Letting good things happen

What happens when we stop obsessing about the outcome and instead focus on creating the right conditions for our dreams? 

The emperor of China during the Yuan dynasty wanted to have his picture painted. ‘I’m not satisfied with my portraits done thus far,’ he said to a large gathering of artists. ‘Paint me a picture with the minutest detail, my spitting image.’

The king sat down every day for two hours while the finest painters observed and painted him from different angles. Devotedly and carefully, they moved their pencils and brushes on their canvases. Vying for the reward, all would wrangle to have the front row so they could examine him thoroughly and capture the tiniest detail. All but a Taoist master.

He requested the king that he be given a separate room where he could construct his most accurate image from his memory. ‘Kill me if I fail to portray every detail,’ he declared. ‘But, no one will see my painting till I finish. This is my only condition.’

His request was granted and three of his disciples joined in to help him. The four of them would enter the room, stay there for the entire day and come out only in the evening. At times sounds of scraping etc. could be heard. Unlike other painters hands’, theirs were never smeared in color. Dusty at times, but never smudged. No one knew how exactly they were painting.

At the end of one month when the emperor was still not happy with any of the portraits by other artists, the Taoist master announced that his painting was complete. It was done on a wall, he added.

Eager and intrigued, the king entered the room brimming with excitement. The wall was covered with drapes of silk. Some candles were placed as if strategically. The master was gently smiling. The monarch pulled the curtain and a glossy wall emerged.

On a super smooth surface, which had been once a coarse wall, the reflection of the emperor shone gloriously. A smile broke out on the king’s face, the image smiled as well. The king turned to the left, so did the image. It was a moving portrait, a live painting that captured every detail.

‘This is Wu Wei, Your Holy Highness,’ the master said, ‘the way of Tao. The action of non-action.’

‘I must admit,’ the emperor chuckled, ‘this is very clever. It’s the most accurate image anyone could have created.’

‘With due respect, O Lord of Ten Thousand Years, I never created this image. I merely created the conditions and the portrait made itself.’

‘I’m not sure if I should reward you for your painting or your wisdom.’

‘The conditions have been created for both,’ the master humored and bowed.

The emperor honored him with a lavish compensation.

So it is with life, whatever we want, we have to create the conditions for it. In our rush to realise our dreams, often we end up so focused, even self-centered, that we forget that until we create the right environment around us to truly attain our goals. In reckless pursuit, our conditions become our greatest impediments on the path.

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