Chuang Tzu

transparent-butterfly2-smChuang Tzu was a Taoist philosopher who lived sometime before 250 B.C.

From Patricia Ebrey, Chinese Civilization : A Sourcebook, 2d ed. (New York: Free Press, 1993), pp. 28-31:

How do I know that enjoying life is not a delusion? How do I know that in hating death we are not like people who got lost in early childhood and do not know the way home? Lady Li was the child of a border guard in Ai. When first captured by the state of Jin, she wept so much her clothes were soaked. But after she entered the palace, shared the king’s bed, and dined on the finest meats, she regretted her tears. How do I know that the dead do not regret their previous longing for life? One who dreams of drinking wine may in the morning weep; one who dreams weeping may in the morning go out to hunt. During our dreams we do not now we are dreaming. We may even dream of interpreting a dream. Only on waking do we know it was a dream. Only after the great awakening will we realize that this is the great dream. And yet fools think they are awake, presuming to know that they are rulers or herdsmen. How dense! You and Confucius are both dreaming, and I who say you are a dream am also a dream. Such is my tale. It will probably be called preposterous, but after ten thousand generations there may be a great sage who will be able to explain it, a trivial interval equivalent to the passage from morning to night.

***

Once Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a f1uttering butterfly. What fun he had, doing as he pleased! He did not know he was Zhou. Suddenly he woke up and found himself to be Zhou. He did not know whether Zhou had dreamed he was a butterfly or a butterfly had dreamed he was Zhou. Between Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinction. This is what is meant by the transformation of things.

***

From Chuang Tzu. The Way of Chuang Tzu. Translator/Editor Thomas Merton. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1965:

Look at this window: it is nothing but a hole in the wall, but because of it the whole room is full of light. So when the faculties are empty, the heart is full of light. (4:1, pp. 77-78)

***

To name Tao is to name no-thing.

Tao is not the name of (something created).

“Cause” and “chance” have no bearing on the Tao.

Tao is a name that indicates without defining.

Tao is beyond words and beyond things.

It is not expressed either in word or in silence.

Where there is no longer word or silence

Tao is apprehended.

(25:11, p. 226)

***

All that is limited by form, semblance, sound, color is called object.

Among them all, man alone is more than an object.

Though, like objects, he has form and semblance,

He is not limited to form.

He is more.

He can attain to formlessness.

When he is beyond form and semblance, beyond “this” and “that,”

where is the comparison with another object?

Where is the conflict?

What can stand in his way?

He will rest in his eternal place which is no-place.

He will be hidden in his own unfathomable secret.

His nature sinks to its root in the One.

His vitality, his power hide in secret Tao.

(19:2, pp 155-156)

***

When he tries to extend his power over objects,

those objects gain control of him.

He who is controlled by objects loses possession of his inner self…

Prisoners in the world of object,

they have no choice but to submit to the demands of matter!

They are pressed down and crushed by external forces:

fashion, the market, events, public opinion.

Never in a whole lifetime do they recover their right mind!…

What a pity!

(23:8 and 24:4, p. 202, 211)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *