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March 8, 2016

The Vanity Of Fame

Zen Rock In Ocean Surf
Yang Chu was a philosopher of Chinese thought who probably lived in the 300's B.C.E. although no one knows for sure. He has been associated with other Taoists like Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu although they are quite different and were not considered to be members of a single school. In the texts that follow, Yang Chu is far from being a mystic. Indeed he is concerned mainly with enjoying life to its fullest; allowing a person's individual character the fullest expression possible while not interfering with natural flow.

YANG CHU, when travelling in Lu, put up at Meng Sun Yang's.

   Meng asked him: "A man can never be more than a man; why do people still trouble themselves about fame?"

   Yang Chu answered: "If they do so their object is to become rich."

   Meng: "But when they have become rich, why do they not stop?"

   Yang Chu said: "They aim at getting honors."

   Meng: "Why then do they not stop when they have got them?"

   Yang Chu: "On account of their death."

   Meng: "But what can they desire still after their death?"

   Yang Chu: "They think of their posterity."

   Meng: "How can their fame be available to their posterity?"

   Yang Chu: "For fame's sake they endure all kinds of bodily hardship and mental pain. They dispose of their glory for the benefit of their clan, and even their fellow-citizens profit by it. How much more so do their descendants! It becomes those desirous of real fame to be disinterested, and disinterestedness means poverty; and likewise they must be un-ostentatious, and this is equivalent to humble condition."

   How then can fame be disregarded, and how can fame come of itself?

   The ignorant, while seeking to maintain fame, sacrifice reality. By doing so they will have to regret that nothing can rescue them from danger and death, and not only learn to know the difference between ease and pleasure and sorrow and grief.