Sunday, July 23, 2006

Trials and tribulations

Having left Lu because the duke had offended him by carousing with pretty dancers and neglected his duties as ruler of state, Confucius wandered with his pupils throughout China. In Uei, he was slandered; passing Kuang he was detained for five days because of a mistaken identity and threatened. From Tsao, Confucius went to Sung. There a minister of Sung wanted to kill him. Thereupon Confucius withdrew and went to Cheng, where he was separated from his followers and lost his way like a stray dog. He then proceeded to Chen and stayed there for three years. During that time Chen was attacked by Tsin, then by Chu and also by Wu. On his return to Lu, he was detained in Pu and his followers had to fight their way out. He was only allowed free passage after making a promise, but promptly broke it by proceeding to Uei. Tzu-kung asked whether it was right to break his word, and Confucius replied, “I gave it under pressure: the gods will not count it.”

When Confucius was living between Chen and Tsai, the men of Chu sent him an invitation. The ministers of the former two states then sent men to surround Confucius so that he could not leave. His supplies ran out, his followers were too weak to move, but Confucius went on teaching and singing, accompanying himself on the lute. He sent Tzu-kung to Chu. King Chao of Chu dispatched troops to his rescue and he was finally able to get away.

After fourteen years of wanderings, he was finally invited back to Lu. [Shiji – Records of the Historian]

If every bones and sinews have been stretched to the limits over a long period of time, then perhaps one may understand the Test of the Way (Tao). The trials and tribulations, sent down by Heaven, are there to test one’s cultivation and will. Those who pass the test will survive and rebound with greater successes. And those who fail, breakdown and fade into oblivion. From reading the full story of his wanderings, The Master, Confucius had shown his inner strengths and cultivation, and had passed the test of Tao with flying colors.

Since the Asian financial crisis in 1997, many dragons have fallen by the wayside, broken or had given up hope. A decade has gone by ever so quickly. The dragon that followed the Yi did not escape the crisis because it was not learned enough. Abyss upon abyss, the Yi had repeatedly warned three times.

The magnitudes of the fall in share valuations, never seen before, was much worse than those referenced during the Great Depression of 1929. While the special dragon was stubborn and refused to accept that what the Tao gives, Tao can always take back.

Both dragons had fallen into hard times that stretched every bones and sinews in their bodies to breaking points. If a dragon has fallen from the heavens and need to survive in a puddle, it has to withstand the mockery of fishes, shrimps and crabs. (Read clients, some friends and relatives.)

Just like those ‘out of favor’ Court officials in ancient times, the fallen dragons had to relearn what money, friendship and relations really meant. A time to heavily rely on their inner fortitude and cultivation not unlike what the ancients did to overcome times of adversity. Those who cared much about their face or lacked cultivation had succumbed to the doom and gloom.

After a decade of such adversity, one of the two dragons has managed to push its head above the puddle, and currently surveys its surroundings. If fortunate, the dragon may once again appear in the field. Thereafter it would head for the Heavens, knowing for sure; the other dragon will also fly in the Heavens. As foretold years ago by their respective teachers, both dragons shall soar to greater heights than that of 1993.

Meanwhile, the hidden dragons wait cheerfully for their time to act.

Perhaps I Ching aficionados, Buddhists, Confucians, and Daoists can learn something from these insights about what to truly expect from the Zhouyi and the Tao.

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