Saturday, July 2, 2011

Under Heaven: Song Xing

Under Heaven: Song Xing
by Scott Bradley

Song Xing and Yi Wen are the next exponents of the shattered Way to be considered by the author of chapter 33. Song Xing (alias Rongzi) is mentioned by Zhuangzi as having made some progress toward non-dependence by virtue of his ability to be unswayed by the opinion of others: "There is no disgrace in being insulted."

The aspects of the Way that they tried to exemplify are these: "Unbound by conventions, unadorned by possessions, undemanding of others, not hostile to the mob, purifying the mind with the aspiration that all in the world enjoy peace and security, not stopping until both oneself and others have enough to nourish themselves with..." (B. Ziporyn) Lofty and commendable aspirations, indeed!

Some specific expressions of these aspirations are: They "based their interactions with all creatures on a policy of tolerance and noninterference. They spoke of the mind's ability to accept all things, calling this the cultivation of the mind itself...They prohibited military aggression and called for universal disarmament..."

When I read these brief accounts of the proto-Taoists (as I like to call them), I cannot help but hunger to know more of their teachings. So much of what they had to say goes to the very heart of philosophical Taoism as I understand it.

Nevertheless, our author has his criticisms: "But they did too much for others and too little for themselves. They would say things like... 'although I may go hungry, I will in any case never forget about the welfare of the world... Is it really so necessary that I survive?...An exemplary man does not make strict demands on others, nor impose his personal will on things.'" I should have their faults!

I find it ironic that so much of what this Confucian finds to praise ('unbound by conventions') Confucius failed to exemplify, and what he chooses to criticize ('they insistently clamored on without giving up') Confucius exemplified. He was indeed a syncretist, but his continued need to cling to the canonized Sage and a belief in an ancient and fixed ideal, left him full of contradictions.

"Unfixed" is a word that succinctly summarizes the way of Zhuangzi. A place where contradictions can thrive without censor!

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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