HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE HUGE, but they are alike in their transformations. The ten thousand things are numerous, but they are one in their good order. Human beings are many, but they are all subjects of the sovereign. The sovereign finds his source in Virtue, his completion in Heaven. Therefore it is said that the sovereign of dark antiquity ruled the world through inaction, through Heavenly Virtue and nothing more.

Look at words in the light of the Way ‑ then the sovereign of the world will be upright.1 Look at distinctions in the light of the Way ‑ then the duty2 of sovereign and subject will be clear. Look at abilities in the light of the Way ‑ then the officials of the world will be well ordered. Look everywhere in the light of the Way ‑ then the response of the ten thousand things will be complete.

Pervading Heaven and earth: that is the Way.3 Moving among the ten thousand things: that is Virtue. Superiors governing the men below them: that is called administration. Ability finding trained expression: that is called skill. Skill is subsumed in administration; administration in duty ; duty in Virtue; Virtue in the Way; and the Way in Heaven. Therefore it is said, those who shepherded the world in ancient times were without desire and the world was satisfied, without action and the ten thousand things were transformed. They were deep and silent and the hundred clans were at rest. The Record says: "Stick to the One and the ten thousand tasks will be accomplished; achieve mindlessness and the gods and spirits will bow down." 4

The Master said: 5 The Way covers and bears up the ten thousand things ‑ vast, vast is its greatness! The gentleman must pluck out his mind! To act through inaction is called Heaven. To speak through inaction is called Virtue. To love men and bring profit to things is called benevolence. To make the unlike alike is called magnitude. To move beyond barrier and distinction is called liberality. To possess the ten thousand unlikes is called wealth. To hold fast to Virtue is called enrootment. To mature in Virtue is called establishment. To follow the Way is called completion. To see that external things do not blunt the will is called perfection. When the gentleman clearly comprehends these ten things, then how huge will be the greatness of his mind setting forth, how endless his ramblings with the ten thousand things!

Such a man will leave the gold hidden in the mountains, the pearls hidden in the depths. He will see no profit in money and goods, no enticement in eminence and wealth, no joy in long life, no grief in early death, no honor in affluence, no shame in poverty. He will not snatch the profits of a whole generation and make them his private hoard; he will not lord it over the world and think that he dwells in glory. His glory is enlightenment, [for he knows that] the ten thousand things belong to one storehouse, that life and death share the same body.

The Master said: The Way ‑ how deep its dwelling, how pure its clearness! Without it, the bells and chiming stones will not sound. The bells and stones have voices but, unless they are struck, they will not sound. The ten thousand things ‑ who can make them be still?

The man of kingly Virtue moves in simplicity and is ashamed to be a master of facts. He takes his stand in the original source and his understanding extends to the spirits. Therefore his Virtue is far‑reaching. His mind moves forth only when some external thing has roused it. Without the Way the body can have no life, and without Virtue, life can have no clarity. To preserve the body and live out life, to establish Virtue and make clear the Way ‑ is this not kingly Virtue? Broad and boundless, suddenly he emerges, abruptly he moves, and the ten thousand things follow him ‑ this is what is called the man of kingly Virtue!

He sees in the darkest dark, hears where there is no sound. In the midst of darkness, he alone sees the dawn; in the midst of the soundless, he alone hears harmony. Therefore, in depth piled upon depth he can spy out the thing; in spirituality piled upon spirituality he can discover the essences So in his dealings with the ten thousand things he supplies all their wants out of total nothingness. Racing with the hour, he seeks lodging for a night, in the great, the small, the long, the short, the near, the far.7

The Yellow Emperor went wandering north of the Red Water, ascended the slopes of K'un‑lun, and gazed south. When he got home, he discovered he had lost his Dark Pearl. He sent Knowledge to look for it, but Knowledge couldn't find it. He sent the keen‑eyed Li Chu to look for it, but Li Chu couldn't find it. He sent Wrangling Debate to look for it, but Wrangling Debate couldn't find it. At last he tried employing Shapeless, and Shapeless found it.

The Yellow Emperor said, "How odd! ‑ in the end it was Shapeless who was able to find it!"

Yao's teacher was Hsu Yu, Hsu! Yu's teacher was Nieh Ch'ueh, Nieh Ch'ueh's teacher was Wang Ni, and Wang Ni's teacher was P'i‑i. Yao asked Hsu Yu, "Would Nieh Ch'ueh do as the counterpart of Heaven? I could get Wang Ni to ask him to take over the throne from me."

Hsu Yu said, "Watch out! You'll put the world in danger! Nieh Ch'ueh is a man of keen intelligence and superb understanding, nimble‑wined and sharp. His inborn nature surpasses that of other men, and he knows how to exploit what Heaven has given him through human devices. He would do his best to prevent error, but he doesn't understand the source from which error arises. Make him the counterpart of Heaven? Watch ‑ he will start leaning on men and forget about Heaven. He will put himself first and relegate others to a class apart. He will worship knowledge and chase after it with the speed of fire. He will become the servant of causes, the victim of things, looking in all four directions to see how things are faring, trying to attend to all wants, changing along with things and possessing no trace of any constancy of his own. How could he possibly do as counterpart of Heaven? However, there are clans and there are clan heads. He might do as the father of one branch, though he would never do as the father of the father of the branch. His kind are the forerunners of disorder, a disaster to the ministers facing north, a peril to the sovereign facing south!"

Yao was seeing the sights at Hua when the border guard of Hua said, "Aha ‑ a sage! I beg to offer up prayers for the sage. They will bring the sage long life!"

Yao said, "No, thanks."

"They ‑ will bring the sage riches!"

Yao said, "No, thanks."

"They will bring the sage many sons!"

Yao said, "No, thanks."

"Long life, riches, many sons ‑ these are what all men desire!" said the border guard. "How is it that you alone do not desire them?"

Yao said, "Many sons mean many fears. Riches mean many troubles. Long life means many shames. These three are of no use in nourishing Virtue ‑ therefore I decline them."

The border guard said, "At first I took you for a sage. Now I see you are a mere gentleman. When Heaven gives birth to the ten thousand people, it is certain to have jobs to assign them. If you have many sons and their jobs are assigned them, what is there to fear? If you share your riches with other men, what troubles will you have? The true sage is a quail at rest, a little fledgling at its meal, a bird in flight who leaves no trail behind. When the world has the Way, he joins in the chorus with all other things. When the world is without the Way, he nurses his Virtue and retires in leisure. And after a thousand years, should he weary of the world, he will leave it and ascend to the immortals, riding on those white clouds all the way up to the village of God. The three worries you have cited never touch him, his body is forever free of peril. How can he suffer any shame?"

The border guard turned and left. Yao followed him, saying, "Please ‑ I would like to ask you . . ."

"Go away!" said the border guard.

When Yao ruled the world, Po‑ch'eng Tzu‑kao was enfeoffed as one of his noblemen. But when Yao passed the throne to Shun, and Shun passed it to Yu, Po‑ch'eng Tzu‑kao relinquished his title and took up farming. Yu went to see him and found him working in the fields. Yu scurried forward in the humblest manner, came to a halt, and said, "In former times when Yao ruled the world, Sir, you served as one of his noblemen. But when Yao passed the throne to Shun, and Shun passed it to me, you relinquished your title and took up farming. May I be so bold as to ask why?"

Tzu‑kao said, "In former times when Yao ruled the world, he handed out no rewards and yet the people worked hard; he handed out no punishments and vet the people were cautious. Now you reward and punish, and still the people fail to do good. From now on Virtue will decay, from now on penalties will prevail. The disorder of future ages will have its beginning here! You had better be on your way now ‑ don't interrupt my work!" Busily, busily he proceeded with his farm work, never turning to look back.

In the Great Beginning, there was nonbeing; there was no being, no name. Out of it arose One; there was One, but it had no form. Things got hold of it and came to life, and it was called Virtue. Before things had forms, they had their allotments; these were of many kinds, but not cut off from one another, and they were called fates. Out of the flow and flux, things were born, and as they grew they developed distinctive shapes; these were called forms. The forms and bodies held within them spirits, each with its own characteristics and limitations, and this was called the inborn nature. If the nature is trained, you may return to Virtue, and Virtue at its highest peak is identical with the Beginning. Being identical, you will be empty; being empty, you will be great. You may join in the cheeping and chirping and, when you have joined in the cheeping and chirping, you may join with Heaven and earth. Your joining is wild and confused, as though you were stupid, as though you were demented. This is called Dark Virtue. Rude and unwitting, you take part in the Great Submission.

Confucius said to Lao Tan, "Here's a man who works to master the Way as though he were trying to talk down an opponent8 making the unacceptable acceptable, the not so, so. As the rhetoricians say, he can separate `hard' from `white' as clearly as though they were dangling from the eaves there. Can a man like this be called a sage?"

Lao Tan said, "A man like this is a drudging slave, a craftsman bound to his calling, wearing out his body, grieving his mind. Because the dog can catch rats, he ends up on a leash.' Because of his nimbleness, the monkey is dragged down from the mountain forest. Ch'iu,10 I'm going to tell you something ‑ something you could never hear for yourself and something you would never know how to speak of. People who have heads and feet but no minds and no ears ‑ there are mobs of them. To think that beings with bodies can all go on existing along with that which is bodiless and formless ‑ it can never happen! A man's stops and starts, his life and death, his rises and falls ‑ none of these can he do anything about. Yet he thinks that the mastery of them lies with man! Forget things, forget Heaven, and be called a forgetter of self. The man who has forgotten self may be said to have entered Heaven."

Chiang‑lu Mien went to see Chi Ch'e and said, "The ruler of Lu begged me to give him some instruction. I declined, but he wouldn't let me go and so I had no choice but to tell him something. I don't know whether what I said was right or not, but I would like to try repeating it to you. I said to the ruler of Lu, `You must be courteous and temperate! Pick out and promote those who are loyal and public‑spirited, allow no flattery or favoritism, and then who of your people will venture to be unruly?' "

Chi Ch'e heehawed with laughter. "As far as the Virtue of emperors and kings is concerned," he said, "your advice is like the praying mantis that waved its arms angrily in front of an approaching carriage ‑ it just isn't up to the job. If the ruler of Lu went about it that way, he would simply get himself all stirred up,11 place himself on a tower or a terrace. Then things would flock around him and the crowd would turn its steps in his direction!"

Chiang‑lu Mien's eyes bugged out in amazement. "I am dumfounded by your words," he said. "Nevertheless, I would like to hear how the Master would speak on this subject."

Chi Ch'e said, "When a great sage rules the world, he makes the minds of his people free and far‑wandering. On this basis he fashions teachings and simplifies customs, wiping out all treason from their minds and allowing each to pursue his own will. All is done in accordance with the inborn nature, and yet the people do not know why it is like this. Proceeding in this way, what need has he either to revere the way in which Yao and Shun taught their people, or to look down on it in lofty contempt? His only desire is for unity with Virtue and the repose of the mind."

Tzu‑kung traveled south to Ch'u, and on his way back through Chin, as he passed along the south bank of the Han, he saw an old man preparing his fields for planting. He had hollowed out an opening by which he entered the well and from which he emerged, lugging a pitcher, which he carried out to water the fields. Grunting and puffing, he used up a great deal of energy and produced very little result.

"There is a machine for this sort of thing," said Tzu‑kung. "In one day it can water a hundred fields, demanding very little effort .and producing excellent results. Wouldn't you like one?

The gardener raised his head and looked at Tzu‑kung. "How does it work?"

"It's a contraption made by shaping a piece of wood. The back end is heavy and the front end light and it raises the water as though it were pouring it out, so fast that it seems to boil right over! It's called a well sweep."

The gardener flushed with anger and then said with a laugh, "I've heard my teacher say, where there are machines, there are bound to be machine worries; where there are machine worries, there are bound to be machine hearts. With a machine heart in your breast, you've spoiled what was pure and simple; and without the pure and simple, the life of the spirit knows no rest. Where the life of the spirit knows no rest, the Way will cease to buoy you up. It's not that I don't know about your machine ‑ I would be ashamed to use it!"

Tzu‑kung blushed with chagrin, looked down, and made no reply. After a while, the gardener said, "Who are you, anyway?"

"A disciple of Kung Ch'iu." 12

"Oh ‑ then you must be one of those who broaden their learning in order to ape the sages, heaping absurd nonsense on the crowd, plucking the strings and singing sad songs all by yourself in hopes of buying fame in the world! You would do best to forget your spirit and breath, break up your body and limbs ‑ then you might be able to get somewhere. You don't even know how to look after your own body ‑ how do you have any time to think about looking after the world! On your way now! Don't interfere with my work!"

Tzu‑kung frowned and the color drained from his face. Dazed and rattled, he couldn't seem to pull himself together, and it was only after he had walked on for some thirty li that he began to recover.

One of his disciples said, "Who was that man just now? Why did you change your expression and lose your color like that, Master, so that it took you all day to get back to normal?"

"I used to think there was only one real man in the world," said Tzu‑kung. "I didn't know there was this other one. I have heard Confucius say that in affairs you aim for what is right, and in undertakings you aim for success. To spend little effort and achieve big results ‑ that is the Way of the sage. Now it seems that this isn't so. He who holds fast to the Way is complete in Virtue; being complete in Virtue, he is complete in body; being complete in body, he is complete in spirit; and to be complete in spirit is the Way of the sage. He is content to live among the people, to walk by their side, and never know where he is going. Witless, his purity is complete. Achievement, profit, machines, skill ‑ they have no place in this man's mind! A man like this will not go where he has no will to go, will not do what he has no mind to do. Though the world might praise him and say he had really found something, he would look unconcerned and never turn his head; though the world might condemn him and say he had lost something, he would look serene and pay no heed. The praise and blame of the world are no loss or gain to him. He may be called a man of Complete Virtue. I ‑ I am a man of the wind‑blown waves."

When Tzu‑kung got back to Lu, he reported the incident to Confucius. Confucius said, "He is one of those bogus practitioners of the arts of Mr. Chaos." He knows the first thing but doesn't understand the second. He looks after what is on the inside but doesn't look after what is on the outside. A man of true brightness and purity who can enter into simplicity, who can return to the primitive through inaction, give body to his inborn nature, and embrace his spirit, and in this way wander through the everyday world ‑ if you had met one like that, you would have had real cause for astonishment.14 As for the arts of Mr. Chaos, you and I need not bother to find out about them."

Chun Mang was on his way east to the Great Valley of the sea when he happened to meet Yuan Feng by the shore of the eastern ocean.15 Yuan Feng said, "Where are you going?"

"I'm going to the Great Valley."

"What will you do there?"

"The Great Valley is the sort of thing you can pour into and it never gets full, dip from and it never runs dry. I'm going to wander there."

Yuan Feng said, "Don't you care about what happens to ordinary men? Please, won't you tell me about the government of the sage?"

"The government of the sage?" said Chun Mang. "Assign offices so that no abilities are overlooked, promote men so that no talents are neglected. Always know the true facts and let men do what they are best at.. When actions and words proceed properly and the world is transformed, then at a wave of the hand or a tilt of the chin all the people of the four directions will come flocking to you. This is called the government of the sage."

"May I ask about the man of Virtue?"

"The man of Virtue rests without thought, moves without plan. He has no use for right and wrong, beautiful and ugly. To share profit with all things within the four seas is his happiness, to look after their needs is his peace. Sad‑faced, he's like a little child who has lost his mother. Bewildered, he's like a traveler who has lost his way. He has more than enough wealth and goods, but he doesn't know where they come from. He gets all he needs to eat and drink, but he doesn't know how he gets it. This is called the manner of the man of Virtue."

"May I ask about the man of spirit?"

"He lets his spirit ascend and mount upon the light; with his bodily form he dissolves and is gone. This is called the Illumination of Vastness. He lives out his fate, follows to the end his true form, and rests in the joy of Heaven and earth, while the ten thousand cares melt away. So all things return to their true form. This is called Muddled Darkness."

Men Wu‑kuei and Ch'ih‑chang Man‑chi were watching the troops of King Wu.16 Ch'ih‑chang Man‑chi said, "He is no match for the man of the Yu clan. That's why he runs into all this trouble!"

Men Wu‑kuei said, "Was the world already in good order when the man of the Yu clan came along to order it? Or was it in disorder and later he brought it to order?"

Ch'ih‑chang Man‑chi said, "Everybody wants to see the world well ordered. If it had been so already, what point would there have been in calling in the man of the Yu clan? The man of the Yu clan was medicine to a sore. But to wait until you go bald and then buy a wig, to wait until you get sick and then call for a doctor,, to prepare the medicine like a true filial son and present it to your loving father, wearing a grim and haggard look ‑ this the true sage would be ashamed to do. In an age of Perfect Virtue the worthy are not honored, the talented are not employed. Rulers are like the high branches of a tree, the people like the deer of the fields. They do what is right but they do not know that this is righteousness. They love one another but they do not know that this is benevolence. They are truehearted but do not know that this is loyalty. They are trustworthy but do not know that this is good faith. They wriggle around like insects, performing services for one another, but do not know that they are being kind. Therefore they move without leaving any trail behind, act without leaving any memory of their deeds."

When a filial son does not fawn on his parents, when a loyal minister does not flatter his lord, they are the finest of sons and ministers. He who agrees with everything his parents say and approves of everything they do is regarded by popular opinion as an unworthy son; he who agrees with everything his lord says and approves of everything his lord does is regarded by popular opinion as an unworthy minister.17 But in other cases men do not realize that the same principle should apply. If a man agrees with everything that popular opinion says and regards as good everything that popular opinion regards as good, he is not, as you might expect, called a sycophant and a flatterer. Are we to assume, then, that popular opinion commands more authority than one's parents, or is more to be honored than one's lord?

Call a man a sycophant and he flushes with anger; call him a flatterer and he turns crimson with rage. Yet all his life he will continue to be a sycophant, all his life he will continue to be a flatterer. See him set forth his analogies and polish his fine phrases to draw a crowd, until the beginning and end, the root and branches of his argument no longer match! 18 See him spread out his robes, display his bright colors, put on a solemn face in hopes of currying favor with the age ‑ and yet he does not recognize himself as a sycophant or a flatterer. See him with his followers laying down the law on right and wrong and yet he does not recognize himself as one of the mob. This is the height of foolishness!

He who knows he is a fool is not the biggest fool; he who knows he is confused is not in the worst confusion. The man in the worst confusion will end his life without ever getting straightened out; the biggest fool will end his life without ever seeing the light. If three men are traveling along and one is confused, they will still get where they are going ‑ because confusion is in the minority. But if two of them are confused, then they can walk until they are exhausted and never get anywhere ‑ because confusion is in the majority. And with all the confusion in the world these days, no matter how often I point the way, it does no good. Sad, is it not?

Great music is lost on the ears of the villagers, but play them "The Breaking of the Willow" or "Bright Flowers" and they grin from ear to car. In the same way, lofty words make no impression on the minds of the mob. Superior words gain no hearing because vulgar words are in the majority. It is like the case of the two travelers tramping along in confusion and never getting where they are going.19 With all the confusion in the world these days, no matter how often I point the way, what good does it do? And if I know it does no good and still make myself do it, this too is a kind of confusion. So it is best to leave things alone and not force them. If I don't force things, at least I won't cause anyone any worry.

When the leper woman gives birth to a child in the dead of the night, she rushes to fetch a torch and examine it, trembling with terror lest it look like herself.20

The hundred‑year‑old tree is hacked up to make bowls for the sacrificial wine, blue and yellow, with patterns on them, and the chips are thrown into the ditch. Compare the sacrificial bowls with the chips in the ditch and you will find them far apart in beauty and ugliness; yet they are alike in having lost their inborn nature. Robber Chih, Tseng, and Shih are far apart in deeds and righteousness, and yet they are the same in having lost their inborn nature. There are five conditions under which the inborn nature is lost. One: when the five colors confuse the eye and cause the eyesight to be unclear. Two: when the five notes confuse the ear and cause the hearing to be unclear. Three: when the five odors stimulate the nose and produce weariness and congestion in the forehead. Four: when the five flavors dull the mouth, causing the sense of taste to be impaired and lifeless. Five: when likes and dislikes unsettle the mind and cause the inborn nature to become volatile and flighty. These five are all a danger to life. And yet the followers of Yang Tzu and Mo Tzu go striding around, thinking they have really gotten hold of something.21 This is not what I call getting hold of something.

If what you have gotten has gotten you into trouble, then can you really be said to have gotten something? If so, then the pigeons and doves in their cage have also gotten hold of something. With likes and dislikes, sounds and colors you cripple what is on the inside; with leather caps and snipe-feathered bonnets, batons stuck in belts and sashes trailing, you cramp what is on the outside. The inside hemmed in by pickets and pegs, the outside heaped with wraps and swathes, and still you stand in this tangle of wraps and swathes and declare that you have gotten hold of something? If so, then the condemned men with their chained wrists and manacled fingers, the tiger and the leopard in their pens and prisons have also gotten hold of something! 22