What Nu Yu Learned from the Son of Ink

Nanpo Tsek’uei said to Nu Yu, “You are of a high age, and yet you have a child’s complexion. How is this?” She replied, “I have learned Tao.”

“Could I get Tao by studying it?” asked Nanpo. “No! How can you?” she answered, “You are not the type of person. There was Puliang I. He had all the mental talents of a sage, but not the Tao of the sage. Now I had Tao, though not those talents. But do you think I was able to teach him to become a sage? It would seem to be easy to teach Tao to one who has a sage’s talents. But it was not so, for I had to wait patiently to reveal it to him. In three days, he could transcend this mundane world. After seven more days he could transcend all material existence. Nine days after that, he could transcend all life. After he could transcend all life, then he had the clear vision of the morning; and after that, was able to see the Solitary (One). After seeing the Solitary, he could abolish the distinctions of past and present. After abolishing the past and present, he was able to enter there where life and death are no more, where killing does not take away life, nor does giving birth add to it. He was ever in accord with the exigencies of his environment, accepting all and welcoming all, regarding everything as destroyed, and everything as in completion. This is to be ‘secure amidst confusion,’ reaching security through chaos.”

“Where did you learn this from?” asked Nanpo Tsek’uei. “I learned it from the Son of Ink,” replied Nu Yu, “and the Son of Ink learned it from the Grandson of Learning, the Grandson of Learning from Understanding, and Understanding from Insight, Insight learned it from Practice, Practice from Folk Song, and Folk Song from Silence, Silence from the Void, and the Void learned it from the Seeming Beginning.”


Chuang Tzu 64 trans. Lin Yutang