Confucius: On Catching a Cicada
[PureInsight.org] Once Confucius was travelling along with his disciples in the ancient Chinese Kingdom of Chu. Whilst walking through a grove, Confucius and his followers came across a man with a hunchback who was busy catching cicadas using a bamboo stick. When the man caught a cicada, it was almost like he had just picked up something very easily from the ground; he simply didn’t fail at all.
Confucius went over and bowed to the man. Confucius asked him: “Sir, your cicada-catching skill is really amazing, how did you achieve this?” The man looked up and replied: “Hello, I will tell you. The best time to catch a cicada is in May or June. When the time is not right, don’t hurry too much and just be patient; when the right time comes, you have to take full advantage of it and get as many cicadas as possible, otherwise you will have to wait for another year. When I first started to catch cicadas, I was just like most other people. I would fail on a regular basis. Later on I decided to train myself. I put two small balls on top of a bamboo stick and I would hold the stick without moving my body to try to keep the balls from falling down. I spent a couple of months doing this, and eventually I could keep the balls on the stick. After that, I would succeed most of the time when catching cicadas. Later, I decided to put three balls on top of the bamboo stick and trained myself to keep the balls in position. When I could keep three balls on top of the bamboo stick, my cicada-catching failure rate decreased even more. I then decided to put five balls on the bamboo stick and again trained myself to keep the balls from falling down. After I was able to do that, it became as easy as picking up something from the ground for me to catch cicadas; I would never miss any single attempt.”
Confucius marvelled: “Wonderful!”
The man continued: “When I am trying to catch a cicada, I keep my body as motionless as a log. I position my arms as if I were holding onto a branch. No matter how vast the universe is, no matter how many things I am surrounded by, I won’t see anything except the wings of the cicada that I am trying to catch. I won’t move my head, nor my body, and I won’t be bothered by any distractions. I will remain completely focused on the cicada; nothing can change my attention on the cicada. How can it be possible for me to miss the cicada when I am in such a state?”
Confucius was really moved; he turned towards his students and exclaimed: “When you can focus your mind on a single thing and keep in an elevated alert state, you can then achieve miraculous accomplishments. This old hunchback man has already reached this level!”
Confucius continued: “You are all well fed and clothed, but do you also understand this principle? One must first get rid of all those attachments to fame and power; only then can one reach such a realm.”
Author’s postscript on this story:
Catching a cicada is just a simple human endeavour. However, Taoists learned from such an ordinary event and applied the principle behind the story to practicing the Tao. So, it can be seen that the Tao is essentially everywhere. The old man in the story would remain motionless like a log when catching a cicada, his eyes kept focused on the wings of the cicada, and he saw nothing else around him. It is precisely due to the man’s focus and mental elimination of any interference around him that enabled him to catch cicadas. This is a way of catching cicadas, and it is also a way of learning the Tao and practicing cultivation. This principle also applies to human beings’ attempts to make breakthroughs in their studies and research.
Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/node/113507