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Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters




At the origin of things there was Thunder (Shu), ruler of the Southern Ocean, and Bolt (Hu), ruler of the Northern Ocean. And in the Middle Realm, PrimalDark (Hun Tun) ruled. Thunder and Bolt often met together in the lands of PrimalDark, and PrimalDark was always a most gracious host. Eventually, Thunder and Bolt tried to think of a way to repay PrimalDark's kindness. They said: "People all have seven holes so they can see and hear, eat and breathe. Only PrimalDark is without them. Why don't we try cutting some for her?"

So ThunderBolt began cutting holes, one each day. On the seventh day, PrimalDark was dead.




Facing death, animals don't care what their cries sound like. Panting furiously, their minds grow fierce and wild. And if you push people far enough, they respondin the most dishonorable ways. They don't realize what they're doing. And if they don't realize what they're doing, who knows where it will all end.




The true sages of old never loved life and never hated death. They never delighted in going forth and never resisted returning to rest. They came on a whim and went on a whim. They never forgot their origin, and they never searched into their extinction. They savored this gift they'd been given and forgot it when they gave it back.




Long ago, a certain Chuang Tzu dreamt he was a butterfly— a butterfly fluttering here and there on a whim, happy and carefree, knowing nothing of Chuang Tzu. Then all of a sudden he woke to find that he was, beyond all doubt, Chuang Tzu. Who knows if it was Chuang Tzu dreaming a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming Chuang Tzu? Chuang Tzu and butterfly: clearly there's a difference. This is called the transformation of things.




This Mighty Mudball of a world burdens us with a body, troubles us with life, eases us with old age, and with death gives us rest. We call our life a blessing, so our death must be a blessing too.




We're cast into this human form, and it's such happiness. This human form knows change, but the ten thousand changes are utterly boundless. Who could calculate the joys they promise?

And so the sage wanders where nothing is hidden and everything is preserved. The sage calls dying young a blessing and living long a blessing, calls beginnings a blessing and endings a blessing. We might make such a person our teacher, but there's something the ten thousand things belong to, something all change depends upon— imagine making that your teacher!




Birth and death, living and dead, failure and success, poverty and wealth, homor and dishonor, slander and praise, hunger and thirst, hot and cold— such are the transformations of this world, the movements of its inevitable nature. They keep vanishing into one another before our very eyes, day in and day out, but we'll never calibrate what drives them. So how can they steal our serenity, how can they plunder the spirit's treasure-house? If you let them move together, at ease and serene, you'll never lose your joy. And if you do this without pause, day in and day out, you'll invest all things with spring. Then mingling it all together, you'll bring seasons alive in the mind.


When we sleep, our spirits roam. When we wake, we open to the world again. Day after day, all that we touch entangles us, and the mind struggles in that net: vast and calm, deep and subtle.


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