The Spirit of the Clouds and the Mists of Chaos

Yün Kiang, rambling to the east, having been borne along on a gentle breeze, suddenly encountered Hung Mung, who was rambling about, slapping his buttocks and hopping like a bird. Amazed at the sight, Yün Kiang stood reverentially, and said to the other, ‘Venerable Sir, who are you? and why are you doing this?’

Hung Mung went on slapping his buttocks and hopping like a bird, but replied, ‘I am enjoying myself.’

Yün Kiang said, ‘I wish to ask you a question.’

Hung Mung lifted up his head, looked at the stranger, and said, ‘Pooh!’

Yün Kiang, however, continued, ‘The breath of heaven is out of harmony; the breath of earth is bound up; the six elemental influences 1 do not act in concord; the four seasons do not observe their proper times. Now I wish to blend together the essential qualities of those six influences in order to nourish all living things;-how shall I go about it?’

Hung Mung slapped his buttocks, hopped about, and shook his head, saying, ‘I do not know; I do not know!’

Yün Kiang could not pursue his question; but three years afterwards, when again rambling in the east, as he was passing by the wild of Sung, he happened to meet Hung Mung. Delighted with the rencontre, he hastened to him, and said, ‘Have you forgotten me, O Heaven? Have you forgotten me, O Heaven?’ At the same time, he bowed twice with his head to the ground, wishing to receive his instructions.

Hung Mung said, ‘Wandering listlessly about, I know not what I seek; carried on by a wild impulse, I know not where I am going. I wander about in the strange manner (which you have seen), and see that nothing proceeds without method and order;–what more should I know?’

Yün Kiang replied, ‘I also seem carried on by an aimless influence, and yet the people follow me wherever I go. I cannot help their doing so. But now as they thus imitate me, I wish to hear a word from you in the case.’

The other said, ‘What disturbs the regular method of Heaven, comes into collision with the nature of things, prevents the accomplishment of the mysterious operation of Heaven, scatters the herds of animals, makes the birds all sing at night, is calamitous to vegetation, and disastrous to all insects;-all this is owing, I conceive, to the error of governing men.’

‘What then,’ said Yün Kiang, ‘shall I do?’

‘Ah,’ said the other, ‘you will only injure them! I will leave you in my dancing way, and return to my place.’

Yün Kiang rejoined, ‘It has been a difficult thing to get this meeting with you, O Heaven! I should like to hear from you a word more.’

Hung Mung said, ‘Ah! your mind needs to be nourished. Do you only take the position of doing nothing, and things will of themselves become transformed. Neglect your body; cast out from you your power of hearing and sight; forget what you have in common with things; cultivate a grand similarity with the chaos of the plastic ether; unloose your mind; set your spirit free; be still as if you had no soul. Of all the multitude of things every one returns to its root. Every one returns to its root, and does not know that it is doing so. They all are as in the state of chaos, and during all their existence they do not leave it. If they knew that they were returning to their root, they would be consciously leaving it. They do not ask its name; they do not seek to spy out their nature; and thus it is that things come to life of themselves.’

Yün Kiang said, ‘Heaven, you have conferred on me the knowledge of your operation, and revealed to me the mystery of it. All my life I had been seeking for it, and now I have obtained it.’ He then bowed twice, with his head to the ground, arose, took his leave, and walked away.

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