Confucius was very old, Lao Tzu was not so old. So to be formal when Confucius came in, Lao Tzu should have stood up to receive him. But he remained sitting. It was impossible for Confucius to believe that such a great master, known all over the country for his humbleness, should be so impolite. He had to talk about it.
Immediately he said, “This is not good. I am older than you.”
Lao Tzu laughed loudly and said, “Nobody is older than me. I existed before everything came into existence. Confucius, we are of the same age, everything is of the same age. From eternity we have been in existence, so don’t carry this burden of old age. Sit down.”
Confucius had come to ask some questions. He said, “How should a religious man behave?”
Lao Tzu said, “When the how comes in, there is no religion. How is not a question for a religious man. The how shows that you are not religious but that you want to behave like a religious man – that is why you ask how.”
Does a lover ask how one should love? He loves! Really, it is only later on that he becomes aware that he has been in love. It may be that when the lover has gone he becomes aware that he has been in love. He simply loves. It happens. It is a happening, not a doing.
Whatsoever Confucius asked, Lao Tzu replied in such a way that Confucius became very disturbed: “This man is dangerous!”
He went back; his disciples asked, “What happened, what manner of man is this Lao Tzu?”
Confucius said, “Don’t go near him. You may have seen dangerous snakes, but nothing compares with this man. You may have heard about ferocious lions, they are nothing before this man. This man is a dragon walking on the earth, he can swim in the sea, he can go to the very end of the sky – very dangerous. He is not for us little people, we are too small. He is dangerous, vast like an abyss. Don’t go near him, otherwise you will feel dizzy and you may fall. Even I felt dizzy. I couldn’t understand what he said, he is beyond understanding.”
Lao Tzu is bound to be beyond understanding if you try to understand him through formality; otherwise he is simple. But for Confucius he is difficult, almost impossible to understand, because he sees through forms and Lao Tzu has no form and no formality. Nameless, without any form, he lives in the infinite.
The greatest politeness
is free of all formality.
Lao Tzu was sitting, Confucius was waiting for him to stand up. Who was really polite? Confucius waiting for Lao Tzu to stand up and welcome him and receive him because he is older, is just egoistic. Now the ego has taken the form of age, seniority.