Chuang Tzu on Knowledge, Clear Thinking and Monkeys

If we were to follow the judgments of the predetermined mind, who would be left alone and without a teacher? Not only would it be so with those who know the sequences (of knowledge and feeling) and make their own selection among them, but it would be so as well with the stupid and unthinking. For one who has not this determined mind, to have his affirmations and negations is like the case described in the saying, ‘He went to Yüeh to-day, and arrived at it yesterday.’ It would be making what was not a fact to be a fact. But even the spirit-like Yü could not have known how to do this, and how should one like me be able to do it?

But speech is not like the blowing (of the wind); the speaker has (a meaning in) his words. If, however, what he says, be indeterminate (as from a mind not made up), does he then really speak or not? He thinks that his words are different from the chirpings of fledgelings; but is there any distinction between them or not? But how can the Tâo be so obscured, that there should be ‘a True’ and ‘a False’ in it? How can speech be so obscured that there should be ‘the Right’ and ‘the Wrong’ about them? Where shall the Tâo go to that it will not be found? Where shall speech be found that it will be inappropriate? Tâo becomes obscured through the small comprehension (of the mind), and speech comes to be obscure through the vain-gloriousness (of the speaker). So it is that we have the contentions between the Literati and the Mohists, the one side affirming what the other denies, and vice versa. If we would decide on their several affirmations and denials, no plan is like bringing the (proper) light (of the mind) to bear on them.

All subjects may be looked at from (two points of view), — from that and from this. If I look at a thing from another’s point of view, I do not see it; only as I know it myself, do I know it. Hence it is said, ‘That view comes from this; and this view is a consequence of that:’ — which is the theory that that view and this — (the opposite views) — produce each the other. Although it be so, there is affirmed now life and now death; now death and now life; now the admissibility of a thing and now its inadmissibility; now its inadmissibility and now its admissibility. (The disputants) now affirm and now deny; now deny and now affirm. Therefore the sagely man does not pursue this method, but views things in the light of (his) Heaven (-ly nature), and hence forms his judgment of what is right.

This view is the same as that, and that view is the same as this. But that view involves both a right and a wrong; and this view involves also a right and a wrong: — are there indeed, or are there not the two views, that and this? They have not found their point of correspondency which is called the pivot of the Tâo. As soon as one finds this pivot, he stands in the centre of the ring (of thought), where he can respond without end to the changing views; — without end to those affirming, and without end to those denying. Therefore I said, ‘There is nothing like the proper light (of the mind).’

By means of a finger (of my own) to illustrate that the finger (of another) is not a finger is not so good a plan as to illustrate that it is not so by means of what is (acknowledged to be) not a finger; and by means of (what I call) a horse to illustrate that (what another calls) a horse is not so, is not so good a plan as to illustrate that it is not a horse, by means of what is (acknowledged to be) not a horse. (All things in) heaven and earth may be (dealt with as) a finger; (each of) their myriads may be (dealt with as) a horse. Does a thing seem so to me? (I say that) it is so. Does it seem not so to me? (I say that) it is not so. A path is formed by (constant) treading on the ground. A thing is called by its name through the (constant) application of the name to it. How is it so? It is so because it is so. How is it not so? It is not so, because it is not so. Everything has its inherent character and its proper capability. There is nothing which has not these. Therefore, this being so, if we take a stalk of grain and a (large) pillar, a loathsome (leper) and (a beauty like) Hsî Shih, things large and things insecure, things crafty and things strange; — they may in the light of the Tâo all be reduced to the same category (of opinion about them).

It was separation that led to completion; from completion ensued dissolution. But all things, without regard to their completion and dissolution, may again be comprehended in their unity; — it is only the far reaching in thought who know how to comprehend them in this unity. This being so, let us give up our devotion to our own views, and occupy ourselves with the ordinary views. These ordinary views are grounded on the use of things. (The study of that) use leads to the comprehensive judgment, and that judgment secures the success (of the inquiry). That success gained, we are near (to the object of our search), and there we stop. When we stop, and yet we do not know how it is so, we have what is called the Tâo.

When we toil our spirits and intelligence, obstinately determined (to establish our own view), and do not know the agreement (which underlies it and the views of others), we have what is called ‘In the morning three.’ What is meant by that ‘In the morning three?’ A keeper of monkeys, in giving them out their acorns, (once) said, ‘In the morning I will give you three (measures) and in the evening four.’ This made them all angry, and he said, ‘Very well. In the morning I will give you four and in the evening three.’ His two proposals were substantially the same, but the result of the one was to make the creatures angry, and of the other to make them pleased:– an illustration of the point I am insisting on. Therefore the sagely man brings together a dispute in its affirmations and denials, and rests in the equal fashioning of Heaven. Both sides of the question are admissible.

~ The Writings of Chuang Tzu, Book 2, Sections 3-4

Image: johnjoseco

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