Friday, January 6, 2012

The morality of a thief

《庄子·胠箧》:“ 《庄子·胠箧》:“ 跖 之徒问於 跖 曰:‘盗亦有道乎?’ 跖 曰:‘何适而无有道邪?夫妄意室中之藏,圣也;入先,勇也;出后,义也;知可否,知也;分均,仁也。五者不备,而能成大盗者,天下未之有也。’

My tranlation of Zhuang Zi's "The morality of a thief"

The disciples of Zhi asked Zhi: Do we thieves believe in morality?

Zhi replied, "Of course! When we judge whether a house is hoarding treasure, the Wisdom of a sage is needed. When one chooses to be the first (thief) who enters, it calls for Bravery. When one chooses to be the last who flees, Righteousness (or Integrity) is demanded upon. A leader who insists on equitable share is a person with Benevolence. If a thief doesn't have all five qualities, he won't be able to become a great thief.

I always find the morality argument of ancient China's most famous thief Zhi (跖) most interesting .  In another text by Zhuang Zi, Zhi was said to have won an argument over Confucius on the subject of Morality!

What Zhi explained is really the natural order of things.  It can be applied to all predators (like a tiger - a "great" tiger certainly needs the qualities that Zhi mentioned).   An "Eco-system" that contemporary conservationists like to praise and maintain is full of Zhi's morality. 

And incidentally, it will ALWAYS apply to us too - if we're not mindful enough in our every thought and action.

Corollary: Tao is NOT back to nature.


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