Musings of a Chinese Mystic
TAKE no heed of time, nor of right and wrong; but, passing into the realm of the Infinite, take your final rest therein.
Our life has a limit, but knowledge is without limit.
To serve one's prince without reference to the act, but only to the service, is the perfection of a subject's loyalty.
In trials of skill, at first all is friendliness; but at last it is all antagonism.
Tzu Ch'i of Nan-po was travelling on the Shang mountain when he saw a large tree which astonished him very much. A thousand chariot teams could have found shelter under its shade.
"What tree is this?" cried Tzu Ch'i. "Surely it must have unusually fine timber." Then, looking up, he saw that its branches were too crooked for rafters; while, as to the trunk, he saw
that its irregular grain made it valueless for coffins. He tasted a leaf, but it took the skin off his lips; and its odour was so strong that it would make a man as it were drunk for three days together.
"Ah!" said Tzu Ch'i. "This tree is good for nothing, and that is how it has attained this size. A wise man might well follow its example."
A man does not seek to see himself in running water, but in still water. For only what is itself still can instil stillness into others.
Is Confucius a Sage, or is he not? How is it he has so many disciples? He aims at being a subtle dialectician, not knowing that such a reputation is regarded by real Sages as the fetters of a criminal.
He who delights in man is himself not a perfect man. His affection is not true charity. Depending upon opportunity, he has not true worth. He who is not conversant with both good and evil is not a superior man. He who disregards his reputation is not what a man should be. He who is not absolutely oblivious of his own existence can never be a ruler of men.
When the pond dries up, and the fishes are left
upon dry ground, to moisten them with the breath, or to damp them with spittle, is not to be compared with leaving them, in the first instance, in their native rivers and lakes. And better than praising Yao [*1] and blaming Chieh [*2] would be leaving them both and attending to the development of Tao.
Fishes are born in water. Man is born in Tao. If fishes get ponds to live in, they thrive. If man gets Tao to live in, he may live his life in peace.
"May I ask," said Tzu Kung, "about divine men?"
"Divine men," replied Confucius, "are divine to man, but ordinary to God. Hence the saying that the meanest being in heaven would be the best on earth; and the best on earth, the meanest in heaven."
The goodness of a wise ruler covers the whole empire, yet he himself seems to know it not. It influences all creation, yet none is conscious
thereof. It appears under countless forms, bringing joy to all things. It is based upon the baseless, and travels through the realms of Nowhere.
By inaction one can become the centre of thought, the focus of responsibility, the arbiter of wisdom. Full allowance must be made for others, while remaining unmoved oneself. There must be a thorough compliance with divine principles, without any manifestation thereof. All of which may be summed up in the one word passivity. For the perfect man employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing: it refuses nothing. It receives, but does not keep. And thus he can triumph over matter, without injury to himself.
Every addition to or deviation from nature belongs not to the ultimate perfection of all. He who would attain to such perfection never loses sight of the natural conditions of his existence. With him the joined is not united, nor the separated apart, nor the long in excess, nor the short wanting. For just as a duck's legs, though short, cannot be lengthened without pain to the duck, and a crane's legs, though long, cannot be shortened without misery to the crane, so that which is long in man's moral nature cannot be cut
off, nor that which is short be lengthened. All sorrow is thus avoided.
What I mean by perfection is not what is meant by charity and duty to one's neighbour. It is found in the cultivation of Tao. And those whom I regard as cultivators of Tao are not those who cultivate charity and duty to one's neighbour. They are those who yield to the natural conditions of things. What I call perfection of hearing is not hearing others, but oneself. What I call perfection of vision is not seeing others, but oneself. For a man who sees not himself, but others, takes not possession of himself, but of others, thus taking what others should take and not what he himself should take. Instead of being himself, he in fact becomes some one else.
Ts'ui Chu asked Lao saying: "If the empire is not to be governed, how are men's hearts to be kept in order?"
"Be careful," replied Lao "not to interfere with the natural goodness of the heart of man. Man's heart may be forced down or stirred up. In each case the issue is fatal."
The men of this world all rejoice in others
being like themselves, and object to others not being like themselves.
If metal and stone were without Tao, they would not be capable of emitting sound. And just as they possess the property of sound, but will not emit sound unless struck, so surely is the same principle applicable to all creation.
In the Golden Age good men were not appreciated; ability was not conspicuous. Rulers were mere beacons, while the people were free as the wild deer. They were upright without being conscious of duty to their neighbours. They loved one another without being conscious of charity. They were true without being conscious of loyalty. They were honest without being of good faith. They acted freely in all things without recognising obligations to any one. Thus their deeds left no trace; their affairs were not handed down to posterity.
A man who knows that he is a fool is not a great fool.
Appeal to arms is the lowest form of virtue. Rewards and punishments are the lowest form of education. Ceremonies and laws are the lowest form of government. Music and fine clothes are
the lowest form of happiness. Weeping and mourning are the lowest form of grief. These five should follow the movements of the mind. The ancients indeed cultivated the study of accidentals, but they did not allow it to precede that of essentials.
It is easy to be respectfully filial, but difficult to be affectionately filial. But even that is easier than to become unconscious of one's natural obligations, which is in turn easier than to cause others to be unconscious of the operations thereof. Similarly, this is easier than to become altogether unconscious of the world, which again is easier than to cause the world to be unconscious of one's influence upon it.
Charity and duty to one's neighbour are as caravanserais established by wise rulers of old; you may stop there one night, but not for long, or you will incur reproach.
Both small and great things must equally possess form. The mind cannot picture to itself a thing without form, nor conceive a form of unlimited dimensions. The greatness of anything may be a topic of discussion, or the smallness of anything may be mentally realised. But that
which can be neither a topic of discussion nor realised mentally, can be neither great nor small.
The life of man passes by like a galloping horse, changing at every turn, at every hour. What should he do, or what should he not do, other than let his decomposition go on?
As to what the world does and the way in which people are happy now, I know not whether such happiness be real happiness or not. The happiness of ordinary persons seems to me to consist in slavishly following the majority, as if they could not help it. Yet they all say they are happy. But I cannot say that this is happiness or that it is not happiness. Is there, then, after all, such a thing as happiness?
I make true pleasure to consist in inaction, which the world regards as great pain. Thus it has been said, Perfect happiness is the absence of happiness."
A man who plays for counters will play well. If he stakes his girdle, [*1] he will be nervous; if yellow gold, he will lose his wits. His skill is the same in each case, but he is distracted by the value of his stake. And every one who attaches
importance to the external, becomes internally without resource.
The Grand Augur, in his ceremonial robes, approached the shambles and thus addressed the pigs: "How can you object to die? I shall fatten you for three months. I shall discipline myself for ten days and fast for three. I shall strew fine grass, and place you bodily upon a carved sacrificial dish. Does not this satisfy you?"
Then, speaking from the pigs' point of view, he continued: "It is better, perhaps, after all, to live on bran and escape the shambles. . . ."
"But then," added he, speaking from his own point of view, "to enjoy honour when alive one would readily die on a war-shield or in the headsman's basket."
So he rejected the pigs' point of view and adopted his own point of view. In what sense, then, was he different from the pigs?
When Yang Tzu went to the Sung State, he passed a night at an inn. The innkeeper had: two concubines--one beautiful, the other ugly. The latter he loved; the former he hated. Yang Tzu asked how this was; whereupon one of the inn servants said: "The beautiful one is so conscious of her beauty that one does not think
her beautiful. The ugly one is so conscious of her ugliness that one does not think her ugly."
"Note this, my disciples!" cried Yang
"Be virtuous, but without being consciously so; and wherever you go, you will be beloved."
Shun asked Ch'eng, saying: "Can one get Tao so as to have it for one's own?"
"Your very body," replied Ch'eng, "is not your own. How should Tao be?"
"If my body," said Shun, "is not my own, pray whose is it?"
"It is the delegated image of God," replied Ch'eng. "Your life is not your own. It is the delegated harmony of God. Your individuality is not your own. It is the delegated adaptability of God. Your posterity is not your own. It is the delegated exuviae of God. You move, but know not how. You are at rest, but know not why. You taste, but know not the cause. These are the operation of God's laws. How then should you get Tao so as to have it for your own?"
Man passes through this sublunary life as a sunbeam passes a crack--here one moment, gone the next.
Mountain forests and loamy fields swell my
heart with joy. But ere the joy be passed, sorrow is upon me again. Joy and sorrow come and go, and over them I have no control.
Alas! the life of man is but as a stoppage at an inn. He knows that which comes within the range of his experience. Otherwise, he knows not. He knows that he can do what he can do, and that he cannot do what he cannot do. But there is always that which he does not know and that which he cannot do; and to struggle that it shall not be so--is not this a cause for grief?
The best language is that which is not spoken, the best form of action is that which is without deeds.
Spread out your knowledge, and it will be found to be shallow.
As to Yao and Shun, what claim have they to praise? Their fine distinctions simply amounted to knocking a hole in a wall in order to stop it up with brambles; to combing each individual hair; to counting the grains for a rice pudding! How in the name of goodness did they profit their generation?
Let knowledge stop at the unknowable. That is perfection.
There is no weapon so deadly as man's will. Excalibur is second to it. There is no bandit so powerful as Nature. In the whole universe there is no escape from it. Yet it is not Nature which does the injury. It is man's own heart.
Birth is not a beginning; death is not an end.
Discard the stimuli of purpose. Free the mind from disturbances. Get rid of entanglements to virtue. Pierce the obstructions to Tao.
A one-legged man discards ornament, his exterior not being open to commendation. Condemned criminals will go up to great heights without fear, for they no longer regard life and death from their former point of view. And those who pay no attention to their moral clothing and condition become oblivious of their own personality; and by thus becoming oblivious of their personality, they proceed to be the people of God.
Wherefore, if men revere them, they rejoice not. If men insult them, they are not angered. But only those who have passed into the eternal harmony of God are capable of this.
If your anger is external, not internal, it will be anger proceeding from not-anger. If your actions are external, not internal, they will be
actions proceeding from inaction. If you would attain peace, level down your emotional nature. If you desire spirituality, cultivate adaptation of the intelligence. If you would have your actions in accordance with what is right, allow yourself to fall in with the dictates of necessity. For necessity is the Tao of the Sage.
If schemers have nothing to give them anxiety, they are not happy. If dialecticians have not their premisses and conclusions, they are not happy. If critics have none on whom to vent their spleen, they are not happy. Such men are the slaves of objective existences.
A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker. A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.
The rulers of old set off all success to the credit of their people, attributing all failure to themselves.
When Chu Po Yu reached his sixtieth year, he changed his opinions. What he had previously regarded as right, he now came to regard as wrong. But who shall say whether the right
of to-day may not be as wrong as the wrong of the previous fifty-nine years?
Shao Chih asked T'ai Kung Tiao, saying: "What is meant by society?"
"Society," replied T'ai Kung Tiao, "is an agreement of a certain number of families and individuals to abide by certain customs. Discordant elements unite to form a harmonious whole. Take away this unity, and each has a separate individuality.
"Point at any one of the many parts of a horse, and that is not a horse, although there is the horse before you. It is the combination of all which makes the horse.
"Similarly, a mountain is high because of its individual particles. A river is large because of its individual drops. And he is a just man who regards all parts from the point of view of the whole. Thus, in regard to the views of others, he holds his own opinion, but not obstinately. In regard to his own views, while conscious of their truth, he does not despise the opinions of others."
Wood rubbed with wood produces fire. Metal exposed to fire will liquefy. If the Positive and Negative principles operate inharmoniously, heaven and earth are greatly disturbed. Thunder
crashes, and with rain comes lightning, scorching up the tall locust-trees. . . . So in the struggle between peace and unrest, the friction between good and evil, much fire is evolved which consumes the inner harmony of man. But the mind is unable to resist fire. It is destroyed, and with it Tao comes to an end.
Get rid of small wisdom, and great wisdom will shine upon you. Put away goodness and you will be naturally good. A child does not learn to speak because taught by professors of the art, but because it lives among people who can themselves speak.
Man has for himself a spacious domain. His mind may roam to heaven. If there is no room in the house, the wife and her mother-in-law run against one another. If the mind cannot roam to heaven, the faculties will be in a state of antagonism.
The raison d'etre of a fish-trap is the fish. When the fish is caught, the trap may be ignored. The raison d'etre of a rabbit-snare is the rabbit. When the rabbit is caught, the snare may be ignored. The raison d'etre of language is an idea to be expressed. When the idea is expressed, the language may be ignored, But where shall I
find a man to ignore language, with whom I may be able to converse?
Alas! man's knowledge reaches to the hair on a hair, but not to eternal peace.
The heart of man is more dangerous than mountains and rivers, more difficult to understand than Heaven itself. Heaven has its periods of spring, summer, autumn, winter, daytime and night. Man has an impenetrable exterior, and his motives are inscrutable. Thus some men appear to be retiring when they are really forward. Others have abilities, yet appear to be worthless. Others are compliant, yet gain their ends. Others take a firm stand, yet yield the point. Others go slow, yet advance quickly.
^95:1 A legendary Emperor, whose reign, with that of his successor Shun, may be regarded as the Golden Age of China.
^95:2 The last sovereign of the Hsia dynasty, and a typical tyrant.
^100:1 In which he keeps his loose cash.