Category Archives: Chuang-Tzu

Food for the Turtles

The Mystic by Tania Marie

The Turtle

Zhuangzi was once fishing beside the Pu River when two emissaries brought him a message from the King of Chu: “The king would like to trouble you with the control of all his realm.” Zhuangzi, holding fast to his fishing pole, without so much as turning his head, said, “I have heard there is a sacred turtle in Chu, already dead for three thousand years, which the king keeps in a bamboo chest high in his shrine. Do you think this turtle would prefer to be dead and having his carcass exalted or alive and dragging his backside through the mud?” The emissaries said, “Alive and dragging his backside through the mud.” Zhuangzi said, “Get out of here! I too will drag my backside through the mud!” (Translation, Brook Ziporyn: Zhuangzi: The Essential Writings, With Selections from Traditional Commentaries) read more

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One who knows does not speak, one who speaks does not know


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. read more

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The Tao of Qi

The Zhuangzi says, “Pure spirit reaches in the four directions, flows now this way, now that: there is no place it does not extend to. Above, it brushes the sky; below, it coils on the earth. It transforms and nurses the myriad things, but no one can make out its form. It is one with heaven” read more

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Oftentimes we encounter writers who are on the quest for a new Spiritual-Religion. Chuang-Tzu himself transcended the ordinary categories of just what constitutes common notions of such a quest.  One of my resources in this series is a book by Ge Ling Shang entitled Liberation as affirmation: the religiosity of Zhuangzi and Nietzsche. This author has provided a key term that best expresses the aforementioned quest: Religiosity. He has chosen unlikely bedfellows whose dissimilar philosophies broached the subject, yet they did share one common characteristic. As the author writes, “both Zhuangzi’s and Nietzsche’s attack on traditional values was not so much an attempt to present another system of human values as an attempt to overcome and transcend all traditional values to reach a state of liberation and freedom. For, according to Zhuangzi and Nietzsche, liberation itself is not a value in a customary sense, but the transcending of all previous values.” Nietzsche would call this a Transvaluation of all Values. He broke through all traditional notions that had become metastasized in normative structures like a pounding hammer, whereas Zhuangzi did so in the gentle flight of a butterfly, or the ethereal breath of the Tao itself. They both succeeded in transcending all mundane conventionalities in that spirit of Religiosity. Religiosity empowers the spirit to soar beyond the narrow confines of the composed into the boundless-freedom of the Unborn. read more

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Tree of Heaven

Master Hui said to Master Chuang, “I have a big tree people call Tree of Heaven. Its great trunk is so gnarled and knotted that it cannot be measured with an inked line; its branches are so twisted that squats and compasses can hardly be applied to them. It stands by the road, but no carpenter would even consider giving it a glance. Now your words are just like my tree—so big and useless that no one ever cares to listen to you. read more

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And Butterflies are Free to Fly…

I Dreamed I Was A Butterfly by Alice McMahon White

Chuang Tzu’s Taoism is perhaps the most profound in the Taoist Treasury; although he would be the first to state that his positionless-teaching was no form of “ism”, but rather simply that which radiated a “boundless vitality” that is the very heart of the imageless-Tao. From the onset of this series one needs to be aware that the Unborn is synonymous with the Tao and henceforth will be used to convey That which is Imageless and Unbound. As a man of the Unborn he lived unabatedly in the Dharmadhatu—the Pure Light Realm of Deathless Suchness, As It Is, with no obstructions of the born and created, or as the Chuang Tzuian spirit would say, “Or is not Is, when Is is-not”, just to provide a pliable-variable bearing no-fixed position. In all that he was about it was not “he” that acted, but rather the spontaneous breath of the Unborn Spirit. As the late sinologist Angus Graham wrote, “Zhuang Zhou distrusted official rules, standardized categories, established opposites, and the dictates of language, instead inspiring people to see things from different perspectives, illuminating the flow of cosmic spontaneity, and allowing heaven to work through him in all his thoughts and actions (Graham 1989, 191).” How, then, is a man of the Unborn to act in the world? Not through any pre-ordained impetus, but through the actionless (Wu-Wei) spontaneity that is never independent of the Unborn Itself. Perhaps a good way of illustrating this is through one of the most familiar anecdotes in the Zhuangzi (this italicization will be used when the “text” is indicated, as opposed to the person), Chuang Tzu and the Butterfly: read more

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