Professor at the Psychology Department, Zhejiang Normal University
Master of Psychology Department, Zhejiang Normal University
Ph.d. student, Social Psychology Department, Jilin University
The positive psychological movement has played a more and more important role in the stage of psychology. Positive psychology emphasizes subject well-being and has three pillars: positive emotion, positive traits, and positive institutions. Chuang-tze was a notable thinker in the history of ancient China. His life career and his world outlook provide an important cue to the understanding of positive psychology. The unexhausted life force and lofty state of spirit in his thought strongly influence and attract people of later generation. Moreover, his brilliant exposition about value and value judgment is the vital source for us to excavate his theory of value. By means of his understanding of “Tao”, Chuang-tze put his concept into the field of value, in this way form his theory of value with the characteristic of relativism. Chuang-tze’s profound philosophy can be summarized in four phrases: “Tao as the source of the world”, “uniformity of things”, “non-action in face of nature” and “absolute freedom”. The ideal personality advocated by Chuang-tze is that of a “real man ——the surpassing integrity of pure temperament and elevated spiritual delight untouched by the outside distractions ——which is far beyond the usual concept of life and death of this world. What is more, Chuang-tze referred some traits of real man and also talked about some ways toward real man which is the same as that of current positive psychology. Therefore, Chuang-tze can be regarded as the earliest positive psychologist in ancient China.
Keywords: Chuang-tze; Tao; real man; sitting and forgetting; the fasting of the mind
Chuang-tze (369 B.C.—286 B.C.) is a Song State person in the middle period of the Warring States and was born in a place called Meng. Chuang-tze is a famous ideologist in ancient China, whose ideas are mainly expressed in the book of “Chuangtse”. There are three parts involved in the book, the Inner part, the Outer part, and the Mixed part, which sum up to 33 chapters. The ideology system of Chuang-tze is very sophisticated, including politics, philosophy, ethics, arts, and religion etc., which has left profound influence on the after generations. However, few scholars have paid much attention to the influence that Chuang-tze has put on the development of psychology. In fact, throughout the 33 chapters in the book of “Chuangtse”, there are many thoughts and ideas are consistent with the modern positive psychology.
As a mainstream in the development of modern psychology (Schultz & Schultz, 2004, P.ⅹⅶ), positive psychology is featured as providing technique support which aims at getting a happy life for people in general. The main contents are called “a core with three braces to support”, that is, taking people’s subjective well-being as the core, and positive experience, positive traits, and positive institutions as the three pillars (Seligman, 2002, P.ⅹⅲ). In the past, psychology has much more concerned about the psychological problems. As a result, it has become a priority to the minority (people who have psychological problems) and strays far away from the majority people living a normal life. The positive psychology is arisen to change the pathological feature of the traditional psychology (Ren Jun, 2006, pp.336-342), and at present, it has won the consensus in psychological field throughout the world, and its influence even stretches into other fields such as pedagogy, sociology, management and economics.
1. The Positive Faith in Living in Chuang-tze’s Ideological System
The Taoist school initiated by Lao-tze started to separate in the Warring States, which partly became huang-lao school (Wei Xiangdong, Chao Bingsheng, Yang Guang & Cheng Qing, 1998, p.227), a political art used by the ruling class then and after. The other part was centered by “seclusion”, with uncooperative attitude to the ruling class, in which Chuang-tze was a representative (Zhang C. & Wang C., 2000, pp.46-49; Zhang Dainian & Fang Keli, 1994, pp.85-86). Nevertheless, someone think that “it is a bit awkward to put Chuang-tze and Lao-tze together in the Historical Records, for though Chuang-tze and Lao-tze are almost in successive relationship, the basic characteristics don’t match. Lao-tze’s theory is a political philosophy that positively goes into the society, while Chuang-tze asks for metaphysics that goes beyond the society.” (Li Zhehou, 1986, p.177) But most scholars are apt to believe that the theory of Chuang-tze is originated from Taoist school initiated by Lao-tze. What’s more, they think it inheriting the essence of the Taoist school, which means that Chuang-tze epitomizes the Taoist theory (Wei Xiangdong, Chao Bingsheng, Yang Guang & Cheng Qing, 1998, p,227).
1.1 Emphasis on the Perfect Happiness—the Core of Chuang-tze’s Positive Living Theory
Perfect happiness is the maximal happiness. Chuang-tze believes that “life with extreme joy is what we live for; life with endless sorrow is not what we want.”(Chao C., 1982, p.258) Birth and death are only natural rules. As long as we escape all realistic burdens and integrate with nature, we’ll have no sorrow any more. In the 18th chapter in “Outer Chapters”, Chuang-tze equals perfect happiness to non-action. Non-action here mentioned by Chuang-tze means that human should obey the natural rules of the things’ change rather than doing nothing. This idea is clearly manifested in the chapter “Competent Emperors and Kings” in “Inner Chapters”. “The perfect man has a mind like a mirror, which neither welcomes nor sends which reflects things but does not retain things. Therefore, he can act successfully without wearing out his mind.” (Chao C., 1982, p.119) It means that the heart filled with perfect joy and nobility is like a mirror, reflecting all the things naturally, without leaving any imprints even after responses, in which way the whole things will be reflected without any damage to the heart. In fact, Chuang-tze’s behaviors are probably the best explanation to the perfect joy and non-action. According to the 18th chapter in “Outer Chapters”, when Chuang-tze’s wife died and Hui-tze went for condolence, Chuang-tze play the drum instead of cry, which surprised Hui-tze a lot. Chuang-tze explained that his wife’s death was just as natural as the alternation of the four seasons, thus there was nothing to be sad of. Chuang-tze’s behavior (playing the drum) obviously accords with the natural rule, which is a kind of perfect happiness. Therefore, we can come to the conclusion that non-action is not doing anything.
There are many ways of living, any of which has the side to make us happy. We should take the happy side as our starting point and thus gain us a meaningful life. When Chuang-tze emphasized perfect happiness, he was also strongly against the rigid unnecessary worry. He thought that people were unhappy not because of life itself without joy, but they were not good at getting happiness out of life. In the first chapter in “Inner Chapters”, Hui-tze got a seed of calabash from the King of Wei and planted it. Later, he got a big calabash which he wanted to use it as a water container but it was not strong enough. Then he used it as a water ladle, but it was too big. So Hui-tze smashed the calabash, for he thought the calabash wouldn’t bring any joy to him. When Chuang-tze heard this, he said “Why don’t you tie them around your waist as buoys when you go floating over the river or the lake instead of worrying that they are too large to be used anywhere?” (Chao C., 1982, p.12) During one’s life, he is bound to face up some misfortunes, to which, according to Chuang-tze, the best way is to keep a positive attitude and enjoy the most happiness. If God turns my left arm into a rooster, I’ll use it to herald the break of a day; if God turns my right arm into a catapult, I’ll use it for fowling to eat; if God turns my ass into wheels, I’ll change my spirit into a horse for riding (Chao C., 1982, p.100). All these romantic and easy opinions for a perfect happy life rooted in Chuang-tze’s views of different things’ value. To Chuang-tze, life itself is more important than anything else; we can’t exchange our precious life for something trivial. Therefore, we should be in a state of perfect happiness through our life time. Chuang-tze’s attitude to life is a typically positive attitude: to enjoy the happiness of living when is alive; to enjoy the cheer of death when die. Only if we spend all our lives on pursuing the good things and experiences can our lives be perfect with extreme joy.
1.2 Dialectic—the Basis of Chuang-tze’s Positive Living Theory
Chuang-tze’s dialectic is originated from Lao-tze. In the “Moral”, Lao-tze’s suggests that the existences of all the things rely on each other: they are not isolated, for one can’t be without another. It is so called “Being and Not-being grow out of one another; difficult and easy complete one another; long and short test one another; high and low determine one another; pitch and mode give harmony to one another; front and back give sequence to one another.” (Ren J., 1985, p.47) Lao-tze’s dialectic first came from the change of the natural rules. He thought that though the young plant was vulnerable, it would grow strong, and after maturity it had to face up death. From this we can see that the emphasis of Lao-tze’s dialectic is the death; he seems to summarize the thing’s dialectic development full of fear and plaint, so as to seek for the evidence for his theory of doing nothing, which is typically negative. Just as someone has said, “after Lao-tze said ‘the movement of the Tao by contraries proceeds’, he put forward ‘weakness marks the course of Tao’s mighty deeds’. He thought he knew the argument that ‘things will develop in the opposite direction when they become extreme’, and he thought the best way was to stay vulnerable, ‘man who knows his manhood’s strength, yet still maintains his female feebleness’, which led to his conservative and negative conclusion.” (Zhang C & Wang C., 2000, p.11)
Chuang-tze developed the dialectic theory of Lao-tze. He found the integrity not only in the conflictions of natural phenomenon and social life, eg. this or that, life or death, ens or nil, big or small, and success or failure etc., but also the positive meaning out of the opposite consistency: he brought forward the idea of “uniformity of things”. There are two parts in the idea:
Firstly, Chuang-tze suggested that we should see the world by the doctrine of “Tao”, and understand the meaning of life from the origin. Chuang-tze especially outlined the consistency in the integration and transformation of the opposite sides. As he developed the dialectic, he also provided romantic sangfroid and easiness for people faced with difficulties, which is superior to Lao-tze. As Chuang-tze believed, “Where there is birth there must be death; where there is death there must be birth. Where there is approval there must be disapproval; where there is disapproval there must be approval. Where there is recognition of the right there must be recognition of the wrong; where there is recognition of the wrong there must be recognition of the right.”(Chao C, 1982, p.22) It means that death coexists with life; wrong coexists with right. We should leave right and wrong alone without caring about them excessively. Chuang-tze also thought that all the things are relative, for we can get a different understanding if we see from a different perspective. “From the viewpoint of Tao, there is nothing noble or mean; from the viewpoint of things, an individual often thinks highly of himself and thinks lowly of others; from the viewpoint of worldly learning, the distinction lies outside things themselves. From the viewpoint of distinctions, if we say that something is large because it is relatively large, then everything can be said to be large. If we say that something is small because it is relatively small, then everything can be said to be small. From the viewpoint of functions, if we say that something is useful because it is useful in one respect, then everything can be said to be useful. If we say that something is useless in another respect, then everything can be said to be useless…From the viewpoint of preference, if we say that something is right because it is right in one sense, then everything can be said to be right. If we say that something is wrong because it is wrong in another sense, then everything can be said to be wrong (Chao C., 1982, p.244). Chuang-tze’s dialectic theory stresses a mediocre mind without being driven by desires but learning to forget both success and failure, and forget worldly living and realistic burdens so as to be a whole with nature getting delightfulness freely out of the landscape or wandering in the beautiful scenes. Superficially, this idea of Chuang-tze’s is in accordance with Lao-tze’s theory, which seems to deal with life negatively in a metaphysical way of doing nothing. But in fact, they are different. Lao-tze arrived at a stay-vulnerable attitude to life from the dialectic development that enlightening doing nothing, while Chuang-tze learned to trace back the origin of the confliction, the so called “love and hate are out of disputes; disputes are out of limits; limits are out of thing’s formation; things come from nothing”. (Chao C., 1982, p.29) Being nothing is a natural state, which emphasize that we can do something. Therefore, Chuang-tze’s non-action differs from Lao-tze’s doing nothing: the final goal of Chuang-tze’s non-action is to find the meaning of life through the integration with nature, which to some extent, edifies our spiritual world and enriches our soul.
Secondly, although both Lao-tze and Chuang-tze have expounded the dialectic thoughts, the aim of their dissertation are different: Lao-tze is obviously negative, while Chuang-tze is much more positive. As Lao-tze has said, “Misery!—happiness is to be found by its side! Happiness!—misery lurks beneath it!……The (method of) correction shall by a turn become distortion, and the good in it shall by a turn become evil (and thereby invites feller)” (Ren J., 1985, p.186), “He who (relies on) the strength of his forces does not conquer; and a tree which is strong will fill the out-stretched arms” (Ren J., 1985, p.225), “It is because every one under Heaven recognizes beauty as beauty, that the idea of ugliness exists. And equally if every one recognized virtue as virtue, this would merely create fresh conceptions of wickedness.” (Ren J., 1985, p.63) After reading those words, we might probably experience a helpless feeling of daring not to be the pioneer, and a sentimental feeling about the existence itself. This may be related to Lao-tze’s special emphasis on the ideas of being “gentle” “weak” and “humble”, which to some extent adds much more negative flavor into his proposition. Yet Chuang-tze is different. He has often dissertates his dialectic ideas positively, e.g. “When something falls into disintegration, some new entities are formed; when some new entities are formed, something must have fallen apart. But for things in general, there is neither disintegration nor formation—there is always the interchangeability and uniformity of things” (Chao C., 1982, p.25). So “The great Tao goes beyond description; the argument goes beyond words; great humaneness goes beyond good deeds; great integrity goes beyond modesty; great courage goes beyond violence” (Chao C., 1982, p.32). This means that the so-called great “Tao” cannot be explained. Who has mastered brilliant views doesn’t need to argue with others; who has great benevolence will not love, for to love something means not to love something else; who is the most disinterested is not modest; who is the bravest will not do harm to others. The starting point of these arguments centers definitely around doing something in the real world, which at least makes us appreciate the easiness and freedom by controlling our own lives.
What’s more, if we compare the sentence form of Lao-tze’s and Chuang-tze’s used to expound their dialectic thoughts, we will find something interesting: under most circumstance, Lao-tze usually took the negative side of the contradiction as the epilogue of his dissertation (the epilogue is usually the stressed part in the sentence meaning). The arguments of Lao-tze mentioned before are best manifestations, while Chuang-tze’s dissertation doesn’t have such obvious feature. We all know that “repeated fights end up in repeated failures” is different from “repeated failure inspires repeated fight”. The former one is typically negative, while we can sense the positive significance in the latter one. We might say that Chuang-tze’s argumentation enjoys the positive significance in his sentence form similar to the notion that repeated failures inspire repeated fights.
2. Chuang-tze’s ideal personality
Chuang-tze called ideal personality a real man who detached himself from all the mundane affairs and incarnated and lived up to Taoism which had no boundary of living and dying and kept a peaceful hearty at any time.
2.1 The meaning of the real man
Chuang-tze explained the meaning of a real man in his way of life which was so-called wandering in absolute freedom. It is a kind of spiritual freedom which emphasizes the existence of noumenon and that a man has to get rid of all the extrinsic material desires in order to become an adult and obtain the freedom. Chuang-tze’s philosophical idea embodies an important modern topic, which is refusing to be the slave of money or substance. “Only the man who holds the kingdom and is not influenced by worldly things can control the kingdom” (Chao C., 1982, p.156). “Chuang-tze was angling in the Pu River when Lord Wei from the state of Chu sent two ministers to invite him, saying, ‘We’d like to entrust you with the state affairs.’ Holding the fishing rod in his hand, Chuang-tze did not look back, saying, ‘I’ve heard that there is a sacred turtle in the state of Chu, Which was dead for three thousand years. The lord keeps it in a bamboo case covered with a kerchief. Would this turtle prefer to be dead and kept in such a grand style or to be alive and able to drag its tail in the mud?’ ” (Chao C., 1982, p.255) Chuang-tze was unwilling to be an officer because he didn’t want to be tired or be impelled by money and substance or change his real man life style. He became a real man because he hoped to live freely and happily.
There are two characteristics in Chuang-tze’s generalization of real man:
First, Chuang-tze suggested the meaning of real man’s personality on the basis of investigating all kinds of hardship of human which to some extent is a kind of transcendence to the hardship in life. As Chuang-tze viewed, people might face lots of hardship in life which mainly involves three parts: One is from the nature world in which man is only a substance. So no one could escape from the laws of nature …… they begin and end in endless cycles, which stipulate that one dies once is born and death is the final limit which can’t be spanned. Therefore, it is inevitable for all kinds of hardship caused by death. Second is the hardship from the society world of human’s existence. A man is one living in the society who exists and is influenced by others. Sometimes, this kind of influence even controls a man’s existence. For example, Chuang-tze once had to borrow food from the superintendent of river-courses but was refused. His late yeas are more miserable. He lived in a shabby lane and had to make a living by weaving grass-shoe even if he was sallow and emaciated. Thus, war, convulsion, tyranny of rulers, refusal to cooperate with others are the second part of hardship which human might face. Third is the hardship from ego which mainly refers to the inevitable feeling of sadness and gladness and the desire for gain. The ideal personality suggested by Chuang-tze indicates that human can realize the spiritual freedom and achieve the state of real man once get rid of these hardship mentioned above. And this state is wandering in absolute freedom which is also suggested by him and he portrays a beautiful tableau of it: “I’m about to keep company with the creator of things. When I get tired, I will ride on the bird of ease and emptiness, flying out of the universe, to wander in the land of nothingness and stay in the boundless wild field.” (Chao C., 1982, p.113) “Rides on the cloud, harnesses the flying dragon and roams beyond the four seas.” (Chao C., 1982, p.34) “Experience the bounteous Tao and wander in the realm of infinity.” (Chao C., 1982, p.119) Although it depicts a picture of Xanadu, the ideal personality of Chuang-tze is not entirely irony-towered and exists in certain thought. He stressed real man had to go back to mundane world after his unification with the ten thousand things of creation on the earth. “he neither showed disdain for anything nor questioned for right and wrong, but harmonized with worldly affairs.” (Chao C., 1982, p.508) Real man has not only happiness, anger, grief and joy —- the gamut of human feeling, but also the seven human emotions and the six human desires. “He was as austere as autumn and as warm as spring. His joy and anger succeeded each other as naturally as the succession of the four seasons. He was in conformity with everything in the world, but he was fathomless to all. All served their respective masters. They brought comfort to others, but never to themselves.” (Chao C., 1982, p.89) This means that the gamut of human feeling of real man should comply with the nature towards the way to Taoism.
Second, the meaning of real man’s personality of Chuang-tze is proposed after summarizing and estimating the relevant theories of each faction in history and it is a refinement to the personality theories of all of these factions. Chuang-tze thought that the views of “No-music”“Restraint”from Mohist School seemed to be harsh to ourselves. This viewpoint should be criticized because the sage is also a vulgar person. And this also indirectly proves that the ideal personality of Chuang-tze is not an unreal but actual one. Similarly, Chuang-tze made known his attitude towards the sage also by praising the view “Do not get entangled in worldly affairs; do not decorate with material ornaments; do not comply with others; do not violate the popular wishes. Let everyone keep his body and soul together in peaceful world; let everyone live a substantial life and speak his mind.” (Chao C., 1982, p.499) from Song Jian、Yin Wen School. There are some commonalities between these two Schools. They were all hardworking and plain living. They loved people eagerly and regarded putting down wars and realizing the stability as their mission. However, Song Jian and Yin Wen were more amiable and easy of approach and have less emotion and desires than Mozi. Shen Dao and Tian Pian could forget themselves, discard the wisdom and uniform all the things, that is “Being fair and impartial, being easy to approach and selfless, doing away with subjective evaluation, judging things with one criterion, being decisive without apprehensions, seeking no display of wits, making no choice among objective things, and going along with the natural course of events.” (Chao C., 1982, p.502). But they didn’t achieve mastery through a comprehensive study of these thoughts, so they failed to find the real Tao and they were still laymen. Guan Yi and Lao-tze regarded “the core of the universe” as their core which advocates to be open-minded, forbearing and tolerant to people and things and able to make concessions to achieve one’s aim. “Tao that governs to universe is the quintessence; anything tangible in the universe is non-fundamental. Savings will make one insatiable; a quiet and simple life is the principle of Tao. … They established their view-point of ‘original existence’ and ‘original non-existence’ and the core of their view is the ‘absolute Tao’. Externally, they impressed the people with a soft and prudent attitude; internally, they maintained a quiet and non-destructive state of mind” (Chao C., 1982, p.505). Thus, it helps people to avoid enduring hardships in life. They are already a great real man; however, they can’t be because they still haven’t got to the summit of “Tao”. Chuang-tze considered a real man should be “Emptiness leaves no trace; change signifies no form. There is no life or death. Tao coexists with the heaven and the earth and communicates with both the internal and the external. It goes to nowhere in a trance and comes from nowhere in a trance. It contains everything and yet does not know its final destination.” (Chao C., 1982, p.508)
2.2 Specific personality traits a real man should have
Chuang-tze put forward the real man’s personality trait on the basis of his ideal which claimed to return to the nature and attained noumenon’s independence and freedom. The maximal life-goal of Chuang-tze accords to the nature and keeps a naturalism attitude. From the domain field of conception, ideal is not a narration of factual event, but a presentation of a kind of imaginary connection about culture or events (Max W., 2002, p.16). It is contrary to naturalism in domain. But Chuang-tze defined the connotation of ideal as naturalism, so the two opponent domains because unifies here by him which was indeed a distinct part in Chuang-tze’s thought. Concretely speaking, there are several aspects in his real man’s personality traits, as follows:
1. Great ambition: The first space in “Chuangtse” is about ambition which demonstrates Chuang-tze’s emphasis on the ambition’s influence upon life. “Have a bright future” is an idiom which is elicited from the content of Chuang-tze’s “Wandering in Absolute Freedom” by the offspring. Chuang-tze thought that people should have great goals and can’t be fettered by the facing reality in lives.
2. Honesty: Chuang-tze saw honesty as the symbol of the real man’s personality. He elaborated it in “The Fisherman”: “The natural disposition means the apex of absolute sincerity. Without absolute sincerity, you will never be able to elicit the emotions and passions of others. So, a forced wail only appears to be sorrowful; a forced rage only appears to be severe and forced warmth only appears to be friendly.” (Chao C., 1982, p.474). We can see from his discussion that actually honesty reflects his same value-interest—returning to the nature. “If everyone rectifies himself and keeps his virtue to himself, he will not enforce his virtue upon others; otherwise, everything in the world will lose its inborn nature.” (Chao C., 1982, p.232). That is to say that one’s morality is sterling originally, but if he is forced to accept his own morality which can’t be imposed, he will lose his nature one.
3. Keeping faith: There is some dissimilarity in Chuang-tze’s discussion on the opinion of keeping faith. He pretended to be a robber called Zhi. His emphasis on keeping faith aimed for accusing Confucius Confucianism theory of hypocrisy and deceit and he insisted that people’s lives should conform to the nature and go back to barbarism, not to be bothered by the extrinsic repute.
4. Pure friendship: “Outer Chapter — Chapter Twenty a Mountain Tree” mainly discusses the way to form one’s mind and get along with others in life. The essence of it is emphasizing that people should behave according to the nature and do not associate with others for personal interests. He believed that people could discard each other when facing poverty, disaster and hurt if they united because of respective interests. One day, Zi Si，Zi Yu, Zi Li, Zi Lai came together and chatted: “We will make friends with whoever can regard nihility as head, existence as back, death as buttock and can understand the truth that living and death is a unitary one.” (Chao C., 1982, p.100). The four people looked at each other and laughed. They knew each other by heart and became best friends. Although the fellowship between gentlemen is pale like water while that between mean person is sweet like wine, the friendship of the former is forever while that of the latter is easy to break off. People will finally leave each other for no reason if they come together in the same way.
5. Serenity: Chuang-tze considered that quietness is foundation for nature to keep balance and that is the maximal state of morality and cultivation. “Indifference, solitude, emptiness and non-action — these are the yardsticks of the heaven and the earth, and the perfection of Tao and virtue.” (Chao C., 1982, p.228)
6. Tolerance: “He who always conforms with things will fare well with others; he who does not conform with things will not tolerate himself, still less tolerate others. He who does not tolerate others will have no friends around him; he who has no friends around him will be the out case of the society.” (Chao C., 1982, pp.351-352)
There is a common character in Chuang-tze’s description of the above traits. He combined some connections and events in people’s activity with a non-contradictive world of nature which was composed of all kinds of imaginary conditions and connections and contains some characters of modern Utopia. Consequently, Chuang-tze obviously didn’t wish to demonstrate the traits of his ideal personality in reality; instead, he regarded it as an attempt to build up a kind of ideal personality. However, these propositions of Chuang-tze can easily be found in the positive personality traits proposed by current positive psychology (Seligman, Steen, Nansook, & Peterson, 2005). Just as a saying goes, “Fine things will come together in the end.”
3. Ways to realize ideal personality
The real man is a man who knows “Tao”. Chuang-tze brought out the ways to know “Tao” by the mouth of a man who had already known it. “When three days passed, he was able to put the physical world beyond him. After he had put the physical world beyond him, I went on with my enlightenment. When seven days passed, he was able to put material things beyond him. After he had put material things beyond him, I again went on with my enlightenment. When nine days passed, he was able to put his life beyond mind, as fresh as dawn. After he had discerned the independent Tao, he was able to obscure the distinction of the past and the present. After he had obscured the distinction of the past and the present, he was able to ignore life and death.” (Chao C, 1982, p.98) Here, Chuang-tze stressed that once one should conform to nature if he/she wanted to know the ways to realize the ideal personality, what is called “If you had called me a bull yesterday, I would have agreed with you; if you had called me a horse, I would have agreed with you too.” (Yu Dan, 2007, p.117) According to Chuang-tze, a man is called a man because of its combination with the nature. Therefore, if one wants to be a real man, he/she has not to contend with people or things and comply with the world peacefully. This view of knowing “Tao” is a combination of intuition and personal life experience. And it is a typical mental pursue and spirit illusion which aims at emphasizing the role of one’s own spirit. If we make a full analysis to this thought, we may easily find that Chuang-tze’s so-called “knowing the ‘Tao’” is indeed an emphasis on sticking to the real humanity and a kind of criticism to the outside substance’s disobedience to humanity. Specifically, Chuang-tze suggested two main ways to become a real man: “sitting and forgetting” and “the fasting of the mind”.
3.1 Sitting and forgetting
Chuang-tze explained this conception tactfully by the mouth of Confucius and Yan Hui in order to emphasize its value. Chuang-tze said “I cast off my limb and trunk, give up my hearing and sight, leave my physical form and deprive myself of my mind. In this way, I can identify myself with Tao.” (Chao C, 1982, p.109) After Chuang-tze has put forward “sitting and forgetting”, it has been regarded as a good way to cultivate oneself through meditation. And the posterity has the greatest esteem for it all the time, just as Chinese traditional Qigong regarded “sitting and forgetting” as a main way when doing exercises and a kind of maximal state (Wang Fengyan & Zhenghong, 2005, pp.206-207). Chuang-tze’s “sitting and forgetting” is like yoga in Indian culture which insists on getting rid of the influence of the external things and memory and being calm to hold the origin of life which is called “atman” in yoga (Marvin Levine, 2000, pp.81-83).
3.2 The fasting of the mind
The fasting of the mind is a way for spirit or soul to keep quiet which means that people should hear but pay no attention to the outside, the ears should not be stirred up by the sound from the outside and the heart should stop contacting the external world. If depicted in modern language, it refers to closing all the perceptive organs of people, excluding any thought in mind and letting oneself hold the vacuity in heart (Yu Dan, 2007, pp.35-36). Chuang-tze said “You must concentrate your attention. Do not listen with your ears, but with your mind; do not comprehend with your mind, but with your vital energy. Your ears can only hear and your mind can only comprehend. But the vital energy is an emptiness that is responsive to anything.” (Chao C, 1982, p.55), which means that the fasting of the mind is to keep the heart a pure one and banish distracting thought from the mind. One should not listen with ears but the heart and should not listen with heart but the spirit. The spirit and heart Chuang-tze mentioned here actually can not be used for listening and also can not be combined to the outside things. Here he just wanted to give prominence to core of his viewpoint — the emptiness of heart. Tao can gather into the emptiness because only emptiness can hold the universe. People can not hear if the empty heart is intruded by any outside things. So emptiness is indeed the fasting of the mind which is the way to know “Tao”.
Although some people think that the core of thought in ancient China is not a kind of culture emphasizing the personal value(Nisbett & Peng, 2001), from the content of the 33 chapters of “Chuangtse”, Chuang-tze’s theory is not philosophy of society and politics or ethics and it is different from the Confucianism’s opinions of cultivating oneself and put family in order to rule the country and give peace to the world (Lei Kehong, 1996, pp.1-21; Dahlsgaard & Peterson, 2005). It advocates observing and purifying life from the angle of nature and it is a positive psychics which stresses the harmonious development between human’s heart and nature. This can be called a kind of positive psychology to some extent and therefore Chuang-tze can be regarded as the earliest positive psychologist in ancient China. Although Chuang-tze’s psychics didn’t been absorbed by the rulers of the contemporary society and had nothing to do with the labor in lower class. But it influenced the whole society through the attitude, behavior and the mental state of the literators and some of the scholar-officials and finally became an important component of the collective personality of the Chinese.
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Correspondent: Ren Jun, PhD, Professor of Psychology Department, Zhejiang Normal University, (ZheJiang, JingHua, China. post code: 321004.) does researches on academic psychology and positive psychology. e-mail: email@example.com
Ma Tianyu, PhD student, Social Psychology Department, Jilin University (ChangChun, China), makes researches on academic psychology.
Liu Yingli, Master of Psychology Department, Zhejiang Normal University, does researches on positive psychology.