“Maybe” – a Taoist tale

In a small village in rural China, there was a wise and simple man who had a horse, a beautiful horse. One day, the horse ran away. Some villagers paid the man a visit, telling him how sorry they were and how sad it was that he had lost his horse. The man answered: “maybe.”

A few days later, the horse came back with seven beautiful wild horses accompanying him. The villagers went to see the man again and told him how wonderful that was. The man answered: “maybe.”

A few days later, the man’s son who tried to tame one of the wild horses, was thrown on the ground and broke his leg. The villagers who came to visit the injured young man told his father that it was indeed an unfortunate event. The man answered: “maybe.”

The following week, administrative officials came by the house to sign-up the young man into the Imperial Army. Being injured, he avoided conscription. The villagers rejoiced and told the father how lucky he was. The wise and simple man answered once again: “maybe.”


Notes:

On the story: This is an old Taoist story that I just put into my own words. The central idea is the one of not seeing advantages and/or disadvantages in things, in not weighting actions and things, in not qualifying them as good or bad. It is fundamental to Taoism. The great Taoist Master Lieh-Tzu (China 4th c. BCE) who lived a few centuries after Lao Tse (China, 6th c. BCE), the author of the “Tao Te Ching,” use to meditate on the “neutrality” of things as a way to go beyond them. The practicality of it as illustrated in the story, is to avoid anxiety by imposing or bending things with our mind.

As the “Tao Te Ching” says:

“When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.
Being and non-being create each other.”
(Ref: No. 2 of the “Tao Te Ching,” trans. by S. Mitchell, 1988)

Sadness

Sadness is an immense meadow.
A misty meadow filled with elegant trees,
branches laden with silent love.

Live your sadness thoroughly
like a rainy day that seems to never end.
Shed tears. Shed them all.

Let sadness devastate you,
crush your heart
until slowing it to the limits of life.

Then let the intense force of love,
the very root and fruit of sadness,
awake it all.

Let love open your eyes
and pull you up so that you may stand
in the vast meadow of sadness.

Let love reveal to you
that state of grace that only beauty confers.
Let it enrobe you with its immeasurable tenderness.

Yes, the world is often rough and cunning,
shattering our most intimate thoughts
and forcing us to doubt the simple beauty in our lives.

So open your eyes and take in the beauty.
Let all your sadness become a piece of cloud,
then place it inside your heart so that love may find a place to rest.

Kenza.

A heavy burden

“Accomplish but do not boast,
accomplish without show,
accomplish without arrogance.”
Lao Tzu

A long time ago in China, two monks were traveling in a carriage returning to their monastery. One was an old master with a gentle smile and sparkling eyes. While his hands looked like old pine trees twisted by age, his back was straight and his mind most sharp. The other one was a young monk and his student. While he was in the prime of his youth, unlike his master, he retained a rather stern demeanour and small lines had already started to form between his thin eyebrows.

After many days of travel, they finally reached the village at the foot of the mountain where their monastery was located. It was raining steadily. A large puddle greeted the travelers as they stepped out of the carriage.

A lady dressed in long robes and wearing silk slippers looked upon the puddle. “How can I come down? This is terrible! I will get my clothes and my slippers all dirty!”

Upon seeing her distress, the old monk gently lifted her in his arms and carried her across the puddle to a dry place under a large tree. His legs were all muddied and his sandals and robe soaked. He bowed and smiled at her, both gestures left unrequited.

Still smiling, the old master called upon his student so they may start their long walk up the mountain to the monastery.

They walked in silence. The old monk humming some mantras, listening to the birds and caressing the high grass with his palms.

After some time, the young monk turned to his master, and with deeper than usual lines between his thin eyebrows, told him:

“This is just terrible! You carried the lady across the puddle, got all muddied and wet, and she never thanked you! How ungrateful of her!”

The old monk replied with a gentle smile: “I stopped carrying the lady hours ago, while it seems you are still carrying her!”

Kenza.