When Confucius met Lao Tzu
“The wise men of olden times wandered freely in the wilds. They lived in simplicity. They dwelled in non-action. They were natural. Their natural wandering led them to the Tao.”
Confucius – or Kongzi – was a Chinese philosopher from the 6th century BCE whose thoughts and ideals deeply influenced Chinese culture right up to the present day. Amongst his ideals were the importance of a virtuous life, the cultivation of moral values and respect towards one’s elders and ancestors.
Lao Tzu – or Laozi – was a Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism. He is considered a deity in traditional Chinese religions and Taoism.
The Tao, is the absolute principle underlying the universe. The principle, when realized leads to self-realisation, Samadhi (in Yogic traditions) or Nirvana (in Buddhist traditions).
Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher was known across the globe. He was called for advice upon by kings, emperors and other renowned wise men.
He was the wisest man in China at the time. But like all people, even he needed counsel at certain times. He had helped many with his profound knowledge, but somehow he was unable to help himself. His spirit called out for more.
Confucius knew he needed the counsel of a wise man. A wiser man in such matters. He knew there would be someone who could advise him. Even to him, the greatest philosopher of the land. True wisdom is born out of humility and Confucius was well aware of it.
He initiated a secret search, looking for the wisest of all. Ordinary wise men would not do, as they would all come to him for advice. He needed someone unordinary. Someone mystical and unknown.
His disciples looked far and wide. And after a great search they found a person who could be of help. Nobody knew his name, so they called him Lao Tzu, which literally means ‘an old guy’.
Confucius, excited about their finding left at once to meet this mystical man.
Upon first meeting, Confucius immediately recognised Lao Tzu’s great intellect, understanding and brilliance.
He saw in him a quality he had never seen before. He was unable to fully grasp this quality. It was mysterious and unfamiliar to him. He knew Lao Tzu was extraordinary. A hidden gem.
“Ah, you have arrived. I hear you are a wise man from the North. Have you attained the Tao?” Said Lao Tzu.
“Not yet” he replied softly.
“How have you sought it?”
“I pursued it through rules and regulations. Five years I spent seeking. Yet, I could not attain the Tao”
“How else did you seek it?
“I explored in the Yin and the Yang. Twelve years went by, and still I could not attain it.”
“Of course not.” – Lao Tzu exclaimed “The Tao cannot be sought in this way. The wise men of olden times wandered freely in the wilds. They lived in simplicity. They dwelled in non-action. They were natural. Their natural wandering led them to the Tao.”
Confucius stood quietly for a few moments, realising the weight of Lao Tzu’s words. Then, with great curiosity, he asked “What do you say about the virtues of benevolence and righteousness?” After all, Confucius was a moralist. He believed great conduct and benevolence were the epitome of human achievement.
“Only when one is immoral does the question of morality arise. Only when malevolence exists in the self does one think of cultivating benevolence. But those who are truly moral and benevolent, to them such qualities are natural. Don’t waste your time cultivating values. Just be natural. Adopt simplicity and authenticity. Move freely with the wind and abide by your inner power. Remember, a snow goose needs not a daily bath to remain white. A crow needs no daily ink to remain black. If you seek the ultimate truth, live in truth.”
Lao Tzu’s energy made Confucius tremble. It was too much to handle. He had to leave at once.
His disciples were astonished. The great Confucius, who remained calm in the presence of the greatest emperors, became anxious in the presence of an unknown old man. They wondered what had Lao Tzu done to their teacher.
“When you met Lao Tzu, what advice did you give him?” They enquired.
“I have seen great animals, such as elephants. I know how they move, how they live. I have heard of the great hidden animals of the seas. I know how they swim and how they feed. I know of the great birds of the earth who fly thousands of miles in a single flight. I know how they fly. But finally, I have met a dragon. A dragon that rides on expansive clouds and feeds on the purest Yin and Yang. Nobody knows how he lives, how he feeds or how he flies. My mouth fell open in his presence. I was astonished. How could I ever offer advice to a Dragon? I had to leave.”
Quotes by Lao Tzu
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.”
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.”
Quotes by Confucius
“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”
“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.”