Duke Mu of Ch’in said to Po-lo: “You are getting on in years, is there anyone in your family whom I can send to find me horses?”
“A good horse can be identified by its shape and look, its bone and muscle, but the great horses of the world might be extinct, vanished, perished, lost. Such horses raise no dust and leave no tracks. All my sons have lesser talent – they can pick a good horse, but not a great one. But there is a man I know who carries and hauls and collects firewood for me, Chiu-fang Kao. As a judge of horses he is my equal. I suggest that you see him.”
Duke Mu saw the man and sent him away to find horses. After three months he returned and reported to the duke, “I have got one, it is in Sha-ch’ui.”
“What kind of horse?”
“A mare, yellow.”
The duke sent someone to fetch it. It turned out to be a stallion, and black. The duke, displeased, summoned Po-lo. “He’s no good, the fellow you sent to find me horses. He cannot even tell one color from another or a mare from a stallion. What can he know about horses?”
Po-lo breathed a sigh of wonder. “So now he has risen to this! It is just this that shows that he is worth a thousand, ten thousand, any number of people like me. What such a man as Kao observes is the innermost native impulse behind the horse’s movements. He grasps the essence and forgets the dross, goes right inside it and forgets the outside. He looks for and sees what he needs to see, ignores what he does not need to see. In the judgment of horses of a man like Kao there is something more important than horses.’
When the horse arrived it did prove to be a great horse.
Tao is the vision of the total, the vision of the whole. Parts don’t matter; parts don’t have any meaning in themselves. The meaning belongs to the whole, to the unity, tot he organic unity – if you look for meaning in the parts you will look in vain. Not only that, if you insist on looking for the meaning in the parts you will destroy meaning rather than finding it. It will be a destructive attitude.
For example, a poem does not exist in the words that constitute it, it exists somewhere beyond the words. It is transcendental. If you dissect the words, the sentences, the linguistic form, what are you going to gain? If you dissect a poem, if you dismember a poem, you are killing an alive unity. It is as if you are dissecting the body of a man – by the time you have succeeded in dissecting the body of the man the spirit is gone. Whatsoever you find will be a dead corpse. And you were searching for the man, not for the dead corpse. The man is in the unity, so is the poem.
If you dismember poetry you will find sentences; if you dismember the sentences you will find clauses; if you dismember the clauses you will find words; if you dismember the words, then the alphabet is left. But where is the poetry – the poetry that has thrilled your heart? Where is that beauty that has touched your being, that has given your wings? Where is that vision? In the alphabet there is nothing.
How did it disappear? Your approach was basically wrong. Your approach was basically destructive, violent. You dissected it. Poetry has to be seen in its totality. It has to be grasped as a whole. If you can grasp it as a whole then each word contributes to it; if you cannot grasp it as a whole then words don’t constitute it. Words constitute only the body of a poem, not the heart of it. Yes, the heart cannot exist without the body but the heart is not the body.
Man cannot exist without the body, certainly, but man is not just the body. Man is far more. Man is far superior. Man is far higher. He is tethered to the body, living in the body, but not the body itself. The body is the temple and man is the God in it. Yes, if you destroy the temple the God will not have any abode; it will disappear, evaporate.
So disappears a poem. The poem is the God that resides in the words, the rhythm, the meaning, the beauty
Listen to a small haiku of Basho, the greatest master of haikus. It is a very small haiku, a few words.
The ancient pond….