Chuang Tzu Chapter 6, Section A

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Section A


He who knows the part which the Heavenly (in him) plays, and knows (also) that which the Human (in him ought to) play, has reached the perfection (of knowledge). He who knows the part which the Heavenly plays (knows) that it is naturally born with him; he who knows the part which the Human ought to play (proceeds) with the knowledge which he possesses to nourish it in the direction of what he does not (yet) know: to complete one's natural term of years and not come to an untimely end in the middle of his course is the fulness of knowledge. Although it be so, there is an evil (attending this condition). Such knowledge still awaits the confirmation of it as correct; it does so because it is not yet determined. How do we know that what we call the Heavenly (in us) is not the Human? and that what we call the Human is not the Heavenly? There must be the True man, and then there is the True knowledge.

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from Wandering on the Way: Taoist Tales and Parables

by Victor Mair


To know the actions of heaven and to know the actions of man,

that's the ultimate! She who knows the actions of heaven will live

in accordance with heaven. She who knows the actions of men

can nourish what is unknown to her intellect with what is known

to her intellect. Thus she can live out the years allotted to her by

heaven and not die midway. This is the height of knowledge.


However, there is still some difficulty. Namely, knowledge

has to depend on something for its consequent accuracy, but

that which it depends on is particularly unstable. How do we

know that what we attribute to heaven may not be due to man,

and that what we attribute to man may not be due to heaven?

Only when there is a true man is there true knowledge.


What is a true man? The true man of old did not oppose the

minority, did not strive for heroic accomplishments, and did not

scheme over affairs. Such being the case, he did not regret it

when he made a mistake nor feel smug when he was right. Such

being the case, he could climb high without trembling, enter

water without getting soaked, and enter fire without feeling hot.

Only one whose knowledge can ascend the heights of the Way

can be like this.


The true man of old did not dream when he slept and did

not worry when he was awake. His food was not savory, his

breathing was deep. The breathing of the true man is from his

heels, the breathing of the common man is from his throat. The

words of those who unwillingly yield catch in their throats as

though they were retching. Those whose desires are deep-seated

will have shallow natural reserves.


The true man of old knew neither fondness for life nor

aversion to death, was neither elated by going forth nor reluctant

to return. Casually he went and casually he came. He neither

forgot what his beginning had been nor sought what his end

would be. Happily he received and forgetfully he returned. This

is what is meant by not detracting from the Way with the mind,

not assisting heaven with the human. This is what we call a true



Such being the case, his mind was forgetful, his visage calm,

his forehead beamingly broad. Austere as autumn, warm as

spring, his joy and anger were in touch with the four seasons. He

was compatible with all things but no one knew his limits


The true man of old

Was towering in stature but never collapsed,

Seemed insufficient but accepted nothing;

Aloofly independent but not obstinate,

Amply empty but not ostentatious ,

Merry, as though he were happy,

Demurring, as though he were compelled,

Suffused with an alluring charm,

Endowed with an arresting integrity,

Stern, as though he were worldly,

Arrogant, as though he were uncontrollable,

Reticent, as though he preferred to clam up,

Absent-minded, as though he forgot what to say.


Thus his likes were reduced to one and his dislikes were also

reduced to one. His "one" was one and his "not one" was also

one. Being "one," he was a follower of heaven. Being "not one" he

was a follower of man. He in whom neither heaven nor man is

victorious over the other is called a true man.

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--- Work in Progress ---


Overall Summary





1. 第一部分至“是之谓真人”,虚拟一理想中的“真人”,“真人”能做到“天”、“人”不分,因而“真人”能做到“无人”、“无我”。“真人”的精神境界就是“道”的形象化。


The first part was to define what is a "natural person", virtually, it is to think about a "natural person". A "natural person" can be attained to a state of no separation between 'Heaven' and 'human' because a 'natural person' can be attained to a state of 'formless' and 'selfless'. The spirit of a 'natural person' is an imitated image of 'Tao'.


2. 第二部分至“而比于列星”,从描写“真人”逐步转为述说“道”,只有“真人”才能体察“道”,而“道”是“无为无形”而又永存的,因而体察“道”就必须“无人”、“无我”。这两段是全文论述的主体。


The second part of Chapter 6 was compared with all the stars in describing a "natural person" gradually rendering into 'Tao'. Only a 'natural person" can sense 'Tao', and 'Tao' is "natural(wu wei) and formless" but also in eternally existed. In order to sense and observe 'Tao', it must be 'formless' and 'selfless'. These two paragraphs are the main theme of the text.


3. 第三部分至“参寥闻之疑始”,讨论体察“道”的方法和进程。


The third part was up to 参寥(San Liao) in doubting the beginning of Tao, discussing the methods and procedure in the observation of Tao.


4. 第四部分至“蘧然觉”,说明人的死生存亡实为一体,无法逃避,因而应“安时而处顺”。


The fourth part was up to "surprisingly amazed", describing the life and death of human is integrated as a whole. It was inevitable, therefore one ought to be peaceful with the time and follow the trend in time.


5. 第五部分至“天之小人也”,进一步讨论人的死和生,指出死和生都是“气”的变化,是自然的现象,因而应“相忘以生,无所终穷”,只有这样精神才会超脱物外。


The fifth part was up to the "hypocrites", then he advanced to discuss the life and death of human. He pointed out that life and death was due to the mutation of Chi and it was a natural phenomenon. Therefore, one must forget "the existence of oneself, so, there is no end and no exhaustion". Only with this kind of spirit, so one can transcend outside the materialistic world.


6. 第六部分至“乃入于寥天一”,说明人的躯体有了变化而人的精神却不会死,安于自然、忘却死亡,便进入“道”的境界而与自然合成一体。


The sixth part was up to "human and heaven integrated as one"; it has described that the physical body has changes but the spirit of the soul never dies. Peaceful within the naturalness but forgotten about death. Then, entered the level of Tao to be in accord with the naturalness integrated as one body.


7. 第七部分至“此所游已”,批判儒家的仁义和是非观念,指出儒家的观念是对人的精神摧残。


The seventh part was up to "the creation of one's own free well", it was the criticism about the Confucian's ideas about benevolence and righteousness, and the matters of right or wrong. It points out that the Confucian ideas were tormenting the minds of the people.


8. 第八部分至“丘也请从而后也”,论述“离形去知,同于大通”是进入“道”的境界的方法。


9. 余下为第九部分,说明一切都由“命”所安排,即非人为之力所安排。


Original Classic Text
























































Modern interpretation









Edited by ChiDragon

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Overall Summary

“宗”(zong): implies to respect; to venerate. “大宗师” means a respectable and venerable teacher. Who can be this kind of teacher? That is 'Tao'. Zhuang Zi reckon that being natural(zi ren) and human, the life and death of human has no different. It was because he advocates purify the heart and quiet the mind, detached from the physical form and eliminated one's intelligence, forgotten about life and death, follow what is natural. That was called 'Tao".

There are nine parts to this chapter.

The first part was to define what is a "natural person", virtually, it is to think about a "natural person". A "natural person" can be attained to a state of no separation between 'Heaven' and 'human' because a 'natural person' can be attained to a state of 'formless' and 'selfless'. The spirit of a 'natural person' is an imitated image of 'Tao'.


Modern interpretation of Part 1

If one knows the purpose of 'naturalness' and also understand the action of human, then one was said to be attained to an ultimate level of knowledge. If one knew the purpose of 'naturalness', then one will know that all matters were came from 'naturalness'. If one understood the action of human, then one will use one's wisdom to acquire more knowledge. Gradually, using one's wisdom to acquire more knowledge until the end of the 'naturalness' but not halted in the middle, then I am afraid that one has reached the ultimate level of knowledge. Even so, there are still worries. The knowledge of humans must have some references to reply on to determine if they were adequate; and to realize that the recognizable objects were not stable. However, how do I know that the natural things I'd said were not coming from the action of human; and how do I know that the things by the action of human I'd said were not from 'naturalness'...???

Edited by ChiDragon

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