Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chuang-Tzu (300BCE)

Translated by Burton Watson
From “The Enlightened Mind” by Stephen Mitchell (Pages 18-23)

Everything has its “that”, everything has its “this”. From the point of view of “that” you cannot see it, but through understanding you can know it. So I say, “that” comes of “this” and “this” depends on “that”—which is to say that “this” and “that” give birth to each other. But where there is birth there must be death; where there is death there must be birth. Where there is acceptability there must be unacceptability; where there is unacceptability there must be acceptability. Where there is recognition of right there must be recognition of wrong; where there is recognition of wrong there must be recognition of right. Therefore the sage does not proceed in such a way, but illuminates all in the light of Heaven. He too recognizes a “this”, but a “this” which is also “that”, a “that” which is also “this”. His “that” has both a right and a wrong in it. So, in fact, does he still have a “this” and “that”? Or does he in fact no longer have a “this” and “that”? A state in which “this” and “that” no longer find their opposites is called the hinge of the Way. When the hinge I fitted into the socket, it can respond endlessly. Its right then is a single endlessness and its wrong too is a single endlessness. So, I say, the best thing to use is clarity.

To use an attribute to show that attributes are not attributes is not as a thin as using a nonattribute to show that attributes are not attributes. To use a horse to show that a horse is not a horse is not as good as using a non-horse to show that a horse is not a horse. Heaven and earth are one attribute; the ten thousand things are one horse.

What is acceptable we call acceptable; what is unacceptable we call unacceptable. A road is made by people walking on it; things are so because they are called so. What makes them so? Making them so makes them so. What makes them not so? Making them not so makes them not so. Things all must have that which is so; things all must have that which is acceptable. There is nothing that is not so, nothing that is not acceptable.

For this reason, whether you point to a little stalk or a great pillar, a leper or the beautiful Hsi-sheh, things ribald and shady or things grotesque and strange, the Way makes them all into one. Their dividedness is their completeness; their completeness is also their impairment. No thing is either complete or impaired, but all are made into one again. Only the woman of far-reaching vision knows how to make them into one. So she has no use for categories, but relegates all to the constant. The constant is the useful; the useful is the passable; the passable is the successful; and with success, all is accomplished. She relies upon this alone, relies upon it and does not know she is doing so. This is called the way.

But to wear your brain out trying to make things into one without realizing that they are all the same—this is called “three in the morning”. What do I mean by “three in the morning”? When the monkey trainer was handing out acorns, he said, “You get three in the morning and four at night.” This made all the monkeys furious. “Well, then,” he said, “you get four in the morning and three at night.” The monkeys were all delighted. There was no change in the reality behind the words, and yet the monkeys responded with joy and anger. Let them, if they want to. So the sage harmonizes with both right and wrong and rests in Heaven the Equalizer.

Chuang-Tzu (369?—286? B.C.E.), Chinese Taoist Master, Philosopher and Comedian.
See The Way of Chuang-tzu, by Thomas Merton, New Directions, 1965, and The Complete Works of Chuang-tzu, translated by Burton Watson, Columbia University Press, 1968.

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