Lao Tzu’s Funeral

Chuang Tzu Translation and Commentary

Laodan was dead. Chin Shih went to his funeral.

He yelled three times and then came out.

A disciple asked: “Are you not the Master’s friend?”

He replied: “Yes.”

“But then you mourn him like that, is it alright?”

He replied: “Yes. At first I thought he was a great man, but now I see that is not so.

“Of those who mourn him, there are the elderly who cry for him like they cry for their own son, and younger people who cry for him like they cry for their own mother.

“When they gather together like this, there must be those who don’t want to talk but talk, and those who don’t want to cry but cry.

“This is denying the true self and going against one’s feelings, forgetting one’s given nature. The ancients would call this the punishment for denying the true self.

“When it was suitable to come into the world, the Master came at the right time. When it was suitable to depart the world, the Master left naturally.

“If one can calmly wait for the right moment and go with the natural flow, sadness and joy cannot enter the heart. The ancients would call that being released by the Emperor from hanging upside down.”

“Laodan” is a respectful reference to Lao Tzu.

From the Tao perspective, life and death are natural processes and they occur at the appropriate time for their own reasons. We attach a lot of unnecessary emotion to these events when we fail to see that they are merely part of the flow of the universe. Chin Shih likens this sort of misery to the punishment of hanging upside down. To be able to make the breakthrough and see life and death as they really are is to be released from this punishment.

Derek Lin
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