T'ien K'ai-chih went to see Duke Wei of Chou. Duke Wei said, "I hear that Chu Hsien is studying how to live. You are a friend of his - what have you heard from him on the subject?"However we choose to live our lives, we end up in the same place: dead. A person could be the saint of saints or the ruffian of ruffians and, at the end of the road, it doesn't matter when that last breath comes. The reason for the pursuit of a virtuous life is not that it will change the ending; it simply helps to make the story itself more harmonious and less stressful.
T'ien K'ai-chih said, "I merely wield a broom and tend his gate and garden - how should I have heard anything from the Master?"
Duke Wei said, "Don't be modest, Master T'ien. I am anxious to hear about it."
T'ien K'ai-chih said, "I have heard the Master say, `He who is good at nourishing life is like a herder of sheep - he watches for stragglers and whips them up.' "
"What does that mean?" asked Duke Wei.
T'ien K'ai-chih said, "In Lu there was Shan Pao - he lived among the cliffs, drank only water, and didn't go after gain like other people. He went along like that for seventy years and still had the complexion of a little child. Unfortunately, he met a hungry tiger who killed him and ate him up. Then there was Chang Yi - there wasn't one of the great families and fancy mansions that he didn't rush off to visit. He went along like that for forty years, and then he developed an internal fever, fell ill, and died. Shan Pao looked after what was on the inside and the tiger ate up his outside. Chang Yi looked after what was on the outside and the sickness attacked him from the inside. Both these men failed to give a lash to the stragglers."
~ Burton Watson translation ~
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