Confucius had gone along until he was fifty-one and had still not heard the Way. Finally he went south to P'ei and called on Lao Tan. "Ah, you have come," said Lao Tan. "I've heard that you are a worthy man of the northern region. Have you found the Way?"To my way of thinking, even if a person somehow could comprehend all the intricacies of the Grand Mystery, it still would be like giving the air we breathe to others. Understanding is not something than can be bequeathed; it is born of experience.
"Not yet," said Confucius.
"Where did you look for it?" asked Lao Tan.
"I looked for it in rules and regulations, but five years went by and still I hadn't found it."
"Where else did you look for it?" asked Lao Tan.
"I looked for it in the yin and yang, but twelve years went by and I still hadn't found it."
"It stands to reason!" said Lao Tan. "If the Way could be presented, there is no man who would not present it to his ruler. If the Way could be offered, there is no man who would not offer it to his parents. If the Way could be reported, there is no man who would not report it to his brothers. If the Way could be bequeathed, there is no man who would not bequeath it to his heirs. But it cannot - and for none other than the following reason. If there is no host on the inside to receive it, it will not stay; if there is no mark on the outside to guide it, it will not go. If what is brought forth from the inside is not received on the outside, then the sage will not bring it forth. If what is taken in from the outside is not received by a host on the inside, the sage will not entrust it."
~ Burton Watson translation ~
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