most brightness. It’s good fortune to stop, stop. Someone who can’t find a moment to stop - that’s called sitting at a gallop (body still; mind racing). To allow what you see and hear free access to come inside, but to keep your mind and knowledge out of it - supernatural beings would be drawn to that place and even more so would human beings. This is the way all living things adapt. That’s the position taken by Yu and Shun, and the path taken by Fu Xi and Ji Qu to the end. How much more scattered most people allow themselves to get!” When Zi Gao (the Duke of She in the state of Chu) was about to depart on a mission to the state of Qi, he asked Zhong Ni (Confucius): “This is a really important bridge the king is sending me to build (between our nations), and Qi is waiting for me as an emissary. I must show the utmost respect and not be impatient. Even ordinary people can’t be pushed to do something, let alone princes and dukes! I’m really scared. Master, you once told me this about bridging the gap of different cultures: ‘Dealing with ordinary affairs can appear small or large. Few who don’t follow Dao will enjoy success. If affairs are unsuccessful, then it would certainly bring a series of troubles from the way people would react. If affairs are successful, then it would certainly upset the balance of nature. To evade trouble whether there’s success or failure - only someone with virtue can do that.’ I eat whatever is handy, have no skill at cooking, and so my kitchen doesn’t get overheated. This morning I received my instructions, and by the evening I was drinking ice water to cool off - I’m feeling so hot inside! I haven’t even found out the details of what I’m supposed to do yet, but I’m already feeling like my nature is topsy-turvy. If I’m not successful in this mission, certainly I’ll have a series of troubles from the way people will react. I’m already getting the worst of it in both ways. As a minister of the state, I’m completely inadequate for this task. Master, do you have any words of advice?” Zhong Ni said:

“There are two universal mandates in this world. One of them is fate and the other is duty. A child’s love for their parents is fated, and it can’t be driven from their heart. A subject’s service to his ruler is duty, because if he didn’t follow along and tried to oppose the ruler, there’d be no place in the whole world he could escape. These are called universal mandates. To be of service to your parents, despite their position, and to be comfortable with that is the utmost in filial piety. To be of service to your ruler, despite the tasks requested of you, and to be comfortable with that is the most complete loyalty. To be of service to your own heart, despite the fact that joy or sorrow have overcome you and realizing that they are part of fate and that neither of them will last for long, is the attainment of virtue. One who acts as a subject or child to others would certainly not be out to get anything for themselves. Being so involved in the needs of others and forgetting about oneself, when would there be any spare time for thinking about whether you’re enjoying life and dreading death! My dear friend, that’s the way to proceed!

“Please let me tell you something I heard: Ordinarily those in intimate relationships must blend with each other’s beliefs. If they’re physically apart from each other then they must use words to express their friendship, and those words usually have to be passed on by someone. To pass on words that might express the delight or the anger of one of the parties is the most diffucult thing in the world to do. To properly express joyful tidings requires exaggerated compliments. Passing on angry words requires much venom. Ordinarily these exaggerations can get pretty ridiculous. If they’re ridiculous enough then no one would believe they’re true, and the messenger would be doomed. Therefore, it’s said in the Fa Yan (”Book of Rules”): ‘Pass on what has been actually said, not with exaggerated words, then most likely you’ll remain whole (not suffer amputation or death).’

“Another thing to remember: A skillful and strong fighter (martial artist) starts out openly showing his moves then will usually end up being more deceptive. The longer the fight lasts, the more unexpected moves he uses. One who’s at a party drinking liquor starts out in control of himself then will usually end up getting out of control. The more they drink, the more they laugh like lunatics. Ordinary affairs are much the same. What begins with sincerity often ends up in rudeness. They begin simply enough, but they usually eventually become much more complex. One who speaks can cause a stormy sea (disturbance), and one who acts on it can lose sight of reality. Disturbances can easily cause one to take actions. Losing sight of reality can easily cause one to be in danger. Therefore, anger can arise for no apparent reason other than as a reaction to harsh and biased words. “An animal doesn’t choose which sound to make when it dies. Its last exhalation is so suddenly expelled that feelings of terror arise in both the hunter and the hunted. If you push someone too much, then they won’t respond from their heart, and not even know they’re doing that. If they don’t even know they’re doing that, who knows where it’ll end up? Therefore, it’s said in the Fa Yan: ‘Without making demands; without pushing for success - that’s when the most beneficial outcome will result.’ Making demands and pushing for success would be dangerous in this matter. A fine settlement takes time. A bad settlement is irreparable. You can’t be too cautious!

“For the time being let things ride and follow your heart. Figure that you probably won’t necessarily get fulfillment yourself, but look for what would appease both sides. Then you’ll know you’ve finished with it. How would you be affected by reporting back what happened on the mission? Nothing other than the fact that what happened was caused by destiny. You’re the one who makes it more difficult than that.”

Yan He (a scholar from the state of Lu) was about to become tutor of the eldest son of Duke Ling in the state of Wei, so he asked of Qu Bo Yu (a minister of the state of Wei): “This is a man whose natural disposition is to kill. If I allow him to proceed without suggesting a better method, then that would be dangerous to my state. If I insist on showing him a better method, then that would be dangerous to my own well-being. He’s smart enough to recognize other people’s faults, but not smart enough to recognize his own faults. In a situation like this, what can I do?” Qi Bo Yu responded: “Good question! Be on guard, be cautious, and get your own motivations in order! As to your outer appearance, there’s nothing better than compliance. As to your inner feelings, there’s nothing better than peacefulness. Even if you do all that, there are still a couple of things you have to be careful about. Just because you’re comforming on the outside, don’t let that affect what’s in your heart. Just because you’re feeling peaceful inside, don’t let that affect how you act on the outside. If you get so involved in conforming to what’s around you that you let it affect your heart, you’ll lose your balance, your blood will run cold, you’ll fall apart, and you’ll lose consciousness. If you get so involved in the peace within your heart that you show it on the outside, you’ll hear everything as though it was music to your ears, seek fame, act seductively, and become a spoiled brat.

“If the prince acts like an innocent child, then you also act like an innocent child with him. If he starts exploring ways to overcome his limits, then you also act like you’re exploring ways to overcome limits. If he acts without being concerned for his own safety, then you also act without concern for your own safety. If you get to that point, you can reach into the place within him that’s without faults.

“Haven’t you heard the story of the praying mantis? It got so mad that it stretched out its arm trying to stop a speeding car. It didn’t know that it didn’t have the ability to do that, but got carried away with thinking it could be good at doing anything. Be on guard, be cautious! One who thinks they’re good at tearing down what has already built up momentum will be offensive, and will soon come to an end. “Haven’t you heard the story of the guy who raised and tamed tigers? He didn’t dare give them living animals for food, since by killing them their viciousness would increase. He didn’t dare give them whole carcasses of animals, since by tearing them apart their viciousness would increase. By determining the times when they’d be hungry or full, he could keep the violence in their hearts calmed down. Tigers are a different species than people, and they have to be coaxed by their trainer in order to become docile. Therefore, what was once a killer can be turned into the opposite. “There was a man who loved his horse. He filled up baskets with its excrement, and filled up large shells with its urine. A mosquito or horsefly landed near the horse’s tail, and the guy tried to slap it away. The horse was startled by the slap on his rump and pulled on its bit, thus smashing the guy’s head to the ground and crushing his chest with its hoof. If paying attention to something gets too extreme, then love gets lost. Isn’t there always a reason for caution?”

A master carpenter named Shi (Stone Face), on his way to the state of Qi, arrived at the town of Qu Yuan where he saw an oak tree that served as a local shrine. It was so big that an ox standing behind it wouldn’t be visible, and it measured a hundred spans around. It was as tall as the mountains in the background. Its branches extended out for eighty feet, and at least ten of the branches were large enough to be used to build the side of a boat. Sightseers were packed together as if in a marketplace. The distinguished carpenter paid it no mind and just kept going without pausing. When his assistant had his fill of gazing at it, he ran to catch up with carpenter Shi and said:

“I’ve been carrying this heavy axe around and following you, Master, and we haven’t yet seen such great building material until now. Why, sir, were you not even willing to look at it, but just kept walking on?” “Stop it! Don’t say another word! The wood of that tree is defective. Use it to make a boat, and it would sink. Use it to make coffins, and they’d quickly rot. Use it to make tools, and they’d quickly fall apart. Use it to make any kind of door and the knotholes would let in moisture. Use it to make a fence post and it’d be infested with worms. That wood isn’t good for anything, and is completely useless. That’s why it’s been able to grow so old.”

When carpenter Shi returned home, the oak used as a shrine appeared to him in a dream and said: “With what else would you choose to compare me? Would you compare me with trees that have intricately fine grains? Or with the peach, pear, tangerine, grapefruit - on which the fruit hang down like gourds? When their fruit ripens, they’re stripped and left naked. The large branches are broken, and the small branches are torn to shreds. They have a painful life, and thus they don’t live out their natural life span but come to a premature end in the middle of their time. Just by the nature of what they are they’re open to the assaults of the vulgar world. Of living things, nothing seems to escape that. I’d been trying to find out how to be useless for a long time, and although I almost died, now I’ve figured it out, and it’s been a big help to me. If I’d made myself to be of any use whatsoever, how could I have managed to grow this huge? Since you and I are connected just like everything else, what’s the point in estimating something by its appearance? Yet a defective person like you who’s nearly dead has the nerve to point out defects in a tree?”

Carpenter Shi woke up and related the story in his dream. His assistant asked: “If it was so intent on being useless, then why does it continue to be a shrine?” “Shush! Don’t say another word! It’s only resting there. By acting like it doesn’t know what it is, any cruelty toward it is averted. If it didn’t allow itself to be treated like a shrine, there’d be many who’d want to chop it down! It provides a place where many different kinds of people can feel protected, but if it was judged by how it could be used in a more conventional way, it wouldn’t have gotten this far!” When Nan Bo Zi Qi (Exalted Count of Southern Darkness) was traveling in the hills of Shang (Busy Metropolis), he saw a large and unusual tree. A group of a thousand chariots could be hidden under the cover of its shade. Zi Qi said: “What kind of tree is this? It must be very strange timber!” He turned his face up and looked at its thin branches which were so bent and twisted that they couldn’t be used as rafters and beams. He bent down and looked at the tree’s roots which were so gnarled and knotty that they couldn’t be used to make coffins. He touched one of the leaves to his tongue, and it stung his mouth and left a sore. He smelled it then became like a mad man and had a hangover for more than three days. Zi Qi said: “This tree really is incapable of providing anything useful. That’s how it’s been able to grow so large. Aha! A holy person would be just as incapable!” In the state of Song there’s an area called Jing Shi, where there are catalpas, cypress and mulberry trees. Those trees that have grown so large that you can’t get both hands around their trunks are cut down by people who want to make posts to tie up their monkeys. Those that are three or four spans around are chopped down by people to make decorations for their palatial homes. Those seven or eight spans around are chopped down by officials and rich merchants to make sides for their family altars. Therefore, they don’t live out their natural life span, but come to a premature

end by the use of axes and hatchets in the middle of their growth. That’s the trouble with having material value.

Therefore, when preparing for a sacrificial offering, oxen with white foreheads, pigs with turned up snouts, and people who are suffering from diarrhea can’t be used in the River Sacrifices. This is something all respected shamans know about, as it’s considered to bring bad luck. On the other hand, these are the things a holy man considers to be very lucky. There was a deformed man called Shu (Dislocated). His chin was hidden in his bellybutton, his shoulders were higher than the top of his head, the top of his spine was like a finger pointing to the sky, his five vital organs protruded to the outside, and both of his thigh bones were forced up next to his ribs. By mending and washing clothes he was able to make enough to feed himself. By beating the husk off rice and sorting it, he was able to make enough to feed ten people. When the emperor sent out officials to round up an army from the civilian population, he was excused when he exposed his deformed body. When the emperor sent out officials to round up a group of laborers, he was excused because he constantly got sick and didn’t have any stamina. When the emperor sent out officials to distribute food to the ill and sickly, he received three times as much as anyone else as well as ten bundles of firewood. If a person who’s been denied a normally formed body from birth can still find a way to feed himself and live out his natural life span, then so too should someone who’s been denied Virtue!

When Kong Zi (Confucius) traveled to the state of Chu, Jie Yu (Car Accident Victim), the madman of Chu, walked up to his outer gate and said: “Phoenix! Phoenix! (a bird of good omen) How much Virtue has declined! We can’t wait for the future to sort it out, and we can’t chase after the past. When the world has Dao, Sages rest on their laurels. When the world doesn’t have Dao, Sages come to life. In this day and age, one can only expect to escape punishment. Good fortune is as light as a feather, but no one knows how to carry it. Misfortune is as heavy as dirt, but no one knows how to avoid it. Stop! Stop evaluating people by their Virtue! Danger! It’s dangerous to draw a line in the sand and rush over to your side! Enchanted by the light. So enchanted by the light it’s a wonder we haven’t harmed our paths. My own path may seem distastefully crooked, but at least I haven’t harmed my feet!” By their own nature, mountain trees are cut down. By its own nature, cooking oil is used up in a frying pan. A cinnamon tree is edible, so it’s cut down. Varnish is useful, so the trees that produce it are tapped. Everyone knows the usefulness of the useful, but no one knows the usefulness of the useless.

The Inner Chapter Five:

Calculations on Filfilling Virtue

In the state of Lu there’s a person named Wang Tai (Great Lame Horse) who lost one of his feet. He has throngs of followers, about the same number as Zhong Ni (Confucius). Chang Ji (Ordinary Younger Brother) asked Zhong Ni: “Wang Tai, who has lost a foot (by amputation as punishment for a crime), has as many followers as you do, Master, throughout the state of Lu. When he stands up he doesn’t preach, and when he sits down he doesn’t carry on discussions. Those who go to him empty return fulfilled. How can someone who’s unconcerned with teaching with words and has a mutilated body still have a completed heart? What kind of person is he?”

Zhong Ni said: “This Master is a Sage. I’m always so behind the times that I haven’t had a chance yet to go and listen to him. I’ll go learn from him, and surely those who aren’t the least bit like me would do the same. Why should it be limited to the state of Lu? I’ll attract the whole world to follow him.” Chang Ji said: “That guy’s missing a foot, yet he’s a respected teacher, which makes him quite extraordinary. How can a person like that remain so single-hearted?” Zhong Ni said: “Much is made of death and life, but they don’t affect him. Even if heaven and earth were to crumble and fall, not even that would shake him up. He can examine carefully what’s flawless, yet not be persuaded to follow what others do. His fate is different from other things, yet he guards what they put stock in.” Chang Ji asked: “What do you mean by that?” Zhong Ni said: “If you look at things from the point of view of their differences, then the liver and gall bladder are as far apart as the states of Chu and Yue. If you look at things from the point of view of their similarities, then all living things share a unity. At that point, such a person not only doesn’t evaluate things with his ears and eyes, but lets his heart and mind float with the harmony of his own nature. He looks at the unity of things, and doesn’t look for what they’re lacking. He regards losing his foot as though he was shaking off a clump of mud.”

Chang Ji said: By losing his own sense of separateness, he’s able to achieve an understanding of his heart, and use his heart to achieve a sense of durability in his heart. Why do others want to be sheltered by him?” Zhong Ni replied: “There’s no way for people to see their reflections in running water, but they can see their reflections in still water. Multitudes of people can only be stilled by staying still. Complying with what was fated from the earth, only the pine and cypress could remain on their own course staying green in both summer and winter. Complying with what was fated by the heavens, only Yao and Shun could remain true to their own course - being able to lead all living things. If one is lucky they can realize their true course has been set from birth, as everyone’s true course has been set from birth. Feeling secure from danger at the beginning of his journey, not fearing what will happen to him, one brave soldier would feel powerful enough to penetrate nine armies. The only goal that kind of person has in mind is seeking to make a name for himself. Suppose someone set their mind to being controled by both the heavens and the earth, to being compensated by all living things, to align all the limbs of their body, to observe clearly using their eyes and ears, to know the unity of their awareness, and to never allow their mind to deteriorate! That kind of person would just get up and leave one day, and if people followed after him, what would he care about what anyone else was doing?” Shen Tu Jia (Admired Straightforward Student), who’d lost a foot (as punishment for having committed a crime), and Zi Chan of Zheng (Prime Minister of Zheng) both had Bo Hun Wu Ren (Professor Confused Nonentity) as their teacher.

Zi Chan said to Shen Tu Jia: “If I leave first, then you wait and go later. If you leave first, then I’ll wait and go later.” The next day both of them were again sitting on the same mat in the hall. Zi Chan said to Shen Tu Jia: “If I leave first, then you wait and go later. If you leave first, then I’ll wait and go later. Now I’m about to leave, so can you wait a while? Why would you refuse? When you come across a Prime Minister and don’t obey him, is that because you think you’re equal to him?” Shen Tu Jia said: “Can there be a Prime Minister as rude as this within my teacher’s gates? You think simply because you’ve been appointed Prime Minister that other people should cater to you? There’s a well-known saying: ‘If a mirror is bright, then no dust has settled on it. If dust has settled, then it’s not bright. Spend a lot of time with someone who’s upright, and you’ll be faultless.’ Now, you’ve come to seek guidance from our great Master, but you’re still able to speak like you did. Who’s really the guilty person here?”

Zi Chan said:

“You’ve already gotten yourself into this situation (losing a foot), yet you still think you could compete with Yao as to which of you is better. Why don’t you take a cold hard look at yourself and see if you can come up with anything virtuous there at all?” Shen Tu Jia said: “There are lots of people who have the appearance of having committed a crime even though they weren’t guilty. There are some people who don’t have the appearance of committting a crime even though they were guilty. To realize that certain things can’t be changed and quietly accept destiny, only a person with a clear heart can do that. One might wander into the middle of a field where Yi is practicing archery. If they’re standing there right out in the open and still don’t get hit by the arrow, that’s destiny. When someone who has both feet laughs at me because I don’t have as many feet as they have, I get angry and go into a rage. But when I come to visit my teacher, then I calm down and change my attitude. How can I know if my master’s bathed me in goodness, or if I’ve just settled down peacefully on my own? I’ve been following my Master for nineteen years, and he still hasn’t acknowledged the fact that I’ve lost a foot. Now you and I are connected by something much deeper than how many appendages we each have, but you keep trying to separate us by excluding me due to my outer appearance. Who’s really the guilty person here?”

Zi Chan, taken aback, changed his attitude and took on a new demeanor, saying: “You don’t have to say another word.” In the state of Lu there’s a mutilated man named Shu Shan the Toeless. Walking on his heels, he came to see Zhong Ni (Confucius). Zhong Ni said:

“You weren’t careful in the first place, and by committing crimes you brought this disaster on yourself. What’s the point of coming to see me now!” Toeless said: “It was only because I didn’t understand what I was supposed to be doing and took my body lightly that I lost part of my feet. Now I come here showing as much respect as someone who has feet, striving to keep what I have remaining of my body whole. There’s nothing the heavens doesn’t cover with a protective shield. There’s nothing the earth doesn’t bear the burden of. I thought you were a Master of the heavens and earth. Where’s your knowledge, Master, that you could treat me this way!”

Kong Zi (Confucius) said: “That was really narrow-minded of me. Sir, why don’t you come on in? Please allow me to explain to you what I have to share.” Toeless left. Kong Zi said to his attentive disciples: “That man was mutilated by having his toes chopped off, but he still wants to take on the task of looking back and learning from his previous mistakes. How much more so should those who think they have perfect Virtue!” Toeless told this story to Lao Dan (Laozi) and then said:

“I thought Kong was a perfected person, but he’s not there yet, is he? Why do so many disciples keep treating him as though he were a respected guest? He’s seeking to become famous by being considered extraordinary and unusual. Doesn’t he know that a perfected person would view being treated that way as being shackled?” Lao Dan said: “Why not straighten him out by showing him how life and death are linked on a single branch, and how approval and disapproval are linked on a single thread? That would release him from his shackles, wouldn’t it?” Toeless said: “Since he thinks his punishment is coming from the heavens, how could he possibly be released!”

Duke Ai of the state of Lu asked Zhong Ni (Confucius): “There was an ugly man in the state of Wei named Ai Tai Ta (Sad-Looking Horse Face). The adult men who hung out with him thought so highly of him that they couldn’t leave his presence. When unmarried women saw him, they’d beg their parents: ‘I’d rather be that man’s concubine than the wife of a well-to-do gentleman.’ That happened dozens of times and keeps happening over and over. He’s never been known to speak out for himself, but always blends harmoniously with other people and that’s all. He’s never been in a position of authority that would allow him to save anyone from death, nor does he earn the kind of money that would allow him to support anyone. Besides that, he’s probably the ugliest person in the whole world. He blended with others but didn’t speak out for himself, and he didn’t know anything other than what went on in his immediate environment,

yet males and females both found him compelling. This guy must have some very unusual qualities. I demanded that he come to me so I could have a look at him, and determined that he surely must be the ugliest person in the world. I also demanded that he stay with me for a month so I could get a better idea of what kind of person he was. He’s been here for almost a year, and I’ve come to trust him completely. As my state is without a Prime Minister, I offered him the job. He looked indecisive about how to respond, as though he was looking for a reason to decline. I was so embarrassed that I immediately turned over the position to him. Without even saying goodbye to me, he left. I was really sorry to lose him, as though there was nothing else that could bring me pleasure any more in the whole country. What sort of person was he?” Zhong Ni said: “I was once on a mission to the state of Chu, and along the way I saw some young piglets nursing on their dead mother. In a short time they all withdrew from her and went away. They no longer saw her as resembling themselves, nor did she seem to be similar to them in any way. The love they had for their mother wasn’t based merely on loving her physical form, but a love of what her physical form could provide. When a soldier dies in battle, they have no need for a fancy coffin or funeral. When a person has lost their feet, they have no reason to love shoes. In all the instances mentioned above, something they once placed a lot of importance on had vanished. “Those who’ve passed the requirements to become the Emperor’s assistants no longer need to file their nails or pierce their ears (make themselves outwardly attractive in order to gain prominence). A man who’s acquired a wife no longer needs to adorn his outer appearance nor seek a higher position (make themselves more attractive in order to get a wife). Their outer form was already sufficient enough to gain them acceptance. How much more so would that be for someone who’d perfected their virtue! Now Ai Tai Ta didn’t need to say a word, but you completely trusted him. He didn’t show any achievements, but you wanted to keep him close to you. You wanted to give him your entire country, and you were afraid he wouldn’t take the offer. He must have a great ability to be complete, even though his virtue wasn’t apparent in his outer form.”

Duke Ai asked: “What do you mean by a great ability to be complete?” Zhong Ni said: “Death and life, accumulation and loss, failure and success, poverty and wealth, worth and worthlessness, praise and blame, hunger and thirst, hot and cold - those simply reflect how situations can change and are ordered by destiny. Day and night follow each other and precede each other, but human knowledge is incapable of regulating them. Since there’s no way to base personal harmony on something so unpredictable, it shouldn’t have the ability to affect the storehouse of one’s spiritual powers. Participate in what really causes harmony - connect with it and don’t lose the joyfulness that comes from it. Do this whether it’s day or night, and experience eternal springtime with every living thing. Welcome every moment with the fullness of your heart. That’s called having a great ability to be complete.” “What’s meant by having a virtue that isn’t apparent by one’s outer form?” “When water has reached its full capacity, it becomes level and still. It can be a great example, as it protects what’s within and allows evaporation of what’s on the surface. When virtue has succeeded in creating harmony, it’s displayed like a decoration. When virtue isn’t apparent from one’s outer form, no living thing would be able to be separated from it.” On another day, Duke Ai explained this story to Min Zi (one of Confucius’ disciples): “I used to sit on my throne facing South (the direction a ruler’s throne faced) and ruled the whole world. I held in my hands the ability to determine the course of people’s lives, and grieved at their deaths. I considered myself to be one who had attained expertise in everything. Now that I’ve heard the words of a true expert, I’m afraid I have no substance whatsoever, have taken too lightly the appearance my body gave off, and thus could lose my country. Kong (Confucius) and I don’t relate to each other like ruler and servant - we’re merely friends who share virtue.”

A man with a club foot, a stooped posture, and who had no lips explained his theories to Duke Ling of Wei. Duke Ling was so won over by the guy that he thought anyone who would be considered to have a perfect form would have to have the same neck and shoulders as him. A man with a goiter on his neck as big as a huge jar explained his theories to Duke Huan of Qi. Duke Huan was so won over by the guy that he thought anyone who would be considered to have a perfect form would have to have the same neck and shoulders as him. Therefore, when virtue is predominant, a person’s physical form is forgotten. If people remember what was forgotten, and then forget what was remembered - that can be called true forgetting. Therefore, a wise person goes wandering and sees that knowledge promotes misfortune, promises promote bondage, virtue promotes intimacy, work promotes business. A wise person doesn’t scheme, so what use is there for knowledge? Doesn’t chop things apart, so what use is there for bonding? Is without alienation, so what use is there for virtue? Doesn’t barter, so what use is there for business? These four are the gruel (meager provisions) provided by the heavens. One who has the gruel of the heavens is nourished by the heavens. Since she receives this nourishment from the heavens, why would she need to use people? She has a human form but is without human sentimentality. She has a human form, therefore she’s classified as a person. She’s without human sentimentality, therefore judgments about right and wrong can’t affect her. Insignificant and small - that’s the way she’s classified by humanity. Large and great - her single accomplishment is with the heavens.

Hui Zi said to Zhuangzi: “Are there humans without sentimentality?” Zhuangzi replied: “There are.” Hui Zi said: “If a person has no sentimentality, how could they be called a person?” Zhuangzi replied: “Dao gives him his demeanor, the heavens give him a physical shape, so how could he not be called a person?” Hui Zi said: “Since it’s already been determined he’s a person, how could he not have sentimentality?” Zhuangzi said: “Having a sense of right and wrong is what I call sentimentality. Someone I’d refer to as being without sentimentality - that kind of person wouldn’t allow his likes and dislikes to cause physical harm to his body. They would constantly follow what naturally occurs without looking to profit from life.” Hui Zi said: “If someone doesn’t look to profit from life, how would they still be able to have a body?” Zhuangzi said:

“Dao gives him his demeanor and the heavens give him a physical shape, but they don’t create in him a way for likes and dislikes to harm his body. Now, you’re remaining outside of your spirit, yet laboring to refine your spiritual essence. All the while you’re leaning against a tree grunting, drifting off into a stupor under this tall shade tree. The heavens chose this physical shape for you, and you use it to chirp about pointless arguments.”

The Inner Chapter Six: Teachings from those who were Great who are no longer alive

One who has knowledge about what actions are of the heavens and what actions are of people has reached attainment. One who knows the actions of the heavens merges her life with the heavens. One who knows the actions of people accepts that knowledge is a part of her intellect and increases that knowledge because she accepts her own ignorance. In the end she will have lived out her natural life span and not have been cut down in the middle of her youth. She’s fulfilled every aspect of her knowledge.

Even so, there’s still something to be concerned about. Having knowledge can only go so far and then it’s subject to measurements. One gets to a certain point then starts questioning how far they’ve gotten. How could I sort out whether what I think is coming from the heavens isn’t coming from people, and what I think is coming from people isn’t coming from the heavens? Moreover, one has to become a true person before they can have true knowledge. What is a true person? The true person of ancient times wasn’t opposed to the idea of being different than the rest of society, didn’t try to be macho, and didn’t plan for a lucrative career. Someone like that could move from one situation to another with no regret, and measure up her self worth without becoming smugly self-satisfied. Someone like that could climb to dizzying heights without trembling in fear, enter water without feeling wet, and enter fire without feeling the heat. This kind of perception enables one to ascend on the tails of Dao.

The true person of ancient times could sleep without dreaming, could awaken without anxiety, could eat food without relishing in it, and could completely fill her lungs when breathing. A true person breathed all the way down to her heels, while other people’s breath only filled the top of their lungs. Those who bend over in submission seem to spew forth words from their mouths like vomit. Those who harbor old desires deeply within them leave only a shallow space for the heavens to maneuver. The true person of ancient times wasn’t aware of expressing joy in life, nor of feeling aversion to death. He didn’t feel a need to be gracious when he left, nor did he feel a need to be aloof when he entered. He could leave as swiftly as he arrived, and there was nothing more to it. He didn’t forget where he began, but didn’t question where he’d end up. He celebrated what was received, and recaptured what had been forgotten. This is called not using the mind to contribute to Dao, and not using people to assist the heavens. That’s what was called a true person. Being such, his heart was adaptable, his appearance was unruffled, his forehead was unwrinkled. With a coolness like autumn and a warmth like springtime, joy and anger flowed through him like the four seasons. He found contentment with all things and didn’t think about when he’d reach the

pinnacle. Therefore, if a wise person has to resort to using weapons, his country might be destroyed but the people’s hearts wouldn’t be lost. The benefits would carry over to all the future generations, but not because of his love for any person. Therefore, trying to transfer happiness into other living things will not make one a sage. Experiencing intimate personal relationships will not make one benevolent. Trying to keep in time with the heavens will not make one worthy. One who isn’t able to reconcile advantage with disadvantage will not be a good ruler. One who loses himself seeking fame won’t be a good student. One who inadvertently loses his body won’t be good at serving others.

Hu Bu Xie, Wu Guang, Bo Yi, Shu Qi, Ji Zi, Xu Yu, Ji Tuo, and Shen Tu Di (men who were moralists and reformers in ancient times who ended up being killed or committing suicide) were all in service to what other people served, agreeably followed what other people followed, but they couldn’t be comfortable enough with their own natures to follow themselves. A true person of ancient times appeared to be acting properly, even though she didn’t conform to the norm. She seemed to be lacking, but didn’t grovel for favors. She had some rough edges, but wasn’t obstinate. She was extensively empty, but didn’t superficially attract anything. She brightly lit up everything around her as though she was ecstatic! She soared like an eagle as though there was no need to find a place to land! Her facial expression took on a glowing quality. What she was willing to concede stopped with her own virtue. She seemed harsh to those of her own generation! She was so diverse that there was no way to control her. When there was a new fad or trend she didn’t follow it. She was so inattentive that she forgot what she was going to say. She regarded suffering as a compression of the body, rituals as flights of fancy, knowledge as opportunity, and virtue as a means of protection. Because she regarded suffering as a compression of the body, she was gentle with reprimands. Because she regarded rituals as flights of fancy, she

went along with the times. Because she regarded knowledge as an opportunity, she used what was available in dealing with her affairs. Because she regarded virtue as a means of protection, she encouraged others to walk on their own feet in order to reach the pinnacle and people genuinely attended to what they were involved with.

So, she united with what was enjoyable, and she united with what wasn’t enjoyable. Being united is unity, and not being united is unity. Being united, she followed the heavens. Being not united, she followed people. When the heavens and people join together, there’s no need for one to be victorious over the other. A true person is said to be like this. Death and life are destined. They’re as certain as the the sky progressing from night into dawn. There are certain things a person can’t do anything about. All living things are in that situation. There are those who set up a special figure as the Father of the Heavens (God) and are only able to love the image they have of him as a person. There might be something even above that! People set up someone who they believe has special powers to heal them, but their bodies eventually die anyway. There might be something even more effective than that! When a stream dries up the fish gather together in a crater on the land. They moisten each other with their saliva and splatter each other with foam. It’d be better for them to be swimming freely in rivers and lakes than to be concerned with havng to do these things to keep each other alive. Rather than to praise Yao and condemn Jie, it would be better to forget both of them and how different their Ways were. The great clump of earth (the world) is loaded down with our physical forms, struggles to keep us alive, cradles us in our old age, and provides a place to rest our bodies after we die. Therefore, what’s good at keeping us alive will also be good at providing a place for us to die. A man may try to hide away a boat in a gully, which would be like trying to hide a mountain in a swamp, but he believes it’s in a secure place. Even so, around midnight a strong person might come

along and hoist the boat onto his shoulders and walk away with it. Since it was so dark outside, no one would know. Hiding something small within something larger might seem like the appropriate thing to do, yet anything could still be carted off. If a man were to hide everything in the world within the world, there would be no place left for anything to be removed to. Living things are already constantly in this great situation. Someone might have an especially attractive body, and they’d be pleased about that. However, a human shape can be changed by any number of things, and those changes might not necessarily ever come to an end. Is there pleasure to be found in counting the victories? Therefore, a wise person will travel where things take them rather than trying to constrain things where they don’t belong. Whether it’s better to die young or to live to an old age; whether things will start out good or end up good - people just keep looking for ways to find meaning in those things. It’s like everyone is looking for more things to be concerned about, as though they’re waiting for one thing to come along and change everything! Dao expresses itself and provides evidence of itself, but not by taking actions or showing a shape. It doles out things, but doesn’t take anything back. It can enter within you, but can’t be perceived. It was rooted in itself and grew from its own roots before there was a universe. It was so ancient that it was there before anything existed. It provided vital energy for both demons and gods. It gave life to both the heavens and the earth. It reaches higher than the ether of the sky, but doesn’t become tall. It reaches lower than the core of the earth, but doesn’t become deep. It began before the heavens and earth, but can’t be measured by time. It was around from the most remote ages, but doesn’t become old.

The clansman Shi of Wei got it so as to support the heavens and earth. Fu Xi got it and found the key to the breath of Mother Nature.

Wei Dou (a star in the constellation Sagittarius considered to be the center point of our galaxy) got it so as to eternally stay true to its course. The sun and moon got it so as to constantly keep moving. Kan Pi (a spirit, said to have a human face and the body of an animal) got it so as to penetrate the Kun Lun mountains. Ping Yi (a spirit of the Yellow River) got it so as to travel through the great river. Jian Wu (a mountain spirit) got it so as to dwell on Mount Tai. Huang Di got it so as to rise up into the clouds in the heavens. Zhuan Xu got it so as to dwell in the Black Palace. Yu Qiang (god of the North Sea) got it and stood on the North Pole. Xi Wang Mu got it and sat on Shao Guang. No one knows where it (this mountain) begins or ends. Peng Zu got it and was able to live from the time of the beginning of the Zhou dynasty through the succession of five rulers (five lifetimes for most people). Fu Yue got it so as to become Prime Minister to Wu Ding. Then he suddenly was in control of the whole empire, perching on the hand of Sagittarius and riding into Scorpio’s basket as though he was a shooting star. Nan Bo Zi Qi (Exalted Count of Southern Curiosity) asked of Nu Yu (Independent Woman): “You’re old in years, but your face beams like a child. Why is that?” “Ive learned about Dao.” Nan Bo Zi Qi said: “Can Dao be obtained through studying?”

“What? How could that be posssible? You’re not the kind of person who could do that anyway. There was a guy named Bu Liang Yi (Rigidly Biased Fortuneteller) who had the ability to become a sage, but wasn’t wise enough to learn about Dao. I’m wise enough to learn about Dao, but don’t have the ability to become a sage. I really wanted to teach him. Oh, what great hopes I had that he’d end up becoming a true sage! It’s not so easy to change one who has the ability to become a sage into one who is wise enough to learn about Dao simply by explaining it to them. Yet I kept a close watch on him and tried to explain it. After three days he could disregard the world. After he disregarded the world, I still kept at him. After seven days he could disregard living things. After he disregarded living things, I still kept at him. After nine days he could disregard life. After he disregarded life, he could then penetrate everything like the first rays of sun in the morning. Being able to penetrate everything like the first rays of sun in the morning, he could then see each thing individually. Being able to see each thing individually, he could then overcome a sense of past and future. Being able to overcome a sense of past and future, he could then enter where there is no death and no birth. What kills life isn’t death. What brings forth life isn’t birth. As for how he related to things - without following, without rejecting, without constructing, without destroying. A name for this would be Embracing Contentment. One who embraces contentment - embraces and then becomes complete.

Nan Bo Zi Qi asked: “Are you the only one who’s heard about this?” “I heard about this from Master of Various Texts. Master of Various Texts heard about it from Oral Tradition. Oral Tradition heard about it from Clear Sightedness. Clear Sightedness heard about it from Midday Whisperer. Midday Whisperer heard about it from Humble Servant. Humble Servant heard about it from Oblivious Chanter. Oblivious Chanter heard about it from

Dark Mysteries. Dark Mysteries heard about it from Solitary Star. Solitary Star heard about it from Uncertain Beginning.” Zi Si (Great Sacrificial Attendant), Zi Yu (Great Charioteer), Zi Li (Great Ploughman) and Zi Lai (Great Messenger) all came together to have a chat saying: “Who can consider what doesn’t exist as his head, life as his spine and death as his buttocks? Whoever knows that life and death, surviving and perishing, are part of the same whole, I’d like to take them as a friend.” The four of them all looked at each other and laughed. They felt a profound intimacy with each other in their hearts, and they they knew they’d formed a deep friendship with each other. Some time later, Zi Yu got sick. Zi Si went to see how he was doing. “How remarkable! This thing I’ve been turned into, that’s become so inflexible and stiff!” His back had become curved and hunched, his five vital organs protruded to the outside, his chin was hidden in his bellybutton, his shoulders were higher than the top of his head, and his fingers were curved into hooks that pointed up to the sky. Even though his vital energy seemed to be completely out of whack, his heart was clear and he didn’t seem concerned. He dragged himself over to the well, looked at his image in the water and said: “Ugh! Look at this thing I’ve been turned into, and how inflexible and stiff it is.” Zi Si asked: “Do you hate it?” “What’s the point in hating what’s been taken away or what’s been given to me! Supposing my left arm gradually turned into a chicken - then I could use it to tell when it was nighttime. Supposing my right arm gradually turned into a crossbow - then I could use it to shoot down a bird to roast. Supposing my buttocks gradually turned into a wheel and my spirit into a horse - then I could ride on it. What need would I have for any other means of transportation!

“Furthermore, whatever is received comes at the right time. Whatever has been lost must be adapted to. Calmly accepting and dwelling in compliance, then neither grief nor joy would be able to creep in. This is what’s been called being released from bondage, and for those who can’t find a release, there will always be something to put them into bondage. Besides, living things can’t be victorious over what Nature has been causing to occur since the beginning of time. What reason could I find for hatred!” Some time later, Zi Lai became ill, panting and gasping while near death. His wife and children were grouped around him sobbing. Zi Li went to see how he was doing and said to them: “Shame on you! Get away from him! Don’t show sadness - he’s merely going through changes.” He then leaned against the door jamb and said to his friend: “How remarkable! The changes you’re experiencing! What will you become next - what will you turn into? Will you become a rat’s liver? Will you become an insect’s arm?” Zi Lai said: “When a father and mother produce a child, east, west, south and north converge at a point that sets the destiny he must follow. When those multiple energies within a person converge, he’s directed by them as though they were his father and mother. They’ve brought me close to death, and if I try to prevent it then I’m being foolhardy. How silly to look at this as some sort of crime that’s been committed! The great clump of earth (the world) is loaded down with my physical form, struggles to keep me alive, cradles me in my old age, and provides a place to rest my body after I die. Therefore, that which is good at keeping me alive will also be good at providing a place for me to die. Now if a great blacksmith was pounding some metal, and the metal jumped up at him and said: ‘I absolutely must be made into Mo Ye (a famous ancient Chinese double edged sword)’, the

blacksmith would think that piece of metal was an ill omen. Now, if I were ever to try to go against the shape my form has taken and say: ‘Make me a whole person, nothing but a whole person’, then Mother Nature would think that this person was an ill omen. Now, if the universe is like one great big oven, and Mother Nature is like a master blacksmith, where is it that we shouldn’t go? As naturally as we fall into a sound sleep, we just as naturally suddenly wake up.” Zi Sang Hu (Great Silkworm Cultivator), Meng Zi Fan (Elder Great Mercenary) and Zi Qin Zhang (Great Lute Stringer) were three friends who got along well with each other. One of them said: “Who can join with others while not joining with others; act with others while not acting with others? Who can ascend to the heavens, travel on the mist, stirring up things without any end in sight, all the while forgetting about life without getting exhausted?” The three of them all looked at each other and laughed. Feeling a profound intimacy with each other in their hearts, they knew they’d formed a deep friendship with each other. Not long after that Zi Sang Hu died. When he had not yet been buried, Kong Zi (Confucius) heard about it and sent Zi Gong (a disciple of Confucius) to go see what was going on. One of the friends was composing a tune while the other was playing music.

They sang together: “Oh, Sang Hu has arived! “Oh, Sang Hu has arrived!

“And already returned to his original being, “While we’re still serving as humans!” Zi Gong rushed into the room and asked: “How in the world could you both be singing over a dead body - is that proper conduct?” The two friends looked at each other and laughed, then said: “How could that guy know what proper conduct is?” Zi Gong returned to tell Kong Zi what had happened: “What kind of people are those guys? They can’t even control their behavior and have no respect for their friend’s physical body. They sit right next to the dead body singing without showing any signs of adapting their demeanor to the situation, in complete disorder. What kind of people are they?” Kong Zi said: “They both wander around outside the set boundaries, whereas I wander within the limits set by society. Those outside and those inside don’t mingle with each other, and it was stupid of me to send you there to console them. The only boundaries those two adhere to are those set on people by Nature, and they wander among the singular essence of the universe. They consider life to be an insignificant attachment hanging there like a wart, and death to be the final removal of the ulcerated growth. Being that way, how would they have any conception of life and death or past and future! They avail themselves of the strange anatomy of their bodies, rely on the harmony of their vessel, forget about their internal organs, don’t pay much attention to their ears and eyes, and repeatedly experience endings and beginnings without having a clue what’s going on. In that way they pace back and forth through the dust and dirt while not being affected by it - free and unfettered without acting like they have something to gain. How could they be troubled or anxious about society’s rules and mandates, or be troubled about being observed by everybody else’s eyes and ears!”

Zi Gong said: “That being so, Master, why do you rely on the boundaries?” “I’m the heaven’s sacrificial lamb. That’s something I could share with you.” Zi Gong said: “Then I’d appreciate hearing more about boundaries.” Kong Zi said: “Fish were established together in water. People were established together in Dao. Those who are established together in water penetrate to the depths of a pond and find nourishment. Those who are established together in Dao don’t cater to others and their lives are easier. Therefore it’s been said: ‘Fish forget about each other when in rivers and streams. People forget about each other when on the path of Dao.’ “ Zi Gong said: “May I ask about the non-conformist?” “As for the nonconformist, he seems odd to other people, but is tuned in to the heavens. Therefore it’s been said: ‘Someone who has little to do with Nature would be looked up to by people. Someone who is looked up to by people would have little to do with Nature.’ “ Yan Hui asked Zhong Ni (Confucius):

“When Meng Sun Cai’s mother died, he wept without shedding a tear, didn’t feel sadness in the center of his heart, and mourned without wailing. Although he didn’t do any of those three things, he’s still thought of as the best mourner in the state of Lu. How can someone who’s evidently so superficial to their core still receive accolades? I, for one, find this astonishing.” (Note: Part of the rituals mandated in China at the time considered to be proper behavior at a funeral were the three mentioned above: Crying uncontrolably while shedding many tears, giving the appearance that one’s heart was broken, and wailing loudly at the loss.) Zhong Ni said: “Mr. Meng Sun has reached a pinnacle! He’s advanced beyond mere knowledge. By being at ease with what’s been taken away, that shows a bit of being at ease. Mr. Meng Sun doesn’t think much about life, nor does he think much about death. He doesn’t think much about what happened in the past, nor about what’s going to happen in the future. He seems to adapt to whatever happens around him. By waiting for events to come about on their own without trying to figure them out, he’s already adapted to them!

“Moreover, if limitations eventually change, how can perceptions not change along with them? If limitations remain the same, does that mean that perceptions will stop changing? Maybe you and I are peculiar in that we’re dreaming and haven’t yet awakened? “That guy (Meng Sun) was startled by the transformation of a shape (his mother’s death), but his heart wasn’t damaged by it. He dwells where each moment is like a new dawn, and isn’t affected

emotionally by death. Mr. Meng Sun is uniquely awake. If people cry, he too cries. That’s because he can put himself in their place. Moreover, he can make connections beyond what I can hear with my own ears. So how could I really know about myself simply by listening to the words I speak? You might dream you’re a bird and soar up into the sky, or dream you’re a fish and sink to the bottom of a deep pond. We can’t tell whether the words we’re using are based on being awake or if they’re coming from a dream. “Trying to make a situation more pleasant isn’t as good as laughing out loud. Faked laughter isn’t as good as the kind that naturally erupts. Be comfortable with those eruptions and give up trying to modify them - only then can one enter into the boundless unity of Nature.” Yi Er Zi (Mr. Trace of a Beard) went to see Xu You (a legendary hermit). Xu You said: “How has Yao enriched you?” Yi Er Zi replied: “Yao told me: ‘You must bow down with benevolence and righteousness while speaking clearly about Right and Wrong.’ “ Xu You said: “Then why have you driven all the way out here? Since the Great Yao has already stained you with ideas about benevolence and righteousness, and stunted you with ideas about Right and Wrong, how will you be able to wander in many directions, swinging freely with reckless abandon, spinning down a path that constantly moves?” Yi Er Zi replied: “You might be right, but I’d still like to check out that kind of path by walking along side it.” Xu You said:

“That’s not remotely possible. A blind man can’t truly appreciate the pleasures of seeing beautiful things and outstanding colors. One who has impaired eyesight can’t even tell the difference between green and yellow embroidery on a robe.” Yi Er Zi said: “Wu Zhuang lost all sense of her beauty. Ju Liang lost all sense of his strength. Huang Di abandoned all sense of his knowledge. All of them eventually became refined by picking up on what was sent out. How can I know if some great force might come along and get rid of my stains and replace what was stunted, making me able to ride along with you and follow you as my teacher?”

Xu You said: “Humph! But then, you never can tell. I’ll give you the general outline of what I’d say to you: “My teacher! My Teacher! “Gave to all living things, but not because that’s righteous. “Promoted clarity throughout all generations, but not because that’s benevolent. “Increased from the beginning of time, but not because that’s admirable. “Enabled the universe to contain all the shapes which have been cut and carved, but not because that’s a special skill.

“From this place begin your wandering.” Yan Hui said: “I’ve reached a new plateau in my cultivation.” Zhong Ni (Confucius) asked: “What do you mean by that?” “I’ve fogotten all about benevolence and righteousness.” “That’s great, but you’re still not finished.” On another day they met again and Hui said: “I’ve reached a new plateau in my cultivation.” “What do you mean by that?” “I’ve forgotten all about rituals and celebrations” “That’s great, but you’re still not finished.” On another day they met again and Hui said: “I’ve reached a new plateau in my cultivation.” “What do you mean by that?” “I sit in forgetfulness.” Zhong Ni perked up at this and asked: “What do you mean by sitting in forgetfulness?”

Yan Hui replied: “My bones seem to droop like branches overloaded with fruit. My intelligence and cleverness become overshadowed by darkness. Any knowledge has evaporated as well as any sense of my own shape. I feel embraced by a great openness. That’s what I mean by sitting in forgetfulness.” Zhong Ni said: “Being embraced in that way, then you’d be without preferences. Transforming in that way, then you’d easily change. As a result, you’ve become almost a Sage! I beg you to allow me to take you as my teacher and follow you.” Zi Yu (Great Charioteer) and Zi Sang (Great Silkworm Cultivator) were friends. When there had been a continuous downpour for ten days, Zi Yu said, “Zi Sang might have gotten sick!” So he packed up some food and went to feed his friend. When he reached Zi Sang’s door, he heard what sounded like something between a song and wailing. A voice accompanied by a drum and lute sang out: “Father? Mother? The heavens! Mankind!” The sounds were all jumbled and didn’t seem to make sense, as though the lyrics were so rushed that parts were missing. Zi Yu went into the house and said: “I’ve just heard the lyrics to your song. What are you trying to say?” “I was just wondering what’s caused me to get to such an extreme state, but I can’t figure it out. Would my father and mother have wanted me to end up so poor? The heavens are impartial as to what it will protect. The earth is impartial as to what it will support. Why would the heavens and the earth make me in particular so poor? I keep asking what it is that’s done this to me, but I can’t get an answer. If it can just happen that one could reach this extreme state, it must be due to destiny.”

The Inner Chapter Seven: Responding to (Complying with) Emperors and Kings

Nie Que (Cracked and Missing Teeth) asked Wang Ni (Master of Bewilderment) four questions, and four times he (Wang Ni) said he didn’t know. Nie Que jumped up with great delight and ran to tell Pu Yi Zi (Mr. Cattail Coat) about it.

Pu Yi Zi said: “Is this something new to you? Clansman You Yu (Emperor Shun) wasn’t as good as Clansman Tai (a legendary ruler, possibly Fu Xi). As for Clansman You Yu, he still hid behind benevolence in order to coerce people. In that way he got what he wanted from the people, but he could never give up seeing the faults of people. As for Clansman Tai, he would lie down completely at ease and wake up refreshed. In one moment he could become a horse and in the next moment become an ox. His knowledge was sensitively honesty, his virtue was extremely genuine, and he’d never even consider the faults of others.” Jian Wu went to see Kuang Jie Yu (Lunatic Hit by a Chariot). Kuang Jie Yu asked: “What did Ri Zhong Shi (Sleeps Until Midday) tell you?” Jian Wu replied: “He told me that a ruler should wrap himself up in what has been prescribed as righteousness to the fullest degree. People wouldn’t dare to ignore what he said and would all be transformed!” Jie Yu said: “That would be like browbeating them with virtue. If that’s the way someone tries to govern the world, it would be like trying to wade across the ocean, trying to carve a channel through a river or trying to make a mosquito carry a mountain on its back. If a wise person were to set out to govern anything, would they simply expect to see an outer appearance of compliance? Things may appear to be attuned, but are they really? Then one may simply look for proper behavior and stop there. Moreover, a bird can soar very high to avoid being harmed by an arrow. A gopher can dig very deep into the earth beneath a sacred hill to avoid the risk of being dug up. There was a time those two creatures didn’t need to have that kind of knowledge.”

Tian Gen (Firmly Planted in the Heavens) was traveling along the sunny side of a fertile hill. When he reached the top of a foaming waterfall, he came upon a nondescript man and asked: “Excuse me, but may I ask you about how one can govern the world?” The nondescript man replied: “Go away! You’re a despicable person to have the nerve to ask me about something so unpleasant. I was just about to give myself over to the creator of things. Once I’m satisfied with that, I can become like a small bird and peek through tall grass, not be restrained by the six directions, and travel around without wondering where my neighborhood is. Wherever I happen to be at the moment would be like an open countryside. Why would you come around here asking me about setting the world in order as though I have any feelings in my heart about that?” He (Tian Gen) repeated the question, so the nondescript man said: “You wander light-heartedly, adopt an indifferent attitude, spontaneously go along with things and don’t hold on to your self-image. Then the world would be governed properly.”

Yang Zi Ju went to see Lao Dan (Laozi) and said: “There’s a person around here who can come down with any sort of illness yet remain as strong as a roof beam. Whoever tries to get to him, he can easily diffuse their intensity. He never tires in his learning about Dao. Could he be compared with the enlightened kings?” Lao Dan replied: “From the viewpoint of a Sage, even a pettty person could easily practice those methods. That kind of person could exhaust their body and still have a frustrated heart. Besides that, it’s the beautiful markings on tigers and leopards that cause them to be hunted. Because a monkey is easily trained and a yak is obedient, they’re both captured and taken advantage of. Can those be compared with the enlightened kings?” This unsettled Yang Zi Ju, who then asked: “Can I ask you about the way the enlightened kings ruled?” Lao Dan replied: “The enlightened kings ruled by being able to prevail over the entire world but having no sense of their own self-importance. They were able to change the way all living things dealt with each other, but without requiring the people to depend on them. They had no reason to boost their own selfworth, thus caused things to realize their own happiness. They stood on what happens naturally, and wandered without a sense of their own existence.”

In the state of Zheng there was a sorcerer called Ji Xian (One Who Can Influence the Seasons). He knew when a person would die or be born; who would survive and who would perish; who would be punished and who would receive blessings; who would live a long life and who would die young. He could predict those things and pinpoint them to the year, month and day - as though he was truly connected with some spiritual force. When the people of Zheng saw him, they’d all run away as he approached. When Lie Zi saw him, he was fascinated, and went to tell Hu Zi (Lie Zi’s teacher) about it: “At first I thought I could reach perfection by using your methods, Master. Then I came across someone who’s even more perfected.” Hu Zi said: “I’ve already shared with you the literature, but haven’t yet shared its practical applications, and yet you’re so sure you’ve grasped Dao. With a coop full of chickens but no fertile male, what kind of eggs would be produced? By trying to adapt Dao to the exaggerations of this generation, in an effort to get them to believe in it, it’s no wonder you’re so easily taken in by other people. Try to get this guy to come over here with you so I can see what he’s up to.” The next day Lie Zi brought him to see Hu Zi. When they left, he (Ji Xian) told Lie Zi: “Oh dear! Sir, your Master is on the verge of death. He won’t live much longer - probably not for more than ten days. I saw something so strange about him - he looked like wet ashes.” Lie Zi went back into the house, crying so hard that his tears drenched the front of his shirt while he was telling Hu Zi what had been said. Hu Zi said: “While he was here I appeared to him like patterns on the earth - like a field of grass that’s unmoving with the blades bent over. He probably saw that my natural workings were out of whack. Try to bring him back to see me again.”

The next day both of them came back to see Hu Zi. When they left, he (Ji Xian) told Lie Zi: “What good luck that your Master had a chance to meet me! He’s been completely healed, and now he’s going to live! I can see that those obstructions he was experiencing were only temporary.” Lie Zi went back into the house and related this to Hu Zi. Hu Zi said: “While he was here I appeared to him like dust in the sky. I wasn’t concerned with fame or possessions, and all of my inner workings hummed like a fine machine. He probably saw that everything in me was working in fine order. Try to bring him back to see me again.” The next day both of them came back to see Hu Zi. When they left, he (Ji Xian) told Lie Zi: “Sir, your Master is in disorder. I can’t make heads or tails out of his condition. When he stabilizes a little, let me come back and check on him.” Lie Zi went back into the house and related this to Hu Zi.

Hu Zi said: “This time I appeared to him like a large pipe in which nothing can become clogged. He probably saw that there was nothing within me to be diagnosed. A large fish can be examined in a deep pond. Still water can be examined in a deep pond. Flowing water can be examined in a deep pond. There are nine ways a deep pond can be be examined, and those are three of them. Try to bring him back to see me again.” The next day both of them came back to see Hu Zi. Before he had a chance to get settled, the man lost his composure and ran off. Hu Zi said: “Go find him!” Lie Zi ran after him, but couldn’t catch up, so he returned and told Hu Zi: “He’s already taken off, and I can’t find him anywhere.” Hu Zi said: “This time I appeared to him as though I hadn’t yet been associated with any known species. I made myself completely empty and compliant, without having a clue as to who I was, making myself like the wind or like a wave on the ocean. That’s why he ran away.” After this happened Lie Zi considered himself to not yet have learned anything and decided to make a fresh start. For three years he didn’t go anywhere. He spent time cooking at his wife’s oven, and feeding the pigs in the same way he would feed people. He had no outside relationships with the affairs of others. He spent his time carving figurines and returning to a simple life. Becoming like a clod of dirt, he only used his form as a means to stand erect. He saw disorder and rectification as one and the same until the end of his days.

Without seeking to become famous after death; Without seeking to become a scheming politician; Without seeking to become an event planner; Without seeking to become a smart ruler; Endlessly allowing the body to be guided by the spirit within, and wandering without a purpose; Endlessly receiving from the heavens, and not looking for results; Allowing emptiness to be regained - and that’s all. A perfected person’s attention is like a mirror. Without a will or a face of its own. Free flowing and unhidden. In that way they have the ability to win over things without harming them. The emperor of Nan Hai (the South Sea) is known as Shu (The Fixer). The emperor of Bei Hai (the North Sea) is known as Hu (Nonchalant). The emperor of what lies between the two extremes is known as Hun Dun (Chaos [the primordal blob out of which heaven and earth divided] ). The Fixer and Nonchalant often met with each other on the territory of Chaos, and Chaos was very considerate towards them. The Fixer and Nonchalant were trying to figure out a way to repay Chaos for his kindness.

“People all have seven apertures so they can see, hear, eat and breathe. He’s the only one without them, so let’s try and bore some for him.” Each day they bore one aperture into him. On the seventh day Chaos died.

Interpretation Chapter 1:

"Free and Easy Wandering"

The title of the first chapter of the Zhuangzi has also been translated as “Free and Easy Wandering” and “Going Rambling Without a Destination.” Both of these reflect the sense of the Daoist who is in spontaneous accord with the natural world, and who has retreated from the anxieties and dangers of social life, in order to live a healthy and peaceful natural life. In modern Mandarin, the word xiaoyao has thus come to mean “free, at ease, leisurely, spontaneous.” It conveys the impression of people who have given up the hustle and bustle of worldly existence and have retired to live a leisurely life outside the city, perhaps in the natural setting of the mountains.

But this everyday expression is lacking a deeper significance that is expressed in the classical Chinese phrase: the sense of distance, or going beyond. As with all Zhuangzi’s images, this is to be understood metaphorically. The second word, ‘yao,’ means ‘distance’ or ‘beyond,’ and here implies going beyond the boundaries of familiarity. We ordinarily confine ourselves with our social roles, expectations, and values, and with our everyday understandings of things. But this, according to Zhuangzi, is inadequate for a deeper appreciation of the natures of things, and for a more successful mode of interacting with them. We need at the very least to undo preconceptions that prevent us from seeing things and events in new ways; we need to see how we can structure and restructure the boundaries of things. But we can only do so when we ourselves have ‘wandered

beyond’ the boundaries of the familiar. It is only by freeing our imaginations to reconceive ourselves, and our worlds, and the things with which we interact, that we may begin to understand the deeper tendencies of the natural transformations by which we are all affected, and of which we are all constituted. By loosening the bonds of our fixed preconceptions, we bring ourselves closer to an attunement to the potent and productive natural way (dao) of things.

Paying close attention to the textual associations, we see that wandering is associated with the word wu, ordinarily translated ‘nothing,’ or ‘without.’ Related associations include: wusuo (no place), wuyou (no ‘something’), and most famously wuwei (no interference). Roger Ames and David Hall have commented extensively on these wu expressions. Most importantly, they are not to be understood as simple negations, but have a much more complex function. The significance of all of these expressions must be traced back to the wu of Laozi: a type of negation that does not simply negate, but places us in a new kind of relation to ‘things’—a phenomenological waiting that allows them to manifest, one that acknowledges the space that is the possibility of their coming to presence, one that appreciates the emptiness that is the condition of the possibility of their capacity to function, to be useful (as the hollow inside a house makes it useful for living). The behavior of one who wanders beyond becomes wuwei: sensitive and responsive without fixed preconceptions, without artifice, responding spontaneously in accordance with the unfolding of the inter-developing factors of the environment of which one is an inseparable part.

But it is not just the crossing of horizontal boundaries that is at stake. There is also the vertical distance that is important: one rises to a height from which formerly important distinctions lose what appeared to be their crucial significance. Thus arises the distinction between the great and the small, or the Vast (da) and the petty (xiao). Of this distinction Zhuangzi says that the petty can not come up to the Vast: petty understanding that remains confined and defined by its limitations cannot match Vast understanding, the expansive understanding that wanders beyond. Now, while it is true that the Vast loses sight of distinctions noticed by the petty, it does not follow that they are

thereby equalized, as Guo Xiang suggests. For the Vast still embraces the petty in virtue of its very vastness. The petty, precisely in virtue of its smallness, is not able to reciprocate.

Now, the Vast that goes beyond our everyday distinctions also thereby appears to be useless. A soaring imagination may be wild and wonderful, but it is extremely impractical and often altogether useless. Indeed, Huizi, Zhuangzi’s friend and philosophical foil, chides him for this very reason. But Zhuangzi expresses disappointment in him: for his inability to sense the use of this kind of uselessness is a kind of blindness of the spirit. The useless has use, only not as seen on the ordinary level of practical affairs. It has a use in the cultivation and nurturing of the ’shen’ (spirit), in protecting the ancestral and preserving one’s life, so that one can last out one’s natural years and live a flourishing life. Now, this notion of a flourishing life is not to be confused with a ’successful’ life: Zhuangzi is not impressed by worldly success. A flourishing life may indeed look quite unappealing from a traditional point of view. One may give up social ambition and retire in relative poverty to tend to one’s shen and cultivate one’s xing (nature, or life potency). To summarize: When we wander beyond, we leave behind everything we find familiar, and explore the world in all its unfamiliarity. We drop the tools that we have been taught to use to tame the environment, and we allow it to teach us without words. We imitate its spontaneous behavior and we learn to respond immediately without fixed articulations.

Interpretation of Chapter 2: "Theories on All Things Being Equal"

If the Inner Chapters form the core of the Zhuangzi collection, then the Qi Wu Lun may be thought of as forming the core of the Inner Chapters. It is, at any rate, the most complex and intricate of the chapters of the Zhuangzi, with allusions and allegories, highly condensed arguments, and baffling metaphors juxtaposed without explanation. It appears to be concerned with the deepest and most ‘abstract’ understanding of ourselves, our lives, our world, our language, and our understanding itself. The most perplexing sections concern language and judgment, and are filled with paradox, sometimes even contradiction. But the contradictions are not easy to dismiss: their context indicates that they have a deep significance. In part, they appear to attempt to express an understanding about the limits of understanding itself, about the limits of language and thought.

This creates a problem for the interpreter, and especially for the translator. How do we deal with the contradictions? The most common solution is to paraphrase them so as to remove the direct contradictoriness, under the presupposition that no sense can be made of a contradiction. The most common way to remove the contradictions is to insert references to points of view. Those translators, such as A. C. Graham, who do this are following the interpretation of the Jin dynasty commentator Guo Xiang, who presents the philosophy as a form of relativism: apparently opposing judgments can harmonized when it is recognized that they are made from different perspectives.

According to Guo Xiang’s interpretation, every thing has its place, its own nature (ziran); every thing has its own value that follows from its own nature. So nothing should be judged by values appropriate to the natures of other things. According to Guo Xiang the vast and the small are equal in significance: this is his interpretation of the word qi in the title, “equalization of all viewpoints”. Now, such a radical relativism usually has the goal of issuing a fundamental challenge to the status quo, arguing that the established values have no more validity than any of the minority values, no matter how shocking they may seem to us. Thus, its effect is usually one of destabilization of the social structure. Here, however, we see another of the possible consequences of such a position: paradoxically enough, its inherent conservativeness. Guo Xiang’s purpose in asserting this radical uniqueness and necessity of each position is conservative in this way. Indeed, it appears to be articulated precisely in response to those who oppose the traditional Ruist values of humanity and rightness (ren and yi) by claiming to have a superior mystical ground from which to judge them to be lacking. Guo Xiang’s aim in asserting the equality of every thing, every position, and every function, is to encourage each thing, and each person, to accept its own place in the hierarchical system, to acknowledge its value in the functioning of the whole. In this way, radical relativism actually forestalls the possibility of radical critique altogether! According to this reading, the Vast perspective of the giant Peng bird is no better than the petty perspectives of the little birds who laugh at it. And indeed, Guo Xiang, draws precisely this conclusion. But there is a problem with taking this reading too seriously, and it is the kind of problem that plagues all forms of radical relativism when one attempts to follow them through consistently. Simply put, Zhuangzi would have to acknowledge that his own position is no better than those he appears to critique. He would have to acknowledge that his Daoist philosophy, indeed even this articulation of relativism, is no improvement over Confucianism after all, and that it is no less short-sighted than the logic-chopping of the Mohists. This, however, is a consequence that Zhuangzi does not recognize. This is surely an indication that the radical relativistic interpretation is clearly a misreading. No intelligent radical relativist could fail to see this most obvious and direct consequence of their position. And the level of Zhuangzi’s intelligence clearly is above the ordinary.

Recently, some western interpreters (Lisa Raphals and Paul Kjellberg, for example) have focused their attention on aspects of the text that express affinities with the Hellenistic philosophy of Skepticism. Now, it is important not to confuse this with what in modern philosophy is thought of as a doctrine of skepticism, the most common form of which is the claim that we cannot ever claim to know anything, for at least the reason that we might always be wrong about anything we claim to know—that is, because we can never know anything with absolute certainty. This is not quite the claim of the ancient Skeptics. Arguing from a position of fallibilism, these latter feel that we ought never to make any final judgments that go beyond the immediate evidence, or the immediate appearances. We should simply accept what appears at face value and have no further beliefs about its ultimate consequences, or its ultimate value. In particular, we should refrain from making judgments about whether it is good or bad for us. We bracket (epoche) these ultimate judgments. When we see that such things are beyond our ability to know with certainty, we will learn to let go of our anxieties and accept the things that happen to us with equanimity. Such a state of emotional tranquility they call ‘ataraxia.’ Now, the resonances with Zhuangzi’s philosophy are clear. Zhuangzi also accepts a form of fallibilism. While he does not refrain from making judgments, he nevertheless acknowledges that we cannot be certain that what we think of as good for us may not ultimately be bad for us, or that what we now think of as something terrible to be feared (death, for example) might not be an extraordinarily blissful awakening and a release from the toils and miseries of worldly life. When we accept this, we refrain from dividing things into the acceptable and the unacceptable; we learn to accept the changes of things in all their aspects with equanimity. In the Skeptical reading, the textual contradictions are also resolved by appealing to different perspectives from which different judgments appear to be true. Once one has learnt how to shift easily between the perspectives from which such different judgments can be made, then one can see how such apparently contradictory things can be true at the same time—and one no longer feels compelled to choose between them.

There is another way to resolve these contradictions, which involves recognizing the importance of continuous transformation between opposites. In the tradition of Laozi’s cosmology, Zhuangzi’s worldview is also one of seasonal transformations of opposites. The world is seen as a giant clod (da kuai) around which the heavens (tian) revolve about a polar axis (daoshu). All transformations have such an axis, and the aim of the sage is to settle into this axis, so that one may observe the changes without being buffeted around by them. Now, the theme of opposites is taken up by the Mohists, in their later Mohist Canon, but with a very different understanding. The later Mohists present a detailed analysis of judgments as requiring bivalence: that is judgments may be acceptable (ke) (also, ‘affirmed’ shi) or unacceptable (buke) (also ‘rejected’ fei); they must be one or the other and they cannot be both. There must always be a clear distinction between the two. It is to this claim, I believe, that Zhuangzi is directly responding. Rejecting also the Mohist style of discussion, he appeals to an allusive, aphoristic, mythological style of poetic writing to upset the distinctions and blur the boundaries that the Mohists insist must be held apart. The Mohists believe that social harmony can only be achieved when we have clarity of distinctions, especially of evaluative distinctions: true/false, good/bad, beneficial/harmful. Zhuangzi’s position is that this kind of sharp and rigid thinking can result ultimately only in harming our natural tendencies (xing), which are themselves neither sharp nor rigid. If we, on the contrary, learn to nurture those aspects of our heart-minds (xin), our natural tendencies (xing), that are in tune with the natural (tian) and ancestral (zong) within us, then we will eventually find our place at the axis of the way (daoshu) and will be able to ride the transformations of the cosmos free from harm. We will be able to sense and respond to what can only be vaguely expressed without forcing it into gross and unwieldy verbal expressions.

Put another way, our knowledge and understanding (zhi, tong, da) are not just what we can explicitly see before us and verbalize: in modern terms, they are not just what is ‘consciously,’ ‘conceptually,’ or ‘linguistically’ available to us. Zhuangzi also insists on a level of understanding

that goes beyond such relatively crude modes of dividing up our world and experiences. There are hidden modes of knowing, not evident or obviously present, modes that allow us to live, breathe, move, understand, connect with others without words, read our environments through subtle signs; these modes of knowing also give us tremendous skill in coping with others and with our environments.

These modes of knowing Zhuangzi calls wuzhi, literally ‘without knowing,’ or ‘unknowing,’ which Hall and Ames render as ‘unprincipled knowing.’ What is known by such modes of knowing, when we attempt to express it in words, becomes paradoxical and appears contradictory. It seems that bivalent distinctions leave out too much on either side of the divide: they are too crude a tool to cope with the subtlety and complexity of our non-conceptual modes of knowing. Zhuangzi, following a traditional folk psychology of his time, calls this capacity shenming: “spirit insight.” When we nurture that deepest and most natural, most ancestral part of our pysches, through psycho-physical meditative practices, we at the same time nurture these non-cognitive modes of understanding, embodied wisdoms, that enable us to deal successfully with our circumstances. It is then that we are able to cope directly with what from the limited perspective of our socialized and ‘linguistic’ understanding seems to be too vague, too open, too paradoxical.

Interpretations on Chapter 3:

"Opinions on Nurturing Life"

This chapter, like the Anarchist chapters, deals with the way to nurture and cultivate one’s ‘life force’ (sheng, xing) so as to enable one to live skillfully and last out one’s natural years (qiong qi tian nian). There is a ‘life’ within one that is a source of longevity, an ancestral place from which the phenomena of one’s life continue to arise. This place is to be protected (bao), kept whole (quan), nurtured and cultivated (yang). The result is a sagely and skillful life. We must be careful how we understand this word, ’skill.’ Zhuangzi takes pains to point out that it is no mere technique. A technique is a procedure that may be mastered, but the skill of the sage goes beyond this. One might say that it has become an ‘art,’ a dao. With Zhuangzi’s conception, any physical activity, whether butchering a carcass, making wooden wheels, or carving beautiful ceremonial bell stands, becomes a dao when it is performed in a spiritual state of heightened awareness (’attenuation’ xu).

Zhuangzi sees civic involvement as particularly inimical to the preservation and cultivation of one’s natural life. In order to cultivate one’s natural potencies, one must retreat from social life, or at least one must retreat from the highly complex and artificially structured social life of the city. One undergoes a psycho-physical training in which one’s sensory and physical capacities become honed to an extraordinary degree, indicating one’s attunement with the transformations of nature, and thus highly responsive to the tendencies (xing) of all things, people, and processes. The mastery achieved is demonstrated (both metaphorically, and literally) by practical embodied skill. That is, practical embodied skill is a metaphor representing the mastery of the life of the sage, and is also quite literally a sign of sagehood (though not all those who are skillful are to be reckoned as sages). Thus, we see many examples of individuals who have achieved extraordinary levels of excellence in their achievements—practical, aesthetic, and spiritual. Butcher Ding provides an example of a practical, and very lowly, skill; Liezi’s teacher, Huzi, in chapter 7, an example of skill in controlling the very life force itself. Chapter 19, Mastering Life, is replete with examples: a cicada catcher, a

ferryman, a carpenter, a swimmer, and Woodcarver Qing, whose aesthetic skill reaches magical heights.

Interpretation of Chapter 4:

"Relating To The Human World"

In this chapter, Zhuangzi continues the theme broached by the last chapter, but now takes on the problem of how to protect and preserve one’s life and last out one’s years while living in the social realm, especially in circumstances of great danger: a life of civic engagement in a time of social corruption. The Daoists, and Primitivists in general, are highly critical of the artificiality required to create and sustain complex social structures. The Daoists are skeptical of the ability of deliberate planning to deal with the complexities of the world within which our social structures have their place. Even the developments of the social world when left to themselves are ‘natural’ developments, and as such escape the confines of planned, structured thinking. The more we try to control and curtail these natural meanderings, the more complicated and unwieldy the social structures become. According to the Daoists, no matter how complex we make our structures, they will never be fully able to cope with the fluid flexibility of natural changes. The Daoists perceive the unfolding of the transformations of nature as exhibiting a kind of natural intelligence, a wisdom that cannot be matched by deliberate artificial thinking, thinking that can be articulated in words. The result is that phenomena guided by such artificial structures quickly lose their course, and have to be constantly regulated, re-calibrated. This gives rise to the development and articulation of the artificial concepts of ren and yi for the Ruists, and shi and fei for the Mohists.

The Ruists emphasize the importance of cultivating the values of ren ‘humanity’ and yi ‘appropriateness/rightness.’ The Mohists identify a bivalent structure of preference and evaluation. Our judgments can be positive or negative, and these arise out of our acceptance and rejection of things or of judgments, and these in turn arise out of our emotional responses to the phenomena of benefit and harm, that is, pleasure and pain. Thus, we set up one of two types of systems: the intuitive renyi morality of the Ruists, or the articulated structured shifei of the Mohists. Zhuangzi sees both of these as dangerous. Neither can keep up with the complex transformations of things and so both will result in harm to our shen and xing. They lead to the desire of rulers to increase their personal profit, their pleasure, and their power, and to do so at the expense of others. The best thing is to steer clear of such situations. But there are times when one cannot do so: there is nothing one can do to avoid involvement in a social undertaking. There are also times—if one has a Ruist sensibility—when one will be moved to do what one can and must in order to improve the social situation. Zhuangzi makes up a story about Confucius’ most beloved and most virtuous follower, Yen Hui, who feels called to help ‘rectify’ the King of a state known for his selfishness and brutality.

Zhuangzi thinks that such a motivation, while admirable, is ultimately misguided. There is little to nothing one can do to change things in a corrupt world. But if you really have to try, then you should be aware of the dangers, be aware of the natures of things, and of how they transform and develop. Be on the lookout for the ‘triggers’: the critical junctures at which a situation can explode out of hand. In the presence of danger, do not confront it: always dance to one side, redirect it through skilled and subtle manipulations, that do not take control, but by adding their own weight appropriately, redirect the momentum of the situation. One must treat all dangerous social undertakings as a Daoist adept: one must perform xinzhai, fasting of the heart-mind. This is a psycho-physical discipline of attenuation, in which one nurtures one’s inner potencies, until one achieves a heightened sensitivity to the tendencies of things. One then responds with the skill of a sage to the dangerous moods and intentions of one’s worldly ruler.

Interpretation of Chapter 5:

"Calculations on Filfilling Virtue"

This chapter is populated with a collection of characters with bodily eccentricities: criminals with amputated feet, people born with ‘ugly’ deformities, hunchbacks with no lips. Perhaps some of these are moralistic advisors, like those of chapter 4, who were unsuccessful in bringing virtue and harmony to a corrupt state, and instead received the harsh punishment of their offended ruler? But it is also possible that some were born with these physical ‘deformities.’ As the Commander of the Right says in chapter 3, “When tian (nature) gave me life, it saw to it that I would be one footed.” These then are people whose natural capacity (de) has been twisted somehow, redirected, so that it gives them a potency (de) that is beyond the normal human range. At any rate, this out of the ordinary appearance, this extraordinary physical form, is a sign of something deeper: a potency and a power (de) that connects them more closely to the ancestral source. These are the sages that Zhuangzi admires: those whose virtue (de) is beyond the ordinary, and whose signs of virtue indicate that they have gone beyond. But what goes beyond is also the source of life. To hold fast to that which is beyond both living and dying, is perhaps also to hold fast to something that is beyond human and inhuman. To identify with and nurture this source is to nurture that which is at the root of our humanity. Thus to go to that which is beyond is not necessarily to become inhuman. Indeed, one might argue that it is to create the possibility of deepening one’s most genuine humanity, insofar as this is a deeper nature still.

One Legged Man Kung Wen Hsien saw Yo Shi and exclaimed: “What kind of person is this? How come only one foot? Is this ordained by Heaven, Or caused by Man?” He then said to himself: “It is Heaven, not Man. Heaven’s destiny let him be crippled. The image of Man is given by Heaven.

Therefore we know this is the work of Heaven, not Man.” -The True Tao

Interpretation of Chapter 6: "Teachings From Those Who Were Great But Are No Longer Alive"

The first part of this chapter is devoted to a discussion of the zhenren: the “True Man,” the “genuine person,” or “genuine humanity.” It begins by asking about the relation between tian and ren, the natural/heaven and the human, and suggests that the greatest wisdom lies in the ability to understand both. Thus, to be forced to choose between being natural or being human is a mistake. A genuinely flourishing human life cannot be separated from the natural, but nor can it on that account deny its own humanity. Genuine humanity is natural humanity.

There are several sections devoted to explicating this genuine humanity. We find that the genuinely human person, the zhen ren, is in tune with the cycles of nature, and is not upset by the vicissitudes of life. The zhenren like Laozi’s sage is somehow simultaneously unified with things, and yet not tied down by them. The zhenren is in tune with the cycles of nature, and with the cycles of yin yang, and is not disturbed or harmed by them. In fact, the zhenren is not harmed by them either in what appears to us to be their negative phases, nor are their most extreme phases able to upset the balance of the zhenren. This is sometimes expressed with what I take to be the hyperbole that the sage or zhenren can never be drowned by the ocean, nor burned by fire. However, followers of what has come to be known as “religious” Daoism would, I believe, probably take these statements more literally.

In the second part of the chapter, Zhuangzi hints at the process by which we are to cultivate our genuine and natural humanity. These are meditative practices and psycho-physical disciplines—”yogas” perhaps—by which we learn how to nourish the ancestral root of life that is within us. We learn how to identify with that center which functions as an axis of stability around which the cycles of emotional turbulence flow. By maintaining ourselves as a shifting and responding center of gravity we are able to maintain an equanimity without giving up our feelings altogether. We enjoy riding the dragon without being thrown around by it. Ordinarily, we are buffeted around like flotsam in a storm, and yet, by holding fast to our ancestral nature, and by following the nature of the environment—by “matching nature with nature”—we free ourselves from the mercy of random circumstances.

In this chapter we see a mature development of the ideas of life and death broached in the first three chapters. Zhuangzi continues musing on the significance of our existential predicament as being inextricably tied into interweaving cycles of darkness and light, sadness and joy, living and dying. In chapter two, it was the predicament itself that Zhuangzi described, and he tried to focus on the inseparability and indistinguishability of the two aspects of this single process of transformation. In this chapter, Zhuangzi tries to delve deeper to reach the center of balance, the ‘axis of the way,’ that allows one to undergo these changes with tranquility, and even to accept them with a kind of ‘joy.’ Not an ecstatic affirmation, to be sure, but a tranquil appreciation of the richness, beauty, and ‘inevitability’ of whatever experiences we eventually will undergo. Again, not that we must experience whatever is ‘fated’ for us, or that we ought not to minimize harm and suffering where we can do so, but only that we should acknowledge and accept our situatedness, our thrownness into our situation, as the ‘raw materials’ that we have to deal with.

There are mystical practices hinted at that enable the sage to identify with the datong, the greater flow, not with the particular arisings of these particular emotions, or this particular body, but with what lies within (and below and above) as their ancestral root. These meditative and yogic practices are hinted at in this chapter, and also in chapter 7, but nothing in the text reveals what they are. It is not unreasonable to believe that similar techniques have been handed down by the practitioners of religious Daoism. It is clear, nonetheless, that part of the change is a change in selfunderstanding, self-identification. We somehow learn to expand, to wander beyond, our boundaries until they include the entire cosmic process. This entire process is seen as like a potter’s wheel, and simultaneously as a whetstone and as a grindstone, on which things are formed, and arise, sharpened, and are ground back down only to be made into new forms. With each ‘birth’ (sheng) some ‘thing’ (wu) new arises, flourishes, develops through its natural (tian) tendencies (xing), and then still following its natural tendencies, responding to those of its natural environment, it winds down: enters (ru) back into the undifferentiated (wu) from which it emerged (chu). The truest friendship arises when members of a community identify with this unknown undifferentiated process in which they are embedded, ‘forgotten’ differences between self and other, and spontaneously follows the natural developments of which they are inseparable ‘parts.’

Interpretation of Chapter 7: Responding to (Complying with) Emperors and Kings

The last of the Inner Chapters does not introduce anything new, but closes by returning to a recurring theme from chapters 1, 3, 5, and 6: that of withdrawing from society. This ‘withdrawal’ has two functions: the first is to preserve one’s ‘life’; the second is to allow society to function naturally, and thus to bring itself to a harmonious completion. Rather than interfering with social interactions, one should allow them to follow their natural course, which, Zhuangzi believes, will be both imaginative and harmonious. These themes resonate with those of the Anarchist chapters in the Outer (and Miscellaneous) chapters: 8 to 11a and 28 to 32. These encourage a life closer to nature in which one lets go of deliberate control and instead learns how to sense the tendencies of things, allowing them to manifest and flourish, while also adding one’s weight to redirect their momentum away from harm and danger. Or, if harm and danger are unavoidable, then one learns how to minimize them, and how to accept whatever one does have to suffer with equanimity.

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