Ever heard of Yang Chu, the founder of the school of thought called Yangism? I haven’t heard of him until recently and I found his thought to parallel loosely Zhuangzi’s thought (which would mean that I find it more or less agreeable). But Yang and I do find some implications of it to be in need of more thought so that we may understand it more so, instead of the readily seen superficial meaning. He taught three major tenets: Keeping one’s nature intact, Not letting the body be tied by other things, and Protecting one’s genuineness.
The second, I’d say, is the most important because being bounded is the last thing you want to do on a journey to sagehood. But, let’s discuss the first tenet: why keep one’s nature intact? One reason is because shoes are for feet, not feet shoes. The other reason is that there is a danger in diverging from one’s nature, i.e. trading one’s feet for shoes. I’m more inclined to the first reason being sufficient to conclude that one should keep her nature intact. The first reason implies that the use of things are bound by man and man shouldn’t be bound by these things. If man should be bound by things, the things are directly opposing the use they have for man. The second reason I believe is implausible; it is questioned by an argument about trading a hair to save the world, and therefore, it seems to be the less likely of the two for being the main reason that led to Yang Chu’s tenet.
The second tenet, though most important, is controversial. The second tenet of not letting the body be tied by other things seems to “reek” of selfishness. Notice, that reek has a negative connotation and for good reason. If I were to tell you that you should keep food to yourself because it’s for the benefit of your own sake, regardless of others’ and your mother’s starving (in this case, the thing tying you or your body may be your conscience), you might think that I’m depraved. Or if I say that I’d rather live out my years than be bothered with others’ affairs, I’m seemingly indolent. These considerations lead many readers to reject Yang Chu’s thoughts. But, as is the case for the first premise, I think that this is a misinterpretation of the tenet. It is more likely, with the first tenet also in mind, that he thought one should not seek ties to the body, but whether the body is tied or not is up to more external matters; just as a tie to the body is like tenet one’s bind to the body, one should not voluntarily be bound or tied to things as this would be contrary to the natures (or intrinsic properties) of both man and the things concerned. Derivatively, (it’s most likely that) Yang Chu had no notion in mind about whether one should actively seek not to tie the body. My guess is that Yang Chu thought that one should not seek ties, instead of one seeking not to tie the body. What does this mean? Let’s say that he who seeks is already bound.
What do you readers think? Am I off the mark in my understanding? Does this even make sense? If you have questions or criticism, comments or feedback, feel free to email us or post a comment.