When Lieh Tzu was eating at the roadside on a journey to Wei,
he saw a hundred-year-old skull.
Picking a stalk he pointed to the skull and, turning to his disciple Pai Feng, said
“Only he and I know that you were never born and will never die. Is it he who is truly miserable, is it we who are truly happy?”
I rejoice in Lieh Tzu – he is one of the most perfect expressions for the inexpressible.
Truth cannot be expressed: that inexpressibility is intrinsic to truth. Thousands and thousands of people have tried to express it – very few have succeeded even in giving a reflection of it. Lieh Tzu is one of those very few; he is rare.
Before we start entering into his world, a few things have to be under stood about him…his approach. His approach is that of an artist: the poet, the story-teller – and he is a master story-teller. Whenever somebody has experienced life, his experience has flowered into parables: that seems to be the easiest way to hint at that which cannot be said. A parable is a device, a great device; it is not just an ordinary story. The purpose of it is not to entertain you, the purpose of it is to say something which there is no other way to say. Life cannot be put into a theory – it is so vast, it is so infinite.
A theory by its very nature is closed. A theory has to be closed if it is a theory; it cannot be open-ended, otherwise it will be meaningless. A parable is open-ended: it says and yet it leaves much to be said, it only hints. And that which cannot be said can be shown. It is a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t cling to the finger – that is irrelevant – look at the moon. These parables in themselves are beautiful, but that is not their purpose…they go beyond, they are transcendental. If you dissect the parable itself you will not come to much understanding.
It is like the navel in the body of man. If you go to the surgeon and ask him what the purpose of the navel is in the body, and if he dissects the body, he will not find any purpose the navel seems almost useless. What is the purpose of the navel? It was purposeful when the child was in the womb: its purpose was that it related the child to the mother, it connected the child with the mother. But now the child is no longer in the womb – the mother may have died, the child has become old, now what is the purpose of the navel? It has a transcendental purpose; the purpose is not in itself. You will have to look everywhere, all around, to find the indication – where it indicates. It indicates that the man was once a child, that the child was once in the womb of a mother, that the child was connected with the mother. This is just a mark that the past has left.