Zhuangzi Chapter 6 ~ Teachings from Those who were Great who are No Longer Alive

Zi Si (Great Sacrificial Attendant), Zi Yu (Great Charioteer), Zi Li (Great Plowman) and Zi Lai (Great Messenger) all came together to have a chat saying: "Who can consider what doesn't exist as his head, life as his spine and death as his buttocks? Whoever knows that life and death, surviving and perishing, are part of the same whole, I'd like to take them as a friend."

The four of them all looked at each other and laughed. They felt a profound intimacy with each other in their hearts, and they knew they'd formed a deep friendship with each other. Some time later, Zi Yu got sick. Zi Si went to see how he was doing. "How remarkable! This thing I've been turned into, that's become so inflexible and stiff!"

His back had become curved and hunched, his five vital organs protruded to the outside, his chin was hidden in his bellybutton, his shoulders were higher than the top of his head, and his fingers were curved into hooks that pointed up to the sky. Even though his vital energy seemed to be completely out of whack, his heart was clear and he didn't seem concerned. He dragged himself over to the well, looked at his image in the water and said:

"Ugh! Look at this thing I've been turned into, and how inflexible and stiff it is." Zi Si asked: "Do you hate it?" "What's the point in hating what's been taken away or what's been given to me! Supposing my left arm gradually turned into a chicken – then I could use it to tell when it was nighttime.

Supposing my buttocks gradually turned into a wheel and my spirit into a horse – then I could ride on it. What need would I have for any other means of transportation! Furthermore, whatever is received comes at the right time. Whatever has been lost must be adapted to. Calmly accepting and dwelling in compliance, then neither grief nor joy would be able to creep in.

This is what's been called being released from bondage, and for those who can't find a release, there will always be something to put them into bondage. Besides, living things can't be victorious over what Nature has been causing to occur since the beginning of time. What reason could I find for hatred!" Some time later, Zi Lai became ill, panting and gasping while near death. His wife and children were grouped around him sobbing.

Zi Li went to see how he was doing and said to them: "Shame on you! Get away from him! Don't show sadness – he's merely going through changes." He then leaned against the door jamb and said to his friend: "How remarkable! The changes you're experiencing! What will you become next – what will you turn into? Will you become a rat's liver? Will you become an insect's arm?" Zi Lai said: "When a father and mother produce a child, east, west, south and north converge at a point that sets the destiny he must follow.

When those multiple energies within a person converge, he's directed by them as though they were his father and mother. They've brought me close to death, and if I try to prevent it then I'm being foolhardy. How silly to look at this as some sort of crime that's been committed! The great clump of earth (the world) is loaded down with my physical form, struggles to keep me alive, cradles me in my old age, and provides a place to rest my body after I die.

Therefore, that which is good at keeping me alive will also be good at providing a place for me to die. Now if a great blacksmith was pounding some metal, and the metal jumped up at him and said: 'I absolutely must be made into Mo Ye (a famous ancient Chinese double edged sword)', the blacksmith would think that piece of metal was an ill omen.

Now, if I were ever to try to go against the shape my form has taken and say: 'Make me a whole person, nothing but a whole person', then Mother Nature would think that this person was an ill omen. Now, if the universe is like one great big oven, and Mother Nature is like a master blacksmith, where is it that we shouldn't go? As naturally as we fall into a sound sleep, we just as naturally suddenly wake up."

Zi Sang Hu, Meng Zi Fan and Zi Qin Zhang were three friends who got along well with each other. One of them said: "Who can join with others while not joining with others; act with others while not acting with others? Who can ascend to the heavens, travel on the mist, stirring up things without any end in sight, all the while forgetting about life without getting exhausted?"

The three of them all looked at each other and laughed. Feeling a profound intimacy with each other in their hearts, they knew they'd formed a deep friendship with each other. Not long after that Zi Sang Hu died. When he had not yet been buried, Kong Zi (Confucius) heard about it and sent Zi Gong (a disciple of Confucius) to go see what was going on.

One of the friends was composing a tune while the other was playing music. They sang together: "Oh, Sang Hu has arrived! Oh, Sang Hu has arrived! And already returned to his original being, While we're still serving as humans!" Zi Gong rushed into the room and asked: "How in the world could you both be singing over a dead body – is that proper conduct?" The two friends looked at each other and laughed, then said: "How could that guy know what proper conduct is?" Zi Gong returned to tell Kong Zi what had happened: "What kind of people are those guys? They can't even control their behavior and have no respect for their friend's physical body. They sit right next to the dead body singing without showing any signs of adapting their demeanor to the situation, in complete disorder. What kind of people are they?"

Kong Zi said: "They both wander around outside the set boundaries, whereas I wander within the limits set by society. Those outside and those inside don't mingle with each other, and it was stupid of me to send you there to console them. The only boundaries those two adhere to are those set on people by Nature, and they wander among the singular essence of the universe. They consider life to be an insignificant attachment hanging there like a wart, and death to be the final removal of the ulcerated growth. Being that way, how would they have any conception of life and death or past and future!

They avail themselves of the strange anatomy of their bodies, rely on the harmony of their vessel, forget about their internal organs, don't pay much attention to their ears and eyes, and repeatedly experience endings and beginnings without having a clue what's going on. In that way they pace back and forth through the dust and dirt while not being affected by it – free and unfettered without acting like they have something to gain. How could they be troubled or anxious about society's rules and mandates, or be troubled about being observed by everybody else's eyes and ears!"

Zi Gong said: "That being so, Master, why do you rely on the boundaries?" "I'm the heaven's sacrificial lamb. That's something I could share with you." Zi Gong said: "Then I'd appreciate hearing more about boundaries." Kong Zi said: "Fish were established together in water. People were established together in Dao. Those who are established together in water penetrate to the depths of a pond and find nourishment. Those who are established together in Dao don't cater to others and their lives are easier. Therefore it's been said: 'Fish forget about each other when in rivers and streams. People forget about each other when on the path of Dao.'"

Zi Gong said: "May I ask about the non-conformist?" "As for the nonconformist, he seems odd to other people, but is tuned in to the heavens. Therefore it's been said: 'Someone who has little to do with Nature would be looked up to by people. Someone who is looked up to by people would have little to do with Nature.' "

Yan Hui asked Zhong Ni (Confucius): "When Meng Sun Cai's mother died, he wept without shedding a tear, didn't feel sadness in the center of his heart, and mourned without wailing. Although he didn't do any of those three things, he's still thought of as the best mourner in the state of Lu. How can someone who's evidently so superficial to their core still receive accolades? I, for one, find this astonishing."

Zhong Ni said: "Mr. Meng Sun has reached a pinnacle! He's advanced beyond mere knowledge. By being at ease with what's been taken away, that shows a bit of being at ease. Mr. Meng Sun doesn't think much about life, nor does he think much about death. He doesn't think much about what happened in the past, nor about what's going to happen in the future. He seems to adapt to whatever happens around him.

By waiting for events to come about on their own without trying to figure them out, he's already adapted to them! Moreover, if limitations eventually change, how can perceptions not change along with them? If limitations remain the same, does that mean that perceptions will stop changing? Maybe you and I are peculiar in that we're dreaming and haven't yet awakened? That guy (Meng Sun) was startled by the transformation of a shape (his mother's death), but his heart wasn't damaged by it.

He dwells where each moment is like a new dawn, and isn't affected emotionally by death. Mr. Meng Sun is uniquely awake. If people cry, he too cries. That's because he can put himself in their place. Moreover, he can make connections beyond what I can hear with my own ears. So how could I really know about myself simply by listening to the words I speak? You might dream you're a bird and soar up into the sky, or dream you're a fish and sink to the bottom of a deep pond.

We can't tell whether the words we're using are based on being awake or if they're coming from a dream. "Trying to make a situation more pleasant isn't as good as laughing out loud. Faked laughter isn't as good as the kind that naturally erupts. Be comfortable with those eruptions and give up trying to modify them – only then can one enter into the boundless unity of Nature." Yi Er Zi (Mr. Trace of a Beard) went to see Xu You (a legendary hermit). Xu You said: "How has Yao enriched you?" Yi Er Zi replied:

"Yao told me: 'You must bow down with benevolence and righteousness while speaking clearly about Right and Wrong.'" Xu You said: "Then why have you driven all the way out here? Since the Great Yao has already stained you with ideas about benevolence and righteousness, and stunted you with ideas about Right and Wrong, how will you be able to wander in many directions, swinging freely with reckless abandon, spinning down a path that constantly moves?" Yi Er Zi replied: "You might be right, but I'd still like to check out that kind of path by walking along side it." Xu You said: "That's not remotely possible.

A blind man can't truly appreciate the pleasures of seeing beautiful things and outstanding colors. One who has impaired eyesight can't even tell the difference between green and yellow embroidery on a robe." Yi Er Zi said: "Wu Zhuang lost all sense of her beauty. Ju Liang lost all sense of his strength. Huang Di abandoned all sense of his knowledge. All of them eventually became refined by picking up on what was sent out.

How can I know if some great force might come along and get rid of my stains and replace what was stunted, making me able to ride along with you and follow you as my teacher?" Xu You said: "Humph! But then, you never can tell. I'll give you the general outline of what I'd say to you: ‘My teacher! My Teacher! Gave to all living things, but not because that's righteous. Promoted clarity throughout all generations, but not because that's benevolent.

Increased from the beginning of time, but not because that's admirable. Enabled the universe to contain all the shapes which have been cut and carved, but not because that's a special skill. From this place begin your wandering.’ Yan Hui said: "I've reached a new plateau in my cultivation." Zhong Ni (Confucius) asked: "What do you mean by that?" "I've forgotten all about benevolence and righteousness." "That's great, but you're still not finished."

On another day they met again and Hui said: "I've reached a new plateau in my cultivation." "What do you mean by that?" "I've forgotten all about rituals and celebrations" "That's great, but you're still not finished." On another day they met again and Hui said: "I've reached a new plateau in my cultivation." "What do you mean by that?" "I sit in forgetfulness." Zhong Ni perked up at this and asked: "What do you mean by sitting in forgetfulness?" Yan Hui replied: "My bones seem to droop like branches overloaded with fruit.

My intelligence and cleverness become overshadowed by darkness. Any knowledge has evaporated as well as any sense of my own shape. I feel embraced by a great openness. That's what I mean by sitting in forgetfulness." Zhong Ni said: "Being embraced in that way, then you'd be without preferences. Transforming in that way, then you'd easily change. As a result, you've become almost a Sage! I beg you to allow me to take you as my teacher and follow you." Zi Yu and Zi Sang were friends.

When there had been a continuous downpour for ten days, Zi Yu said, "Zi Sang might have gotten sick!" So he packed up some food and went to feed his friend. When he reached Zi Sang's door, he heard what sounded like something between a song and wailing. A voice accompanied by a drum and lute sang out: "Father? Mother? The heavens! Mankind!" The sounds were all jumbled and didn't seem to make sense, as though the lyrics were so rushed that parts were missing.

Zi Yu went into the house and said: "I've just heard the lyrics to your song. What are you trying to say?" "I was just wondering what's caused me to get to such an extreme state, but I can't figure it out. Would my father and mother have wanted me to end up so poor?

The heavens are impartial as to what it will protect. The earth is impartial as to what it will support. Why would the heavens and the earth make me in particular so poor? I keep asking what it is that's done this to me, but I can't get an answer. If it can just happen that one could reach this extreme state, it must be due to destiny."