I will tell you a small story. It happened in the days of Lao Tzu in China, and Lao Tzu loved it very much. For generations the followers of Lao Tzu have been repeating the story and always finding more and more meaning in it. The story has grown; it has become an alive factor. The story is simple.
There was an old man in a village, very poor, but even kings were jealous of him because he had a beautiful white horse. Such a horse had never been seen before – the beauty, the very grandeur, the strength. Kings asked for the horse and they offered fabulous prices, but the old man would say, “This horse is not a horse to me, he is a person, and how can you sell a person? He is a friend, he is not a possession. How can you sell a friend? No, it is not possible.” The man was poor, there was every temptation, but he never sold the horse.
One morning he suddenly found that the horse was not in the stable. The whole village gathered and they said, “You foolish old man. We knew it beforehand, that some day the horse would be stolen. And you are so poor – how can you protect such a precious thing? It would have been better to sell it. You could have fetched any price you asked, any fancy price was possible. Now the horse is gone. It is a curse, a misfortune.”
The old man said, “Don’t go too far – simply say that the horse is not in the stable. This is the fact; everything else is a judgment. Whether it is a misfortune or not, how do you know? How do you judge?”
The people said, “Don’t try to fool us. We may not be great philosophers, but no philosophy is needed. It is a simple fact that a treasure has been lost, and it is a misfortune.”
The old man said, “I will stick to the fact that the stable is empty and the horse has gone. Anything else I don’t know – whether it is a misfortune or a blessing – because this is just a fragment. Who knows what is going to follow it?”
People laughed, they thought the old man had gone mad. They always knew it, that he was a little crazy; otherwise he would have sold this horse and lived in riches. But he was living as a woodcutter, and he was very old and still cutting wood and bringing the wood from the forest and selling it. He was living hand to mouth, in misery and poverty. Now it was completely certain that this man was crazy.
After fifteen days, suddenly one night the horse returned. He had not been stolen: he had escaped to the wilderness. And not only did he come back, he brought a dozen wild horses with him. Again the people gathered and they said, “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. It was not a misfortune, it proved to be a blessing. We are sorry that we insisted.”