Therefore, the truly great man, although he does not injure others, does not credit himself with charity and mercy. He seeks not gain, but does not despise his followers who do. He struggles not for wealth, but does not take credit for letting it alone. He asks help from no man, but takes no credit for his self-reliance, neither does he despise those who seek preferment through friends. He acts differently from the vulgar crowd, but takes no credit for his exceptionality. When others act with the majority he does not despise them as hypocrites. The ranks and emoluments of the world are to him no cause for joy; its punishments and shame no cause for disgrace. He knows that positive and negative cannot be distinguished.
But how then, asked the river, are the internal and external extremes of value and worthlessness, of greatness and smallness, to be determined ? The ocean replied, From the point of view of the unvarying way there are no such extremes of value or worthlessness. Men individually value themselves and hold others cheap. The world collectively withholds from the individual the right of appraising himself. If we say that a thing is great or small because it is relatively great or small, then there is nothing in all creation which is not great, nothing which is not small. To know that the universe is but as a tare-seed, and that the tip of a hair is a mountain—this is the expression of relativity.
Thus, as has been said, those who would have right without its partner, wrong; or good government without its partner, misrule—they do not apprehend the great principles of the universe nor the conditions to which all creation is subject. Rulers have abdicated under different conditions, dynasties have been continued under different conditions. Those who did not arrive at a favorable time and were in opposition to their age—they were called usurpers. Those who arrived at the right time and were in harmony with their age—they were called patriots. Fair and softly, my river friend: what should you know of value and worthlessness, of great and small?
Tung-kuo Tzu asked Chuang Tzu "Where is the Tao?"
`It is everywhere,' replied Chuang Tzu.
Tung-kuo Tzu said "You must be more specific."
"It is in the ant" said Chuang Tzu.
"Why go down so low?"
"It is in the weeds."
"Why even lower?"
"It is in a potsherd."
"Why still lower?"
"It is in the excrement and urine," said Chuang Tzu.
There is nothing that is not so-and-so. There is nothing that is not all right.
The space under the sky is occupied by all things in their unity
To him everything was in process of destruction, everything was in process of construction. This is called tranquility in disturbance. Tranquility in disturbance means that it is especially in the midst of disturbance that [tranquility] becomes perfect.
There is nothing which is not objective: there is nothing which is not subjective. But it is impossible to start from the objective. Only from subjective knowledge is it possible to proceed to objective knowledge. Hence it has been said, The objective emanates from the subjective; the subjective is consequent upon the objective. This is the Theory of Generation by Opposites. Nevertheless, as one is born, the other dies. When one is possible, the other is impossible. When one is affirmative the other is negative. This being the case, a wise man rejects all preconceived distinctions between this and that. He takes his refuge in how things are in nature.
And inasmuch as the subjective is also objective, and the objective also subjective, and as the contraries under each are indistinguishably blended, does it not become impossible for us to say whether subjective and objective really exist at all?
When subjective and objective are both without their opposites, we are at the axis of the unvarying way. And when that axis passes through the center at which all infinities converge, positive and negative alike blend into an infinite unity. Therefore there is nothing like the evidence of nature.
But to wear out one’s intellect in an obstinate adherence to the individuality of things, not recognizing the fact that all things are a unity—this is called Three in the Morning.
What is Three in the Morning? asked Tzu Yu.
Tzu Ch’i replied, A keeper of monkeys said that each monkey was to have three chestnuts in the morning and four at night. But the monkeys were very angry at this; so the keeper said they might have four in the morning and three at night, with which arrangement they were all well pleased. The actual number of the chestnuts remained the same, but there was an adjustment to meet to the likes and dislikes of those concerned. Such is the principle of putting oneself into subjective relation with externals.
Therefore a wise man, while regarding contraries as identical, adapts himself to the laws of nature. This is called following two courses at once.
When Chuang Tzu was about to die, his disciples expressed a wish to give him a splendid funeral. But Chuang Tzu said, With the heavens and earth itself for my coffin and shell; with the sun, moon, and stars as my burial regalia; and with all creation to escort me to the grave—are not my funeral arrangements already well in hand?
We are afraid the vultures will eat the body of our master, said the disciples. To this Chuang Tzu replied, Above ground I shall be food for vultures; below I shall be food for worms and ants. Why rob one to feed the other?
Adapted fromChuang Tzu Mystic, Moralist, and Social Reformer, translated by Herbert A. Giles.
Adapted by Vincent Piazza 2015