A Funny Story with a Moral
I. Confucius and the Power of Dreams
It is often said that, in his later years, the great Chinese sage Confucius developed a habit of taking a short nap in moments of anxiety. Seconds after waking up, he would gather his pupils once again and share with them a resolution of profound wisdom.
One time, he was asked by a fellow teacher if it were possible for him to find such an answer to all of his problems. “Oh, it’s easy”, Confucius replied. “I just think hard about the problem while I’m awake. Then, when I visit the Land of Dreams, the Philosophers of the previous ages are already aware of my troubles and share their opinions with me.”
II. A Teacher Lost in the Land of Dreams
Delighted to hear this, the teacher went back to his class. The first moment he came across a question he couldn’t answer, he retreated to his room and took a nap. He was tired, so the nap turned into a long sleep. He woke up after few hours, well rested, but lacking an answer.
“Just like Confucius, I visited the Land of Dreams,” he told his students, “but the question is so difficult, that even the Philosophers of the previous ages don’t have a clue how to help me. I’ll visit them again tomorrow.”
Time passed, and the students grew more and more suspicious of their teacher’s habits. Especially since whenever they asked him the reason behind these naps, he would always answer the same: “I went to the Land of Dreams to have a chat with the Old Philosophers.”
III. The Student Who Found Him
However, one summer afternoon, his students felt the weight of the warmth, and fell asleep. He started reprimanding them. One of the students interrupted him: “But we just wanted to visit the Land of Dreams and meet the Old Philosophers, just as Confucius and you did!”
“Really?”, cried the teacher. “And tell me, did you meet them? Did they solve the problem for you?”
“Oh, yes – yes they did”, answered calmly the student. “We asked them whether our teacher stops by to talk with them day after day. They told us that they have never seen such a person.”
- The Arabs say: a wise person will warm his food over the same fire a madman may burn his tent with.
- Same methods will yield different results for different people – especially if some of them are frauds.
- Sooner or later, however, a charlatan will be exposed for taking the shortcut.
- “In the Land of Dreams”, Zen Flesh Zen Bones (Paul Reps, ed.), 1957, pp. 56-7