following poem is taken from The
Way of Chuang Tzu
by Thomas Merton (Merton, WofCT, p.60).
is meant by a "true man"?
true men of old were not afraid
they stood alone in their views.
great exploits. No plans.
they failed, no sorrow.
self-congratulation in success.
scaled cliffs, never dizzy,
in water, never wet,
through fire and were not burnt.
their knowledge reached all the way
true men of old
food was plain.
men breathe from their heels.
breathe with their gullets,
heave up arguments
the fountains of passion
true men of old
no lust for life,
dread of death.
entrance was without gladness,
come, easy go.
did not forget where from,
ask where to,
drive grimly forward
their way through life.
took life as it came, gladly;
death as it came, without care;
went away, yonder,
had no mind to fight Tao.
did not try, by their own contriving,
help Tao along.
are the ones we call true men.
free, thoughts gone
clear, faces serene.
they cool? Only cool as autumn.
they hot? No hotter than spring.
that came out of them
quiet, like the four seasons."
The original, translated by James Legge is provided in The
of Taoism (TTT, P237-240).
is meant by `the True Man?' The True men of old did not reject the
views of the few; they did not seek to accomplish their ends like
heroes before others; they did not lay plans to attain those ends.
Being such, though they might make mistakes, they had no occasion for
repentance; though they might succeed, they had no self-complacency.
Being such, they could ascend the loftiest heights without fear; they
could pass through water without being made wet by it; they could go
into fire without being burnt; so it was that by their knowledge they
ascended to and reached the Tao.
True men of old did not dream when they slept, had no anxiety when
they awoke, and did not care that their food should be pleasant.
Their breathing came deep and silently. The breathing of the true man
comes even from his heels, while men generally breathe only from
their throats. When men are defeated in argument, their words come
from their gullets as if they were vomiting. Where lusts and desires
are deep, the springs of the heavenly are shallow.
men of old knew nothing of the love of life or of the hatred of
death. Entrance into life occasioned them no joy; the exit from it
awakened no resistance. Composedly they went and came. They did not
forget what their beginning had been, and they did not inquire into
what their end would be. They accepted their life and rejoiced in it;
they forgot all fear of death, and returned to their state before
life. Thus there was in them what is called the want of any mind to
resist the Tao, and of all attempts by means of the Human to assist
the Heavenly. Such were they who are called the True men.
such, their minds were free from all thought; their demeanor was
still and unmoved; their foreheads beamed simplicity. Whatever
coldness came from them was like that of autumn; whatever warmth came
fro them was like that of spring. Their joy and anger assimilated to
what we see in the four seasons. They did in regard to all things
what was suitable, and no one could know how far their action would
go. Therefore the sagely man might, in his conduct of war, destroy a
state without losing the hearts of the people; his benefits and
favors might extend to a myriad generations without his being a lover
of men. Hence he who tries to share his joys with others is not a
sagely man; he who manifest affection is not benevolent; he who
observes times and seasons to regulate his conduct is not a man of
wisdom; he to whom profit and injury are not the same is not a
superior man; he who acts for the sake of the name of doing so, and
loses his proper self is the right scholar; and he who throws away
his person is a way which is not the true way cannot command the
service of others.
men of old present the aspect of judging others aright, but without
being partisans; of feeling their own insufficiency, but being
without flattery or cringing. Their peculiarities were natural to
them, but they were not obstinately attached to them; their humility
was evident, but there was nothing of unreality or display about it. Their placidity and satisfaction had the appearance of
every movement seemed to be a necessity to them. Their accumulated
attractiveness drew men's looks to them; their blandness fixed men's
attachment to their virtue. They seemed to accommodate themselves to
the manners of their age, but with a certain severity; their haughty
indifference was beyond its control. Unceasing seemed their endeavors
to keep their mouths shut; when they looked down, they had forgotten
what they wished to say.
considered punishments to be the substance of government, and they
never incurred it; ceremonies to be its supporting wings and they
always observed them; wisdom to indicate the time for action, and
they always selected it; and virtue to be accordance with others, and
they were all-accordant. Considering punishments to be the substance
of government, yet their generosity appeared in the manner of their
infliction of death. Considering ceremonies to be its supporting
wings, they pursued by means of them their course in the world.
Considering wisdom to indicate the time for action, they felt it
necessary to employ it in the direction of affairs. Considering
virtue to be accordance with others, they sought to ascend its height
along with all who had feet to climb it. Such were they, and yet men
really thought that they did what they did by earnest effort.
way they were one and the same in all their likings and dislikings.
Where they like, they were the same; where they did not like, they
were the same. In the former case where they like, they were
fellow-workers with the Heavenly in them; in the latter where they
disliked, they were coworkers with the Human in them. The one of
these elements in their nature did not overcome the other. Such were
those who are called the True men."