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Chuang Tsu: Inner Chapters Paperback – Illustrated, January 1, 2000
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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Text: English, Chinese (translation)
Original Language: Chinese --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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A student climbs to the top of a mountain and finds two old enlightened masters sitting there. One of them is Chaung Tsu, and they invite him to sit. "I have come to learn from your wisdom, great master" says the student.
Chaung Tsu begins: "Now I am going to tell you something. I don't know what heading it comes under, and whether or not it is relevent here, but it must be relevent at some point. It is not anything new, but I would like to say it."
The student sits forward and gives Chaung Tsu his full attention. Unseen by the student, the other master catches the twinkle in Chaung Tsu's eyes and knowingly shakes his head.
"There is a beginning", continues Chaung Tsu. "There is no beginning of that beginning. There is no beginning of that no beginning of beginning. There is something. There is nothing. There is something before the beginning of something and nothing, and something before that. Suddenly there is something and nothing! (But between something and nothing, I still don't really know which is something and which is nothing.) Now, I've just said something, but I don't really know whether I've said anything or not."
The would-be student stares slack-jawed at Chaung Tsu. He makes as if to speak a question, and then snaps his mouth shut. After some time, he slowly gets to his feet, stammerrs "thank you", and then slowly departs down the mountain from whence he came.
When he has gone, the other enlightened master turns to Chaung Tsu and scolds "why do you do that? He only wanted to learn."
"He came expecting some deep truth with which to adorn his mind", replies Chaung Tsu, "and yet what he came seeking is already within him. The clutter in his mind only prevents him from seeing it. As long as he believes his mind is the tool which will lead him to enlightenment, he will never achieve it. He will now go and turn my words over and over in his head until his rational mind is so weary it cries itself to sleep like a baby. Then with it out of the way, perhaps he will catch a glimpse of the truth which he seeks."
"Besides", continues Chaung Tsu with a wink, "I just like messing with people."
The words whisper things that my inner self already knows, but needs to remember.
One can meditate on the words, or the wonderful black and white photos.
Each page includes the ancient Chinese script of the text.
The cook explains to his prince that before cutting up an ox he examines the ox carefully. Then he exerts pressure where it will be most effective, avoiding parts that will give resistance, such as tendons, ligaments, and joints.
The message I get from this is that one should know when hard work will make a difference, and when it will not. One should exert one’s efforts where they are likely to be successful, while avoiding endeavors where one cannot expect to win.
Such a message is un American. We Americans are taught that we can be anything we want to be. Unfortunately, the events of our lives often teach us otherwise.
Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Coolidge’s advice appeals to those with high goals in life. Nevertheless, the idea that one should keep trying in an area where one has experienced repeated failure would seem foolish to Chuang Tsu.
Chuang Tsu does not recommend laziness. He advises one to practice acceptance and adaptability. He seems to say, “Notice and develop your talents. Recognize and take advantage of opportunities. Nevertheless, do not waste your time and effort in endeavors where success is impossible.”
In Chapter Four he writes, “Do you know the story of the praying mantis? It raised its arm to stop an approaching carriage unaware that this was beyond its power…Watch out and be careful.”
Throughout his treatise Chuang Tsu teaches that one should perform with competence and behave with integrity, without being obsessed with the outcome. He recommends envy for a gnarled tree, because it was not cut down for wood, and of a cripple, because he was not conscripted into the army. One should remain serene. Strong emotions reduce the efficacy of one’s efforts.
The appeal of the writings of Chuang Tsu, like the appeal of Lao Tsu, who lived two hundred years earlier, and who wrote the Tao Te Ching, is to those who have learned that they cannot be everything they want to be. Like Lao Tsu, Chuang Tsu must have appealed to those who could not pass the Imperial Exams, and who were trying to find meaning in their lives.
The message of both philosophers is this: you do not need to win in competitive endeavors to be honorable.