A Taoist Parable on Translating Meaning Into Life
by Alan Briskin
Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? Lao Tzu
During a time of great drought, a Taoist master was asked by members of a village if he could help bring rain to their dry fields. They confessed to trying many other approaches before reaching out to him, but with no success.
The master agreed to come and asked for a small hut with a garden that he could tend. For three days, he tended the garden, performing no special rituals or asking anything further from the villagers.
On the fourth day, rain began to fall on the parched earth. When asked how he had achieved such a miracle, the master answered that he was not responsible for the rain.
However, he explained, when he came to the village, he had sensed disharmony within himself.
Each day, as he tended the garden, he returned a little more to himself. When he returned to balance, the rain came naturally.
I have heard that this was one of psychologist Carl Jung’s favorite stories, told to him by Richard Wilhelm, translator of the Chinese divination text, I Ching: Book of Changes.
Taoism and the Understanding of The Self
Jung believed Taoist beliefs mirrored his own understanding that what we call personal consciousness is only a partial perception of a greater whole. There are ways to fling open the mind,. Thus, connecting us with the collective unconscious, allowing us access to larger universal rhythms. And from this fruitful entanglement, parallel events can arise, such as what happened between the Taoist master and the rain falling.
Jung would later call these seeming coincidences synchronicity, a psychological principle that treats the inner attitude of the person as inseparable from events taking place in the world. Jung, however, was not suggesting or equating synchronicity with causality.
The Taoist master did not cause the rain to fall. Rather, Jung believed there were parallel processes in which outer events mirrored psychic activity.
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