The god who thought he was a soldier

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The god who thought he was a soldier

Post by Luxin »

The ancient masters were subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive.
The depth of their knowledge is unfathomable.
All we can do is describe their appearance.
Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
Alert, like men aware of danger.
Courteous, like visiting guests.
Yielding, like ice about to melt.
Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood.
Hollow, like caves.
Opaque, like muddy pools.

Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?
Observers of the Tao do not seek fulfillment.
Not seeking fulfillment, they are not swayed by desire for change.

Tao Te Ching Chapter 15 by Lao Tzu
Tr. Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English


"Soldier, come here", the old man whispered.
"Who are you?", the soldier replied.
"Never mind, I have forgotten".
"What do you want?".
"Then why did you call me?"
"Because I am here to rescue you".
"Rescue me? But you are a venerable elder. Do you rescue people? From what?"
"From yourself, soldier god".
"I don't understand, venerable. What are you talking about?"
"Follow me to my cave and I will tell you".

The old man turned and walked away, chuckling to himself. The soldier just stood rooted to the spot, watching him go. The old man stopped, looked back, and said "Are your legs stiff, soldier god? Come have hot tea with me; that should help your cold knees' this chilly day!"

"Oh, OK, venerable. No one knows I'm here and when I'll return". The soldier god followed, walking stiffly. He looked a bit confused -- he had never been called a god before. He thought, "Is this old man insane? Might he murder me?" He shrugged and thought to himself, "Impossible -- I'm big and ugly and he's tiny. And if he thinks I'm a god, maybe he'll worship me, not kill me. This venerable is outrageous and has guts. I like him."

The old man bobbed energetically down the path a bit, then they started climbing up a hill. "Wow!" the soldier thought, "My father can barely walk to the toilet". "How old are you, venerable?" "Ninety-two last week! Happy birthday to me! Every day is my birthday!" He chuckled away....

They came to a small cave at the base of a cliff. "Here! Welcome to my palace, dear god!" There was a little oil lamp glowing dimly. "Sit, young god", the elder said gently, "on that stump after you get a fire going. I'll prepare the tea".

After a busy silence, the old man began to speak while they watched the fire and warmed up. "Everyone has been telling you a soldier's life is good. They are wrong. Long ago I was drafted to fight the Chang clan. I just shot arrows high over their heads; I'm not a killer and neither are you. Now I just fight kettles and pots. Chang clang! Chang clang! Chang clang!"

"What am I doing here?", Tzu thought, suppressing a giggle. The old man, eyes closed in remembrance, said:

"Master Ni related -- 'The sage is shy and humble -- to the world he seems confusing. Men look to him and listen. He behaves like a little child'".

"The master also said -- 'What others teach, I also teach; that is: A violent man will die a violent death! This will be the essence of my teaching'".

"Master Ni also said of the military man: 'If you rejoice in victory, then you delight in killing. If you delight in killing, you cannot fulfill yourself'".

"So, my god, the lord of social duty came to visit your home. He told you you must fight; that the whole country was counting on you and your neighbors to save it from evil attackers. Your parents piped up saying yes, son, you must fight and kill the enemy". Nevertheless, you thought to yourself, "I've never killed anything in my life. I can't even wring a chicken's neck".

"That day was just like Lord Buddha's temptation. Lord Buddha was sitting under the Bodhi tree when the lord of social duty approached him propagandizing. Lord Buddha did not stir or speak. He just pointed to the ground, meaning he did not have to do anything other than reflecting under the Bodhi tree; that in accordance with God/Nature's authorization, he was free to think and act as he normally does. The lord of social duty went away. No one has the right or should try to make a man give up his life for a country which is only an imagined entity and not a real thing anyway."

"My god pretending to be a soldier, I observed your light, tripping walk, and your looking up to spot a bird you heard calling". From this I knew you'd never be a good soldier. Stay with me. We will gather food and fish, and talk by the fire at night. And you will not have your life shortened or be disabled by war, but you will have the gift of life that God gave you. I think you are already an awakened Nature god!" Of course it's up to you....


The words of fictional "Master Ni" (the venerable's teacher) are from the Tao Te Ching. The god who thought he was a soldier is Lao Tzu, though it's unlikely Mr. Lao was ever a soldier.
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