Chuang Tzu. Chapter 15. Argument: Would-be
sages. The vanity of effort. Method of the true Sage. Passivity
the key. The soul and mortality. Re-absorption into the immortal.*
Self-conceit and assurance, which lead men to quit society, and
be different from their fellows, to indulge in tall talk and abuse
of others, these are nothing more than personal over-estimation,
the affectation of recluses and those who have done with the world
and have closed their hearts to mundane influences.
Preaching of charity and duty to one's neighbour, of loyalty
and truth, of respect, of economy, and of humility, this is but
moral culture, affected by would-be pacificators and teachers
of mankind, and by scholars at home or abroad.
Preaching of meritorious services, of fame, of ceremonial between
sovereign and minister, of due relationship between upper and
lower classes, this is mere government, affected by courtiers
or patriots who strive to extend the boundaries of their own State
and to swallow up the territory of others.
Living in marshes or in wildernesses, and passing one's days
in fishing, this is mere inaction, affected by wanderers who have
turned their backs upon the world and have nothing better to do.
Exhaling and inhaling, getting rid of the old and assimilating
the new, stretching like a bear and craning like a bird, ‹
this is but valetudinarianism, affected by professors of hygiene
and those who try to preserve the body to the age of P'eng Tsu.
But in self-esteem without self-conceit, in moral culture without
charity and duty to one's neighbour, in government without rank
and fame, in retirement without solitude, in health without hygiene,
there we have oblivious absolute coupled with possession of all
things; an infinite calm which becomes an object to be obtained
Such is the Tao of the universe, such is the virtue of the Sage.
Wherefore it has been said, 'In tranquillity, in stillness, in
the unconditioned, in inaction, we find the levels of the universe,
the very constitution of Tao.' Wherefore it has been said, 'The
Sage is a negative quantity, and is consequently in a state of
passivity. Being passive he is in a state of repose. And where
passivity and repose are, there sorrow and anxiety do not enter,
and foul influences do not collect. And thus his virtue is complete
and his spirituality unimpaired.'
Wherefore it has been said, 'The birth of the Sage is the will
of God; his death is but a modification of existence. In repose,
he shares the passivity of the Yin; in action, the energy of the
Yang. He will have nothing to do with happiness, and so has nothing
to do with misfortune. He must be influenced ere he will respond.
He must be urged ere he will move. He must be compelled ere he
will arise. Ignoring the future and the past, he resigns himself
to the laws of God.
'And therefore no calamity comes upon him, nothing injures him,
no man is against him, no spirit punishes him. He floats through
life to rest in death. He has no anxieties; he makes no plans.
His honour does not make him illustrious. His good faith reflects
no credit upon himself. His sleep is dreamless, his awaking without
pain. His spirituality is pure, and his soul vigorous. Thus unconditioned
and in repose, he is a partaker of the virtue of God.'
Wherefore it has been said, 'Sorrow and happiness are the heresies
of virtue; joy and anger lead astray from Tao; love and hate cause
the loss of virtue. The heart unconscious of sorrow and happiness,
‹ that is perfect virtue. One, without change, ‹ that
is perfect repose. Without any obstruction, that is the perfection
of the unconditoned. Holding no relations with the external world,
‹ that is perfection of the negative state. Without blemish
of any kind, that is the perfection of purity.'
Wherefore it has been said, 'If the body toils without rest,
it dies. If the mind is employed without ceasing, it becomes wearied;
and being wearied; its power is gone.'
Pure water is by nature clear. If untouched, it is smooth. If
damned, it will not flow, neither will it be clear. It is an emblem
of the virtue of God. Wherefore it has been said, 'Pure, without
admixture; uniform, without change; negative, without action;
moved, only at the will of God; such would be the spirituality
nourished according to Tao.'
Those who possess blades from Kan or Yüeh, keep them carefully
in their scabbards, and do not venture to use them. For they are
precious in the extreme. The spirit spreads forth on all sides:
there is no point to which it does not reach, attaining heaven
above, embracing earth beneath. Influencing all creation, its
form cannot be portrayed. Its name is then Of-God.
The Tao of the pure and simple consists in preserving spirituality.
He who preserves his spirituality and loses it not, becomes one
with that spirituality. And through that unity the spirit operates
freely, and comes into due relationship with God.
A vulgar saying has it, 'The masses value money; honest men,
fame; virtuous men, resolution; and Sages, the soul.'
Thus, the pure is that in which there is nothing mixed; the simple
is that which implies no injury to the spirituality. And he who
can keep the pure and simple within himself, he is a divine man.
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Translated from the Chinese by Herbert A. Giles. First edition,
1889; second edition, 1923.