The Chuan Tzu
Translated by Lin Yutang
Introduction [ 1 ]
4 ] This Human World
7 ] Joined Toes
8 ] Horses' Hooves
10 ] On Tolerance
11 ] Autumn Floods (64)
This Human World
Yen huei (20) went to take leave of Confucius. "Whither are you bound?" asked the Master.
"I am going to the State of Wei," was the reply.
"And what do you propose to do there?" continued Confucius.
"I hear," answered Yen Huei, "that the Prince of Wei is of mature age, but of an unmanageable disposition. He behaves as if the people were of no account, and will not see his own faults. He disregards human lives and the people perish; and their corpses lie about like so much under growth in a marsh. The people do not know where to turn for help. And I have heard you say that if a state be well governed, it may be passed over; but that if it be badly governed, then we should visit it. At the door of physicians there are many sick people. I would test my knowledge in this sense, that perchance I may do some good at that state."
"Alas!" cried Confucius, "you will be only going to your doom. For Tao must not bustle about. If it does it will have divergent aims. From divergent aims come restlessness; from restlessness comes worry, and from worry one reaches the stage of being beyond hope. The Sages of old first strengthened their own character before they tried to strengthen that of others. Before you have strengthened your own character, what leisure have you to attend to the doings of wicked men? Besides, do you know into what virtue evaporates by motion and where knowledge ends? Virtue evaporates by motion into desire for fame and knowledge ends in contentions. In the struggle for fame men crush each other, while their wisdom but provokes rivalry. Both are instruments of evil, and are not proper principles of living.
"Besides, if before one's own solid character and integrity become an influence among men and before one's own disregard for fame reaches the hearts of men, one should go and force the preaching of charity and duty and the rules of conduct on wicked men, he would only make these men hate him for his very goodness. Such a person may be called a messenger of evil. A messenger of evil will be the victim of evil from others. That, alas! will be your end.
"On the other hand, if the Prince loves the good and hates evil, what object will you have in inviting him to change his ways? Before you have opened your mouth, the Prince himself will have seized the opportunity to wrest the victory from you. Your eyes will be dazzled, your expression fade, your words will hedge about, your face will show confusion, and your heart will yield within you. It will be as though you took fire to quell fire, water to quell water, which is known as aggravation. And if you begin with concessions, there will be no end to them. If you neglect this sound advice and talk too much, you will die at the hands of that violent man.
"Of old, Chieh murdered Kuanlung P'ang, and Chou slew Prince Pikan. Their victims were both men who cultivated themselves and cared for the good of the people, and thus offended their superiors. Therefore, their superiors got rid of them, because of their goodness. This was the result of their love for fame.
"Of old, Yao attacked the Ts'ung-chih and Hsu:-ao countries, and Ya attacked the Yu-hus. The countries were laid waste, their inhabitants slaughtered, their rulers killed. Yet they fought without ceasing, and strove for material objects to the last. These are instances of striving for fame or for material objects. Have you not heard that even Sages cannot overcome this love of fame and this desire for material objects (in rulers)? Are you then likely to succeed? But of course you have a plan. Tell it to me."
"Gravity of demeanor and humility; persistence and singleness of purpose, -- will this do?" replied Yen Huei. "Alas, no," said Confucius, "how can it? The Prince is a haughty person, filled with pride, and his moods are fickle. No one opposes him, and so he has come to take actual pleasure in trampling upon the feelings of others. And if he has thus failed in the practice of routine virtues, do you expect that he will take readily to higher ones? He will persist in his ways, and though outwardly he may agree with you, inwardly he will not repent. How then will you make him mend his ways?"
"Why, then," (replied Yen Huei) "I can be inwardly straight, and outwardly yielding, and I shall substantiate what I say by appeals to antiquity. He who is inwardly straight is a servant of God. And he who is a servant of God knows that the Son of Heaven and himself are equally the children of God (21). Shall then such a one trouble whether his words are approved or disapproved by man? Such a person is commonly regarded as an (innocent) child. This is to be a servant of God. He who is outwardly yielding is a servant of man. He bows, he kneels, he folds his hands -- such is the ceremonial of a minister. What all men do, shall I not do also? What all men do, none will blame me for doing. This is to be a servant of man. He who substantiates his words by appeals to antiquity is a servant of the Sages of old. Although I utter the words of warning and take him to task, it is the Sages of old who speak, and not I. Thus I shall not receive the blame for my uprightness. This is to be the servant of the Sages of old. Will this do?"
"No! How can it?" replied Confucius. "Your plans are too many. You are firm, but lacking in prudence. However, you are only narrow minded, but you will not get into trouble; but that is all. You will still be far from influencing him because your own opinions are still too rigid."
"Then," said Yen Huei, "I can go no further. I venture to ask for a method."
Confucius said, "Keep fast, and I shall tell you. Will it be easy for you when you still have a narrow mind? He who treats things as easy will not be approved by the bright heaven."
"My family is poor," replied Yen Huei, "and for many months we have tasted neither wine nor flesh. Is that not fasting?"
"That is a fast according to the religious observances," answered Confucius, "but not the fasting of the heart."
"And may I ask," said Yen Huei, "in what consists the fasting of the heart?"
"Concentrate your will. Hear not with your ears, but with your mind; not with your mind, but with your spirit. Let your hearing stop with the ears, and let your mind stop with its images. Let your spirit, however, be like a blank, passively responsive to externals. In such open receptivity only can Tao abide. And that open receptivity is the fasting of the heart."
"Then," said Yen Huei, "the reason I could not use this method was because of consciousness of a self. If I could apply this method, the assumption of a self would have gone. Is this what you mean by the receptive state?"
"Exactly so," replied the Master. "Let me tell you. Enter this man's service, but without idea of working for fame. Talk when he is in a mood to listen, and stop when he is not. Do without any sort of labels or self- advertisements. Keep to the One and let things take their natural course. Then you may have some chance of success. It is easy to stop walking: the trouble is to walk without touching the ground. As an agent of man, it is easy to use artificial devices; but not as an agent of God. You have heard of winged creatures flying. You have never heard of flying without wings. You have heard of men being wise with knowledge. You have never heard of men wise without knowledge "Look at that emptiness. There is brightness in an empty room. Good luck dwells in repose. If there is not (inner) repose, your mind will be galloping about though you are sitting still. Let your ears and eyes communicate within but shut out all knowledge from the mind. Then the spirits will come to dwell therein, not to mention man. This is the method for the transformation (influencing) of all Creation. It was the key to the influence of Yu and Shun, and the secret of the success of Fu Hsi and Chi Chu. How much more should the common man follow the same rule?"
[Two Sections Are Omitted Here]
A certain carpenter Shih was traveling to the Ch'i State. On reaching Shady Circle, he saw a sacred li tree in the temple to the God of Earth. It was so large that its shade could cover a herd of several thousand cattle. It was a hundred spans in girth, towering up eighty feet over the hilltop, before it branched out. A dozen boats could be cut out of it. Crowds stood gazing at it, but the carpenter took no notice, and went on his way without even casting a look behind. His apprentice however took a good look at it, and when he caught up with his master, said, "Ever since I have handled an adz in your service, I have never seen such a splendid piece of timber. How was it that you, Master, did not care to stop and look at it?"
"Forget about it. It's not worth talking about," replied his master. "It's good for nothing. Made into a boat, it would sink; into a coffin, it would rot; into furniture, it would break easily; into a door, it would sweat; into a pillar, it would be worm-eaten. It is wood of no quality, and of no use. That is why it has attained its present age."
When the carpenter reached home, he dreamt that the spirit of the tree appeared to him in his sleep and spoke to him as follows: "What is it you intend to compare me with? Is it with fine-grained wood? Look at the cherry-apple, the pear, the orange, the pumelo, and other fruit bearers? As soon as their fruit ripens they are stripped and treated with indignity. The great boughs are snapped off, the small ones scattered abroad. Thus do these trees by their own value injure their own lives. They cannot fulfill their allotted span of years, but perish prematurely because they destroy themselves for the (admiration of) the world. Thus it is with all things. Moreover, I tried for a long period to be useless. Many times I was in danger of being cut down, but at length I have succeeded, and so have become exceedingly useful to myself. Had I indeed been of use, I should not be able to grow to this height. Moreover, you and I are both created things. Have done then with this criticism of each other. Is a good-for-nothing fellow in imminent danger of death a fit person to talk of a good-for-nothing tree?" When the carpenter Shih awaked and told his dream, his apprentice said, "If the tree aimed at uselessness, how was it that it became a sacred tree?"
"Hush!" replied his master. "Keep quiet. It merely took refuge in the temple to escape from the abuse of those who do not appreciate it. Had it not become sacred, how many would have wanted to cut it down! Moreover, the means it adopts for safety is different from that of others, and to criticize it by ordinary standards would be far wide of the mark."
Tsech'i of Nan-po was traveling on the hill of Shang when he saw a large tree which astonished him very much. A thousand chariot teams of four horses could find shelter under its shade. "What tree is this?" cried Tsech'i. "Surely it must be unusually fine timber." Then looking up, he saw that its branches were too crooked for rafters; and looking down he saw that the trunk's twisting loose grain made it valueless for coffins. He tasted a leaf, but it took the skin off his lips; and its odor was so strong that it would make a man intoxicated for three days together. "Ah!" said Tsech'i, "this tree is really good for nothing, and that is how it has attained this size. A spiritual man might well follow its example of uselessness."
In the State of Sung there is a land belonging to the Chings, where thrive the catalpa, the cedar, and the mulberry. Such as are of one span or so in girth are cut down for monkey cages. Those of two or three spans are cut down for the beams of fine houses. Those of seven or eight spans are cut down for the solid (unjointed) sides of rich men's coffins. Thus they do not fulfill their allotted span of years, but perish young beneath the ax. Such is the misfortune which overtakes worth. For the sacrifices to the River God, neither bulls with white foreheads, nor pigs with high snouts, nor men suffering from piles, can be used. This is known to all the soothsayers, for these are regarded as inauspicious. The wise, however, would regard them as extremely auspicious (to themselves).
There was a hunchback named Su. His jaws touched his navel. His shoulders were higher than his head. His neck bone stuck out toward the sky. His viscera were turned upside down. His buttocks were where his ribs should have been. By tailoring, or washing, he was easily able to earn his living. By sifting rice he could make enough to support a family of ten. When orders came down for a conscription, the hunchback walked about unconcerned among the crowd. And similarly, in government conscription for public works, his deformity saved him from being called. On the other hand, when it came to government donations of grain for the disabled, the hunchback received as much as three chung and of firewood, ten faggots. And if physical deformity was thus enough to preserve his body until the end of his days, how much more should moral and mental deformity avail!
When Confucius was in the Ch'u State, the eccentric Chieh Yu passed his door, saying, "O phoenix! O phoenix! How has thy virtue fallen! Wait not for the coming years, nor hanker back to the past. When the right principles prevail on earth, prophets will fulfill their mission. When the right principles prevail not, they will but preserve themselves. At the present day, they are but trying to keep out of jail! The good fortunes of this world are light as feathers, yet none estimates them at their true value. The misfortunes of this life are weighty as the earth, yet none knows how to keep out of their reach. No more, no more, show off your virtue. Beware, beware, move cautiously on! O brambles, O brambles, wound not my steps! I pick my way about, hurt not my feet!" (22)
The mountain trees invite their own cutting down; lamp oil invites its own burning up. Cinnamon bark can be eaten; therefore the tree is cut down. Lacquer can be used, therefore the tree is scraped. All men know the utility of useful things; but they do not know the utility of futility.
(20) - Best disciple of Confucius.
(21) - Lit. "regarded as sons (ie. fathered) by Heaven."
(22) - The first part of this song is found in the Analects.