Monday, March 12, 2007

Chung-li Ch'uan

When Immortal Lu Tung-pin was studying with his teacher Chung-li Ch'uan, Chung li Ch'uan gave him a large and heavy sack to carry. Immortal Lu carried the sack for three years without complaint or resentment. At the end of the three years, Chung-li Ch'uan told Immortal Lu to open the sack.

    He said to Immortal Lu, "While you were carrying the sack these years, did you know what was inside?"

    Immortal Lu replied, "Yes, I knew that the sack was filled with stones."

    Chung-li Ch'uan then said, "Do you know that the rocks that you've been carrying around all these years could be turned into gold? Because you have shown sincerity and humility and have never uttered a word of complaint, I shall teach you how to turn these stones into gold if you wish.

    Immortal Lu asked Chung-li Ch'uan, "When these stones have been transformed into gold, will they be identical to real gold?"

    Chung-li Ch'uan replied, "No, gold that has been transformed from stones or other objects will only last for five hundred years. After that, they will return to their original form."

    Immortal Lu said, "Then I do not wish to learn the techniques of turning stones into gold. If the gold is not permanent, then what I do now will have harmful effects five hundred years later. I would rather be ignorant of a technique which may potentially harm people."

    Hearing Lu Tung-pin's reply, Chung-li Ch'uan said, "Your foundations are stronger than mine. Your level of enlightenment will be higher than mine. As you have enlightened me, I now realize that this technique of turning stones to gold or silver or precious gems is not worth learning and not worth teaching." From Historical Legend of Sun Bu-er:

Picture: The Immortal Zhongli Quan, late 1400s, attributed to Zhao Qi, China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, The Cleveland Museum of Art. From: Taoism & The Arts of China