contemplativeinquiry

This blog is about contemplative inquiry

Tag: Lieh Tzu

THE MAN WHO LOST HIS MEMORY

“A man called Hua-tzu suddenly lost his memory in middle age. If you gave him something in the morning, he would forget about it by evening. If you asked him about something in the evening, he would forget it the next day. In the street he would forget to walk. At home he would forget to sit. Today he would forget what happened yesterday, and tomorrow he would not remember what happened the day before.

“Concerned about his loss of memory, his family first invited a fortune-teller and then a sorcerer to see if they could help Hua-tzu restore his memory. When neither could help, a doctor was called, but the healer shook his head and said there was nothing he could do either.

“Finally, Hua-tzu thought about a philosopher who could probably help him. So desperate was Hua-tzu’s wife in finding him a cure that she sold half their possessions and took her husband to the philosopher to ask for help.

“The family traveled to the philosopher’s home and he begged the wise man to cure Hua-tzu. The philosopher told the family, ‘this kind of illness cannot be cured by omens, magic or herbs. I’ll have to use special methods that are designed to work on his mind’.

“…..

“For seven days the philosopher was secluded with Hua-tzu. No one knew what he did or how he did it, but when Hua-tzu’s family arrived to take him home, they found him completely cured.

“After Hua-tzu recovered his memory, he became irritable and angry. He chased out his wife, beat up his sons and threatened the philosopher with a spear. When the police arrested him for disrupting the peace and questioned his motives, Hua-tzu said, ‘when I lost my memory, I was carefree and happy. I slept peacefully and had no worries when I woke up. I didn’t have anything on my mind, and I was a free man. Now that I’ve got my memory back I am miserable. I look back on the fortunes and misfortunes, the gains and losses, the joys and sorrows in my life, and I am overwhelmed. I woke up from a good dream into a nightmare. I will never be able to go back to the happy times when my memory was lost’.”

Eva Wong Lieh-tzu: a Taoist Guide to Practical Living Boston & London: Shambhala, 2001

 

Eva Wong grew up bilingual in Hong Kong, is a practitioner of the Taoist arts and a well-known translator of Taoist and other Chinese texts. She writes, “before I had even heard of Taoism, the stories of the Lieh-tzu were familiar to me from my childhood readers … although my family was bilingual, I grew up in Chinese culture, and the Lieh-tzu gave me and my schoolmates kernels of wisdom packed in fables and proverbs. Even at age six and seven, we knew about the Old Fool who tried to move the mountains, the man who worried that the sky would fall, and the man who tried to chase down the sun”.

THE ART OF TRAVELING AND SIGHTSEEING

“Lieh-tzu used to love to travel and to see the sights. When his teacher Hu-tzu asked him what he found so enjoyable about traveling, Lieh-tzu said, ‘While other people travel to see the beauty of sights and surroundings, I enjoy seeing the way things change. To other sightseers, it may seem that I am like them, but the difference between us is that they see things whereas I see changes.’

“Hu-tzu said, ‘You think you are different from other travelers, but actually you are not. Although they are amused by sights and sounds, and you are fascinated by things that always change, you are both occupied with what is out there rather than what you experience inside. People who are attracted to the external world are always looking for something new and wonderful that will satisfy their senses. However, only people who look into themselves will find true satisfaction.’

“After this conversation, Lieh-tzu stopped traveling because he thought he had thoroughly misunderstood what it means to travel. Seeing this, Hu-tzu said to him, ‘Travel is such a wonderful experience! Especially when you forget you are traveling. Then you will enjoy whatever you see and do. Those who look into themselves when they travel will not think about what they see. In fact, there is no distinction between the viewer and the seen. You experience everything with the totality of yourself, so that every blade of grass, every mountain, every lake is alive and is a part of you. When there is no division between you and what is other, this is the ultimate experience of traveling.’”

Eva Wong Lieh-tzu: a Taoist Guide to Practical Living Boston & London: Shambhala, 2001

Eva Wong grew up bilingual in Hong Kong, is a practitioner of the Taoist arts and a well-known translator of Taoist and other Chinese texts. She writes, “before I had even heard of Taoism, the stories of the Lieh-tzu were familiar to me from my childhood readers … although my family was bilingual, I grew up in Chinese culture, and the Lieh-tzu gave me and my schoolmates kernels of wisdom packed in fables and proverbs. Even at age six and seven, we knew about the Old Fool who tried to move the mountains, the man who worried that the sky would fall, and the man who tried to chase down the sun”.

The Lieh-tzu is less well known to Westerners than Lao-Tzu’s Tao-Te-Ching or the work of Chuang-tzu. But for Eva Wong the voice of the Lieh-tzu is a friendly one, not that of an all-knowing sage or master. “It is the voice of someone who gives advice not because he is an expert, but because he has made mistakes and learned from them. It comes from a person who allows us to listen. He speaks, he pauses, and when we respond, he speaks again”.

Comparing the three great representatives of early Taoism, Eva Wong says that “Lao-tzu speaks as a sage”, and “when the lecture is over, there is no question period. It is up to us to understand him”. Chuang-tzu “is an eccentric who chuckles to himself and is not concerned about being understood. He “wanders in a world different to ours”, where “the ground of reality is always changing”. But “the Lieh-tzu is different. Lieh-tzu lives in our world. He talks about experiences we can understand … life and death, fortune and misfortune, gain and loss … friendship, human communication, dreams, reality and learning … it is as if someone gently shook us and woke us from a deep sleep … I am awed by Lao-tzu, baffled by Chuang-tzu, but I am never afraid of Lieh-tzu”.

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