by Liu I-Ming
A racehorse, a swift runner, can travel hundreds of miles in a day. A nag, ambling along, takes ten days to cover the same distance. Although one is fast and one is slow, yet what they achieve is the same.
What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of the relative speed of effective work.
Generally speaking, people are sharp or dull by nature, greater or lesser in strength. If people who are dull by nature want to emulate those who are sharp by nature, or those of little strength want to emulate those of great strength, they will be unable to keep up, and will injure themselves by the strain.
Therefore a complete sage said that those who are born knowing are the best, those who know by learning are the next, and those who learn the hard way are next after that. When it come to knowledge it self, however, that is one. Some may carry it out swiftly, some may carry it out forcibly. When it comes to the achievement, however, that is one. Among these three kinds of people, it may be difficult for some and easy for others, slow for some and fast for others, but all are able to know the Tao and attain the Tao.
The only trouble is when people have no will. Without will, not only is it impossible to act on the Tao, it is impossible even to know it. If you have the will, study it widely, question it closely, ponder it carefully, understand it clearly, carry it out earnestly; multiply the efforts of the ordinary person a hundredfold, and you can actually master this Tao. Even if you are ignorant you will become enlightened, even if you are weak you will become strong – no one who has done this has ever failed to reach the realm of profound attainment of self-realization.
Nevertheless, there are many Taoists in the world who cannot with true heart regard the essence of life as most important. They talk about the virtue of the Tao, but in their hearts they are criminals and gangster. They want their imaginings of the Tao, and the want their greedy ambitions too. They are easily angered and unreceptive.
The intellectuals among them depend on their ability to memorize a few “spiritual” sayings, and think they have the Way. Consequently they disregard others and will not seek enlightened teachers or visit capable friends, thus mistaking the road ahead.
The dull ones do not know to investigate principles, and do not distinguish the false from the true. Having studied some “side-door” practices, playing around on twisted byways, they also think they have the Way, and will not go to high illuminations for verification, thus holding to their routines all their lives, tapped in unbreakable fixations.
People like these types do not really think about the matter of essence and life as the single most important thing in the world, and the cultivation and maintenance of essence and life to be the single most difficult thing in world. How can this be easily known, or easily accomplished?
This is why those who study Taoism may be as numourus as hairs on a cow, but those who accomplish the Way are as rare as unicorn horns.
If you are a strong person who can be so utterly aloof of all things as to step straight into the Way, like steel forged a hundred times, with an unrelenting will to visit enlightened teachers respectfully and to investigate true principles thoroughly, then it does not matter wheter you are sharp or dull by nature – eventually you will emerge on the Way, and will definitely not have wasted your years.
Awakening to the Tao
by Liu I-Ming translated by Thomas Cleary