Summary Of Shuangzi's View Of Death

979 Words 4 Pages
Though Zhuangzi’s true thoughts on death (as on many things) are occasionally unclear and apparently contradictory (in some instances, he seems to regard death as something bad that should be avoided and a long, natural life as a positive, as is implied by the stories of Hundun and Crippled Shu [95, 61], while in most others he expresses the more accepting view of death I explore here), one view dominates throughout his work. That view is this: death is an unavoidable part of life, and we therefore should not take great pains to avoid it or worry about the fact that we will die someday (though, if that worry does happen to naturally arise, we should not actively suppress it). In the same way that where there is day there must be night, “where …show more content…
Moreover, we have no way of knowing what death actually entails, and so have no reason to fear it. This view fits in well with the rest of his philosophy, which rejects rigid, unnatural distinctions between things, and advocates a lifestyle in accordance with nature, where one follows the path of least resistance wherever possible. This accepting viewpoint of death can be found throughout the Zhuangzi, expressed in several different parables (for such a short work, death comes up a surprising number of times). In one chapter, [sentence]. In another story, four old masters become friends after agreeing that “life and death, existence and annihilation, are all a single body (80).” When one of them, Master Yu, falls ill, one of his friends asks if he resents his …show more content…
For example, take the famous story of Zhuang Zhou’s butterfly dream (44). In this story Zhuangzi writes about vividly dreaming that he is a butterfly, not having any idea that he is dreaming, and then waking up as himself; upon waking up, “Zhuang Zhou [doesn’t] know if he [is] Zhang Zhou who ha[s] dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he [is] Zhang Zhou.” Though death is not directly mentioned in this anecdote, the analogy of death as waking up from a dream is obvious – when one wakes up from a dream, one essentially experiences a little death; the end of Zhang Zhou’s dream was effectively the end of the butterfly’s life, and for all he knows, when he goes to sleep the next night, it might mean the end of Zhang Zhou and a return to the butterfly’s life. Zhuangzi might ask who’s to say that when we die we do not wake up elsewhere, our past life seeming like nothing but a dream? In Master Lai’s words, “I will go off to sleep peacefully, and then with a start I will wake up (82).” To summarize: we have no way of knowing what happens after we die and whether it’s any different than life, and even if we did, we would have no way of stopping it, so there’s no use in worrying yourself too much about

Related Documents