The story is that an old man, a gardener, was drawing water from a well with his young son. Both were perspiring – it was a hot summer day – and they were pulling up the water and watering the trees.
A man of scientific mind, a Confucian, was passing by. He looked – the old man was really old, must have been beyond ninety. At this age he was working so hard, from the early morning to the evening, and the well was very deep, sixty, seventy feet deep. “He has wasted his whole life just watering trees, and now the same will happen to his son. His whole life from the morning to the evening, he will be pulling up water.” And when you have done so much work in the day, what can you do in the night? You cannot sing, you cannot play on the sitar or the guitar, you cannot play on the flute. No energy is left. You can just fall asleep, and in the morning again the same routine begins.
The Confucian scholar of scientific bent went close to the old man and said, “Have you not heard that now we have found a device which can bring the water out of the well very easily? You need not waste your life. Just a horse will do it, and far more efficiently and far more quickly.”
The old man said, “Stop all this nonsense!”
The young man had gone home to bring bread, butter and a few vegetables for the old man and for himself.
He said, “And you go away from here before my son comes back. If he hears you talking about a device, he is so young – he may become seduced by your idea. Get lost immediately! I have heard about that device, but I believe in Lao Tzu. He is my master and he says machines are devices to cheat nature, and I don’t want to cheat nature. Nature means Tao! If you cheat nature….”
And of course, in a way it is right: when you invent a machine and it starts doing the work of man you are doing something which is not natural. Machines are not natural, and if a machine can do the work of a hundred people that simply means you have cheated nature. It is not good.
This is a famous story and significant, because China developed the first devices five thousand years ago but because of Lao Tzu and his influence all that growth was stopped. Certainly if you relax with nature you can grow inwards easily, very easily. Let-go is the secret of growing inwards, but that is not the secret of growing outwards.
These people have kept the world in poverty. And these are the people, on the other hand, who go on saying to you, “Go and serve the poor!” They are the cause of all poverty. I respect these people: as far as the inner world is concerned they have given great diamonds to the world, treasures, secret keys. But that makes man only half; the other half remains undeveloped.