The Seeker – Pt 1

December 26, 2013 at 10:28 am Leave a comment

The Seeker is taken from the writings of Chuang Tzu and appears in my book The Spiritual Teachings of The Tao:

1. The Reluctant Sage

Among the students of Lao Tzu there was one, Keng Sang Chu, who understood some of his master’s teaching, and wanted to put it into practice with his followers in the north, at the hill of Wei Lei.

Students he judged pretentious know-it-alls he sent away, and concubines who were overly kind he kept at a distance. He decided to live only with those who were off-hand and rude, and employed only the rough and ill-mannered.

After three years there were great harvests in Wei Lei, and the people remarked, “When Master Keng Sang first came here, we were alarmed by his strangeness. We thought he couldn’t do us any good, but now we’ve known him for three years, his presence is extremely beneficial. Surely he must be a sage? Why don’t we revere him as the representative of our departed ancestors, and build an altar to him as our god of the earth and grain?”

Keng Sang heard about this and was unhappy. His students thought this odd, but he said to them, “Why do you think this strange? When spring’s breath arrives, vegetation grows; when autumn arrives, fruits of the earth ripen. Do spring and autumn do this without a cause? It’s just the processes of Great Tao in operation.

I was taught that the Real Person keeps calm deep within his house, while the people rush around, unthinking and crazy, not knowing what they are doing.

Now these petty people of Wei Lei want to present their offerings to me and place me among the wise men. But should I be set up as a model? This is what makes me unhappy, especially when I think of the teaching of my Master.”

His students said, “You mustn’t think like this. In a ditch eight yards wide, a big fish can’t turn around, but minnows and eels find it very congenial. On a small hill a large animal can’t hide, but foxes find it excellent cover. Besides, the wise should be honoured, and the able rewarded, while preference should be shown to the good and beneficial. The ancient Emperors Yao and Shun acted like this. How much more should the people of Wei Lei do so! Please Master, indulge them!”

Keng Sang replied, “Come nearer my children, and listen. Suppose there was an animal so big that it could grab a carriage in its mouth. If it left the hills, it wouldn’t escape the danger of being trapped in a net. Or if a whale that could swallow a boat was left stranded on the shore, then even ants would be able to bother it. That’s why birds and animals aim to be as high as possible, and fish and turtles dive as deep as possible. In the same way a person who wants to preserve his body and life keeps concealed, and does so in the remotest place possible.

Besides, what did those Emperors do to deserve your praise? In their arguments it was as though they reck-lessly tore down walls to plant wormwood and brambles in their place, or thinned their hair before combing it, or counted the grains of rice before cooking. They did everything with finicky discrimination, but how did that help the world?

If you promote the talented, you create disorder, making the people compete with one another. If you employ the wise, the people steal each other’s reputation. Those who calculate life can’t make the people good and honest. Indeed, the people are very eager for gain – a son will kill his father, and a minister his ruler for it. People steal in broad daylight, and at midday tunnel through walls. I tell you the root of this great disorder was planted in the times of Yao and Shun. The branches of it will remain for a thousand ages, and after a thousand ages people will surely be found eating one another.”

2. The Perplexed Student

Nan Jung Chu was an older student and seeker of Tao, and he asked Keng Sang Chu, “What means can an old man like me adopt to become a Real Person?”

Master Keng Sang said,

“Keep your body intact,
hold on to your vital energy,
don’t let your thoughts be turbulent.

Do this for three years, and you may become a Real Person.”

Nan Jung replied, “Eyes are all formed the same, there’s no difference between them, but the blind can’t see. Ears are all the same, no difference between them, but the deaf can’t hear. Minds are all the same nature, no difference between them, but the insane can’t use theirs.

My body and mind is formed like yours but somehow there is a gap between us. I’d like to find myself, but I’m not able to do it. You’ve now said to me,

‘Keep your body intact,
hold on to your vital energy,
don’t let your thoughts be turbulent.’

With all my efforts to learn Tao, your words reach only my ears.”

Keng Sang replied, “I have nothing more to teach you.”

Then he added, “There is a saying, ‘Small flies can’t transform the bean caterpillar; fowls from Yueh can’t hatch geese eggs, but fowls from Lu can.’ It’s not that the power of these fowls is different, but their ability or inability comes from the differences of big and small. My ability is small and isn’t sufficient to transform you. Why don’t you go South to see Lao Tzu?”

3. The Three Dilemmas of Nan Jung Chu

Nan Jung Chu prepared some food, and walked seven days and nights, arriving alone at the house of Lao Tzu.

The Master said to him, “Have you come from Keng Sang Chu?”

“I have,” said Nan Jung.

“Why have you brought this crowd with you?”

Nan Jung was shocked, and swung his head round to look behind. Lao Tzu said, “Don’t you understand my meaning? You’ve come here with your mind stuffed full of ideas and problems, instead of coming here empty.”

Nan Jung lowered his head and sighed, then lifted it up, and said, “I didn’t understand your question, and I’ve now forgotten my own question.”

“What do you mean?”, asked the Old Master.

‘I have a predicament. If I’m not wise, people say I’m stupid, and if I’m knowledgeable, this disturbs my body. If I’m not good, then I harm others, while if I am good, I cause myself distress. If I’m not just, I’m accused of injuring others, while if I am just I upset myself.

These three dilemmas bother me and I walked here to ask your advice.”

Lao Tzu replied, “When I first saw you and looked into your eyes, I understood you, and your speech confirms my judgment. You look bewildered and confused, as if you’ve lost your parents, and are using a pole to try to find them at the bottom of the sea. You’ve gone astray and you’re at wit’s end. You want to restore your original nature, but don’t know the first step to take to find it. You’re in a sorry state!”

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What is Cultivation? The Seeker – Pt 2

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