A Parable by Chuang Tzu
Retold by Michael Hofius

Versión en Español

Taoism teaches us that the natural way for people to live their lives is in harmony with the Tao.

The metaphor of water flowing around the rocks or other "obstacles" in a stream is often used. The stream is the Stream of Life and, as water flowing around the rocks, there are really no obstacles. Viewing the situations in our lives as obstacles is an expression of our attitude of judgment. When, instead, we flow with the Stream of Tao, our attitude is not one of judging. Read a parable about non-judgment in one of the other Taoist parables at this site.

The following short parable illustrates this concept:

There was a somewhat wild horse tied up and left by its owner in a narrow alleyway. All who came upon it pondered and debated how to pass without getting kicked. One tried running past and was subsequently tumbled to the ground, still not able to get beyond. Another tried jumping over the horse's legs as it kicked wildly and derived the same result. Yet another attempted to pass through the horse's legs but got trampled by the down kicks of the horse's hooves. Meanwhile a crowd assembled and debated vociferously as to how to go about passing by the horse with many theories being postured and no one else having the courage to take any action.

Finally, a young girl toward the back of the crowd noticed Master Kung on his ox riding up to the alley from the main street. She hollered to the crowd, "Here is Master Kung: he'll know how to get past!"

Master Kung peered down at the crowd and the horse from the corner, assessed the situation, smiled slightly, and then rode down to the next alley to continue on his way.

In Taoist tradition this is known as Wu Wei or, acting without acting, which means to take actions which don't disturb the natural order of things, Human or Otherwise. When living by this principle, one goes with the flow instead of swimming against the current. This does not mean to turn the cheek by becoming a doormat as a reaction to events. This means being proactive in Life, following the Natural order of things, and solving problems by not creating them in the first place, by not forcing one's way past the horse.

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Michael Hofius
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Bristol, VA 24201