Nourishment from Heaven

Chapter 5 of Chuang Tzu is titled “Signs of Real Virtue.” As I read the last part of the chapter, I think Chuang Tzu is talking about Nirvana or another state of ultimate being. He says if virtue is foremost the physical body is ignored. He says. “When the sage reaches the state of living in harmony with the universe there are four characteristics he has no use for because the sage is nourished by heaven”(1) or the Tao.

Four Qualities of nourishment

The four qualities include knowledge, convention, virtue, and effort. Chung Tzu explains “The sage has no great plans, so what use has he for knowledge? He makes no divisions, so what use has he for glue? He has no problems, so what use has he for virtue? He has no career, so what need has he for common trade?”(1) These four are nourishment from heaven.

Chuang Tzu also says “The sage has the form of a man, but not the emotions of a man.” We know everyone experiences emotions The student asks ‘Is it possible for someone to be without emotion?’

No Emotions?

Chuang Tzu’s answer is. ‘When I say a man has no emotions, what I mean by this is someone who does not allow either the good or the bad to have any effect upon him. He lets all things be and allows life to continue on its own way.”(1)

Chuang Tzu’s student Hui Tzu asks, ‘If he doesn’t interfere with life, then how does he take care of himself?’

The reply was ‘The Way gives him a face and Heaven provides a shape. He does not allow either the good or the bad to have any effect on him. But you now, you wear your soul on your sleeve, exhausting your energy, propping yourself up on a tree, mumbling, or bent over your desk, asleep. Heaven gives you a form, and you wear it out by pointless argument.”(1) We can replace shape and form with the word soul.

Living in Harmony

Chuang Tzu says the sage receives the four qualities from heaven only when he reaches the state of living in harmony with the universe. When we are living as one with everything then knowledge, convention, virtue, and effort are automatically ours.

During a recent discussion on this chapter with a group of Taoists We like the student, we asked, “Is it possible for someone to be without emotion?’ Of course, it is not possible, but Chung Tzu makes a point of not letting the emotion of having an effect on us. That is not to overreact and hold the emotions. I believe if we have angry emotions that we carry it with us the result is more pain. Can holding onto good emotions be a problem?

(1)Tzu, Chuang. The Book of Chuang Tzu (Penguin Classics) (Kindle Locations 1120-1123). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

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