ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (SYNOPSIS FOR MYSELF): Zhuāngzĭ 莊子 Book of Master Zhuang

zhuangzipic
“The Zhuangzi, also known as Nánhuá zhēnjīng 南華真經 or Authentic Scripture of Southern Florescence, goes back to Zhuāng Zhōu 莊周 (Zhuangzi), a Taoist thinker of the fourth century BCE (?-290) who lived in the southern part of China and had various contacts but little official relation with the aristocracy of his time. As we have it today, the text consists of thirty-three chapters divided into three groups: Inner Chapters (nèipiān 內偏; chapters 1-7), Outer Chapters (wàipiān 外偏; chapters 8-22), and Miscellaneous Chapters (zápiān 雜偏; chapters 23-33).”—Livia Kohn

“In contrast to the Daode jing, Zhuāngzĭ 莊子 is not concerned with society but finds the individual mind of central importance. He thoroughly rejects involvement with government and reinterprets non-action (wúwéi 無為) as a mental state to be realized by the individual instead of as a political doctrine.”—Livia Kohn

“In this his view is similar to the later Chan Buddhist idea of no-mind (wúxīn 無心) and anticipates the notion of oblivion (see zuòwàng 坐忘). Moreover, Zhuāngzĭ 莊子 does not see history and moral development as key factors but insists that the Golden Age of the past is gone once and for all, the sages of old being only dust and bones. Instead of trying to recover what is gone, one should rather look forward, enjoy life as long as it lasts in “free and easy wondering” (xiāoyáo 逍遙), by going along with the changes and transformations of the world in as much of a realization of spontaneity (zìrán 自然) as one can manage.”—Livia Kohn

Earlier, in the entry ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (REAL NOTES ON UNREAL EXPECTATIONS): Zhēnrén 真人 Real Man or Woman I have already cited Chapter 6, but now rereading translation by Livia Kohn I had found another part of this chapter; together they both can give more clear picture of perfectness now, I guess.

“What, then, are the perfected? The perfected of old did not resent being humble, did not take pride in success, and never plotted their affairs. From this basis, they could be without regret if things went wrong, remain free from self-congratulation when they went right.”

“For this reason, they could climb high places without getting scared, dive into water without getting soaked, and pass through fire without getting hot. Their understanding was such that they could rise up and join Tao at all times. The perfected of old slept without dreaming and woke without concerns. Their food was plain and their breath deep. In fact, the perfected breathes all the way to the heels while the multitude breath just to the throat—bent over and submissive, they croak out words as if they were retching; full of intense passions and desires, they have only the thinnest connection to heaven.”

“The perfected of old had no clue about loving life and hating death. They came to life without celebration; they left again without messiness. Calmly they came, calmly they went—and that is all. They never forgot where they came from; they never inquired about where they would end. They received whatever came and enjoyed it; they lost whatever went and just let it go. This way of being in the world is called not using the mind to oppose Tao, not using human faculties to assist heaven. This, indeed, is what the perfected are like.”

“The perfected of old maintained social responsibility and never waivered, accepting nothing even when in dire straits. They were dedicated to observing the rules but not rigid about them; extensive in their emptiness but not fanciful with it. Humble and withdrawing, they were always cheerful; eminent and superior, they gave themselves no airs. Collected, they knew how to present a proper demeanor; outgoing, they knew when to stop within the range of their inherent potency.”

“Open-minded, they seemed to be just like everyone else; self-contained, they yet went beyond all constraints. Linked in, they seemed like they enjoyed a bit of leisure; spaced out, they forgot what they were trying to say.”

“They considered punishments as the substance [of government], propriety as its supporting wings, wisdom as the key to good timing, and inherent potency as its main guideline. Punishments as substance means being lenient in the infliction of death; propriety as supporting wings means behaving with care in the world; wisdom as key to good timing means not elevating personal causes above the needs of affairs; and inherent potency as the main guideline means taking things one step at a time to get up the hill.”

Translation by Livia Kohn in Chuang-tsu: The Tao of Perfect Happiness—Selections annotated & explained, 2011 SkyLight Paths Publishing

One small lesson I took after having done with Encyclopedia of Taoism reading first time: if I would choose my next reading in taoism, along three sources (1) Daodejing, (2) Zhuangzi, and (3) Nèiyè 內業 (“Inner Cultivation” or “Inner Development”) I would like to reread Neiye (generally dated to 350-300) due to one splendid feature: this is the oldest text and therefore it is closer to those people which now we can consider ‘perfected’. I understand that ‘perfected’ of old times are gone and they are just ‘dust and bones’ now. I understand that I am not one of them. But in addition I understand that several times during the day I am within those ideas and I feel that time of the day is really mine. Perfectly well feeling to see the world by the eyes of those who lived thousand years ago and thousand of miles away but still are one thousand right in cultivation of inner development.

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