Chuang Tzu - The Inner Chapters

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Shade said to Shadow, "A little while ago, you were moving; and now you are standing still. A little while ago, you were sitting down; and now you are getting up. Why all this indecision?"

Shadow replied, "Don't I have to depend on others to be what I am? Don't others have to depend on something else to be what they are? My dependence is like that of the snake on his skin or of the cicada on his wings. How can I tell why I do this, or why I do that?"

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamed I was a butterfly flying happily here and there, enjoying life without knowing who I was. Suddenly I woke up and I was indeed Chuang Tzu. Did Chuang Tzu dream he was a butterfly, or did the butterfly dream he was Chuang Tzu? There must be some distinction between Chuang Tzu and the butterfly. This is a case of transformation.

Do you know the story of the praying mantis? It raised its arm to stop an approaching carriage unaware that this was beyond its power. Such was its high opinion of itself. Watch out and be careful. If you offend the Prince by showing off your own talents, you court disaster.

Do you know how a tiger trainer works? He does not risk feeding the tigers live animals for fear of arousing their ferocity as they kill. He does not risk feeding them whole animals for fear of arousing their anger as they tear them apart. He knows when the tigers are hungry and when they are full; thereby he is in touch with their fierce nature. Tigers are a different species from man, yet by observing their ways, one can train them to be gentle. They will kill only when aroused.

A man with a passion for horses catches the manure in a basket and the piss in a jar. If a mosquito or a fly lands on the horse and he brushes it off too abruptly, then the horse will break its bit, hurt the man's head, and crack his ribs. Such a man has good intentions, but he overdoes it. Can you afford to be careless?


There was once a hunchback called Shu. His chin rested on his navel, his shoulders rose up over his head, and his neck bone pointed to the sky. His five vital organs were upside down, and his hips were level with his ribs. By sewing and taking in laundry, he made enough to feed himself. By winnowing and sifting grain, he earned enough to support ten people. When the authorities were raising an army, he came and went without having to hide. When a big public project was planned, he was assigned no work because he was a chronic invalid. When the government was giving free grain to the sick, he received three measures and ten bundles of firewood. If a man whose body is strange can take care of himself and live to the end of his natural life, how much easier it is for a man with strange behavior.

In the state of Lu, there was a man named Wang Tai who had but one foot. He had as many followers as Confucius. Chang Chi asked Confucius, "This Wang Tai is a cripple, yet he has as many followers in the state of Lu as you do. When he stands up, he does not teach. When he sits down, he utters no word. People go to him empty, and come back full. Is there such a thing as teaching without words? Can the mind be perfect while the body is deformed? What kind of man is he?"

Confucius said, "This man is a sage. It is just that I have been a little slow in going to see him. I myself am going to make him my teacher. Why shouldn't all of you who are my disciples do the same? I shall bring the whole world, not just the state of Lu, to sit at his feet."

Chang Chi said, "He is a cripple, yet he can be your teacher. He must be quite an extraordinary man. What is unique about the way he uses his mind?"

Confucius said, "Death and life are important, yet they do not affect him. Heaven and earth may collapse, yet he remains unmoved. He perceives the true reality and is not affected by external appearances. He lets things change naturally, and so he holds fast to the roots."

Chang Chi said, "What do you mean?"

Confucius said, "If we observe things from the point of view of their differences, liver and gall are as unlike one another as the state of Chu in the west and the state of Yueh in the east. If we see that which is the same in all things, then the ten thousand things are one. He who sees things in this light is not distracted by what reaches him through his ears and his eyes but lets his mind follow the natural harmony. He sees all things as one and is not troubled by loss. To him, the loss of his foot is just like throwing away so much dirt."


Among the ancients, knowledge was very deep. What is meant by deep? It reached back to the time when nothing existed. It was so deep, so complete, that nothing could be added to it. Then came men who distinguished between things but did not give them names. Later they labeled them but did not choose between right and wrong. When right and wrong appeared, Tao declined. With the fall of Tao, desire arose. Is there really rise and fall?

When there is rise and fall, Chao Wen plays the lute. When there is no rise and fall, Chao Wen does not play the lute. Chao Wen played the lute, Shia Kuang kept time with a baton, and Hui Tzu leaned on a stump and debated. Each of these three masters was nearly perfect in his own art. Their names will be remembered forevermore. Because they excelled, they were distinguished from others. Because they excelled, they wanted to enlighten others through their art. They tried to teach what could not be taught. This resulted in obscure discussions as to the nature of "hardness" and "whiteness." Their sons followed in their fathers' footsteps all their lives but accomplished nothing. However, if this can be called accomplishment, then even I have accomplished something. If this cannot be called accomplishment, then neither I nor others have accomplished anything. Therefore, the sage seeks insight from chaos and doubt. Not making distinctions but dwelling on that which is unchanging is called clear vision.

Clubfoot-Hunchback-No-lips talked to Duke Ling of Wei. Duke Ling was so delighted with him that when he saw normal people, their necks appeared thin and scraggy. Jug-Jar-Big-Goiter talked to Duke Huan of Chi. Duke Huan was so delighted with him that when he saw normal people, he too thought their necks were thin and scraggy. So when goodness shines forth, the outward appearances are forgotten. Men do not forget what ought to be forgotten, but forget what ought not be forgotten. This is forgetfulness indeed! Therefore, the sage lets everything pass before his mind. To him learning is something added, conventions are like glue, morality is a bond, and skills are for trade. The sage does not make plans, so what use has he for learning? He does not make divisions, so what use has he for glue? He lacks nothing, so what use has he for morality? He has nothing to sell, so what use has he for trade? His not needing these four things is a gift from heaven. This gift is his heavenly food. Since he is fed by heaven, what use has he for men? He has the appearance of a man but not the desires of a man. He has the appearance of a man, so he associates with men. He does not have the desires of a man, so he is not concerned with right or wrong. How infinitely small is that which makes him a man! How infinitely great is that which makes him perfect in heaven!


Yen Hui said, "I am making progress."
Confucius asked, "In what way?"
Yen Hui said, "I have given up doing good and being right."
Confucius said, "Very good, but that is not quite enough."
Another day, Yen Hui saw Confucius and said, "I am making progress."
Confucius asked, "In what way?"
Yen Hui said, "I have given up ceremony and music."
Confucius said, "Very good, but that is not quite enough."
Another day, Yen Hui saw Confucius again and said, "I am making progress."
Confucius asked, "In what way?"
Yen Hui said, "I just sit and forget."

Confucius was startled and asked, "What do you mean by sitting and forgetting?"

Yen Hui said, "I am not attached to the body and I give up any idea of knowing. By freeing myself from the body and mind, I become one with the infinite. This is what I mean by sitting and forgetting."

Confucius said, "When there is oneness, there are no preferences. When there is change, there is no constancy. If you have really attained this, then let me become your pupil."

There was a cripple in Lu named Shu Shan No-toes. He came walking on his heels to see Confucius. Confucius said, "You did not take care. You committed a crime and brought this trouble upon yourself. What is the use of coming to me now?"

No-toes said, "I didn't know how to behave properly, and took my body lightly, so I lost my toes. I have come here with something more precious than toes, and it is this which I seek to preserve. There is nothing that heaven does not cover. There is nothing that earth does not sustain. I thought that you, Master, were like heaven and earth. How was I to know that you would receive me this way?"

Confucius said, "It was stupid of me. Why don't you come in! Let us talk."

But No-toes walked out.

Confucius said, "That is a good lesson, disciples! A toeless cripple is still willing to atone for his past misdeeds. How much more can be done by those who haven't had such bad luck."

No-toes went to see Lao Tzu and said, "Is Confucius not yet a perfect man? Why does he keep imitating you? He is trying to gain a reputation by pretending to know strange and extraordinary things. He does not know that real sages look upon these as cuffs and fetters."

Lao Tzu said, "Why don't you simply make him see that life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides--and thus free him from his cuffs and fetters? Is that possible?"

No-toes said, "If heaven wants to punish him, who can free him?"


There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow
and so displeased with his own footsteps that he determined to get rid of both.
The method he hit upon was to run away from them.

So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step,
while his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty.

He attributed his failure to the fact that he was not running fast enough.
So he ran faster and faster, without stopping, until he finally dropped dead.

He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade,
his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still,
there would be no more footsteps.