Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Know-how Was in the North by Chuang Chou

When Know-how was in the north at Dark River, he climbed Mt. Concealed Rise, where he met Perfect-freedom-behavior-utterance and said, "I should like to ask you three questions: Through what sort of thinking and reflection does one come to know God? Where and in what wise does one feel secure in God? Whence and via what path does one attain to God?" Utterance did not reply. It was not so much that he did not reply; he did not know how to reply.

Know-how, unsuccessful in his questioning, left and went south of White River and climbed Mt. End-of-doubts, where he espied Mad-abandon. Know-how explained what had happened and put the same questions. The answer was, "Oh yes! I know, and will talk with you about it." Then, right at that point, he forgot what he wanted to say.

Again unsuccessful, Know-how left and went to the emperor's palace, where he was received by the Yellow Emperor, to whom he put the questions. The Yellow Emperor replied, "Thought and reflection characterized by perfect freedom initiate a knowledge of God. Dwelling and dress marked by perfect freedom initiate security in God. Acceptance of perfect freedom and travel initiate attainment of God."

" You and I know this, but those two others don't. Who is right?"

The Yellow Emperor said "Perfect-freedom-behavior utterance is really right. Mad-abandon comes close. You and I are nowhere near it. True knowledge, you know, does not speak, and the speaker does not know. That is why the sages practice wordless instruction. God cannot be made to arrive. Perfect, natural action is not something one attains. To practice the human ideal is to give approval to calculated action. To practice propriety is to give approval to defects. Ceremony abets sham. That is why we have this saying: 'Having lost God one turns to perfect, natural action. When this has been lost one turns to the human ideal. When that is lost one turns to propriety, and after that to ceremony.'

"Ceremony is God in the minutest aspect; it is also the beginning of disorder. Hence the further saying 'The man concerned with God diminishes his artificialities more and more every day.' And after these diminishings are further reduced he attains perfect-freedom-action, after which everything gets done."

"Today", continued the Yellow Emperor, " something has been made, and if you wanted to return it to its roots, would it not be quite difficult? Ease in such an undertaking is only for God's man. Life is the companion of death, and death is the beginning of life, but who knows how to untangle the problem? The birth of a human being is an amassing of breaths. While the amassing exists life goes on; when it scatters death occurs. If death and life are companions, what have I to be anxious about? The conclusion is that all creation is one."

"The marvelousness in creation is what we praise; the stenches and decayings are what we dislike. But the stenches and decayings are again transformed into the marvelous, and this in turn is again transformed into stenches and decayings. The conclusion is that one breath pervades this world of ours. That is why the sages value unity."

But Know-how was still not satisfied.

"I put the questions to Perfect-freedom-action-utterance, but he did not reply. It was not so much that he did not answer me; he did not know how to do so. Then I put the question to Mad-abandon, who wanted to tell me but did not. It is not so much that he did not tell me, but right when he wanted to, he forgot what he wanted to say. Now I have asked you. You know the answer, so why are we not close to it?"

"The first one was perfectly correct," replied the Yellow Emperor, "because he does not know. The second resembles the truth because he forgot the answer. You and I are no way near it, because we know the answer."

When Mad-abandon heard about all this, he felt that the Yellow Emperor has expressed it well.

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