Thomas Merton’s translation of the Taoist writer, Chuang Tzu
The visuals are scenes of Point Isabel on a late Sunday afternoon in Richmond, California.
The basic writings of Chuang Tzu have been savored by Chinese readers for over two thousand years. And Burton Watson’s lucid and beautiful translation has been loved by generations of readers.
Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi) (approx 369-286 B.C.) was a leading philosopher representing the Taoist strain in Chinese thought. Using parable and anecdote, allegory and paradox, he set forth, in the book that bears his name, the early ideas of what was to become the Taoist school. Central to these is the belief that only by understanding Tao (the Way of Nature) and dwelling in its unity can man achieve true happiness and freedom, in both life and death.
“Great wisdom is generous; petty wisdom is contentious. Great speech is impassioned, small speech cantankerous.
For whether the soul is locked in sleep or whether in waking hours the body moves, we are striving and struggling with the immediate circumstances. Some are easy-going and leisurely, some are deep and cunning, and some are secretive.
Now we are frightened over petty fears, now disheartened and dismayed over some great terror. Now the mind flies forth like an arrow from a cross-bow, to be the arbiter of right and wrong. Now it stays behind as if sworn to an oath, to hold on to whatit has secured. Then, as under autumn and winter’s blight, comes gradual decay, and submerged in its own occupations, it keeps on running its course, never to return. Finally, worn out and imprisoned, it is choked up like an old drain, and the failing mind shall not see light again.
Joy and anger, sorrow and happiness, worries and regrets, indecision and fears, come upon us by turns, with ever-changing moods, like music from the hollows, or like mushrooms from damp. Day and night they alternate within us, but we cannot tell whence they spring. Alas! Alas! Could we for a moment lay our finger upon their very Cause?
At the still point in the centre of the circle one can see the infinite in all things.
Let your mind wander in simplicity, blend your spirit with the vastness, follow along with things the way they are.
Our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.
Perfect happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
The superior person uses his mind like a mirror: it accepts all, it reflects all. It receives, but it does not keep.
To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.
When deeds and words are in accord, the whole world is transformed.
When there is no more separation between ‘this’ and ‘that,’ it is called the still-point of the Tao.