Taoist teachings from the book of Lieh Tzŭ/Book 7
In the course of Lieh Tzŭ's instruction by Hu-ch'iu Tzŭ-lin, the latter said to him: 'You must familiarize yourself with the theory of consequents before you can talk of regulating conduct.' Lieh Tzŭ said: 'Will you explain what you mean by the theory of consequents?' 'Look at your shadow,' said his Master, 'and then you will know.' Lieh turned and looked at his shadow. When his body was bent, the shadow was crooked; when his body was upright, the shadow was straight. Thus it appeared that the attributes of straightness and crookedness were not inherent in the shadow, but corresponded to certain positions of the body. Likewise, contraction and extension are not inherent in the subject, but take place in obedience to external causes. Holding this theory of consequents is to be at home in the antecedent.
Kuan Yin spoke to the Master Lieh Tzŭ, saying: 'If speech is sweet, the echo will be sweet; if speech is harsh, the echo will be harsh. If the body is long, the shadow will be long; if the body is short, the shadow will be short. Reputation is like an echo, personal experiences like a shadow.
'Hence the saying: "Heed your words, and they will meet with harmonious response; heed your actions, and they will find agreeable accord." Therefore, the Sage observes the origin in order to know the issue, scrutinizes the past in order to know the future. Such is the principle whereby he attains foreknowledge.
'The standard of conduct lies with one's own self; the testing of it lies with other men. We are impelled to love those who love us, and to hate those who hate us. T'ang and Wu loved the Empire, and therefore each became King. Chieh and Chou hated the Empire, and therefore they perished. Here we have the test applied. He who does not follow Tao when standard and test are both clear may be likened to one who, when leaving a house, does not go by the door, Or, when travelling abroad, does not keep to the straight road. To seek profit in this way is surely impossible.
'You may consider the virtues of Shên Nung and Yu Yen, you may examine the books of Yŭ, Hsia, Shang and Chou, you may weigh the utterances of great teachers and sages, but you will find no instance of preservation or destruction, fullness or decay, which has not obeyed this supreme Law.'
Lieh Tzŭ learned archery and, when he was able to hit the target, he asked the opinion of Kuan Yin Tzŭ on his shooting. 'Do you know why you hit the target?' said Kuan Yin Tzŭ. 'No, I do not,' was the reply. 'Then you are not good enough yet,' rejoined Kuan Yin Tzŭ. Lieh Tzŭ withdrew and practised for three years after which he again presented himself. Kuan Yin Tzŭ asked, as before: 'Do you know why you hit the target?' 'Yes,' said Lieh Tzŭ, 'I do.' 'In that case, all is well. Hold that knowledge fast, and do not let it slip.'
The above principle does not apply only to shooting, but also to the government of a State and to personal conduct. Therefore the Sage investigates not the mere facts of preservation and destruction, but rather the causes which bring them about.
Lieh Tzŭ said: 'Those who excel in beauty become vain; those who excel in strength become violent. To such, it is useless to speak of Tao. He who is not yet turning grey will surely err if he but speak of Tao; how much less can he put it into practice!
'No man will confide in one who shows himself aggressive. And he in whom no man confides will remain solitary and without support.
'The wise man puts his trust in others: thus he reaches fullness of years without decay, perfection of Wisdom without bewilderment. In the government of a State, then, the hardest thing is to recognize the worth of others, not to rely upon one's own.'
There was once a man in Sung who carved a mulberry leaf out of jade for his prince. It took three years to complete, and it imitated Nature so exquisitely in its down, its glossiness, and its general configuration from tip to stem, that, if placed in a heap of real mulberry leaves, it could not be distinguished from them. This man was subsequently pensioned by the Sung State as a reward for his skill. Lieh Tzŭ, hearing of it, said: 'If it took the Creator three years to make a single leaf, there would be very few trees with leaves on them. The Sage will rely not so much on human science and skill as on the operations of Tao.'
The Master Lieh Tzŭ was very poor, and his face wore a hungry look. A certain stranger spoke about it to Tzŭ Yang, of Cheng. 'Lieh Yŭ-k'ou,' said he, 'is a scholar in possession of Tao. Yet here he is, living in destitution, within your Excellency's dominion. It surely cannot be that you have no liking for scholars?' Tzŭ Yang forthwith directed that an official allowance of grain should be sent to him. Lieh Tzŭ came out to receive the messengers, made two low bows and declined the gift, whereupon the messengers went away, and Lieh Tzŭ reentered the house. There he was confronted by his Wife, who beat her breast and cried aloud: 'I have always understood that the wife and family of a man of Tao live a life of ease and pleasure. Yet now, when his Honour sends you a present of food, on account of your starved appearance, you refuse to accept it! I suppose you will call that "destiny"!' The Master Lieh Tzŭ smiled and replied: 'The Minister did not know about me himself. His present of grain was made on the suggestion of another. If it had been a question of punishing me, that too would have been done at some one else's prompting. That is the reason why I did not accept the gift.'
Later on, the masses rose in actual rebellion against Tzŭ Yang, and slew him.
Mr Shih of Lu had two sons, one of whom was a scholar and the other a soldier. The former found in his accomplishments the means of ingratiating himself with the Marquis of Ch'i, who engaged him as tutor to the young princes. The other brother proceeded to Ch'u, and won favour with the King of that State by his military talents. The King was so well pleased that he installed him at the head of his troops. Thus both of them succeeded in enriching their family and shedding lustre on their kinsfolk.
Now, a certain Mr Mêng, the neighbour of Mr Shih, also had two sons who followed the selfsame professions but were straitened by poverty. Envying the affluence of the Shih family, Mr Mêng called at his neighbour's house, and wanted to know the secret of their rapid rise in the world. The two brothers readily gave him the desired information, whereupon the eldest son immediately set off for Ch'in, hoping that his cultural attainments would recommend him to the King of that State. But the King said: 'At the present moment all the feudal princes are struggling to outbid one another in power, and the great essential is to keep up a large army. If I tried to govern my State on the lines of benevolence and righteousness, ruin and annihilation would be the outcome! So saying, he had the unfortunate man castrated, and turned him away.
The second son, meanwhile, had gone to Wei, hoping that his military knowledge would stand him in good stead. But the Marquis of Wei said to himself — 'Mine is a weak State hedged in by powerful ones. My method of preserving tranquillity is to show subservience to the larger States and to conciliate the lesser ones. If I were to rely on armed force, I could only expect utter destruction. I must not allow this man to depart unscathed, or he may find his way to some other State and be a terrible thorn in my side.' So, without more ado, he cut off his feet and sent him back to Lu.
On their return, the whole family fell to beating their breasts in despair, and uttered imprecations on Mr Shih. Mr Shih, however, said: 'Success consists in hitting off the right moment, while missing it means failure. Your method was identical with ours, only the result was different. That is not due to any flaw in the action itself, but simply because it was not well timed. Nothing, in the ordering of this world, is either at all times right or at all times wrong. What formerly passed current may nowadays be rejected; what is now rejected may by and by come into use again. The fact that a thing is in use or in disuse forms no criterion whatever of right or wrong. There is no fixed rule for seizing opportunities, hitting off the right moment, or adapting oneself to circumstances; it is all a matter of native wit. If you are deficient in that, you may possess the learning of a Confucius or the strategical gifts of a Lŭ Shang, and yet you will remain poor wherever you go.
The Mêng family were now in a more resigned frame of mind, and their indignation had subsided. 'Yes, you are right,' they said; 'please say no more about it.'
Duke Wên of Chin put an army into the field with the intention of attacking the Duke of Wei, whereat Tzŭ Ch'u threw his head back and laughed aloud. On being asked the reason of his behaviour, he replied: 'I was thinking of the experience of a neighbour of mine, who was escorting his wife on a visit to her own family. On the way, he came across a woman tending silkworms, who attracted him greatly, and he fell into conversation with her. Happening to look up, what should he see but his own wife also receiving the attentions of an admirer! It was the recollection of this incident that made me laugh.'
The Duke saw the point, and forthwith turned home with his army. Before he got back, an invading force had already crossed his northern frontier!
In the Chin State, which was infested with robbers, there lived a certain Ch'i Yung, who was able to tell a robber by his face; by examining the expression of his eyes he could read his inmost thoughts. The Marquis of Chin employed him in the inspection of hundreds and thousands of robbers, and he never missed a single one. The Marquis expressed his delight to Wên Tzŭ of Chao, saying: 'I have a man who, singlehanded, is ridding my whole State of robbers. He saves me the necessity of employing a whole staff of police.' Wên Tzŭ replied: 'If your Highness relies on a detective for catching robbers, you will never get rid of them. And what is more, Ch'i Yung is certain sooner or later to meet with a violent end.'
Meanwhile, a band of robbers were plotting together. 'Ch'i Yung,' they said, 'is the enemy who is trying to exterminate us.' So one day they stole upon him in a body and murdered him. When the Marquis of Chin heard the news, he was greatly alarmed and immediately sent for Wên Tzŭ. 'Your prophecy has come true,' he said; 'Ch'i Yung is dead. What means can I adopt for catching robbers now?' 'In Chou,' replied Wên Tzŭ, 'we have a proverb: "Search not the ocean-depths for fish: calamity comes upon those who pry into hidden mysteries." If you want to be quit of robbers, the best thing your Highness can do is to promote the worthy to office. Let them instruct and enlighten their sovereign on the one hand, and reform the masses below them on the other. if once the people acquire a sense of shame, you will not find them turning into robbers.'
The Marquis then appointed Sui Hui to be Prime Minister, and all the robbers fled to the Ch'in State.
Duke Mu of Ch'in said to Po Lo: 'You are now advanced in years. Is there any member of your family whom I could employ to look for horses in your stead?' Po Lo replied: 'A good horse can be picked out by its general build and appearance. But the superlative horse — one that raises no dust and leaves no tracks — is something evanescent and fleeting, elusive as thin air. The talent of my sons lies on a lower plane altogether: they can tell a good horse when they see one, but they cannot tell a superlative horse. I have a friend, however, one Chiu-fang Kao, a hawker of fuel and vegetables, who in things appertaining to horses is nowise my inferior. Pray see him.'
Duke Mu did so, and subsequently despatched him on the quest for a steed. Three months later, he returned with the news that he had found one. 'It is now in Sha-ch'iu,' he added. 'What kind of a horse is it?' asked the Duke. 'Oh, it is a dun-coloured mare,' was the reply. However, on some one being sent to fetch it, the animal turned out to be a coal-black stallion! Much displeased, the Duke sent for Po Lo. 'That friend of yours,' he said, 'whom I commissioned to look for a horse, has made a nice mess of it. Why, he cannot even distinguish a beast's colour or sex! What on earth can he know about horses?' Po Lo heaved a sigh of satisfaction. 'Has he really got as far as that?' he cried. 'Ah, then he is worth a thousand of me put together. There is no comparison between us. What Kao keeps in view is the spiritual mechanism. In making sure of the essential, he forgets the homely details; intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external. He sees what he wants to see, and not what he does not want to see. He looks at the things he ought to look at, and neglects those that need not be looked at. So clever a judge of horses is Kao, that he has it in him to judge something better than horses.'
When the horse arrived, it turned out indeed to be a superlative horse.
Mr Yŭ was a wealthy man of the Liang State. His household was rolling in riches, and his hoards of money and silk and other valuables were quite incalculable. It was his custom to have banquets served, to the accompaniment of music, in a high upper hall overlooking the main road; there he and his friends would sit drinking their wine and amusing themselves with bouts of gambling.
One day, a party of young gallants happened to pass along the road. In the chamber above, play was going on as usual, and a lucky throw of the dice, which resulted in the capture of both fishes, evoked a loud burst of merriment from the players. Precisely at that moment, it happened that a kite which was sailing overhead dropped the carcass of a rat in the midst of the company outside. The young men held an angry consultation on the spot: 'This Mr Yŭ,' they said, 'has been enjoying his wealth for many a long day, and has always treated his neighbours in the most arrogant spirit. And now, although we have never offended him, he insults us with this dead rat. If such an outrage goes unavenged, the world will look upon us as a set of poltroons. Let us summon up our utmost resolution, and combine with one accord to wipe him and his family out of existence!' The whole party signified their agreement, and when the evening of the day appointed had come, they collected, fully armed for the attack, and exterminated every member of the family.
In the east of China there was a man named Yŭan Ching Mu, who set off on a journey but was overcome by hunger on the way. A certain robber from Hu-fu, of the name of Ch'iu, saw him lying there, and fetched a bowl of rice-gruel in order to feed him. After swallowing three mouthfuls, Yŭan Ching Mu opened his eyes and murmured, 'Who are you?' 'I am a native of Hu-fu, and my name is Ch'iu.' 'Oh misery!' cried Yŭan Ching Mu, 'are not you the robber Ch'iu? What are you feeding me for? I am an honest man and cannot eat your food.' So saying, he clutched the ground with both hands, and began retching and coughing in order to bring it up again. Not succeeding, however, he fell flat on his face and expired.
Now the man from Hu-fu was a robber, no doubt, but the food he brought was not affected thereby. Because a man is a robber, to refuse to eat the food he offers you, on the ground that it is tainted with crime, is to have lost all power of discriminating between the normal and the real.
Yang Chu's younger brother, named Pu, went out one day wearing a suit of white clothes. It came on to rain, so that he had to change and came back dressed in a suit of black. His dog failed to recognize him in this garb, and rushed out at him, barking. This made Yang Pu angry, and he was going to give the dog a beating, when Yang Chu said: 'Do not beat him. You are no wiser than he. For, suppose your dog went away white and came home black, do you mean to tell me that you would not think it strange?'
Yang Chu said: 'You may do good without thinking about fame, but fame will follow in its wake. Fame makes no tryst with gain, but gain will come all the same. Gain makes no tryst with strife, but strife will certainly ensue. Therefore the superior man is very cautious about doing good.'
The good people of Han-tan were in the habit, every New Year's day, of presenting their Governor, Chien Tzŭ, with a number of live pigeons. This pleased the Governor very much, and he liberally rewarded the donors. To a stranger who asked the meaning of the custom, Chien Tzŭ explained that the release of living creatures on New Year's day was the sign of a benevolent disposition. 'But,' rejoined the stranger, 'the people, being aware of your Excellency's whim, no doubt exert themselves to catch as many pigeons as possible, and large numbers must get killed in the process. If you really wish to let the birds live, the best way would be to prohibit the people from capturing them at all. If they have to be caught first in order to be released, the kindness does not compensate for the cruelty.' Chien Tzŭ acknowledged that he was right.
Mr T'ien, of the Ch'i State, was holding an ancestral banquet in his hall, to which a thousand guests were bidden. As he sat in their midst, many came up to him with presents of fish and game. Eyeing them approvingly, he exclaimed with unction: 'How generous is Almighty God to man! He makes the five kinds of grain to grow, and creates the finny and the feathered tribes, especially for our benefit.' All Mr T'ien's guests applauded this sentiment to the echo; but the twelve-year-old son of a Mr Pao, regardless of seniority, came forward and said: 'You are wrong, my lord. All the living creatures of the universe stand in the same category as ourselves, and one is of no greater intrinsic value than another. It is only by reason of size, strength or cunning that some particular species gains the mastery, or that one preys upon another. None of them are produced in order to subserve the uses of others. Man catches and eats those that are fit for food, but how can it be maintained that God creates these expressly for man's use? Mosquitoes and gnats suck man's blood, and tigers and wolves devour his flesh; but we do not therefore assert that God created man expressly for the benefit of mosquitoes and gnats, or to provide food for tigers and wolves.'
A man, having lost his axe, suspected his neighbour's son of having taken it. Certain peculiarities in his gait, his countenance and his speech, marked him out as the thief. In his actions, his movements, and in fact his whole demeanour, it was plainly written that he and no other had stolen the axe. By and by, however, while digging in a dell, the owner came across the missing implement. The next day, when he saw his neighbour's son again, he found no trace of guilt in his movements, his actions, or his general demeanour.
There was once a man in the Ch'i State who had a burning lust for gold. Rising early one morning, he dressed and put on his hat and went down to the marketplace, where he proceeded to seize and carry off the gold from a money-changer's shop. He was arrested by the police, who were puzzled to know why he had committed the theft at a time when every body was about. 'When I was taking the gold,' he replied, 'I did not see anybody at all; what I saw was the gold, and nothing but the gold.'
- Transcriber's note: The material here is actually translated from the eighth and final book. Giles states in his Introduction that the seventh book "deals exclusively with the doctrine of the egoistic philosopher Yang Chu, and has therefore been omitted altogether from the present selection."
- The Law of Causality is the foundation of all science.
- 'No one has ever profited himself by opposing natural law.'
- Of Causality.
- 'Mental and bodily equilibrium are to be sought within oneself. Once you know the causal process which makes you hit the target, you will be able to determine the operation of Destiny beforehand, and when you let fly you will make no mistake.'
- 'The arrogant and the aggressive will accept no confidences, even if they are made. Their mental attitude to others is one of distrust, and they keep their ears and eyes blocked. Who can render them assistance?'
- 'If you succeed in recognizing worth, then the wise will think out plans for you, and the able will act for you. By never rejecting talent from outside, you will find the State easy to govern.'
- It is implied that Lieh Tzŭ's independence of spirit saved his life, inasmuch as a pensioner would have shared the fate of his patron.
- Wei was bounded by Chin and Ch'i on the north, Lu on the east, and Chêng on the south.
- 'As you behave to others, so others will behave to you. He who rides roughshod towards the accomplishment of his own desires, in the belief that it will not occur to others to do the like, will in all probability find himself circumstanced as above.'
- A shrewd thrust at the brigand State which eventually swallowed up all the rest. The commentator says: 'Apply cleverness to ferret out wrongdoing, and the cunning rogue will escape. Using the gift of intuition to expose crime only excites hatred in the wicked. That "sagacity is an evil" is no empty saying.'
- A famous judge of horses, of whom Chuang Tzŭ speaks with scant respect. See Musings of a Chinese Mystic, p. 66.
- Another name for the Wei State in the fourth century B.C.
- The game here alluded to was played on a board with a 'river' in the middle.
- 'Pride and extravagance lead to calamity and ruin in more ways than one. Mr. Yŭ's family was destroyed, although in this particular instance he had no thought of insulting others; nevertheless, the catastrophe was due to an habitual lack of modesty and courtesy in his conduct.'
- In reading these words, penned before the beginning of our era, it is curious to reflect that only about fifty years ago Christian teleology used solemnly to preach this very doctrine of 'design', until Darwin arose and swept it away for ever.
- 'The man in whose mind suspicion is at work will let himself be carried away by utterly distorted fancies, until at last he sees white as black, and detects squareness in a circle.'
- An ordinary thief would have gone at night, and probably naked, after smearing his body with oil.