Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Chuang Tzu 29
The Taoist Text, Chapter 29
The Robber Kih.1. Confucius was on terms of friendship with Liû-hsiâ Kì, who had a brother named Tâo Kih. This Tâo Kih had 9,000 followers, who marched at their will through the kingdom, assailing and oppressing the different princes. They dug through walls and broke into houses; they drove away people's cattle and horses; they carried off people's wives and daughters. In their greed to get, they forgot the claims of kinship, and paid no regard to their parents and brethren. They did not sacrifice to their ancestors. Wherever they passed through the country, in the larger states the people guarded their city walls, and in the smaller the people took to their strongholds. All were distressed by them.
Confucius spoke to Liû-hsiâ Kì, saying, "Fathers should be able to Jay down the law to their sons, and elder to instruct their younger brothers. If they are unable to do so, they do not fulfil the duties of the relationships which they sustain. You, Sir, are one of the most talented officers of the age, and your younger brother is this Robber Kih. He is a pest in the kingdom, and you are not able to instruct him better; I cannot but be ashamed of you, and I beg to go for you and give him counsel." Liû-hsiâ Kì replied, "You say, Sir, that fathers must be able to lay down the law to their sons, and elder to instruct their younger brothers, but if sons will not listen to the orders of their fathers, nor the younger receive the lessons of their elder brothers, though one may have your powers of persuasion, what is to be done? And, moreover, Kih is a man whose mind is like a gushing fountain, and his will like a whirlwind; he is strong enough to resist all enemies, and clever enough to gloss over his wrong-doings. If you agree with him, he is glad; if you oppose him, he is enraged; and he readily meets men with the language of abuse. You must not go to him."
Confucius, however, did not attend to this advice. With Yen Hui as his charioteer, and Tsze-kung seated on the right, he went to see Tâo Kih, whom he found with his followers halted on the south of Thâi-shan, and mincing men's livers, which he gave them to eat. Confucius alighted from his carriage, and went forward, till he saw the usher, to whom he said, "I, Khung Khiû of Lû, have heard of the general's lofty righteousness," bowing twice respectfully to the man as he said so. The usher went in and announced the visitor. But when Tâo Kih heard of the arrival, he flew into a great rage; his eyes became like blazing stars, and his hair rose up and touched his cap. "Is not this fellow," said he, "Khung Khiû, that artful hypocrite of Lû? Tell him from me, "You invent speeches and babble away, appealing without ground to (the examples of) Wan and Wû. The ornaments on your cap are as many as the branches of a tree, and your girdle is (a piece of skin) from the ribs of a dead ox, The more you talk, the more nonsense you utter. You get your food without (the labour of) ploughing, and your clothes without (that of) weaving. You wag your lips and make your tongue a drum-stick. You arbitrarily decide what is right and what is wrong, thereby leading astray the princes throughout the kingdom, and making its learned scholars not occupy their thoughts with their proper business. You recklessly set up your filial piety and fraternal duty, and curry favour with the feudal princes, the wealthy and the noble. Your offence is great; your crime is very heavy. Take yourself off home at once. If you do not do so, I will take your liver, and add it to the provision for to-day's food.""
But Confucius sent in another message, saying, "I enjoy the good will of (your brother) Kì, and I wish and hope to tread the ground beneath your tent." When the usher had communicated this message, Tâo Kih said, "Make him come forward." On this Confucius hastened forwards. Declining to take a mat, he drew hastily back, and bowed twice to Tâo Kih, who in a great rage stretched his legs apart, laid his hand on his sword, and with glaring eyes and a voice like the growl of a nursing tigress, said, "Come forwards, Khiû. If what you say be in accordance with my mind, you shall live; but, if it be contrary to it, you shall die." Confucius replied, "I have heard that everywhere under the sky there are three (most excellent) qualities. To be naturally tall and large, to be elegant and handsome without a peer, so that young and old, noble and mean, are pleased to look upon him;- this is the highest of those qualities. To comprehend both heaven and earth in his wisdom, and to be able to speak eloquently on all subjects;- this is the middle one of them. To be brave and courageous, resolute and daring, gathering the multitudes round him, and leading on his troops;- this is the lowest of them. Whoever possesses one of these qualities is fit to stand with his face to the south, and style himself a Prince. But you, General, unite in yourself all the three. Your person is eight cubits and two inches in height; there is a brightness about your face and a light in your eyes; your lips look as if stained with vermilion; your teeth are like rows of precious shells; your voice is attuned to the musical tubes, and yet you are named "The Robber Kih." I am ashamed of you, General, and cannot approve of you. If you are inclined to listen to me, I should like to go as your commissioner to Wû and Yüeh in the south; to Khì and Lû in the north; to Sung and Wei in the cast; and to Tsin and Khû in the west. I will get them to build for you a great city several hundred lì in size, to establish under it towns containing several hundred thousands of inhabitants, and honour you there as a feudal lord. The kingdom will see you begin your career afresh; you will cease from your wars and disband your soldiers; you will collect and nourish your brethren, and along with them offer the sacrifices to your ancestors:- this will be a course befitting a sage and an officer of ability, and will fulfil the wishes of the whole kingdom."
"Come forward, Khiû," said Tâo Kih, greatly enraged. "Those who can be persuaded by considerations of gain, and to whom remonstrances may be addressed with success, are all ignorant, low, and ordinary people. That I am tall and large, elegant and handsome, so that all who see me are pleased with me;- this is an effect of the body left me by my parents. Though you were not to praise me for it, do I not know it myself? And I have heard that he who likes to praise men to their face will also like to speak ill of them behind their back. And when you tell me of a great wall and a multitudinous people, this is to try to persuade me by considerations of gain, and to cocker me as one of the ordinary people. But how could such advantages last for long? Of all great cities there is none so great as the whole kingdom, which was possessed by Yâo and Shun, while their descendants (now) have not so much territory as would admit an awl. Thang and Wû were both set up as the Sons of Heaven, but in after ages (their posterity) were cut off and extinguished;- was not this because the gain of their position was so great a prize?
"And moreover I have heard that anciently birds and beasts were numerous, and men were few, so that they lived in nests in order to avoid the animals. In the daytime they gathered acorns and chestnuts, and in the night they roosted on the trees; and on account of this they are called the people of the Nest-builder. Anciently the people did not know the use of clothes. In summer they collected great stores of faggots, and in winter kept themselves warm by means of them; and on account of this they are called the people who knew how to take care of their lives. In the age of Shan Nang, the people lay down in simple innocence, and rose up in quiet security. They knew their mothers, but did not know their fathers. They dwelt along with the elks and deer. They ploughed and ate; they wove and made clothes; they had no idea of injuring one another:- this was the grand time of Perfect virtue. Hwang-Tì, however, was not able to perpetuate this virtuous state. He fought with Khih-yû in the wild of Ko-lû till the blood flowed over a hundred lì. When Yâo and Shun arose, they instituted their crowd of ministers. Thang banished his lord. King Wû killed Kâu. Since that time the strong have oppressed the weak, and the many tyrannised over the few. From Thang and Wû downwards, (the rulers) have all been promoters of disorder and confusion. You yourself now cultivate and inculcate the ways of Wan and Wû; you handle whatever subjects are anywhere discussed for the instruction of future ages. With your peculiar robe and narrow girdle, with your deceitful speech and hypocritical conduct, you delude the lords of the different states, and are seeking for riches and honours. There is no greater robber than you are;- why does not all the world call you the Robber Khiû, instead of styling me the Robber Kih?
"You prevailed by your sweet speeches on Tsze-lû, and made him your follower; you made him put away his high cap, lay aside his long sword, and receive your instructions, so that all the world said, "Khung Khiû is able to arrest violence and repress the wrong-doer;" but in the end, when Tsze-lû wished to slay the ruler of Wei, and the affair proved unsuccessful, his body was exhibited in pickle over the eastern gate of the capital;- so did your teaching of him come to nothing.
"Do you call yourself a scholar of talent, a sage? Why, you were twice driven out of Lû; you had to run away from Wei; you were reduced to extremity in Khì; you were held in a state of siege between Khan and Tshâi; there is no resting-place for your person in the kingdom; your instructions brought Tsze-lû to pickle. Such have been the misfortunes (attending your course). You have done no good either for yourself or for others;- how can your doctrines be worth being thought much of?
"There is no one whom the world exalts so much as it does Hwang-Tì, and still he was not able to perfect his virtue, but fought in the wilderness of Ko-lû, till the blood flowed over a hundred lì. Yâo was not kind to his son. Shun was not filial. Yü was paralysed on one side. Thang banished his sovereign. King Wû smote Kâu. King Wan was imprisoned in Yû-lì. These are the six men of whom the world thinks the most highly, yet when we accurately consider their history, we see that for the sake of gain they all disallowed their true (nature), and did violence to its proper qualities and tendencies:- their conduct cannot be thought of but with deep shame.
"Among those whom the world calls men of ability and virtue were (the brothers) Po-Î and Shû-khì. They declined the rule of Kû-kû, and died of starvation on the hill of Shâu-yang, leaving their bones and flesh unburied. Pâo Tsiâo vaunted his conduct, and condemned the world, but he died with his arms round a tree. When Shan-thû Tì's remonstrances were not listened to, he fastened a stone on his back, and threw himself into the Ho, where he was eaten by the fishes and turtles. Kieh Tsze-thui was the most devoted (of followers), and cut a piece from his thigh as food for duke Wan. But when the duke afterwards overlooked him (in his distribution of favours), he was angry, and went away, and was burned to death with a tree in his arms. Wei Shang had made an appointment with a girl to meet him under a bridge; but when she did not come, and the water rose around him, he would not go away, and died with his arms round one of the pillars. (The deaths of) these four men were not different from those of the dog that is torn in pieces, the pig that is borne away by a current, or the beggar (drowned in a ditch) with his alms-gourd in his hand. They were all caught as in a net by their (desire for) fame, not caring to nourish their life to its end, as they were bound to do.
"Among those whom the world calls faithful ministers there have been none like the prince Pì-kan and Wû Tsze-hsü. But Tsze-hsü's (dead) body was cast into the Kiang, and the heart of Pì-kan was cut out. These two were what the world calls loyal ministers, but the end has been that everybody laughs at them. Looking at all the above cases, down to those of Tsze-hsü and Pì-kan, there is not one worthy to be honoured; and as to the admonitions which you, Khiû, wish to impress on me, if you tell me about the state of the dead, I am unable to know anything about it; if you tell me about the things of men (alive), they are only such as I have stated, what I have heard and know all about. I will now tell you, Sir, my views about the condition of man. The eyes wish to look on beauty; the ears to hear music; the mouth to enjoy flavours; the will to be gratified. The greatest longevity man can reach is a hundred years; a medium longevity is eighty years; the lowest longevity is sixty. Take away sickness, pining, bereavement, mourning, anxieties, and calamities, the times when, in any of these, one can open his mouth and laugh, are only four or five days in a month. Heaven and earth have no limit of duration, but the death of man has its (appointed) time. Take the longest amount of a limited time, and compare it with what is unlimited, its brief existence is not different from the passing of a crevice by one of king Mû's horses. Those who cannot gratify their will and natural aims, and nourish their appointed longevity, are all unacquainted with the (right) Way (of life). I cast from me, Khiû, all that you say. Be quick and go. Hurry back and say not a word more. Your Way is only a wild recklessness, deceitful, artful, vain, and hypocritical. It is not available to complete the true (nature of man); it is not worth talking about!"
Confucius bowed twice, and hurried away. He went out at the door, and mounted his carriage. Thrice he missed the reins as he tried to take hold of them. His eyes were dazed, and he could not see; and his colour was that of slaked lime. He laid hold of the cross-bar, holding his head down, and unable to draw his breath. When he got back, outside the east gate of (the capital of) Lû, he encountered Liû-hsiâ Kì, who said to him, "Here you are, right in the gate. For some days I have not seen you. Your carriage and horses are travel-stained;- have you not been to see Tâo Kih?" Confucius looked up to heaven, sighed, and said, "Yes." The other went on, "And did he not set himself in opposition to all your views, as I said he would do?" "He did. My case has been that of the man who cauterised himself without being ill. I rushed away, stroked the tiger's head, played with his whiskers, and narrowly escaped his mouth."
Tsze-kang said, "Formerly Kieh and Kâu each enjoyed the honour of being the sovereign, and all the wealth of the kingdom was his; but if you now say to a (mere) money-grabber, "Your conduct is like that of Kieh or Kâu," he will look ashamed, and resent the imputation:- (these two sovereigns) are despised by the smallest men. Kung-nì and Mo Tì (on the other hand) were poor, and common men; but if you say to a Prime Minister that his conduct is like that of Kung-nì or Mo Tì, then he will be put out and change countenance, and protest that he is not worthy (to be so spoken of):- (these two philosophers) are held to be truly noble by (all) scholars. Thus it is that the position of sovereign does not necessarily connect with being thought noble, nor the condition of being poor and of common rank with being thought mean. The difference of being thought noble or mean arises from the conduct being good or bad." Mân KAu-teh replied, "Small robbers are put in prison; a great robber becomes a feudal lord; and in the gate of the feudal lord your righteous scholars will be found. For instance, Hsiâo-po, the duke Hwan, killed his elder brother, and took his sister-in-law to himself, and yet Kwan Kung became his minister; and Thien Khang, styled Khang-tsze, killed his ruler, and usurped the state, and yet Confucius received a present of silks from him. In their discussions they would condemn the men, but in their conduct they abased themselves before them. In this way their words and actions must have been at war together in their breasts;- was it not a contradiction and perversity? As it is said in a book, "Who is bad? and who is good? The successful is regarded as the Head, and the unsuccessful as the Tail.""
Tsze-kang said, "If you do not follow the usual course of what is held to be right, but observe no distinction between the near and remote degrees of kin, no difference between the noble and the mean, no order between the old and the young, then how shall a separation be made of the fivefold arrangement (of the virtues), and the six parties (in the social organisation)?" Mân Kâu-teh replied, "Yâo killed his eldest son, and Shun banished his half-brother":- did they observe the rules about the different degrees of kin? Thang deposed Kieh; king Wû overthrew Kâu:- did they observe the righteousness that should obtain between the noble and the mean? King Kì took the place of his elder brother, and the duke of Kâu killed his:- did they observe the order that should obtain between the elder and the younger? The Literati make hypocritical speeches; the followers of Mo hold that all should be loved equally:- do we find in them the separation of the fivefold arrangement (of the virtues), and the six parties (in the social organisation)? And further, you, Sir, are all for reputation, and I am all for gain; but where the actual search for reputation and gain may not be in accordance with principle and will not bear to be examined in the light of the right way, let me and you refer the matter to-morrow to the decision of Wû-yo."
(This Wû-yo) said, "The small man pursues after wealth; the superior man pursues after reputation. The way in which they change their feelings and alter their nature is different; but if they were to cast away what they do, and replace it with doing nothing, they would be the same. Hence it is said, "Do not be a small man;- return and pursue after the Heavenly in you. Do not be a superior man;- follow the rule of the Heavenly in you. Be it crooked, be it straight, view the thing in the light of Heaven as revealed in you. Look all round on every side of it, and as the time indicates, cease your endeavours. Be it right, be it wrong, hold fast the ring in yourself in which all conditions converge. Alone by yourself, carry out your idea; ponder over the right way. Do not turn your course; do not try to complete your righteousness. You will fail in what you do. Do not haste to be rich; do not follow after your perfection. If you do, you will lose the heavenly in you."
"Pì-kan had his heart cut out; Tsze-hsü had his eyes gouged out:- such were the evil consequences of their loyalty. The upright person bore witness against his father; Wei Shang was drowned:- such were the misfortunes of good faith. Pao-tsze stood till he was dried up; Shan-tsze would not defend himself:- such were the injuries brought on by disinterestedness. Confucius did not see his mother; Khwang-tsze did not see his father:- such were the failures of the righteous. These are instances handed down from former ages, and talked about in these later times. They show us how superior men, in their determination to be correct in their words and resolute in their conduct, paid the penalty of these misfortunes, and were involved in these distresses."
"Yâo and Shun were the sovereigns, and harmony prevailed. It did so, not because of their benevolence towards the people;- they would not, for what was (deemed) admirable, injure their lives. Shan Küan and Hsü Yü might have been the sovereigns, but they would not receive the throne;- not that they declined it without purpose, but they would not by its occupancy injure themselves. These all followed after what was advantageous to them, and declined what was injurious, and all the world celebrates their superiority. Thus, though they enjoy the distinction, they did what they did, not for the sake of the reputation and praise.)"
Dissatisfied (continued his argument), saying, "In thus thinking it necessary for their reputation, they bitterly distressed their bodies, denied themselves what was pleasant, and restricted themselves to a bare sustenance in order to sustain their life; but so they had life-long distress, and long-continued pressure till their death arrived." Know-the-Mean replied, "Tranquil ease is happiness; a superfluity is injurious:- so it is with all things, and especially it is so, where the superfluity is of wealth. The ears of the rich are provided with the music of bells, drums, flageolets and flutes; and their mouths are stuffed with the flesh of fed beasts and with wine of the richest flavour; so are their desires satisfied, till they forget their proper business:- theirs may be pronounced a condition of disorder. Sunk deeply in their self-sufficiency, they resemble individuals ascending a height with a heavy burden on their backs:- their condition may be pronounced one of bitter suffering. They covet riches, thinking to derive comfort from them; they covet power, and would fain monopolise it; when quiet and retired, they are drowned in luxurious indulgence; their persons seem to shine, and they are full of boasting:- they may be said to be in a state of disease. In their desire to be rich and striving for gain, they fill their stores, and, deaf to all admonition, refuse to desist from their course. They are even more elated, and hold on their way:- their conduct may be pronounced disgraceful. When their wealth is amassed till they cannot use it, they clasp it to their breasts and will not part with it; when their hearts are distressed with their very fulness, they still seek for more and will not desist:- their condition may be said to be sad. In-doors they are apprehensive of pilfering and begging thieves, and out-of-doors they are afraid of being injured by plundering robbers; in-doors they have many chambers and partitions, and out-of-doors they do not dare to go alone: they may be said to be in a state of (constant) alarm.
"These six conditions are the most deplorable in the world, but they forget them all, and have lost their faculty of judgment. When the evil comes, though they begged it with all the powers of their nature, and by the sacrifice of all their wealth, they could not bring back one day of untroubled peace. When they look for their reputation, it is not to be seen; when they seek for their wealth, it is not to be got. To task their thoughts, and destroy their bodies, striving for (such an end as) this;- is it not a case of great delusion ?"
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