Travelsome companions

Tchouang Tseu was wandering the northern steppes when he met a shaman on the roadside. The gaunt stranger claimed she could exit her body and explore the spiritual worlds where she accomplished great feats of magic. But the portly scholar was tired and in a bad mood, so he retorted: What if, in fact, you’ve never gotten any further than the walls of your tricky mind? Stunned, the shaman spun around and sloughed the rude man off without another word.

A few years later Tchouang Tseu was again exiled to the same remote desert and happened once more upon the scraggly old woman. This time the shaman claimed she had duly inspected every recess of her mind and learned to control its every movement. But Tchouang Tseu, still hungry and indisposed, shrugged his shoulders and answered: What if you’ve been tricked again, and all this time you’ve only been exploring the faint illusion of your mind? Shocked at the not-so-polite comeback, the shaman turned away in disgust for the second time.

Many years later Tchouang Tseu was snoring through the night in his pavilion when the shaman entered his dream from the north and said: Thank you for being such an ass, sir: your importunate drivel about minds was a most helpful prison from which i have just now escaped!


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