The Death of Lao Dan (Laozi)

Photo by: Dylan Nolte When Lao Dan (Laozi) died, Qin Yi paid a visit of condolence, but merely shouted three wailing cries and left. His students said, “Was this man not your friend, Master?”

“Yes,” said Qin Yi, “he was.”

“Then why was condolence so perfunctory? Is this acceptable?”

“It is. From the start I treated him as the person he was, but now he is a person no longer.

Just now when I went in to pay my respects, there were old people wailing as if they were mourning their sons and young people wailing as if they were mourning their mothers. The character that attracted them to join together here was certainly not one that sought that they speak, and yet they speak, and certainly not one that sought that they wail, and yet they wail. In acting thus they are disobeying Heaven and turning their backs on natural feelings. To forget what they have received in this way is what the ancients called the punishment of disobeying Heaven.

“Master Lao came to life when it was his time and he departed life in compliance with his time. When one is at ease with time and dwells in compliance, how can sorrow or joy find a way in? The ancients called this the divine release from bondage.

“You can see it in firewood dying to ash: it passes the flame along and who can tell when it will ever be truly extinguished?”