Confucius was a politician, cunning, clever, but not really intelligent; otherwise he would have fallen at the feet of Lao Tzu, he would not have escaped. He was not only afraid of Lao Tzu, he was afraid of silence…because Lao Tzu and silence are the same.
But I wanted to include one of Confucius’ most famous books, just to be fair. Analects is his most important book. To me it is just like the roots of a tree, ugly but very essential – what you call a necessary evil. Analects is a necessary evil. In it he talks about the world and worldly matters, politics and all. One disciple asked him, “Master, what about silence?”
Confucius was irritated, annoyed. He shouted at the disciple and said, “Shut up! Silence? – silence you will have in your grave. In life there is no need for it, there are many much more important things to do.”
This was his attitude. You can understand why I don’t like him. I pity him. He was a good man. Alas, he came so close to one of the greatest, Lao Tzu, and yet missed! I can only shed a tear for him.
Third: Kahlil Gibran wrote many books in his mother tongue. Those that he wrote in English are well known: the most famous, The Prophet and The Madman…and there are many others. But he wrote many in his own language, few of which are translated. Of course translations cannot be the same, but Kahlil Gibran is so great that even in translation you can find something valuable. I am going to refer to a few translations today. The third is Kahlil Gibran’s The Garden of the Prophet. It is a translation, but it reminds me of the great Epicurus.
I don’t know that anybody except me has ever called Epicurus great. He has been condemned down the ages. But I know that when the masses condemn a man there is bound to be something great in him. Kahlil Gibran’s book The Garden of the Prophet reminds me of Epicurus because he used to call his commune The Garden. Everything a person does represents him. Plato called his commune The Academy – naturally; he was an academician, a great intellectual philosopher.
Epicurus called his commune The Garden. They lived under the trees, under the stars. Once the king came to see Epicurus because he had heard how these people are immensely happy. He wanted to know, he was curious as to why these people were so happy: What could be the cause? – because they didn’t have anything. He was puzzled, because they were really happy, they were singing and dancing.
The king said, “I feel very pleased with you and your people, Epicurus. Would you like a gift from me?”
Epicurus said to the king, “If you come again you could bring a little butter, because for many years my people have not known butter. They are eating just bread without butter. And one thing more: if you come again please don’t stand like an outsider; at least for the time you are here become part of us. Participate, be one of us. Dance, sing. We don’t have anything else to offer you.”