After the passing of Chwang Tzu, Theosophy began to disappear from China. Its passage through corruption, superstition, to wrong practices and sense life brought the degradation whose nature was such that the advent of Buddhist missionaries and their preachings failed to make a wide-spread impress. Even today Buddhism is not the popular religion of the Chinese. If the pure doctrines of Lao Tzu and Confucius had been in vogue in the first century of the Christian era when the Buddhist Mission reached China, we would have had a magnificent expression of Theosophy the equal of which the world of Asia had not witnessed for a long time indeed. Corrupted Taoism and Confucianism corrupted the Buddhistic teachings; but in China as elsewhere the Kali-Yuga was running its course, and the darkness has been deepening.
One of the effects of the Mission of H.P.B. was the revival of interest in the Soul-satisfying philosophy of the Aryans. She did for the whole race what Lao Tzu and Confucius attempted for the Chinese. It was their effort to bring to their people Aryan culture which surrounded them. China had to be influenced Theosophically and Aryanization of that Atlantean remnant was undertaken by the Great Lodge of Masters through the instrumentality of Lao Tzu and Confucius. Their Theosophy has not been practised in China yet, just as the teachings of Jesus remain to be practised in Christendom, though we are past the first quarter of its twentieth century. Political and historical events are shadows of spiritual and manasic ones of the world of Souls. Also it is true that the life incidents of a Messenger’s Incarnation are but miniature pictures of the future story of the people for whom He came. Our humanity can not understand the import of H.P.B.’s incarnation, just as Christendom has not even begun to decipher the meaning of the life and mission of Jesus. So also China will grasp the significance of the triple effort through Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism in decades yet unborn. Intuitive students of the Wisdom-Religion perceive, albeit dimly, the lines along which China’s redemption would come. Out of the present turmoil and conflict a new era is bound to open — the Aryan era for China; but, whether it will be the misunderstood, materialistic and commercial Aryanism which is so much to the fore among us or whether the era will be that which William Q. Judge designated as that of Western Occultism remains to be seen. Those who have at heart the welfare and triumph of the Theosophical Movement would naturally desire to see the manifestation of the second.
In this closing article on Chinese Theosophical Landmarks we will ponder over three stories embodying teachings which will help us wherever our lives are spent, for they contain the Message of that which is designated Western Occultism. Also, they contain the basic principles of guidance in the individual and corporate life of the China of tomorrow. If the Chinese shape their political and social life according to these teachings, which are practical, a great China will arise as honourable as of yore; the alternative they face is that of Egypt — the old is dead and the new is foreign to its soil, culture and tradition, presaging years of conflict followed by national purgation through suffering and humiliation.
A Wise One from the Beyond
In the Shu King, the Book of History (Book VIII.), is recorded the story of the humble king Wu-Ting (1324-1264 B.C.) who sought and found a real guide for the affairs of his state. Likewise should modern China seek out from the silences untouched by our civilization a philosopher-friend who will spiritualize politics following the great Pao-hsi who, looking up, contemplated the brilliant forms of the firmament and, looking down, traced them on earth. Here is the narrative:
Wu-Ting mourned for his father in twilight obscurity for the space of three years. At the end of that time he still refused to speak, so that his ministers and officers were dismayed and perplexed, and came to him, saying: “Knowledge and intelligence are necessary to the administration of the law. Refusing to speak, your ministers and subjects are left in ignorance of your will.”
The King then made use of a writing to announce his will: “Since I was called to the rule of the empire my mind has been distressed lest my virtue and capacity should be unequal to the task. On this account I did not speak. But I would have it known that while I was meditating on the Tao I dreamed that Heaven conferred on me an excellent minister, one who might speak for me.”
The King then described his appearance as he had perceived it in his vision, and commanded that a portrait should be made of him and a thorough search conducted throughout the country. And this being done, it was found that one named Yueh, who was employed in making the dam in the wilderness at Fuh-yen, alone answered to the description. Him they brought to court and presented to the Emperor, who addressed him, saying: “Come now, Yueh! But do you instruct my mind, as if in making of wine you were the ferment of sugar, or in the making of good soup you might be the salt and prunes! Endeavour to embellish my mind, and then I shall be capable of fulfilling your instructions.”
Yueh bowed low, and said: “O King! men seek to extend their information that they may establish their affairs. But do you apply yourself to the understanding of the Ancient Traditions, and you will meet with success. For a man of affairs not to understand the ancient methods and yet to be capable of perpetuating his generation is a thing of which Yueh never yet heard !”
Then Wu-Ting appointed him to act as Prime Minister, and placing him before the host of of officers, commanded him, saying: “Do you continually impart your instructions to me, so that I may continue in virtue. If I am blunt as metal, I will use you for my grindstone. If I desire to navigate waters, you shall be the oar of my boat. If the year be one of great drought, I will use you as a copious rain. Unfold your mind, therefore, and refresh my heart. If physic be not strong enough, the disease will not be cured. Thus will myriads of people find rest!”
Yueh answered and said: “As wood following the carpenter’s line is rendered straight, so a prince by following good advice becomes a sage. Heaven alone is omniscient, but a wise ruler may attempt its portrayal.
“Speech can involve one in disgrace, and the use of weapons may lead to war. One should be careful in the use of these things. The robes of office are kept in a chest until required, and even so, the sword of justice should only be unsheathed after a careful examination of the offender. The adjustment of irregularities rests with those in office. It is not the knowledge of a thing but the doing of it that is difficult. Be studious, of humble intentions, and try to maintain timely effort. Consider the end and aim of your study while you are continually engaged in it, and the means will present itself without effort. Take your example from the perfection of former kings. Do not esteem yourself highly and so commit a folly. Only that in which one abides contentedly is his proper vocation, and that only will succeed.”
The materialistic attitude makes men vandals; our civilization robs Nature in the most heedless fashion — polluting limpid rivers, disfiguring lakes, destroying trees, spoiling the velvety slopes of hills and dales. Verily we are thieves who enjoy what has been given unto us by Nature and offer nought in return, and so sin mightily. This teaching of the Bhagavad Gita is strikingly imparted by Lieh Tzu, and if China is to free herself from the ills of a thieving and despoiling civilization she will have to practise the lesson of the following story:
Mr. Kuo of the Ch’i State was very rich, while Mr. Hsiang of the Sung State was very poor. The latter travelled from Sung to Ch’i and asked the other for the secret of his prosperity. Mr. Kuo said: “It is because I am a good thief; the first year I began to be a thief I had just enough. The second year I had ample. The third year I reaped a great harvest. And, in course of time, I found myself the owner of whole villages and districts.”
Mr. Hsiang was overjoyed. He began the robber life, he climbed over walls and broke into houses, grabbing everything he could lay hands upon. But before long his thefts brought him into trouble, and he was stripped even of what he had previously possessed.
Thinking that Mr. Kuo had basely deceived him, Hsiang went to him with a bitter complaint. “Tell me,” said Mr. Kuo, “how did you set about being a thief?” On learning from Mr. Hsiang what had happened he cried out: “Alas and alack! You have been brought to this pass because you went the wrong way to work. Now let me put you on the right track. We all know that Heaven has its seasons, and that earth has its riches. Well, the things that I steal are the riches of Heaven and earth, each in their season — the fertilizing rain-water from the clouds, and the natural products of mountain and meadow-land. Thus I grow my grain and ripen my crops, build my walls and construct my tenements. From the dry land I steal winged and four-footed game, from the rivers I steal fish and turtles. There is nothing that I do not steal. For corn and grain, clay and wood, birds and beasts, fishes and turtles are all products of Nature. How can I claim them as mine? Yet, stealing in this way I bring on myself no retribution. Gold, jade, and precious stone, corn, silk stuffs, and all manner of riches are simply appropriated by men. How can Providence be said to give them away? Yet if we commit a crime in stealing them, who is there to resent it?”
Mr. Hsiang, in a state of great perplexity, and fearing to be led astray a second time by Mr. Kuo, went off to consult Tung Kuo, a man of learning. Tung Kuo said to him: “Are you not already a thief in respect to your own body? You are stealing the harmony of the Yin and the Yang in order to keep alive and to maintain your bodily form. How much more, then, are you a thief with regard to external possessions! Assuredly, Heavenand earth cannot be dissociated from the myriad objects of Nature. To claim any one of these as your own betokens confusion of thought. Mr. Kuo’s theftsare carried out in a spirit of justice, and therefore bring no retribution. But your thefts were carried out in a spirit of self-seeking and therefore landed you in trouble. Those who take possession of property, whether public or private, are thieves. Those who abstain from taking property, public or private, are also thieves. The great principle of Heaven and earth is to treat public property as such and private property as such. Knowing this principle, which of us is a thief, and at the same time which of us is not a thief?”
The Words of a Cook
We live in the Dark Age whose soul-energy is competition. Men are learning spiritual facts through suffering which they survive and out-grow. But we have fallen into the delusion of pinning ourselves to our labors and works in such manner that the inner lessons they are capable of teaching are missed. Thus we go through innumerable experiences without garnering Wisdom from them. Chwang Tzu taught that it is not what we do but how we do it which makes for real growth. Not to desist from actions but perform them in a way so that every deed yields its full quota of knowledge and experience is the method of the Tao. To practice Tao is to labor in one’s own field by a particular mode and no profession is so mean that its votary is unable to practise it. In his third book Chwang Tzu instances the butcher who devoted himself to Tao:
Prince Hui’s cook was cutting up a bullock. Every blow of his hand, every heave of his shoulders, every tread of his foot, every thrust of his knee, every whshh of rent flesh, every chhk of the chopper, was in perfect harmony — rhythmical like the dance of the Mulberry Grove, simultaneous like the chords of the Ching Shou.
“Well done!” cried the Prince; “yours is skill indeed.”
“Sire,” replied the cook, “I have always devoted myself to Tao. It is better than skill. When I first began to cut up bullocks, I saw before me simply whole bullocks. After three years’ practice I saw no more whole animals. And now I work with my mind and not with my eye. When my senses bid me stop, but my mind urges me on, I fall back upon eternal principles. I follow such openings or cavities as there may be, according to the natural constitution of the animal. I do not attempt to cut through joints: still less through large bones.
“A good cook changes his chopper once a year — because he cuts. An ordinary cook, once a month — because he hacks. But I have had this chopper nineteen years, and although I have cut up many thousand bullocks, its edge is as if fresh from the whetstone. For at the joints there are always interstices, and the edge of a chopper being without thickness, it remains only to insert that which is without thickness into such an interstice. By these means the interstice will be enlarged, and the blade will find plenty of room. It is thus that I have kept my chopper for nineteen years as though fresh from the whetstone.
“Nevertheless, when I come upon a hard part where the blade meets with a difficulty, I am all caution. I fix my eye on it. I stay my hand, and gently apply my blade, until with a hwah the part yields like earth crumbling to the ground. Then I take out my chopper, and stand up, and look around, and pause, until with an air of triumph I wipe my chopper and put it carefully away.”
“Bravo!” cried the Prince. “From the words of this cook I have learnt about the nourishment of life.”
These three characters lived in and breathed forth Tao — though one was a statesman, another a farmer, and the third a cook. To go back to Ancient Principles, to recognize the Unity of Nature, and to practise Skill in Action, these are the three ways of the Inner Life — the Path of Knowledge, Gnyan Marga; of Devotion, Bhakti Marga, and of Action, Karma Marga. But above all the triple way is unmanifest, and though difficult is not impossible for corporeal beings to tread. The Path-Tao proceeds from within outward and never is seen without. To turn inwards so that man may know the without, and loving it sacrifice for it, was Lao-Tzu’s practical message — true for China and the world today as in 600 B.C. Chwang Tzu attributes the following to his Master:
If the Tao could be presented to another, men would all present it to their rulers; if it could be served up to others, men would serve it up to their parents; if it could be told to others, men would all tell it to their brothers; if it could be given to others, men would give it to their sons and grandsons. The reason why it cannot be transmitted is no other but this — that if, within, there be not the presiding principle, it will not remain there, and if, outwardly, there be not the correct obedience, it will not be carried out. When that which is given out from the mind in possession of it is not received by the mind without, the sage will not give it out; and when, entering in from without, there is no power in the receiving mind to entertain it, the sage will not permit it to lie hid there.
To seek for that Hidden Way enshrined in the heart of man is to be a Taoist, a Theosophist. There in the Hall of Self abides the Ancient of Days, to whom Chwang Tzu sang his exhortation, thus:
O My Exemplar!
Thou who destroyest all things and dost
not account it cruelty;
Thou who benefittest all time, and dost
not account it charity;
Thou who art older than antiquity and
dost not account it age;
Thou who supportest the universe, shaping
the many forms therein, and dost
not account it skill;
This is the Bliss of Tao.