Jan Ch'iu, failing to receive any further answer, retired. The following day he went to see Confucius again and said, "Yesterday I asked if it were possible to know anything about the time before Heaven and earth existed, and you, Master, replied, `It is - the past is the present.' Yesterday that seemed quite clear to me, but today it seems very obscure. May I venture to ask what this means?"Life is an ever evolving circle. Life leads to death and death turns into life. It is only from the perspective of the individual consciousness that there are fixed points along the spectrum. Pull back far enough to gaze upon the totality of existence and I bet the whole process looks like transformation begetting transformation.
Confucius said, "Yesterday it was clear because your spirit took the lead in receiving my words. Today, if it seems obscure, it is because you are searching for it with something other than spirit, are you not? There is no past and no present, no beginning and no end. Sons and grandsons existed before sons and grandsons existed - may we make such a statement?"
Jan Ch'iu had not replied when Confucius said, "Stop! - don't answer! Do not use life to give life to death. Do not use death to bring death to life." Do life and death depend upon each other? Both have that in them which makes them a single body. There is that which was born before Heaven and earth, but is it a thing? That which treats things as things is not a thing. Things that come forth can never precede all other things, because there were already things existing then; and before that, too, there were already things existing - so on without end. The sage's love of mankind, which never comes to an end, is modeled on this principle."
~ Burton Watson translation ~
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