David Hinton's compelling new translation of Chuang Tzu's Inner Chapters makes these ancient texts from the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy accessible to contemporary readers. Standing alongside the Tao Te Ching as a founding text in the Taoist tradition, Chuang Tzu is highly readable--with a wild menagerie of characters and passages full of witty and engaging anecdotes.
On accepting fate:
“Tsu Yu fell ill, and Tsu Szu went to see him. Tsu Yu said, ‘Great is the maker of things that He should make me as deformed as this!’
His crooked spine was curled round like a hunchback; his five organs were upside down; his chin rested on his navel; his shoulders rose up above his head; his neckbone pointed to the sky. His body was sick, yet he was calm and carefree. He limped to the well and looked at his reflection and said ‘Ah! The Maker of Things has made me all crooked like this!’
‘Does this upset you?’ asked Tsu Szu.
‘No, why should it? If my left arm became a rooster, I would use it herald the dawn. If my right arm became a crossbow, I would shoot down a bird for roasting. If my buttocks became wheels and my spirits a horse, I would ride them. What need would I have for a wagon? For we were born because it was time, and we die in accordance with nature. If we are content with whatever happens and follow the flow, joy and sorrow cannot affect us. This is what the ancients called freedom from bondage. There are those who cannot free themselves because they are bound by material existence. But nothing can overcome heaven. That is the way it has always been. Why should I be upset?’”
“This was the true man of old. He stood straight and firm and did not waver. He was of humble mien but was not servile. He was independent but not stubborn, open to everything yet made no boast. He smiled as if pleased, and responded to things naturally. His radiance came from his inner light. He remained centered even in the company of others. He was broadminded as if he agreed with everyone, high-minded as if beyond influence, inward-minded as if he would like to withdraw from the world, and absent-minded as if unaware of what he was going to say. ... He acted effortlessly, yet people thought that he was trying very hard.”
“Great knowledge is all-encompassing; small knowledge is limited. Great words are inspiring; small words are chatter. When we are asleep, we are in touch with our souls. When we are awake, our senses open. We get involved with our activities and our minds are distracted. Sometimes we are hesitant, sometimes underhanded, and sometimes secretive. Little fears cause anxiety, and great fears cause panic. Our words fly off like arrows, as though we knew what was right and wrong. We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. And yet our opinions have no permanence: like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away. We are caught in the current and cannot return. We are tied up in knots like an old clogged drain; we are getting closer to death with no way to regain our youth. Joy and anger, sorrow and happiness, hope and fear, indecision and strength, humility and willfulness, enthusiasm and insolence, like music sounding from an empty reed or mushrooms rising from the warm dark earth, continually appear before us day and night. No one knows whence they come. Don’t worry about it! Let them be! How can we understand it all in one day?”
On the ‘true man’, interesting to compare this translation to the one in Merton’s book:
“But what is a true man? The true man of old did not mind being poor. He took no pride in his achievements. He made no plans. Thus, he could commit an error and not regret it. He could succeed without being proud. Thus, he could climb mountains without fear, enter water without getting wet, and pass through fire unscathed. This is the knowledge that leads to Tao.
The true man of old slept without dreaming and woke without anxiety. His food was plain, and his breath was deep. For the breath of the true man rose up from his heels while the breath of common men rises from their throats. When they are overcome, their words catch in their throats like vomit. As their lusts and desires deepen, their heavenly nature grows shallow.
The true man of old knew nothing about loving life or hating death. When he was born, he felt no elation. When he entered death, there was no sorrow. Carefree he went. Carefree he came. That was all. He did not seek his end. He accepted what he was given with delight, and when it was gone, he gave it no more thought. This is called not using the mind against Tao and not using man to help heaven. Such was the true man.”
And this one:
“Do not seek fame. Do not make plans. Do not be absorbed by activities. Do not think that you know. Be aware of all that is and dwell in the infinite. Wander where there is no path. Be all that heaven gave you, but act as though you have received nothing. Be empty, that is all.
The mind of a perfect man is like a mirror. It grasps nothing. It expects nothing. It reflects but does not hold. Therefore, the perfect man can act without effort.”
Only includes the small number of "authentic" chapters.