Monday, May 28, 2018

The Sayings of Chuang Chou

When I bought this used paperback I didn’t realize Chuang Chou was just another way of saying Chuang Tzu, the philosopher who wondered if he was a butterfly’s dream.  I thought it would be all new to me.  Since I hadn’t read Chuang Tzu in a decade or three, it was!

The Sayings of Chuang Chou translated by James R Ware
NY:  Mentor Classics, 1963

(page 16)  Lieh Yü-k’ou traveled by riding the wind, because he knew how to make himself light, and after a fortnight he returned.  Not many could attract good fortune as well as he.  Yet, even though he avoided travel in its normal form, there was still something that he needed for support, the wind.  If, however, he had ridden the correctness that is all nature’s and used for his driver the articulateness belonging to the six breaths (Yin, Yang, wind, rain, darkness, and light) to delight himself in Infinity, what else would he have needed?  Therefore, it is said, “Man in his highest form is selfless, gods (once men) take no interest in accomplishment, and a sage has no interest in renown.”

(23)  Labeling things right or wrong weakens God.

(25)  Words bring compartmentalization, by which I mean left, right, rules, propriety, analysis, argument, strife, and quarrels, which are called the Eight Perfections!

(33)  “You must concentrate and not listen with your ears but with your heart.  Then, without listening with the heart, do so with your breath.  The ear is limited to ordinary listening, the heart to the rational.  Listening with the breath, one awaits things uncommittedly.  It is God alone that gathers into the uncommitted, and that makes uncommittedness the fact of the heart and mind.”

(39)  Everybody knows about the usefulness of the useful, but nobody knows about the usefulness of the useless!

(56)  Why do you bother me about how the world is to be governed?

When he [T’ien Ken] put the question to him [an anonymous man] again, the answer came, “Let your heart and mind have an excursion in the objective and bring your breaths into combination with the vast and silent.  Render yourself obedient to Spontaneity and tolerate no subjectivity.  Then our world will be well governed, I promise you.”

(68)  The utter confusion brought upon our world by love of know-how is extreme.

(78)  When one’s will is no longer crushed by things, one is perfect.  

(87) The quietude of the sage is not the result of expertness.  He enjoys quietude because there is nothing in all creation that disturbs him.

…Now uncommittedness, quiet, rest, repose, silence, emptiness, perfect-freedom-action - these are all nature at the level;  they are God and perfect, natural behavior in their highest form.

(97)  eleococca - 桐 vernucosa or paulownia

(104)  Let life be a floating and death a resting.

[Autumn Flood]
(110)  “Things are infinite in the variety of their sizes and eternally varying;  throughout their course they retain nothing old. No particular lot is permanent.  Therefore, great wisdom has an eye to both the distant and the near;  it does not consider the small paltry nor the large important, for it knows there is no end to size.  Since it uses for witness both past and present, the past does not evoke longing, nor does the brevity of the present produce anxiety.  It knows that time is infinite.  Having examined the matter of fullness and emptiness, great wisdom does not rejoice on getting something and grieve on losing it, for it knows that no lot is permanent.  Understanding the path of contentment, it is not pleased by birth, nor does it think death as a disaster, because it is known that neither end nor beginning can be thought old.

(113)  "The presence of excellence is due to nature.  It is the function of man to understand nature, to base himself in nature, and to position himself in perfect, natural behavior.  Then, moving back and forth with hesitation, he will bend and stretch.  And now, having gotten to the essentials, I have nothing more to say.”

“What do you mean by nature?  What do you mean by man?”

“Buffalos and horses having four feet is nature.  Bridling a horse’s head and piercing a buffalo’s nose is man.  So I say, ‘The natural is not to be destroyed by the artificial, Fate is not to be destroyed by deliberation, and native excellence is not to be sacrificed to opinion.’  Observe these three injunctions carefully and omit none of them.  This is what is meant by return to God (The True)."

(116)  Chuang Chou was fishing in the P’u when the King of Ch’u sent two ambassadors to invite him, saying, “We desire to enmesh you in our state affairs.”  Still holding his rod, and without looking back, Chuang Chou replied, “I am told that there is a god-turtle in Ch’u that died at the age of three thousand years and that your king keeps it wrapped in a kerchief in the ancestral temple.  Now what do you think this turtle would prefer - to be dead and have its skeleton an object of veneration or to be alive and drag its tail in the mud?”

“The latter.”

“Go away, then.  I will keep dragging my tail in the mud.”

(119)  When Chuang Chou’s wife died, Hui Shih went to express his condolences.  Chuang Chou, seated on a mat, was singing and beating upon a basin, and Hui Shih said, “If one grows old and dies after living with a person and rearing his sons, not to mourn her is bad enough.  But isn’t beating upon a basin and singing going too far?”

“No.  If this were her initial death, how could I fail to be saddened?  If, however, we examine this question of beginnings, originally there was no birth.  Not only was there no birth but originally there was no body.  And not only was there no body but originally there was no breath.  All mixed up in the vastness and confusion, a change took place and there was breath.  This breath changed and body came into existence.   This body then changed and birth occurred.  Today another change has occurred, and she has reached death.  It is analogous to the progression of the four seasons, spring, autumn, winter, and summer.  This person, my wife, is resting peacefully in the largest of abodes, but if I were to mourn her with a lot of sobbing, I should feel that I did not understand Fate.  That is why I desist.”

[end of Autumn Flood]

(124)  “When shooting where the wager is tiles, a man is skillful.  When the wager is buckles, he is nervous.  When shooting for gold, he is quite beside himself.  In  all these cases the skill is the same, but when the emotions are involved, value is placed on externals.  And this always disturbs internally.”

(130)  One moment up and at another moment down, he considers harmony the only measure.  Floating along in the Ancestor of All Creation (God), he passes from thing to thing but does not particularize among them.

(136)  Do things of the highest type, but avoid thinking of yourselves as being of the highest type.  Then were will you go and not be loved?

(138)  There is nothing sadder than the death of a mind.  Even the death of an individual is secondary.

(140)  As the relation of water to its sounds is perfectly natural when there is no interference, so the relation of man in his highest form to perfect, natural behavior is such that he cannot as a creature separate himself from it as long as he does not try to improve it.

(144)  The man concerned with God diminishes his artificialities more and more every day.

(145)  There are many fine things about Nature, but it does no talking.

(153)  I was taught that man in his highest form dwells quietly in an abode whose circuit is fifty feet, but the people in general rush madly about without knowing where they are going.

(159)  A word on these four topics:  Removing disturbances to our wills, loosening the bonds upon our hearts, removing enmeshments to excellence, and piercing the roadblocks to God.

These six - riches, honors, distinction, austerity, renown, and profit - disturb our wills.

These six - countenances, movements, complexions, situations, attitudes, and thoughts - bind hearts.

These six - dislike, desire, joy, anger, grief, and pleasure - enmesh our natural excellence.

These six - quitting, arriving, taking, giving, know-hows, and technical competence - are roadblocks to God.

If these four are not rampant in our breast, everything is all right.  If everything is all right, we are calm;  if calm, understanding;  if understanding, uncommitted;  if uncommitted, we act with perfect freedom, and everything proceeds as it should.

God is what is respected in perfect, natural action.

(166)  Alas, I pity those among men who lose their own true selves.  I also pity those who pity others.  I even pity those who pity the pitiers.  But all that was a long time ago.

(169)  Yao understands the good that a superior person can do, but he does not understand how such a person turns the world to thievery.  Only those who are beyond the restrictions of superiority understand this.

(172 - 173)  The sage understands the bundle that is this universe and thinks that the whole of it is one body.  Yet, he does not know the reason.  That is in the nature of things. Acting in full compliance with his orders, he recognizes nature as master.  And men in turn call him their master.

(173)  Lao Tan’s [Lao Tzu’s] teacher, Jung Ch’eng [容成氏, keeper of King Mu’s archives, Yellow Emperor’s annalist and original historian, possibly expert in governing chi by accumlating semen]

(178)  If we counted things today, we would not stop with ten thousand - but by convention we do speak of the ten thousand things (all nature) to indicate large quantity.  In the same way, we use the expression Sky and Earth to denote hugeness in shape.  We use Yin and Yang for greatness of the breaths.  God is what is common to all these, and it is all right to use that name because of the magnitude involved.  But now that you have this term will you look for something to compare with God?  Dialectic of that type compares dogs and horses!

(179)  Those with an eye to God do not pursue God to a vanishing point nor try to trace God to a source, for God is the point where discussion ceases.

…Neither speech nor silence, however, are sufficient for giving the whole story of God and created thigns.  It is perfect freedom of speech and silence that discusses them in all their fullness.

(184 - 185)  A fish trap is a means for catching fish, but once we get the fish, the trap is forgotten  The snare is a means for catching hares, but once we get the hare, the snare is forgotten.  Similarly, words are a means for catching ideas, but when the idea has been grasped, the words are forgotten.  Where can I get a man who forgets about the words that I may talk with him?`

(187)  Where there is concern with life, there is death.  Give yourself, then, to the universal view.  Remember that death has a cause, but that the living Yang is free from cause.  Can you really accept that?  Then you will be completely indifferent to whatever happens.

(191)  Today, however, all who occupy high office and esteem titles feel that the most weighty problem is that they might lose them.  With a view to profit, they treat lightly the loss of their bodies.  Isn’t it stupid?

(192)  I sum it up this way:  “The true function of God is the better ordering of ourselves.  Some of God may go to governing the family or the state;  and God’s refuse is for the better ordering of the world.”

(196)  Where God is understood, both the bad situation and prosperity become a succession comparable to cold, heat, wind, and rain.

(215)  The True (God) is quintessence and sincerity in their highest forms.  Non-quintessence and non-sincerity cannot influence people.  Accordingly, he who forces his mourning feels no grief, though he may be sad.  He who forces himself to anger may be stern, but he inspires no awe.  Forced friendliness is not congenial, though it may be smiling.  True sadness grieves noiselessly.  True anger overawes before it reveals itself.  True friendliness proves congenial before there are any smiles.  The True is something within us that our interior gods make external.  We value the True because it is useful to the human order.  When it serves parents, there is kindness and filial affection.  When it serves the sovereign, there is loyalty and sincerity.  At celebrations it causes joy, in mournings sadness and grief.  The principal ingredient in loyalty and sincerity is service, in celebration joy, in mournings grief, and in serving parents appropriateness.

(218)  Chuang Chou:  “To understand God is easy;  to obey the injunction not to put God into words is difficult.  By understanding and yet not putting into words, one attains Nature.  By understanding and putting into words, one attains artificiality.  The Ancients were natural, not artificial.”

(231)  It is better to embrace things globally.  The rarer our talk, the closer to God.

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