Su Tongpo understood that if the wind could blow through the woods and the rain could beat the leaves, they would strike him as well. But he refused to let them interrupt his journey: "I shall continue on my way and get to my destination. I am determined to get there." What is more, my attitude shall be: "Why not sing and recite as I take a pleasant stroll?" He would recite poems and sing songs, traveling at his own leisurely pace.
He could remain calm and relaxed because he was a wise man. He truly believed that "The bothersome rain and gusty wind know when to cease." He knew for sure that the rain would stop and the wind would die down. Could it be possible for the weather not to vary between sunny and cloudy days? Could the world be free from fluctuations between prosperity and poverty? When the rain stops and the sun comes out, although "the whistling winds and the pelting rains" still echo in one's ears and the path one has just traveled looks desolate, covered with broken branches and fallen leaves, one only feels that "Neither storm nor clear skies exist."
In that poem, Su Tongpo describes his own inner world, an inner state in which "neither storm nor clear skies exist." In his mind, there is no panic or anxiety generated by "bothersome rain and gusty wind," nor is there cheer and joy brought on by the sunny clear skies after the storm. Since he thoroughly possessed the broad outlook of a wise man, he was able to perceive and accept that the universe was perpetually undergoing infinite changes. His was the all-encompassing perspective expressed in the lines:
When the clouds disperse and the moon shines,
What decoration is needed?
The sky and sea are originally clear.
A "broad perspective" refers to a wise person's capacity to see the big picture clearly and understand the ever-changing tides of success and failure, prosperity and poverty, glory and decline, blessings and calamities, in the world of men.
The next line, "There is nothing he cannot handle," indicates the open-minded attitude which allows a wise individual to exist in harmony with the universe. Since a wise person is not influenced Bodhi Field by any external phenomena, such as bothersome rain and gusty wind, cloudy and sunny days, the waxing and waning of the moon, prosperity and decline, progress and regress, and so on, he or she can handle anything in this world easily and effortlessly.
That was why Gu Zhi quoted from Li Gonghuan's commentary to explain
'Wise men understand these conditions.' They understand how conditions come together. I just quoted the first line,
"Decline and prosperity are not fixed; / To each other they give rise." I also mentioned a concept from Lao Zi:
Misfortune is the source of fortune; fortune is the origin of misfortune. Most people regard prosperity, decline, misfortune, and fortune as isolated conditions. They think, "There is decline, and here is prosperity. This is fortune, and that is misfortune." However, a wise person views the world differently. A wise person sees that prosperity and decline, as well as misfortune and fortune, transform into each other. Thus, 'wise men understand these conditions.' They comprehend and experience them. Tao Yuanming understands this philosophy,
'harboring no doubts whatsoever.'
The Chinese character shi is an auxiliary word frequently used in
The Book of Odes. There is a poem "Big Rats" in The Book of Odes:
Big rats! Big rats! Eat my crops no more.
I served you for three years, but you cared not one whit for me!
Ah! I'm leaving you and moving to a better land.
Of course, rats cannot understand those words. Actually, the author was using the rats as a metaphor to criticize exploiters who in their insatiable greed sought to gain something for nothing. He said, "Hey, big rats! Don't eat my crops anymore. Don't exploit the harvest of my hard work. I served you for three years. I have provided service to you, but you cared not one whit for me. You have not shown the least bit of consideration for me."
"Ah! I'm leaving you." There are two explanations in The Book of Odes regarding the character
shi, translated as ' Ah!' One is that it is an auxiliary word without any meaning; the other one is that it indicates 'separation'. Actually I believe that the word 'leaving' already denotes separate itself, so the
shi should not mean 'separation,' but should be an auxiliary word expressing a tone of resignation and helplessness. "Ah! I'm leaving you!"
In the sentence, 'Wise men understand these conditions, harboring no doubts whatsoever,' Tao uses the character
shi from The Book of Odes. He says, "Since I realize the fundamental law of constant fluctuation between prosperity and decline, fortune and misfortune, progress and regress, gain and loss in the universe, the world and society, I will have no more doubts or vexations.
To be continued