Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 14, Part 2

Trey Smith

The shaman Hsien beckoned and said, "Come - I will tell you. Heaven has the six directions and the five constants. When emperors and kings go along with these, there is good order; when they move contrary to these, there is disaster. With the instructions of the Nine Lo, order can be made to reign and virtue completed. The ruler will shine mirror-like over the earth below, and the world will bear him up. He may be called an August One on high."

Tang, the prime minister of Shang, asked Chuang Tzu about benevolence.

Chuang Tzu said, "Tigers and wolves - they're benevolent."

"How can you say that?"

Chuang Tzu said, "Sire and cubs warm and affectionate with one another - why do you say they're not benevolent?"

"What I am asking to hear about is perfect benevolence."

"Perfect benevolence knows no affection," said Chuang Tzu.

The prime minister said, "I have heard that where affection is lacking, there will be no love, and if there is no love, there will be no filial piety. Can you possibly say that perfect benevolence is unfilial?"

"No, no," said Chuang Tzu. "Perfect benevolence is a lofty thing - words like filial piety would never do to describe it. And what you are talking about is not something that surpasses filial piety, but something that doesn't even come up to it. If a traveler to the south turns to look north again when he reaches the city of Ying, he will no longer see the dark northern mountains. Why? Because they are too far away. Thus it is said, to be filial out of respect is easy; to be filial out of love is hard. To be filial out of love is easy; to forget parents is hard. To forget parents is easy; to make parents forget you is hard. To make parents forget you is easy; to forget the whole world is hard. To forget the whole world is easy; to make the whole world forget you is hard. Virtue discards Yao and Shun and rests in inaction. Its bounty enriches ten thousand ages, and yet no one in the world knows this. Why all these deep sighs, this talk of benevolence and filial piety? Filial piety, brotherliness, benevolence, righteousness, loyalty, trust, honor, integrity - for all of these you must drive yourself and make a slave of Virtue. They are not worth prizing. So it is said, Highest eminence scorns the titles of the kingdom; greatest wealth rejects the riches of the kingdom; loftiest desire ignores fame and reputation. It is the Way alone that never varies."

~ Burton Watson translation ~
I interpret the last paragraph above to be speaking of the transformative process. We can see this process at work when a green leaf falls to the forest floor. It slowly goes from being alive to not being so and it slowly moves from being the shape of a leaf to being not the shape of a leaf. In one point in time, it may have been a component of the largest tree around. At a later point in time, it is mulch that may sustain life to that same tree or give life to something else.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

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