Friday, October 17, 2008

Dao of the Day

In previous posts we've explored quotes from the Dao De Jing, the classic attributed to Laozi. Today we strike out in a slightly new direction: the Zhuangzi! Zhuangzi was a philosopher in the Warring States period who is supposed to have been Laozi's student and successor. The two are linked so closely that the school of thought attributed to them was known as "Laozhuang thought" before there was such a thing as Dao-ism.

Today's quote is from Thomas Merton's translation of the Zhuangzi. Thomas Merton was an interesting fellow - he was a Trappist monk who didn't read or write Chinese, although he was fluent in several other languages. His method of translation was to gather together the translations available in the languages he knew, read and assimilate them all to make an English version.

If a man steps on a stranger's foot
in the marketplace,
he makes a polite apology
and offers an explanation
("This place is so terribly

If an elder brother
steps on a younger brother's foot,
He says "Sorry!"
and that is that.

If a parent
treads on his child's foot,
nothing is said at all.

The greatest politeness
is free of all formality.
Perfect conduct
is free of concern.
Perfect wisdom
is unplanned.
Perfect love
is without demonstrations.
Perfect sincerity offers
no guarantee.

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