On beginning and end Lao Tzu says:
That which lies still is easy to hold;
that which is not yet manifest is easy to forestall;
that which is brittle (like ice) easily melts;
that which is minute easily scatters.
Deal with a thing before it is there;
check disorder before it is rife.
A tree with a full span’s girth begins from a tiny sprout.
A nine-storied terrace begins with a clod of earth.
A journey of a thousand li begins at one’s feet.
He who acts, spoils;
he who grasps, lets slip.
Because the sage does not act, he does not spoil;
because he does not grasp, he does not let slip.
The affairs of men are often spoiled
within an ace of completion,
by being careful at the end as at the beginning
failure is averted.
Therefore the sage desires to have no desire,
and values not objects difficult to obtain.
Learns that which is unlearned,
and restores what the multitude have lost.
That he may assist in the course of nature
and not presume to interfere.
A Chinese allegory tells about a monk who was in search of Buddha.
He traveled for years and years and then finally he arrived in the country where Buddha lived. Just a river had to be crossed and he would be face to face with Buddha. He was ecstatic.
He inquired whether he could get a ferry or boat to go to the other shore, for the river was very wide. But people on the shore informed him, “Nobody will be able to take you there because there is a legend that whosoever goes to the other shore never comes back. So nobody can dare to take you there. You will have to swim.”
Afraid of course, because the river was very wide, but still finding no other way, the monk started swimming. Just in the middle of the river he saw a corpse floating, coming closer and closer towards him. He became afraid; he wanted to avoid the corpse. He tried in many ways to dodge but he couldn’t, the corpse proved very tricky; howsoever he tried, the corpse kept coming closer and closer.
Then finding no way to escape from it – and, moreover, curiosity also possessed him because the corpse seemed to be the corpse of a Buddhist monk: the ochre robe, the clean-shaved head – taking courage he allowed the corpse to come near; in fact rather on the contrary he himself swam towards the corpse.
He looked at the face, and started laughing madly, because it was his own corpse. He could not believe his eyes, but it was so. He looked again and again, but it was his own corpse.