Death
comes to all

Men say there is no death – to what avail? The body decomposes, and the mind goes with it. Is this not a great cause for sorrow? Can the world be so dull as not to see this? Or is it I alone who am dull, and others not so?

Now if we are to be guided by our prejudices, who shall be without a guide? What need is there to make comparisons of right and wrong with others? And if one is to follow one’s own judgments according to his prejudices, even the fools have them! But to form judgments of right and wrong without first having a mind at all is like saying, “I left for Yueh today, and got there yesterday.”

Or, it is like assuming something which does not exist to exist. The illusions of assuming something which does not exist to exist could not be fathomed even by the divine Yu how much less could we?

For speech is not mere blowing of breath. It is intended to say some thing, only what it is intended to say cannot yet be determined. Is there speech indeed, or is there not? Can we, or can we not, distinguish it from the chirping of young birds?

How can Tao be obscured so that there should be a distinction of true and false? How can speech be so obscured that there should be a distinction of right and wrong? Where can you go and find Tao not to exist? Where can you go and find that  words cannot be proved? Tao is obscured by our inadequate understanding, and words are obscured by flowery expressions. Hence the affirmations and denials of the Confucian and Motse schools, each denying what the other affirms and affirming what the other denies. Each denying what the other affirms and affirming what the other denies brings us only into confusion.

There is nothing which is not this; there is nothing which is not that. What cannot be seen by what the other person can be  known by myself. Hence I say, this emanates from that; that also derives from this. This is the theory of the  interdependence of this and that (relativity of standards).

Nevertheless, life arises from death, and vice versa. Possibility arises from impossibility, and vice versa. Affirmation is  based upon denial, and vice versa. Which being the case, the true sage rejects all distinctions and takes his refuge in Nature. For one may base it on this, yet this is also that and that is also this. This also has its ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and that also has its ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ Does then the distinction between this and that really exist or not? When this (subjective) and that (objective) are both without their correlates, that is the very “Axis of Tao”. And when that Axis passes through the centre at which all Infinities converge, affirmations and denials alike blend into the infinite One. Hence it is said there is nothing like using the Light.

Levelling of all things

Only the truly intelligent understand the principle of the levelling of all things into One. They discard the distinctions and  take refuge in the common and ordinary things. The common and ordinary things serve certain functions and therefore retain the wholeness of nature. From this wholeness, one comprehends, and from comprehension, one to the Tao. There it stops. To stop without knowing how it stops – this is Tao.

But to wear out one’s intellect in an obstinate adherence to the individuality of things, not recognising the fact that all things are One, that is called “Three in the Morning.”

What is “Three in the Morning?” A keeper of monkeys said with regard to their rations of nuts that each monkey was to have three in the morning and four at night. At this the monkeys were very angry. Then 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 nuts remained the same, but there was a difference owing to subjective evaluations of likes and dislikes. It also derives from the principle of subjectivity. Wherefore the true Sage brings all the contraries together and rests in the natural Balance of Heaven. This is called following two courses at once.

Beyond the limits of the external world, the Sage knows that it exists, but does not talk about it. Within the limits of the external world, the Sage talks but does not make comments. With regard to the wisdom of the ancients, as embodied in the canon of Spring and Autumn, the Sage comments, but does not expound. And thus, among distinctions made, there are distinctions that cannot be made; among things expounded, there are things that cannot be expounded.

How can that be? The true Sage keeps his knowledge within him, while men in general set forth theirs in argument, in order to convince each other. And therefore it is said one who argues does so because he cannot see certain points of view.

Perfect Man

“The Perfect Man,” said Wang Yi, “is a spiritual being. Were the ocean itself scorched up, he would not feel hot. Were the  great rivers frozen hard, he would not feel cold. Were the mountains to be cleft by thunder, and the great deep to be thrown up by storm, he would not tremble with fear. Thus, he would mount upon the clouds of heaven, and driving the sun and the  moon before him, pass beyond the limits of this mundane existence. Death and life have no more victory over him. How  much less should he concern himself with the distinctions of profit and loss?”

Dreaming of the banquet

How do I know that love of life is not a delusion after all? How do I know but that he who dreads death is not as a child who  has lost his way and does not know his way home?

The Lady Li Chi was the daughter of the frontier officer of Ai. When the Duke of Chin first got her, she wept until the bosom of her dress was drenched with tears. But when she came to the royal residence, shared with the Duke his luxurious couch, and ate rich food, she repented of having wept. How then do I know but that the dead may repent of having previously clung  to life?

Those who dream of the banquet, wake to lamentation and sorrow. Those who dream of lamentation and sorrow wake to join the hunt. While they dream, they do not know that they are dreaming. Some will even interpret the very dream they are  dreaming; and only when they awake do they know it was a dream. By and by comes the great awakening, and then we find out that this life is really a great dream. Fools think they are awake now, and flatter themselves they know – this one is a  prince, and that one is a shepherd. What narrowness of mind! Confucius and you are both dreams; and I who say you are dreams – I am but a dream myself. This is a paradox. Tomorrow a Sage may arise to explain it; but that tomorrow will not be until ten thousand generations have gone by. Yet you may meet him around the corner.

Granting that you and I argue. If you get the better of me, and not I of you, are you necessarily right and I wrong? Or if I get  the better of you and not you of me, am I necessarily right and you wrong? Or are we both partly right and partly wrong? Or are we both wholly right and wholly wrong? You and I cannot know this, and consequently we all live in darkness.

Whom shall I ask as arbiter between us? If I ask someone who takes your view, he will side with you. How can such a one arbitrate between us? If I ask someone who takes my view, he will side with me. How can such a one arbitrate between us? If I ask someone who differs from both of us, he will be equally unable to decide between us, since he differs from both of  us. And if I ask someone who agrees with both of us, he will be equally unable to decide between us, since he agrees with both of us. Since then you and I and other men cannot decide, how can we depend upon another?

The words of arguments are all relative; if we wish to reach the absolute, we must harmonise them by means of the unity of God, and follow their natural evolution, so that we may complete our allotted span of life.

But what is it to harmonise them by means of the unity of God? It is this. The right may not be really right. What appears so may not be really so. Even if what is right is really right, wherein it differs from wrong cannot be made plain by argument. Even if what appears so is really so, wherein it differs from what is not so also cannot be made plain by argument.

Take no heed of time nor of right and wrong. Passing into the realm of the Infinite, take your final rest therein.

Happiness of fish | Death comes to all | Cutting up a bullock | Contents

Butterfly dream: Finely-etched steel butterfly at machine tools exhibition, picture by Francis Chin, May 2005
Butterfly
dreams

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