be like water meaning

It’s said that there is a wise old man whom people came from far and wide to seek his advice on the meaning of life.

Among them is a disgruntled young man eager to change his destiny. Having walked the mountain treks for days, he finally arrives at the humble abode of the wise old man. 

“I’m tired of what I’m doing. Is there a better way to live my life, sir?” He asks, eagerly awaiting an answer.

Interestingly, instead of answering his question, the old man asks, “What’s the shape of water?”

The young man was puzzled at the question. “The shape of water? But water has no shape!”

The old man takes out a cup and fills it with water. Seeing that, the young man bursts out. “Oh, I know it now!  Water is in the shape of a cup!”

He silently decanted the water into a vase. Now the young man is undecided and says, “Err … water is in the shape of a vase!” 

Again saying no word, the old man pours the water onto the ground.  The ground is sandy, and the water vanishes into the sand in no time. Now the man pondered and said,  “So … water has no shape, and yet it can be in any shape.”

The master nods and led the man to a corner outside the house.  Pointing to a hole in the ground, he asks, “What do you see on the ground?”

“It is a hole formed by drips from the roof,” says the young man.

“Here you are!  If you want to deal with the ever-changing world, be as pliable and yielding as water,” said the master. “So that you can stay close to it. This is the only way to change your destiny.”

”If you can be as easy and persistent as water, nothing can stop you. You’re soft, and yet you can penetrate a rock,” said the master, “This is Tao.”

Awestruck, it dawns on the young man why he can never be successful. He has been disgruntled and is unwilling to stay close to reality. If he refuses to participate in life, how can you change his life? 

Thanks to the wise old man’s insight, the young man learns the wisdom of water and has never been the same again.

Learn from water. Water can be in any shape, so it stays close to reality. Water is focused and consistent, so it is strong enough to destroy rock resistance. It’s the best way to effectively engage with whatever challenges you face. 

Tao Te Ching Water Quotes

Like Lao Tzu says,

“The softest of all things drive the hardest of all things.
The non-substance penetrates the non-crevice.
Hence, I know the value of action without striving.
Teaching of non-words,
Benefits of non-actions,
Rarely are they outstripped in the universal.”

(Tao Te Ching Chapter43)

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5 Comments

  1. I have subscribed to your blog or whatever it is, thinking I’d get a daily Taoist thought of inspiration, but I have received zero communication. What is the point of joining if there is nothing that comes to my inbox? I can always go to your site and explore, but that is not what subscribing is supposed to be about.

    Thank you.

    Cherlyn Comer

    1. If asked a question, is not getting a response from someone still a response?

      Some times I find my children ask me a question and I just look at them to watch the answer dawn in their eyes while I smile knowing they will remember what they have figured out for themselves.

      They have found their way. And I was there to see it.

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