Presence and Non-presence in the Zhuangzi - Hans-Georg Moeller
A beautiful passage in the Zhuangzi illustrates poetically that the interplay between [Union of] presence and nonpresence (i.e. Union of the Two Truths) or [Union of] emptiness and fullness—which can well be understood as the basis of all things in the world (i.e. the Ground)—is not a diachronic chain of causation or origination, but is rather a pattern of synchronicity and “co-evolution.” All structural elements are supposed to cooperate synchronically so that the world will be productive and effective—and if they don’t, the world will be in disorder.
The second chapter of the Zhuangzi introduces a Daoist master named Ziqi who successfully lost his “I.” A student approaches him and inquires how he had done this. The master answers with an image. He tells the student about three kinds of pipe music.
First, there is the flute music of men who blow through bamboo pipes.
Then there is the pipe music of the earth. This is made by the wind when it blows through all kinds of holes and hollows.
The description of the “pipe of the earth” is one of the poetic gems of the Zhuangzi:
“That hugest of clumps of soil blows out breath, by name the “wind.” It is not now starting up, but whenever it does ten thousand hollow places burst out howling, and don’t tell me you have never heard how the hubbub swells! The recesses in mountain forests, the hollows that pit great trees a hundred spans round, are like nostrils, like mouths, like ears, like sockets, like bowls, like mortars, like pools, like puddles. Hooting, hissing, sniffing, sucking, mumbling, moaning, whistling, wailing, the winds ahead sing out AAAH!, the winds behind answer EEEH!, breezes strike up a tiny chorus, the whirlwind a mighty chorus. When the gale has passed, all the hollows empty, and don’t tell me you have never seen how the quivering slows and settles!”
Given this exquisite description, the student obviously understands what the master means by speaking of the pipe music of the earth. However, he still does not understand how the pipe of heaven sounds and asks for further clarification. The master answers only by posing a rhetorical question:
“Well, [the pipe of heaven] blows in ten thousand variations and lets [the ten thousand things sound] by themselves. When all things take [their sounds] from themselves, who should stir them up?⁶”
The master ends with a pun. Like the fishnet allegory and many modern-day jokes the last of three seemingly parallel parts is unlike the first two.
The pipe of men is blown by men.
The pipe of the earth is blown by the wind—
but who blows the pipe of heaven?
The answer is: No one—everything in the world “ultimately” makes its own sound. There is no great blower behind this great concert of sounds. Seen as a whole, the world is complete in itself and has no “creator” beyond it. It is just like chapter 25 of the Daodejing, which states (see above): Given the context of the Dao, everything follows its “own course.” The great scenario has no external “blower”—it allows for all things to sound, live, or move “naturally” by themselves. The greatest, all encompassing pipe—the cosmos—sounds itself, there is no cause and no origin.
The pipe of men and the pipe of the earth needs some initial puff,
but the pipe of heaven doesn’t.
But why does the great cosmic pipe need no one to blow it, how does it blow simply by itself? The answer lies in the chosen image. A pipe is just another illustration of the basic structure of the perfect Daoist scenario: it is emptiness surrounded by fullness, nonpresence integrated with the presence around it. The great Dao functions like a wheel, a bellows, or a valley—to name some other images from the Daodejing. It is an autopoietical or selfgenerating pattern of wu and you.
That the Daoist structure of emptiness and fullness, of center and periphery, of singularity and multiplicity, of nonpresence and presence, is exactly not a structure of causation, origination, and creation but rather one of self-generation is made clear by Guo Xiang’s commentary on the allegory of the pipe of heaven:
“This is the pipe of heaven. Well, regarding the pipe of heaven, how should there be yet another thing? When things such as those hollows [of the earth] and holes in the bamboo [flutes of men] come together with all things that exist, then in their unity they form the one heaven. Nonpresence is nothing but nonpresence; and therefore it cannot bring presence into existence. When the present does not yet exist, it cannot produce existence. Given this, who should then bring existence into existence? [What exists] exists as one piece through itself.⁷”
Heaven, Guo Xiang further explains, is in this context not the designation for that blue stretch of sky above our heads. Here it is rather the name that denotes all the “ten thousand things” in their entirety. Outside of this closed totality there is no creator or origin. Everything that exists, in its entirety, exists by itself, and at the center of this entirety of presence is “nothing”—or more precisely, nonpresence (wu). This is the “Dao of heaven” (tian dao). In its entirety the pattern of nonpresence and presence exists “as one piece.” If the nonpresent center is to be understood as an “origin,” it has to be understood as a purely immanent origin. This origin does not exist before or external to what it originates. Guo Xiang points out in his commentary on another passage in the Zhuangzi that neither the Dao, nonpresence (wu), the “self-so,” or the “own course” (ziran) can exist prior to (xian) things.⁸ The Dao and the world of things naturally coexist.
Unlike, for instance, Christianity, Daoist philosophy does not generally believe in a creator who precedes the world. The Dao does not precede or create the structure of wu and you, it rather is this structure. The Dao of heaven is the pipelike, dynamical pattern of nonpresence and presence.
- Excerpt from: "Daoism Explained: From the Dream of the Butterfly to the Fishnet Allegory" by Hans-Georg Moeller.
Via: Chinese & East Asian Philosophy Study Group
I am totally ignorant about the Dao, but, from this text, it seems like there is a strong similarity between Dao and Madhyamaka / Mahamudra / Dzogchen:
The ‘pipe of men’ and ‘the pipe of earth’ = the ordinary conditioned appearances (1st truth).
The ‘𝙥𝙞𝙥𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙫𝙚𝙣’ = the true nature & dynamic of Reality as it is here & now (the 𝗚𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱).
The ‘𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙮 𝙗𝙚𝙩𝙬𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙣𝙤𝙣𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙚, 𝙤𝙛 𝙚𝙢𝙥𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙛𝙪𝙡𝙡𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨’ = 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗧𝘄𝗼 𝗧𝗿𝘂𝘁𝗵𝘀: Union of relative reality <==> and ultimate reality / truth.
The ‘𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙖𝙨𝙞𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙬𝙤𝙧𝙡𝙙’ = the 𝗚𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 / Suchness / Thusness / Buddha-nature / Genuine-emptiness / self-arisen unalterable timeless spaceless limitless pristine Primordial Awareness / Indivisible Universe. It looks like a basis but it is not a basis in the sense of pre-existing the rest, or being more important than the rest. The Ground and its displays / manifestations / appearances are inseparable. One cannot exist before the other. They are interdependent, co-dependent, non-dual, one -- in the non-dual sense of those terms: not existent, not non-existent, not both together, not neither; not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither; etc. = Union Ground <==> displays.
𝗨𝗻𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗧𝘄𝗼 𝗧𝗿𝘂𝘁𝗵𝘀 = Union of inseparable interdependent co-defined co-relative co-dependent co-emergent CO-EVOLVING co-ceasing ‘conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances’, conventional / relative truths methods goals (1st truth - presence - not complete non-existence) <==> and emptiness of inherent existence (2nd truth - nonpresence - not real existence).
Everything is appearing (1st truth) but empty (2nd truth), empty but appearing and relatively functional.
One aspect / truth implies the other (<==>).
And it is this inconceivable ‘relation’ / ‘Union’ is the 𝗘𝗡𝗘𝗥𝗚𝗬 at the basis of all spontaneously co-appearing things -- physical, conceptual, mental --. = The ‘𝙥𝙞𝙥𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙫𝙚𝙣’.
The ‘𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙞𝙥𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙫𝙚𝙣’, the ‘𝘿𝙖𝙤 𝙤𝙛 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙫𝙚𝙣’ = the 𝗚𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 / Suchness / Thusness / Buddha-nature / Genuine-emptiness / Primordial Awareness / 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗧𝘄𝗼 𝗧𝗿𝘂𝘁𝗵𝘀.
This Ground / ‘Union of the Two Truth’ / ‘Pipe of Heaven’ is not some Big Cosmic Something / Principle / Law, not some Big Cosmic Nothingness either. They are just a finger pointing at the moon, not the moon itself. The true nature of Reality is indescribable, inconceivable for our flawed conditioned conceptual dualistic mind(s). It has to be directly perceived / realised.
For more see:
The Book of Chuang Tzu
Chuang Tzu was a Chinese philosopher who lived during the 4th century B.C. before the introduction of Buddhism into China. He was a non-conformist in his own time and conveyed his ideas of the Tao in energetically poetic prose. Even in translation, the brilliance and compression of his language is evident. My discussion centers on Section 2 of The Book of Chuang Tzu. In this passage, Chuang Tzu communicates the structure of the differing levels, or spheres, of human experience and explains how the Tao functions and what its value is. In this analogy, the Tao is the Great Equalizer. (i.e. Union of opposites)
The first part of Section 2, Discussion On Making All Things Equal, begins with Tzu-ch'i of South Wall seated in apparent meditation. His friend Yen Ch'eng Tzu-yu asks him a cryptic question about how he has made his "...body like a withered tree and the mind like dead ashes?" (The reader soon learns that this refers to detachment.) Yen points out that Tzu-ch'i is not the same person he was before. Tzu-ch'i answers that he has "lost" himself, (referring to his personality-driven ego). He continues that Yen hears the piping of men, but not of the earth. Or if he has heard the piping of the earth, Yen hasn't heard the piping of Heaven. Chastened, Yen asks Tzu-ch'i what he means. Tzu-ch'i describes the wind as it blows through various places, through natural apertures which produce the range of sounds we associate with the wind. Yen replies that he understands: These sounds are the piping of the earth, and the piping of men is made by flutes and whistles. But, Yen asks, what is the piping of Heaven? Heaven is when everything is blown on in a different way, Tzu ch'i answers. This piping allows each thing or being to be itself, to express its essence or fulfill its potential. (i.e. the energy at the basis of everything in both samsara & nirvana) The real question, says Tzu-ch'i, is who does the blowing that causes the piping of Heaven?
Having established his central question, Chuang Tzu then leaves off with this dialogue and addresses the reader directly. He sets up a comparison between a broad, passive view of life and a fragmented, personal, active and desire-oriented view. For those who hold this second and more common view, "With everything they meet they become entangled." He describes the human condition, the lives of ordinary people, as being constantly tossed between opposing poles of experience, primarily pain and pleasure. They also tend to unthinkingly react to everything that happens to them. The result is that their efforts exhaust them, draining away their life energy day by day. He says they drown in what they do, a metaphor for the numbing and cumulative effects of such prolonged, externally directed activity. At last, such people grow dark, unable to let in the light of truth, and they finally die.
Thus, Chuang Tzu debunks this view of life as futile. But, he reassures the reader, all of these things - the emotions and experiences that span the range of experiential duality, even birth and death, and the inevitable reactions to these conditions, are part of being human in the world. He admits we don't know why this is so, but peace begins by accepting it. "Let it be!" In fact, the relationship between Man and the world is an interdependent one, one cannot exist without the other. (i.e. Union man <==> world) But, he asks, what oversees it? (i.e. What is the Ground?)
Here, Chuang Tzu answers Yen's question, restating Tzu-ch'i's reply. Dualism is part and parcel of our world, but all opposites are related and dependent on each other. (i.e. Union of opposites) The piping of men and the piping of the earth are intertwined, each indispensable to the other's existence. (i.e. ex. Union man <==> world; Union subject / mind <==> object / phenomena)) Heaven oversees this, causing the piping to proceed in a different way that allows each thing to be its true self.
Chuang Tzu then elaborates on what Heaven, or the Tao, is. He begins by describing the body, marvelling at its complexity and the fact that it works without apparent conscious direction. But our attachments to our bodies is our first problem, he continues, because desires stimulated by the senses seem to drive us until the end of our lives. We often fail to pause and observe our accomplishments, or seek for rest. I think Chuang Tzu is using the word accomplishment here to describe a sense of appreciation for our existence, which necessarily involves reflection. Instead, we stay caught in the web of our desires until our deaths. Such a life is at most a muddle, if not a waste.
The proper use of the mind, however, can pave a way out of this muddle. But the mind is not the same as thinking in language. Chuang Tzu asks how can we trust the validity of words to properly describe reality when people use them to prove themselves right and others wrong? Obviously, words themselves are just representations of fragmented ideas that can be used any way we choose. He compares words to the meaningless peeping of birds. But clarity of mind can help us make sense of things. The Sage, or Wise Man, does not waste time in choosing sides between right and wrong, but looks on it all with "the light of Heaven." (i.e. looks on it all with full awareness of the true nature of Reality as it is here & now, as pointed by the Union of opposites, Union of the Two Truths) He sees every opposite as embodying the seed of its companion (i.e. Union of opposites), (one thinks of the symbols of yin and yang), and mental clarity alone becomes "the hinge of the Way."
Things are "good" or "bad" because we choose to perceive them so. (i.e. ex. Union good <==> bad) This is the central point in Chuang Tzu's argument. So much of the experience of our lives depends on our perception. (i.e. Everything is merely labelled / imputed / conceptualised by the mind in dependence of its past / conditioning / karma) If we see the wholeness of things rather than focusing on their fragmented opposites, we can achieve the broad, large and passive view of the world that the Sage has. The Sage, like us, sees that things are fragmented into opposites and these opposites constantly changing in their relation to each other, but for the Sage, these things are fluctuating in a closed, ultimately balanced system. This whole is what Chuang Tzu calls the Constant, and the Sage relates all things to the Constant. (i.e. the Ground)
Chuang Tzu then defines the Way, inasmuch as it can be defined: "The Constant is the useful, the useful is the passable, the passable is the successful; and with success, all is accomplished." So judgments about events and experiences should be based on their usefulness and how they relate to the whole. This will enable one to "pass" through these experiences instead of becoming enmired in them. When we are then in control of how the external world affects us, this is success, or freedom.
But, Chuang Tzu cautions, one cannot come to this view or state of mind by effort. One cannot seek it but must instead become passive to allow it to arise. And one has to develop this passive view in parallel to the average view of life. He says the Sage harmonizes right and wrong (i.e. Union of opposites) and rests in Heaven the Equalizer. (i.e. the Ground, the true nature & dynamic of Reality as it is here & now and as pointed by the Union of the Two Truths, the Union of opposites.) The Sage learns to live in the world of people (i.e. 1st truth - conventional truths, methods & goals) and the world of the spirit (2nd truth / Ground) simultaneously (i.e. in Union). Yet even many skilled philosophers who are "near perfection" can still forsake the experience of oneness (i.e. Union of opposites) by becoming embroiled in the analysis of it. This is simply another way one can become ensnared by duality. But, Chuang Tzu concludes, when one uses clarity, one relegates all experience back to the Constant. (i.e the Ground)
A striking quality of this passage, and indeed of this whole volume, is its beautifully compressed, poetic language. But the most noteworthy is how thoroughly Chuang Tzu's philosophy anticipates Buddhism, especially the central tenet that true freedom can only be attained with the cessation of identifying with desire. ...
Section TWO - DISCUSSION ON MAKING ALL THINGS EQUAL
From: The Complete Works Of Chuang Tzu
Translated by Burton Watson
TZU-CH'I OF SOUTH WALL sat leaning on his armrest, staring up at the sky and breathing - vacant and far away, as though he'd lost his companion.1 Yen Ch'eng Tzu-yu, who was standing by his side in attendance, said, "What is this? Can you really make the body like a withered tree and the mind like dead ashes? The man leaning on the armrest now is not the one who leaned on it before!"
Tzu-ch'i said, "You do well to ask the question, Yen. Now I have lost myself. Do you understand that?
You hear the piping of men, but you haven't heard the piping of earth.
Or if you've heard the piping of earth, you haven't heard the piping of Heaven!"
Tzu-yu said, "May I venture to ask what this means?"
Tzu-ch'i said, "The Great Clod belches out breath and its name is wind. So long as it doesn't come forth, nothing happens. But when it does, then ten thousand hollows begin crying wildly. Can't you hear them, long drawn out? In the mountain forests that lash and sway, there are huge trees a hundred spans around with hollows and openings like noses, like mouths, like ears, like jugs, like cups, like mortars, like rifts, like ruts. They roar like waves, whistle like arrows, screech, gasp, cry, wail, moan, and howl, those in the lead calling out yeee!, those behind calling out yuuu! In a gentle breeze they answer faintly, but in a full gale the chorus is gigantic. And when the fierce wind has passed on, then all the hollows are empty again. Have you never seen the tossing and trembling that goes on?"
"By the piping of earth, then, you mean simply [the sound of] these hollows, and
by the piping of man [the sound of] flutes and whistles.
But may I ask about the piping of Heaven?"
Tzu-ch'i said, "Blowing on the ten thousand things in a different way, so that each can be itself - all take what they want for themselves, but who does the sounding?" (i.e. what is the true nature & dynamic of Reality as it is here & now, what is the Ground, the evenergy at the basis of everything in both samsara & nirvana)
Great understanding is broad and unhurried; little understanding is cramped and busy. Great words are clear and limpid;3 little words are shrill and quarrelsome. In sleep, men's spirits go visiting; in waking hours, their bodies hustle. With everything they meet they become entangled. Day after day they use their minds in strife, sometimes grandiose, sometimes sly, sometimes petty. Their little fears are mean and trembly; their great fears are stunned and overwhelming. They bound off like an arrow or a crossbow pellet, certain that they are the arbiters of right and wrong. They cling to their position as though they had sworn before the gods, sure that they are holding on to victory. They fade like fall and winter - such is the way they dwindle day by day. They drown in what they do - you cannot make them turn back. They grow dark, as though sealed with seals - such are the excesses of their old age. And when their minds draw near to death, nothing can restore them to the light.
Joy, anger, grief, delight, worry, regret, fickleness, inflexibility, modesty, willfulness, candor, insolence - music from empty holes, mushrooms springing up in dampness, day and night replacing each other before us, and no one knows where they sprout from. Let it be! Let it be! [It is enough that] morning and evening we have them, and they are the means by which we live. Without them we would not exist; without us they would have nothing to take hold of. This comes close to the matter. But I do not know what makes them the way they are.
It would seem as though they have some True Master (1st truth),
and yet I find no trace of him (2nd truth).
He can act - that is certain. (1st truth - conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearance)
Yet I cannot see his form. (2nd truth - emptiness of inherent existence)
He has identity but no form.
The hundred joints, the nine openings, the six organs, all come together and exist here [as my body]. But which part should I feel closest to? I should delight in all parts, you say? But there must be one I ought to favor more. If not, are they all of them mere servants? But if they are all servants, then how can they keep order among themselves? Or do they take turns being lord and servant? It would seem as though there must be some True Lord among them. But whether I succeed in discovering his identity or not, it neither adds to nor detracts from his Truth.
Once a man receives this fixed bodily form, he holds on to it, waiting for the end. Sometimes clashing with things, sometimes bending before them, he runs his course like a galloping steed, and nothing can stop him. Is he not pathetic? Sweating and laboring to the end of his days and never seeing his accomplishment, utterly exhausting himself and never knowing where to look for rest - can you help pitying him? I'm not dead yet! he says, but what good is that? His body decays, his mind follows it - can you deny that this is a great sorrow? Man's life has always been a muddle like this. How could I be the only muddled one, and other men not muddled?
If a man follows the mind given him and makes it his teacher, then who can be without a teacher? Why must you comprehend the process of change and form your mind on that basis before you can have a teacher? Even an idiot has his teacher. But to fail to abide by this mind and still insist upon your rights and wrongs - this is like saying that you set off for Yueh today and got there yesterday. This is to claim that what doesn't exist exists. If you claim that what doesn't exist exists, then even the holy sage Yu couldn't understand you, much less a person like me!
Words are not just wind. Words have something to say. But if what they have to say is not fixed, then do they really say something? Or do they say nothing? People suppose that words are different from the peeps of baby birds, but is there any difference, or isn't there? What does the Way rely upon that we have true and false? What do words rely upon, that we have right and wrong? How can the Way go away and not exist? How can words exist and not be acceptable? When the Way relies on little accomplishments and words rely on vain show, then we have the rights and wrongs of the Confucians and the Mo-ists. What one calls right the other calls wrong; what one calls wrong the other calls right. But if we want to right their wrongs and wrong their rights, then the best thing to use is clarity.
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 out 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. (i.e. Union of opposites: ex. ex. Union subject / cause / this <==> object / effect / that.
Union origination / birth <==> duration / life <==> cessation / death.)
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; his "this" too 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. (i.e The Middle Way. Union of the Two Truths.) When the hinge is 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 good as using a non-attribute 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-shih, things ribald and shady or things grotesque and strange, the Way makes them all into one. Their dividedness is their completeness; their completeness is their impairment. No thing is either complete or impaired, but all are made into one again. Only the man of far reaching vision knows how to make them into one. (i.e. Union of opposites.) So he 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. He relies upon this alone, relies upon it and does not know he is doing so. This is called the Way.
But to wear out your brain 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 (i.e. Union of opposites. Ex. Union right <==> wrong.) and rests in Heaven the Equalizer. This is called walking two roads.
The understanding of the men of ancient times went a long way. How far did it go?
To the point where some of them believed that things have never existed - so far, to the end, where nothing can be added.
Those at the next stage thought that things exist but recognized no boundaries among them.
Those at the next stage thought there were boundaries but recognized no right and wrong.
Because right and wrong appeared, the Way was injured, and because the Way was injured, love became complete. But do such things as completion and injury really exist, or do they not?
There is such a thing as completion and injury - Mr. Chao playing the lute is an example. There is such a thing as no completion and no injury - Mr. Chao not playing the lute is an example.8 Chao Wen played the lute; Music Master K'uang waved his baton; Hui Tzu leaned on his desk. The knowledge of these three was close to perfection. All were masters, and therefore their names have been handed down to later ages. Only in their likes they were different from him [the true sage]. What they liked, they tried to make clear. What he is not clear about, they tried to make clear, and so they ended in the foolishness of "hard" and "white." Their sons, too, devoted all their lives to their fathers' theories, but till their death never reached any completion. Can these men be said to have attained completion? If so, then so have all the rest of us. Or can they not be said to have attained completion? If so, then neither we nor anything else have ever attained it.
The torch of chaos and doubt - this is what the sage steers by. So he does not use things but relegates all to the constant (i.e. Ground.). This is what it means to use clarity.
Now I am going to make a statement here. I don't know whether it fits into the category of other people's statements or not. But whether it fits into their category or whether it doesn't, it obviously fits into some category. So in that respect it is no different from their statements. However, let me try making my statement.
There is a beginning.
There is a not yet beginning to be a beginning.
There is a not yet beginning to be a not yet beginning to be a beginning.
There is being.
There is nonbeing.
There is a not yet beginning to be nonbeing.
There is a not yet beginning to be a not yet beginning to be nonbeing.
Suddenly there is nonbeing.
But I do not know, when it comes to nonbeing, which is really being and which is nonbeing.
Now I have just said something.
But I don't know whether what I have said has really said something or whether it hasn't said something.
There is nothing in the world bigger than the tip of an autumn hair, and Mount T'ai is tiny. No one has lived longer than a dead child, and P'eng-tsu died young. Heaven and earth were born at the same time I was, and the ten thousand things are one with me.
We have already become one (i.e. Union of opposites.), so how can I say anything? But I have just said that we are one (i.e. Union of opposites.), so how can I not be saying something? The one and what I said about it make two, and two and the original one make three. If we go on this way, then even the cleverest mathematician can't tell where we'll end, much less an ordinary man. If by moving from nonbeing to being we get to three, how far will we get if we move from being to being? Better not to move, but to let things be!
The Way has never known boundaries (i.e. Union of opposites.); speech has no constancy. But because of [the recognition of a] "this," there came to be boundaries. Let me tell you what the boundaries are.
There is left, there is right, there are theories, there are debates, there are divisions, there are discriminations, there are emulations, and there are contentions. These are called the Eight Virtues. As to what is beyond the Six Realms, the sage admits its existence but does not theorize. As to what is within the Six Realms, he theorizes but does not debate. In the case of the Spring and Autumn, the record of the former kings of past ages, the sage debates but does not discriminate. So [I say] those who divide fail to divide; those who discriminate fail to discriminate. What does this mean, you ask? The sage embraces things. Ordinary men discriminate among them and parade their discriminations before others. So I say, those who discriminate fail to see.
The Great Way is not named;
Great Discriminations are not spoken;
Great Benevolence is not benevolent;
Great Modesty is not humble;
Great Daring does not attack.
If the Way is made clear, it is not the Way.
If discriminations are put into words, they do not suffice.
If benevolence has a constant object, it cannot be universal.
If modesty is fastidious, it cannot be trusted.
If daring attacks, it cannot be complete.
These five are all round, but they tend toward the square.
understanding that rests in what it does not understand is the finest.
Who can understand discriminations that are not spoken,
the Way that is not a way?
If he can understand this, he may be called the Reservoir of Heaven. Pour into it and it is never full, dip from it and it never runs dry, and yet it does not know where the supply, comes from. This is called the Shaded Light.
So it is that long ago Yao said to Shun, "I want to attack the rulers of Tsung, K'uai, and Hsu-ao. Even as I sit on my throne, this thought nags at me. Why is this?"
Shun replied, "These three rulers are only little dwellers in the weeds and brush. Why this nagging desire? Long ago, ten suns came out all at once and the ten thousand things were all lighted up. And how much greater is virtue than these suns!"
Nieh Ch'ueh asked Wang Ni, "Do you know what all things agree in calling right?"
"How would I know that?" said Wang Ni.
"Do you know that you don't know it?"
"How would I know that?"
"Then do things know nothing?"
"How would I know that? However, suppose I try saying something. What way do I have of knowing that if I say I know something I don't really not know it? Or what way do I have of knowing that if I say I don't know something I don't really in fact know it? Now let me ask you some questions. If a man sleeps in a damp place, his back aches and he ends up half paralyzed, but is this true of a loach? If he lives in a tree, he is terrified and shakes with fright, but is this true of a monkey? Of these three creatures, then, which one knows the proper place to live? Men eat the flesh of grass-fed and grain-fed animals, deer eat grass, centipedes find snakes tasty, and hawks and falcons relish mice. Of these four, which knows how food ought to taste? Monkeys pair with monkeys, deer go out with deer, and fish play around with fish. Men claim that Mao-ch'iang and Lady Li were beautiful, but if fish saw them they would dive to the bottom of the stream, if birds saw them they would fly away, and if deer saw them they would break into a run. Of these four, which knows how to fix the standard of beauty for the world? The way I see it, the rules of benevolence and righteousness and the paths of right and wrong are all hopelessly snarled and jumbled. How could I know anything about such discriminations?"
Nieh Ch'ueh said, "If you don't know what is profitable or harmful, then does the Perfect Man likewise know nothing of such things?"
Wang Ni replied, "The Perfect Man is godlike. Though the great swamps blaze, they cannot burn him; though the great rivers freeze, they cannot chill him; though swift lightning splits the hills and howling gales shake the sea, they cannot frighten him. A man like this rides the clouds and mist, straddles the sun and moon, and wanders beyond the four seas. Even life and death have no effect on him, much less the rules of profit and loss!"
Chu Ch'ueh-tzu said to Chang Wu-tzu, "I have heard Confucius say that the sage does not work at anything, does not pursue profit, does not dodge harm, does not enjoy being sought after, does not follow the Way, says nothing yet says something, says something yet says nothing, and wanders beyond the dust and grime. Confucius himself regarded these as wild and flippant words, though I believe they describe the working of the mysterious Way. What do you think of them?"
Chang Wu-tzu said, "Even the Yellow Emperor would be confused if he heard such words, so how could you expect Confucius to understand them? What's more, you're too hasty in your own appraisal. You see an egg and demand a crowing cock, see a crossbow pellet and demand a roast dove. I'm going to try speaking some reckless words and I want you to listen to them recklessly. How will that be? The sage leans on the sun and moon, tucks the universe under his arm, merges himself with things, leaves the confusion and muddle as it is, and looks on slaves as exalted. Ordinary men strain and struggle; the sage is stupid and blockish. He takes part in ten thousand ages and achieves simplicity in oneness. For him, all the ten thousand things are what they are, and thus they enfold each other.
"How do I know that loving life is not a delusion? How do I know that in hating death I am not like a man who, having left home in his youth, has forgotten the way back?
"Lady Li was the daughter of the border guard of Ai. When she was first taken captive and brought to the state of Chin, she wept until her tears drenched the collar of her robe. But later, when she went to live in the palace of the ruler, shared his couch with him, and ate the delicious meats of his table, she wondered why she had ever wept. How do I know that the dead do not wonder why they ever longed for life?
"He who dreams of drinking wine may weep when morning comes; he who dreams of weeping may in the morning go off to hunt. While he is dreaming he does not know it is a dream, and in his dream he may even try to interpret a dream. Only after he wakes does he know it was a dream. And someday there will be a great awakening when we know that this is all a great dream. Yet the stupid believe they are awake, busily and brightly assuming they understand things, calling this man ruler, that one herdsman - how dense! Confucius and you are both dreaming! And when I say you are dreaming, I am dreaming, too. Words like these will be labeled the Supreme Swindle. Yet, after ten thousand generations, a great sage may appear who will know their meaning, and it will still be as though he appeared with astonishing speed.
"Suppose you and I have had an argument. If you have beaten me instead of my beating you, then are you necessarily right and am I necessarily wrong? If I have beaten you instead of your beating me, then am I necessarily right and are you necessarily wrong? Is one of us right and the other wrong? Are both of us right or are both of us wrong? If you and I don't know the answer, then other people are bound to be even more in the dark. Whom shall we get to decide what is right? Shall we get someone who agrees with you to decide? But if he already agrees with you, how can he decide fairly? Shall we get someone who agrees with me? But if he already agrees with me, how can he decide? Shall we get someone who disagrees with both of us? But if he already disagrees with both of us, how can he decide? Shall we get someone who agrees with both of us? But if he already agrees with both of us, how can he decide? Obviously, then, neither you nor I nor anyone else can decide for each other. Shall we wait for still another person?
"But waiting for one shifting voice [to pass judgment on] another is the same as waiting for none of them. Harmonize them all with the Heavenly Equality, leave them to their endless changes, and so live out your years. What do I mean by harmonizing them with the Heavenly Equality? Right is not right; so is not so. If right were really right, it would differ so clearly from not right that there would be no need for argument. If so were really so, it would differ so clearly from not so that there would be no need for argument. Forget the years; forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home!"
Penumbra said to Shadow, "A little while ago you were walking and now you're standing still; a little while ago you were sitting and now you're standing up. Why this lack of independent action?"
Shadow said, "Do I have to wait for something before I can be like this? Does what I wait for also have to wait for something before it can be like this? Am I waiting for the scales of a snake or the wings of a cicada? How do I know why it is so? How do I know why it isn't so?"
Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn't know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.