Tag Archives: Lieh-Tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living

There Are Some Things You Just Can’t Fight

From Lieh-Tzu, A Taoist Guide to Practical Living, by Eva Wong (Shambhala Publications, 1995):

An eye that is about to lose its sight tends to be extremely sharp in making out details.  An ear that is about to become deaf tends to be very acute in its hearing. A tongue that about to lose its sensitivity can make out the differences between water from two sources.  A nose that is about to lose its ability is most sensitive to fragrances.  It is as if the senses are fighting to maintain their usefulness.  However, no matter how hard they fight, they will eventually lose their effectiveness.

It is the same with people.  People who are beginning to weaken will push their bodies to the limit.  People who are about to lose their minds will become unusually argumentative.  This is because they are not willing to admit that all things must end, and they want to make a show of their strength to cover their weakness.

On the other hand, enlightened persons accept the natural course of things.  They do not force their bodies to display strength or their minds to show cleverness.  Knowing that there are some things that they can’t fight, they accept what comes.  That is why they can embrace life and accept death. 

Confusing Name With Reality

From Lieh-Tzu, A Taoist Guide to Practical Living, (Eva Wong, Shambhala Publications Inc, 1995)

A man from the eastern provinces was traveling along a seldom-used road when he fainted. A robber happened to be passing by and noticed the man fallen by the wayside. Seeing that the traveler was still alive, the robber started to revive the man by offering him food and water.  After three mouthfuls, the man opened his eyes.  Seeing a gruff and fierce-looking man bent over him, he said, ‘who are you?’

The robber said, ‘I am Ch’iu of the region of Hu-fu.’

Startled, the traveler said, ‘You’re not that infamous robber who’s wanted everywhere are you?’

‘I am he.’

‘Then why did you give me food?  Did you help me because you associate me with your kind?  I am a man of virtue and will not eat anything that comes from a criminal.’

The traveler then tried to throw up the food the robber had given him.  Eventually he choked on his vomit and died.

Even if Ch’iu was a criminal, his intent and action in this situation was not criminal.  Although he might have committed unforgivable crimes, there was nothing criminal about the food and water.  Self-righteous people often follow a principle blindly without understanding it and in doing so confuse what is name and what is reality.

Introduction to Horizontal Growth


Scientology is perhaps the most powerful technology ever developed for vertical, cognitive individual growth.  Unfortunately it comes with an instilled mores that devalues and prohibits meaningful horizontal growth.   In my opinion, vertical growth, absent a horizontal foundation can cause spiritual vertigo.

The following 2,000-plus year old story is translated by Eva Wong in  Lieh-Tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living (Shambala Publications, Inc.).  It gives a flavor of what I mean by horizontal growth.

What is Wisdom?

One day Tzu-hsia was chatting with Confucius.  When they came to discussing the merits of each student, Tzu-hsia asked his teacher, “What do you think of Yen-hui?”  Confucius replied, “Yen-hui is very kind and gentle.  His compassion far surpasses mine.”

“How about Tzu-kung?”

“Tzu-kung is much better than I am when it comes to debating and presenting arguments.”

“And what about Tzu-lu?”

“Tzu-lu is a brave man.  I cannot match him for courage.”

“And Tzu-chang?”

“Tzu-chang can hold his dignity better than I.”

Tzu-hsia was so surprised by his teacher’s answers that he stood up and exclaimed, “How come they all want to learn from you?”

Confucius motioned his student to sit down.  When he saw that Tzu-hsia had calmed down, he said, “Yen-hui is compassionate, but he is stubborn and inflexible.  Tzu-kung can be very persuasive, but he does not know when to stop talking.  Tzu-lu can be courageous but does not know tolerance.  Tzu-chang can be dignified but does not know how to be harmonious with others.  I would not exchange their merits for my own even if they offered. That’s why they all come to learn from me.”

Wisdom is not competence in one skill or many skills.  It is the ability to recognize strengths and weaknesses in ourselves and others.  Thus, a wise teacher knows that although he may not surpass certain students in specific skills, he can give them what they need to become better individuals.