Riding the wind Floating with Clouds

Lieh-tzu had the immortal Old Shang for a teacher and the sage Pai-kao-tzu as a friend. After he had finished his training, he came home riding on the wind and floating on the clouds.

A man named Yin-sheng heard about Lieh-tzu’s feat and wanted to learn this skill of riding on the wind. So he went to Lieh-tzu and asked to be his student. So intent was Yin-sheng on learning this skill that he stayed at Lieh-tzu’s home and kept pestering the teacher with questions. This went on for several months, but Lieh-tzu only ignored him.

Yin-sheng began to get impatient and then angry that Lieh‐tzu was not teaching him. One day, he left in a huff.

When Yin-sheng got home, he calmed down and realized he had been stupid and impulsive, so he went toLieh-tzu and asked to be his student again. Lieh-tzu simply said, Now why did you come and then leave and then return?”

Yin-sheng said, “When I first came to ask you to teach me, you ignored me. So I got annoyed and left. Then I realized I was too impatient and reckless, so I came back to ask you to accept me as a student again.”

Lieh-tzu said, “I had thought you were intelligent, but now I can see you are quite stupid. Listen to what I went through when I learned from my teachers.”

Lieh-tzu said:

“When I asked Old Shang to be my master and Pai-kao‐ tau to be my friend, I decided to work hard to discipline my body and mind. After three years, I was afraid to have notions of right and wrong and I did not dare to speak words that might offend or please. It was only then that my master glanced at me and acknowledged my presence. Five years later, I thought freely of right and wrong, and spoke freely of approval or disapproval. My master gave me a smile. Seven years later, my thoughts came naturally without any conceptions of right and wrong, and words came naturally without any intention of pleasing or offending. For the first time, my master invited me to sit by his side. Nine years later, no matter what came to my mind or what came out of my mouth, there was nothing that was right or wrong, pleasing or offending. I did not even entertain the idea that Old Shang was my master and Pai-kao‐tzu was my friend.

“It was then I became aware that there was no barrier between what was inside and what was outside. My body was illuminated by a bright light. I heard with my eyes and saw with my ears. I used my nose as mouth and my mouth as nose. I experienced the world with the totality of my senses as my spirit gathered and my form dissolved. There was no distinction between muscles and bones. My body stopped being heavy and I felt like a floating leaf. Without knowing it, I was being carried by the wind. Drifting here and there, I did not know whether I rode on the wind or the wind rode on me.”

He then looked at Yin-sheng and said, “You had only been here for less than an hour and you got dissatisfied that you were not taught. Look at your condition. The parts of your body do not cooperate; the vapors of the sky and earth do not enter your body; your joints and bones are so heavy that you can’t even move. And you want to learn how to ride on the wind?”

When Yin-sheng heard these words he was ashamed and did not ask again about riding on the wind.

Teachings of the Tao: Readings from the Taoist Spiritual Tradition by Eva Wong p. 46-48