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Chapter 5: Three in the Morning

What is this three in the morning?

It is about a monkey trainer
who went to his monkeys and told them:
“As regards your chestnuts,
you are going to have three measures in the morning,
and four in the afternoon.”

On hearing this all the monkeys became angry.
So the keeper said:
“All right then,
I will change it
to four measures in the morning,
and three in the afternoon.”
The animals were satisfied with this arrangement.

The two arrangements were the same -
the number of chestnuts did not change,
but in one case the monkeys were displeased,
and in the other case they were satisfied.

The keeper was willing
to change his personal arrangement
in order to meet objective conditions.
He lost nothing by it.

The truly wise man,
considering both sides of the question
without partiality,
sees them both in the light of Tao.
This is called following two courses at once.

The law of the three in the morning: Chuang Tzu loved this story very much. He often repeated it. It is beautiful, with many layers of meaning. Obviously very simple, but still very deeply indicative of the human mind.

The first thing to be understood is: the human mind is monkeyish. It was not Darwin who discovered that man comes from monkeys. It has been a long-standing observation that the human mind behaves in the same patterns as the mind of the monkey. Only rarely does it happen that you transcend your monkeyishness. When mind becomes still, when mind becomes silent, when there is really no mind at all, you transcend the monkeyish pattern.

What is the monkeyish pattern? For one thing, it is never still. And unless you are still, you cannot see the truth. You are wavering, trembling so much that nothing can be seen. Clear perception is impossible. While meditating what are you doing? You are putting the monkey in a position of stillness, hence all the difficulties of meditation. The more you try to make the mind still, the more it revolts, the more it starts getting into turmoil, the more restless it becomes.

Have you ever seen a monkey sitting still and silent? Impossible! The monkey is always eating something, doing something, swaying, chattering. This is what you are doing. Man has invented many things. If there is nothing to do he will chew gum; if there is nothing to do he will smoke. These are just foolish occupations, monkeyish occupations. Something has to be done continuously so that you remain occupied.

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