Lieh Tzu and Yin Sheng

Lieh Tzu had Lao Shang for his teacher and Po Kao Tzu for his friend. When he had fully mastered the systems of these two philosophers he rode home on the wings of the wind.Yin Sheng heard of this and became his disciple. He dwelt with Lieh Tzu for many months without returning to his own home. While he was with Lieh Tzu he begged to be initiated into the secret arts.

Ten times he asked and each time received no answer.

Becoming impatient Yin Sheng announced his departure but Lieh Tzu still gave no sign. So Yin Sheng went away, but after many months, his mind still unsettled, he returned and became Lieh Tzu’s disciple once more.

Lieh Tzu said to him: ‘Why this incessant going and coming?’

Yin Sheng replied: ‘Some time ago, I sought instruction from you but you would not tell me anything. That made me angry with you. But now I have gotten over that feeling, and so I have come again.’

Lieh Tzu said: ‘Formerly, I used to think you were a man of insight, have you now fallen so low? Sit down and I will tell you what I learned from my Master…

‘After I had served him and enjoyed the friendship of Po Kao for the space of three years, my mind did not venture to reflect on right and wrong. My lips did not venture to speak of profit and loss. Then, for the first time, my Master bestowed one glance upon me, and that was all.’

Zhang Lu's painting of Liezi, early 16th century, China

Picture from a 2,500 year old Daoist text by Lie Yukon.




Lieh Tzu asks an ironic question: “Why all this going and coming?” Yin Sheng has only gone and come once, but his mind is all over the place.

Yin Sheng doesn’t appreciate the master’s humour. He is a very serious young man and announces he was angry with Lieh Tzu.

Then Lieh Tzu recalls his own early years on the path. For three years he studied and practised in silence. He then felt he was getting somewhere.

Looking to his master for reassurance he received only a nod, but that was enough for him. From who else’s experience could he speak but his own?

Maybe Yin Sheng really just wants to learn how to fly, to perform miracles, or tricks. Maybe he is not even interested in consciousness. Or maybe he has been told that an enhanced awareness bestows magical properties.

Or he has been dazzled by what Buddha referred to as “a golden brocade in a dream” and “flowers appearing in one’s eyes”. As Buddha is also reputed to have said; “Truth is that which works”.

The wings of the wind are the wings of consciousness.

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