There was once a prince traveling in the Kunlun mountains. At one point, high up on a narrow mountain path of one of the loftiest peaks, the prince ran into a aged yet clearly dignified elder, who was sitting in meditation by the side of the path. Before the elder was a vista of great openness which looked out over the pure white tops of many beautiful gently drifting clouds.
The prince, upon seeing the elder said, "Aha, this is clearly a great sage. I will ask a blessing for the sage." The prince went up to the sage and bowed. "Kind sir, allow me to offer my words of homage to you."
The sage slowly opened his eyes, then turning his head gently he looked at the young prince with gleaming and penetrating eyes. The sage smiled, "Thank you, my young friend."
The prince bowed and said, "May the great sage of these mountains enjoy great status."
"My thanks go out to your good intentions, however I must courteously decline such a blessing." said the sage.
The prince was taken aback, then he said "May the great sage of the mountains enjoy great wealth of gold, pearls, and jade."
"Thank you, however I must courteously decline such a blessing." said the sage.
The prince thought a while, "May the great sage of the mountains enjoy great power and leadership and have many disciples."
"I must courteously decline such a blessing." said the sage.
The prince tried once more. "May the great sage of the mountains enjoy the benefits of great intelligence and cleverness."
"I am sorry," said the sage, "I must decline such a blessing."
"I do not understand," said the prince, "are these not the things people prize most in this world."
The old sage smiled and looked back into the eyes of the prince kindly. "You offer me great status, but status is just an illusion. In reality, all people are equal. There is no such thing as higher or lower. One who believes themself to be better than others only creates a world of ignorance and conflict.
"You offer this old person great wealth," said the sage, "but I roam these magnificently beautiful mountains easily, I pick berries, roots, and herbs for my food, I enjoy the blissful quietude of meditation whenever I wish, I share the companionship of travelers regularly, I view the majesty of the mountain mist daily, I share the earth with my friends the trees, the rocks, the rain, the sun and moon, and the animals. What greater wealth could I wish than this? Wealth which goes beyond one's fundamental needs is ego gratification and false security -- such wealth creates more burdens that benefits. True wealth is within not without. It is better to recognize when one's true needs are satisfied and be content."
The prince remained silent and bowed low.
The sage smiled broadly. "You offer me great power and leadership and many disciples," said the sage, " but all external power is temporary. It is just a simpleminded tool for those who need to feel like a policeman to the world. It is for the egoist who needs to feel superior and make others inferior. I would rather each person have trust in themself and accept responsibility and virtue unto themself. Every person can be a leader if they connect to the fundamental essence of things and to their own inner strengths. In the realm of the Tao, each person can reach their maximum potential. In the realm of the Tao, all is one undivided wholeness and people can simply share, so where is the need for leadership?
"You offer me great intelligence," said the sage, "but intelligence and cleverness are simply weights which hold one back from the openness of the Tao. One can attain the heights without the encumbrances of intelligence or cleverness. Wholeness requires disconnection from the judgmentalness of intelligence and competitiveness of cleverness. Such external games are not necessary to reach the ultimate bliss of oneness. Sincerity, simplicity, compassion, patience, dignity, respect for life, and honesty are all much more important than intelligence and cleverness in the world."
The prince bowed, realizing the errors of his ways.
The old sage smiled, "Join me in sitting?...