Excerpt from Opening Trunks, The Chuang Tzu, Chuangtse
Translated by Yutang Lin [source]
But nowadays any one can make the people strain their necks and stand on tiptoes by saying, “In such and such a place there is a Sage.” Immediately they put together a few provisions and hurry off, neglecting their parents at home and their masters’ business abroad, going on foot through the territories of the Princes, and riding to hundreds of miles away. Such is the evil effect of the rulers’ desire for knowledge When the rulers desire knowledge and neglect Tao, the empire is overwhelmed with confusion.
How can this be shown? When the knowledge of bows and cross-bows and hand-nets and tailed arrows increases, then they carry confusion among the birds of the air. When the knowledge of hooks and bait and nets and traps increases, then they carry confusion among the fishes of the deep. When the knowledge of fences and nets and snares increases, then they carry confusion among the beasts of the field. When cunning and deceit and flippancy and the sophistries of the “hard” and white’ and identities and differences increase in number and variety, then they overwhelm the world with logic.
Therefore it is that there is often chaos in the world, and the love of knowledge is ever at the bottom of it. For all men strive to grasp what they do not know, while none strive to grasp what they already know; and all strive to discredit what they do not excel in, while none strive to discredit what they do excel in. That is why there is chaos. Thus, above, the splendor of the heavenly bodies is dimmed; below, the power of land and water is burned up, while in between the influence of the four seasons is upset. There is not one tiny worm that moves on earth or insect that flies in the air but has lost its original nature. Such indeed is the world chaos caused by the desire for knowledge! Ever since the time of the Three Dynasties downwards, it has been like this. The simple and the guileless have been set aside; the specious and the cunning have been exalted. Tranquil inaction has given place to love of disputation; and disputation alone is enough to bring chaos upon the world.