When Life Was Full


In the age when life on earth was full, no one paid any special attention to worthy men, nor did they single out the man of ability.  Rulers were simply the highest branches on the tree, and the people were like deer in the woods.  They were honest and righteous without realizing that they were “doing their duty.”  They loved each other and did not know that this was “love of neighbor.”  They deceived no one yet they did not know that they were “men to be trusted.”  They were reliable and did not know that this was “good faith.”  They lived freely together giving and taking, and did not know that they were generous.  For this reason their deeds have not been narrated.  They made no history.

-Chuang Tzu

 

When Knowledge Went North


Knowledge wandered north
Looking for Tao, over the Dark Sea,
And up the Invisible Mountain.
There on the mountain he met
Non-Doing, the Speechless One.

He inquired:
"Please inform me, Sir,
By what system of thought
And what technique of meditation
I can apprehend Tao?
By what renunciation
Or what solitary retirement
May I rest in Tao?
Where must I start,
What road must I follow
To reach Tao?


Such were his three questions.
Non-Doing, the Speechless One,
Made no reply.
Not only that,
He did not even know
How to reply!


Knowledge swung south
To the Bright Sea
And climbed the Luminous Mountain
Called "Doubt's End."
Here he met
Act-on-Impulse, the Inspired Prophet,
And asked the same questions.


"Ah," cried the Inspired One,
"I have the answers, and I will reveal them!"
But just as he was about to tell everything,
He forgot all he had in mind.
Knowledge got not reply.


So knowledge went at last
To the palace of Emperor Ti
And asked his questions of Ti.


Ti replied: "To exercise no-thought
And follow no-way of meditation
Is the first step toward understanding Tao.
To dwell nowhere
And rest in nothing
Is the first step toward resting in Tao.
To start from nowhere
And follow no road
Is the first step toward attaining Tao."


Knowledge replied: "You know this
And now I know it. But the other two,
They did not know it.
What about that?
Who is right?"
Ti replied:
Only Non-Doing, the Speechless One,
Was perfectly right.
He did not know.
Action-Impulse, the Inspired Prophet,
Only seemed right
Because he had forgotten.
As for us,
We come nowhere near being right,
Since we have the answers.
"For he who knows does not speak,
He who speaks does not know" (12)


And "The Wise Man gives instruction
Without the use of speech." (13)


This story got back
To Act-on-Impulse
Who agreed with Ti's
Way of putting it.


It is not reported
That Non-Doing ever heard of the matter
Or made any comment.