Chapter 1: On the Absolute Tao
It is said that Confucius went to see Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu was an old man, Confucius was younger. Lao Tzu was almost unknown, Confucius was almost universally known. Kings and emperors used to call him to their courts; wise men used to come for his advice. He was the wisest man in China in those days. But by and by he must have felt that his wisdom might be of use to others, but he was not blissful, he had not attained to anything. He had become an expert, maybe helpful to others, but not helpful to himself.
So he started a secret search to find someone who could help him. Ordinary wise men wouldn’t do, because they used to come for his own advice. Great scholars wouldn’t do; they used to come to ask him about their problems. But there must be someone somewhere - life is vast. He tried a secret search.
He sent his disciples to find someone who could be of help to him, and they came with the information that there lived a man - nobody knew his name - he was known as The Old Guy. Lao Tzu means “the old guy.” The word is not his name, nobody knows his name. He was such an unknown man that nobody knows when he was born, nobody knows to whom - who his father was or who his mother was. He had lived for ninety years but only very rare human beings had come across him, very rare, who had different eyes and perspectives with which to understand him. He was only for the rarest - so ordinary a man, but only for the rarest of human minds.
Hearing this news that there exists a man known as The Old Guy, Confucius went to see him. When he met Lao Tzu he could feel that here was a man of great understanding, great intellectual integrity, great logical acumen, a genius. He could feel that something was there, but he couldn’t catch hold of it. Vaguely, mysteriously, there was something; this man was no ordinary man although he looked absolutely ordinary. Something was hidden; he was carrying a treasure.
Confucius asked, “What do you say about morality? What do you say about how to cultivate good character?” - because he was a moralist and he thought that if you cultivate a good character that is the highest attainment.
Lao Tzu laughed loudly, and said, “If you are immoral, only then the question of morality arises. And if you don’t have any character, only then you think about character. A man of character is absolutely oblivious of the fact that anything like character exists. A man of morality does not know what the word moral means. So don’t be foolish! And don’t try to cultivate. Just be natural.”
And the man had such tremendous energy that Confucius started trembling. He couldn’t stand him. He escaped. He became afraid - as one becomes afraid near an abyss. When he came back to his disciples, who were waiting outside under a tree, the disciples could not believe it. This man had been going to emperors, the greatest emperors, and they had never seen any nervousness in him. And he was trembling, and cold perspiration was coming, pouring out from all over his body. They couldn’t believe it - what had happened? What had this man Lao Tzu done to their teacher? They asked him and he said, “Wait a little. Let me collect myself. This man is dangerous.”