Friday, September 26, 2008

Lao Tzu & Justice

26 September 2008

Lao Tzu was a true revolutionary. He was guided by the inner-light and wisdom. Once the emperor invited Lao Tzu to be his chief minister.

But he rejected that offer stating, "this will not work out, it will be hard for us to agree on any issues. You live by the principles and norms set by your ancestors, and i live guided by my conscience."

But the emperor was unable to accept Lao Tzu rejection and said that he was certain that it will not cause any complications to him. On the very first day of Lao Tzu accepting the responsibility of the chief minister a theft-case came to the court. The person accused accepted that he did rob from the wealthiest man in town. Lao pronounced his judgment on the case. He sentenced the thief to six months in prison, he also sentenced the wealthy merchant from who the thief stole, to six months in prison.

"What did i steal... I am the victim. Do I get punished!... Are you mad? Has it ever happened in history where the person whose property is stolen, getting punished?" the flustered merchant exclaimed.

Lao Tzu explained very patiently,"Truly speaking I should have given you a bigger sentence than the one I gave to the thief. Since i am very kind at heart, I did not do that. You have amassed the entire city's wealth, how did you accumulate so much? Did it all rain down from the sky? Who is responsible for so many people becoming poor and for changing some of them into thieves? It is you. What you have done is the bigger crime. What the thief has done does not appear to be much of a crime to me. The wealth that you have amassed is by making so many people poor so that you can accumulate more and more."

The wealthy merchant thought Lao Tzu was mad and he humbly pleaded for an audience with the emperor. Even the emperor when in crisis borrowed money from the merchant and so he met the emperor and explained what had happened at the court. He further cautioned the emperor,"If you allow Lao Tzu in the court to remain longer, you too may some day end up behind bars. Because, he might question how you have amassed so much wealth. If I am seen as a criminal, you may then be seen as a bigger criminal."

The emperor understood what Lao Tzu had implied earlier and he spoke to him. "I feel what you had said earlier about how we would be unable to come to the same conclusion on issues and facing great challenges in coming to agreement, to be true. Yes, it would be difficult for us both to reach an agreement on most issues. You are relieved from your responsibility of being my chief minister."

Lao Tzu continued to live guided by following his inner-light and wisdom. Much later in his life he traveled westward and legend has it that he journeyed through Himalayan mountain and then arrived at the land of Tamils and lived in Palani Hills, where he is known as Bogar. It is believed that he attained Samadhi there in a cave.

Picture taken from Wiki media commons.


Damon Lynch said...

John Ralston Saul wrote:

"Every society has an elite. No society has ever been without one. There is therefore little to be gained by worrying a great deal about the creation or protection of an elite. They protect themselves and someone is always ready to take their place."

"The thing elites most easily forget is that they make no sense as a group unless they have a healthy and productive relationship with the rest of the citizenry. Questions of nationalism, ideology, and the filling of pockets aside, the principal function of an elite is to serve the interests of the whole. They may prosper far more than the average citizen in the process. They may have all sorts of advantages. These perks won't matter so long as the greater interests are also served. From their point of view, this is not a bad bargain. So it is really curious just how easily they forget and set about serving only themselves, even if it means that they or the society will self-destruct."

Source: The Doubter's Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense. Toronto: Penguin Books, 1994.

The observation that "someone is is always ready to take their place" struck me with great force. I think he's correct. There are many things wise societies can do to ensure that life is not merely a tragic game of domination and conquest. Paulo Freire dedicated his life to this, of course.

Still, I think in the end, Ralston Saul is right -- there will always be someone willing to take their place.

Aleksandar said...

hi man
it says that 26th is Lao's birthday.
Is it really true? Whay that date?
Who knows tell me :)